A History of The Will-Burt Company
Our history spans more than a century and weaves its way through several locations and a variety of products for various industries. Yet the underlying and unchanging theme of that story can be summed up in a single word: Excellence. Excellence achieved through individual ingenuity and resourcefulness gave the company its initial thrust and makes Will-Burt the extraordinary company it is today.
The brothers who etched the early history of the enterprise, J.W. and B.G. Cope, were ingenious and resourceful out of necessity. The general repair shop they opened in 1894 near the village of East Greenville, Ohio, was equipped with a hodgepodge of tools and machinery discarded by other shops. Nevertheless, the Copes’ willingness to take on any job and work all hours to get it done right proceeded, not so much from financial need as from an inborn urge to rise to any challenge.
Accordingly, when the patent rights to the Cyclone Drilling Machine became available in 1895, the brothers purchased them and began making tools and machinery for the water well drilling industry.
The move to a larger facility in Orrville, Ohio, in 1901, brought the Copes a new partner, William A. Tschantz, and brought the company to new levels of productivity, its drills now in demand in many foreign countries. With the death of J.W. Cope in 1915, the surviving partners sold the Cyclone Drilling Company and used the proceeds to launch a new venture, an experimental design shop which derived its title – The Will-Burt Company – from the first syllables of its founders’ given names: William Tschantz and Burton Cope. The Will-Burt Company was incorporated in 1918. When Mr. Tschantz decided to pursue his own business interest some years later, Mr. Cope retained the Will-Burt name and turned the experimental shop into a machinery rebuilding and repair operation.
The decades that followed saw continuous growth of our capabilities and its reputation. The company manufactured combustion controls for the Hagan Company of Pittsburgh, coal stokers for the Automatic Coal Burner Company of Seattle, and its own line of innovatively designed stokers. World War II drew the company into subcontract work for which it won the “E Award” on component parts for military equipment. It was this “jobbing” contribution to the war effort that opened the door for Will-Burt to an ever-broadening stream of OEM projects.
Overall expansion was sharply accelerated in the 1960s as we embarked on a series of acquisitions. The company purchased the Heating Division of the Illinois Iron and Bolt Company; the Iron Fireman Stoker Division of Space Conditioning, Inc.; the Anchor Stoker Division of Stratton and Terstegge Company; the tool and die operations of Del Industries and Thomas Mold & Die Company.
Today, more than 300 people contribute a vast range of talents and technical skills to The Will-Burt Company. They employ computer-aided design as well as some of the most sophisticated manufacturing equipment available. Yet the spirit of the company’s founders is still very much in evidence. Their willingness to tackle any job is apparent today in the company’s integrated operations: its ability to handle all phases of the manufacturing process – from tool and die development, machining and fabrication through installation of electronics and instrumentation to design and delivery of telescoping mast and lighting products fully assembled. The founders’ individual ingenuity and resourcefulness are clearly evident in the fact that The Will-Burt Company is 100% owned by its employees.
Thus, the Will-Burt story continues. Highly skilled people personally motivated to provide superior products, equipment reflecting the most advanced technology, and stringent quality control inherent in broad, in-house capabilities are all elements of that story. The underlying theme, as always, is Excellence.