News & Notes
2012 Marks a Century in the Foundry Industry for Foust Family
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — The year 1912 was marked by several landmark events. The world was shocked when the RMS Titanic sank on its maiden voyage. The United States admitted New Mexico and Arizona as the 47th and 48th states. The “Bread and Roses” labor strike by 30,000 textile workers took place in Massachusetts. In Tennessee and Kentucky, the Tobacco Wars raged, led by the infamous “Night Riders” who destroyed crops, burned barns and terrified citizens.
In quieter fashion, a business transaction was undertaken in Clarksville, Tenn., that continues to bear influence a full century later. In 1912, Thomas Bledsoe (T.B.) Foust leased the foundry and machine shop from Red River Furnace Company and began operations as Clarksville Foundry & Machine Works. In the 100 years since that transaction, a member of the Foust family has actively owned and managed the foundry in Clarksville.
What would become a family legacy began in 1907 when T.B. Foust left the employ of R.J. Reynolds in North Carolina and relocated to Clarksville to become a chemist and later, superintendent for the Red River Furnace Company. He also served as a consultant to local blast furnaces, helping them to optimize their processes. In 1912, he leased the Red River Furnace foundry and machine shop, thus establishing a family business that has withstood the test of time. The foundry, now called Clarksville Foundry, has roots as far back as 1847 and is one of the oldest operating foundries in America. It has evolved over the past century to become today’s highly successful concern led by third-generation president/CEO Charles (Charlie) Foust Jr.
The present day Clarksville Foundry has witnessed monumental changes in the foundry industry. While the casting process is essentially the same as it has been for thousands of years, government environmental regulations radically changed in the 1970s, and advances in metallurgy and processes have led to stronger products and improved efficiencies.
After leasing the Red River Furnace facility, T.B. Foust engaged in a series of purchases of land, property, equipment and materials from Drane Foundry and Supply Company. By 1923, Clarksville Foundry & Machine Works was operating from two Clarksville locations.
T.B. Foust’s sons George T. Foust, Charles E. Foust Sr. and Tom Foust Jr. joined the company in the 1930s. When T.B. Foust passed away in the 1960s, his sons succeeded him with George as president and Charles and Tom Jr. as vice presidents. In 1977, Charles Foust Sr. assumed the presidency of the company from George. Meanwhile, the next generation of the Foust family, Charles Jr. (Charlie), was studying mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville). After graduating at the top of his class, he returned to Clarksville and joined the family business, where he initiated programs to modernize processes, upgrade aging equipment and seek new markets.
At the retirement of Tom Foust in 1980, the young Charlie Foust was promoted to vice president. Charlie Foust was again promoted in 1981, this time to company president. The youngest Foust in the business focused on technology upgrades and shifts in product emphasis. By the late 1980s, the Foundry had improved efficiencies by consolidating to a single site and constructing a new main office building. Historic property located on Commerce Street was sold to the City of Clarksville, and is today the site of the Clarksville Police Department.
Under Charlie Foust’s leadership, Clarksville Foundry attained growth and prosperity, even in difficult times. In 1994, Foust was recognized as the Tennessee Small Business Person of the Year by the United States Small Business Administration for his business savvy in adverse situations that resulted in an astounding turnaround for Clarksville Foundry.
Today’s Clarksville Foundry specializes in turnkey services that take a project from concept through interpretation of engineering drawings, on to pattern construction, the production of molds, to the casting of parts in any variety of iron alloys. The diversity of products ranges from the reproduction of architectural items to modern industrial components. The Foundry’s long history gives the company an uncommon combination of experience and versatility, making it one of the most unique foundries in operation today.
Clarksville Foundry keeps a foot in the past with historic reproduction castings for architectural uses and commemorative purposes. Recent commemorative reproductions include the 1841 six-pounder cannon donated to the City of Clarksville to commemorate the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The cannon was temporarily installed at the Montgomery County Courthouse and fired to signal the start of local Civil War Sesquicentennial observances. It was later moved to its permanent location at Clarksville’s Fort Defiance Civil War Park and Interpretive Center.
Another Civil War-era reproduction was created for a project led by National Geographic Channel. The Foundry reproduced the conning tower from the H.L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine. The casting was prominently featured in tests conducted by National Geographic Channel for a cable television special program that explains what happened to the Hunley after it fired upon the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor and then mysteriously disappeared.
Among its architectural reproductions, Clarksville Foundry cast new panels for the staircase of Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium during its massive renovation in 1993. The Foundry made new panels using two of the remaining original panels to create molds.
Clarksville Foundry leads the way in present times with modern technology and efficiencies. Small batch processing allows the foundry to respond to a variety of jobs that other foundries are incapable of handling. Computerized databases allow tracking of past orders and the ability to fine-tune chemistries in future orders. Clarksville Foundry’s responsiveness allows it to produce components with a short turnaround time, filling orders as needed to help customers minimize inventory overhead.
Charlie Foust, current president of Clarksville Foundry, has stepped into leadership roles within the Clarksville-Montgomery County business community. In addition to serving on the Two Rivers Company board of directors and chairing the design review board, in 2012 he will assume the position of chairman of the Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce.
A century after the first Foust purchased a foundry, the family continues in the industry, and the business is still going strong. Clarksville Foundry lives up to its tagline, “We’re as Durable as Our Castings.”
|President:||Charles Foust Jr. – 1981-Present|
|Past Presidents:||Charles Foust Sr. – 1977-1981
George Foust – 1966-1977(Brother to Charles Sr.)
Thomas B. (T.B.) Foust – 1912-1966 (Father of Charles Sr. and George)
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