No two foundries are alike. Through the years, Clarksville Foundry has proven to be as durable as its castings. With more than 165 years of experience, Clarksville Foundry is versatile and service-oriented.
Below are some notable dates and events in the history of Clarksville Foundry as well as in the history of the casting process.
1847: H.P. Dorris opens the first foundry in Montgomery County, Tennessee on Commerce Street near downtown Clarksville at the site of the original town spring and operates under the name of Clarksville Foundry & Machine Shop.
1857: J.P.Y. Whitfield, Thomas Pritchett and R.M. House buy Dorris’ interest, operating under the name Whitfield & Co.
1858: Larkin Bradley and James Clark buy the interests of Pritchett and House. Clarksville Foundry becomes known as Whitfield, Bradley & Co.
1861-1865 — American Civil War
1861: Whitfield, Bradley & Co. is used as a munitions factory for the Confederacy during the War Between the States.
1862: Foundry operations cease upon the capture of Clarksville by the Union Army.
1863: Metallography is developed by Henry C. Sorby of Sheffield, England, enabling foundrymen to polish, etch and microscopically examine metal surfaces for physical analysis.*
1867: Foundry operations resume under the name J.A. Bates & Co.
1869: Foundry name changes to Whitfield, Bates & Co.
1890s: An era of Modernization
1892: Wesley Drane purchases an interest and the firm operates as Whitfield, Drane & Co.
1893: W.M. Drane, Jr. and C.H. Dranebuy Whitfield’s interest and the firm becomes known as Drane & Co. Steam and gasoline engines are introduced.
1900: Brinell hardness test machines introduced*
1902: Drane & Co. buy patent rights on the Ground Hog Plow from James Rossiter. Ground Hog Plow & Foundry Company incorporates to begin the manufacture of these plows.
1906: Clarksville Foundry & Machine Company, a subsidiary of The Red River Furnace Company, is incorporated by Graham McFarlane, et al. Located on the site of the modern day Clarksville Foundry, Inc., Red River Furnace operates a blast furnace nearby for the production of pig iron.
1907: Thomas (T.B.) Foust leaves the employ of Mr. R.J. Reynolds in North Carolina, relocates to Clarksville and becomes a chemist and later superintendent for The Red River Furnace Company. He also consults for blast furnaces in the area to optimize their processes.
1910: Ground Hog Plow & Foundry sells the plow patents to W.J. Oliver of Knoxville, TN and changes the name of the corporation to Drane Foundry & Supply Company, denoting their entrance into the supply business.
1910: Matchplates are developed, fostering the viability of jolt-squeeze machines.*
1911: First electric arc furnace for metal casting is installed at Treadwell Engineering, Co., Easton, Pennsylvania. *
1912: Thomas (T.B.) Foust leases the foundry and machine shop from Red River Furnace Company and operates as Clarksville Foundry & Machine Works on the Red River Street site.
1915: Experimentation begins with bentonite, a colloidal clay of unusually high green and dry strength. The first low-frequency induction furnace for nonferrous melting is installed in Philadelphia.*
1917: Clarksville Foundry & Machine Works is incorporated on March 9.
1921: T.B. Foust buys Drane Foundry & Supply Company’s stock of material and supplies and leases their land and buildings.
1922: T.B. Foust buys Drane’s land and buildings on Commerce Street at auction. This is the site and operation established by H.P. Dorris in 1847.
1923: Clarksville Foundry & Machine Works, Inc. buys the property and equipment at the Red River Street site giving the company two locations engaged in metal casting operations.
1930: First high-frequency coreless electric induction furnace is installed in Pennsylvania. Spectrography is pioneered by University of Michigan professors for metal analysis.*
1930s: T.B. Foust’s sons join the business — George T. Foust, Charles E. Foust, and Tom Foust, Jr.
1940s:T.B. Foust develops and introduces a new product line of mass-produced municipal castings that are sold nationally and are still visible in cities across the U.S. The product line becomes a hallmark for Clarksville Foundry for the next 40 years.
1940 – 1945: W.W. II causes foundry business to soar. The foundries at both locations operate in response to the war effort and for a time, over 100 men are employed.
1943: Ductile iron is invented and opens the door to many new applications. It provides flexibility and strength previously unavailable in an iron casting.*
1946: The Commerce Street foundry ceases operation, but that location continues as the site of machine, welding, and blacksmith shops.
1949:A U.S. patent on ductile iron production through magnesium treatment is issued.*
1954: With all metal casting being done at the Red River Street location, the old frame building proves inadequate. It is torn down, leaving the furnace standing, and a metal building is erected around the furnace.
1955: The A.H. Patch factory shuts down and Clarksville Foundry takes over production of the world famous line of corn shellers, grist mills and related products. The original patterns are still in storage.
1966: T.B. Foust passes away on May 27 after an illness of 3 years, and is succeeded as president by George (G.T.) Foust, with Charles and Tom, Jr. remaining as vice presidents.
1970s: New air pollution laws force changes in the industry, resulting in temporary and some permanent closures of operations.
1974: (January) Decreasing markets for its line of municipal castings due to a poor economy, increasing foreign competition, and the advent of plastic and concrete products, along with the implementation of sweeping new air pollution regulations by the federal government seem to mark the death knell. Clarksville Foundry’s casting operation is closed for five months, marking the first time since 1847 (except for the Civil War) that a foundry has not operated in Clarksville. Instead of permanently closing its doors as many competitors were forced to do, Clarksville Foundry makes bold moves to bring the operation within new EPA guidelines.
1974: (June) Clarksville foundry reopens with permission to use its old cupola furnace until a new one that meets pollution regulations can be installed.
1975: A new oil-fired rotary furnace becomes operational on March 26.
1977: George Foust retires in September and is succeeded by Charles Foust, Sr. as president.
1978: Charles Foust, Jr. graduates at the top of his class in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee and returns to Clarksville to work in the family business. He initiates programs to modernize processes, upgrade aging equipment, and seek new markets.
1980: Tom Foust, Jr. retires in January and Charles Foust, Jr. becomes Vice-President.
1981: Charles Foust, Jr. becomes company president and begins to initiate technology upgrades and shifts in product emphasis. His father remains active in all phases of the business.
1984: A 250 kilowatt Induction Electric Furnace is installed, allowing Clarksville Foundry to engage in small batch processing. Multiple batches can be produced and chemistry easily refined.
1987: Clarksville Foundry is entered on the National Register of Historic Places.
1988: To continue improving efficiencies of operations, Clarksville Foundry consolidates operations to a single site. Construction of a new main office and technology upgrades take place. The historic Commerce Street properties are sold to the City of Clarksville and become the site of new city office buildings.
1994: In recognition of his business savvy during adverse situations that resulted in astounding turnaround growth and prosperity for Clarksville Foundry, Charles Foust, Jr. is named Tennessee Small Business Person of the Year.
2005: Clarksville Foundry participates with three other U.S.-based foundries to cast "Rosette Bobbin," the winner of the 2005-06 Samuel B. Barker Outdoor Sculpture Competition held at University of Alabama at Birmingham. The sculpture resides outside the 1901 Spencer Honors House (at UAB), formerly the Second Presbyterian Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke during the civil rights era. A full-size replica resides outside Clarksville Foundry.
2010: Using historic drawings, the Foundry creates a pattern and casts a reproduction 1841 ‘six-pounder’ cannon. The completed cannon, temporarily located at Clarksville-Montgomery County Courthouse, is fired to kick off the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The video "From Molten Metal to Cool Castings," documenting the cannon project to illustrate the casting process, is also completed
2011: Clarksville Foundry’s reproduction cannon is permanently installed at Fort Defiance Civil War Park and Interpretive Center as a gift to the community. Civil War re-enactors from Porter’s Battery fire the cannon during grand opening events in April 2011.
2012: Clarksville Foundry celebrates 100 years as a family owned business the same year that Charlie Foust, Jr. will step in as chairman of the Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce.
2012: Clarksville Foundry becomes a Clarksville-Montgomery County Green Certified business after replacing older equipment with energy efficient models for the casting process and instituting practices to recycle and reduce waste in its administrative functions.
2013: Clarksville Foundry is chosen by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam as the site for the ceremonial signing of the landmark Workers’ Comp Reform Act of 2013. The foundry was chosen because of their longstanding history of success and dedication to business growth in Tennessee.
*Source: Timeline of Casting Technology – www.moderncastings.com
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