David Lennox was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 15, 1885, the son of an expert railroad mechanic. He inherited an astonishing mechanical ability from his father, and the two must have enjoyed a close relationship when Lennox was very young. Tools and machines were part of Lennox' life from his earlier years. The family moved to Aurora, Illinois shortly before the Civil War.
When the Civil War began, his father signed up for a three-month enlistment. It was widely believed the conflict would be over in 90 days. But the war dragged on, and Lennox' father re-enlisted for three years. "When my father left home the second time," he said, "I never saw him again."
The Lennox family moved to Chicago, where Lennox' mother ran a grocery store and he worked at various machine shops. As he worked he continued to develop his almost instinctive knowledge of tools and the ways they could be used.
When Lennox combined this inherited practical knowledge with his own special inventive genius, he must have been excited by the possibilities. It was a boom era for industrial America, when railroads were starting to stretch from coast to coast and scientific pioneers such as Bell, Carver, Edison, Maytag, and Firestone were laying the foundations for the next century. For inventors and manufactures, it seemed an age of almost daily discovery - an age ideally suited to the talents of David Lennox, who had stepped off the train at Marshalltown with little more than a head full of ideas.
Ed Sears, a local businessman, was looking for someone to make staples rapidly and for a good price.
Lennox designed a staple-cutting machine which increased production while lowering costs. It was an instant success. The reputation of the Lennox Machine Shop started to grow beyond the Marshalltown city limits.
One day in 1895, Ernest Bryant and Ezra Smith from nearby Oskaloosa, Iowa dropped by Lennox' shop, eager to show him their plans for a new kind of furnace. The new furnaces used to heat homes at that time were made entirely of cast iron, which warped and cracked after extended use and caused smoke and coal gases to seep into houses. Their design, Bryant and Smith explained to Lennox, was far more durable; riveted steel was used for the heating surface and iron castings for the grates, fronts, and other parts. Could the help them make the iron castings for their furnaces?
When the two inventors were unable to pay Lennox for the iron castings because they couldn't find financial backers, he took over their patents and started reworking and improving their original design. Sweating for long hours in what one observer describes "sort of an overgrown blacksmith shop," Dave Lennox began building the first Lennox furnace.
The superiority of Lennox' redesigned furnace was obvious, and Lennox furnaces quickly became popular. But by 1904, Lennox was tired of the furnace business. He was much more excited about his plans to manufacture heavy tools, especially shears. An interested group of local businessmen bought the furnace business from Lennox for $54,789.14 - and during their first year of ownership, the Lennox Furnace Company sold 600 furnaces. One of the primary new owners was David Windsor (D.W.) Norris.
There was no great interest in expanding the Lennox Furnace Company until after World War I, when Norris bought the remaining two-thirds of the Lennox stock.
In the early 1920's Norris used his excellent business reputation to help finance the first large-scale expansion of the Lennox Furnace Company's operations. A Lennox warehouse was built in Syracuse, New York in 1923, with a factory established in Syracuse in 1925. Lennox also acquired the Armstrong Furnace Company in Ohio. The operation that had begun in Dave Lennox' "overgrown blacksmith shop" was beginning to grow nationwide.
But despite Lennox' growth and expansion, the company's basic product was the same in 1926 as it had been in 1895: the coal-fired gravity furnace. That furnace - and the entire home heating industry - was about to experience revolutionary change. The leader of the revolution was young engineering graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) : D.W. Norris' son, John Norris. Before he graduated from MIT, Norris began working for the Lennox Furnace Company as a furnace cleaner in the summer of 1925. His first full-time job after graduating in 1927 was a salesman in the company's new factory in Syracuse, New York.
John Norris was interested in engineering new products at a time when the heating industry was on the brink of fundamental change. He had developed plans to put blowers on furnaces so warm air could be pushed through longer pipes and heat larger homes and buildings. But despite Norris' enthusiasm, his father showed little interest in these newfangled ideas.
Unable to convince his father by talking about the benefits of forced air-heating, John Norris decided to actually prove it to him. He found a secluded corner in the rear of a Lennox warehouse - a place he was certain D.W. would never visit. Piling tools and other equipment into the dim, cramped space, Norris began quietly experimenting with blowers, oil burners, and gas furnaces with another engineer, E.H. 'White' Whitcombe.
Norris' secret project was nothing less than developing an entirely new home heating system. Realizing more people used their basements for living space, he concentrated on building a smaller, quieter, cleaner furnace. He also worked on developing the technologies involved in sizing pipes and locating registers in the new system.
Once Norris felt he had developed a practical product, he showed it to a group of Midwestern dealers. They were excited and their excitement finally persuaded D.W. Norris of the practical value and market potential of his son's ideas.
In 1935, Lennox furnaces were built with blowers and enameled cabinets for the first time. Norris began holding classes to teach Lennox dealers the new heating system - a forerunner of today's sophisticated Lennox dealer support program.
By the end of the 1930's, John Norris had become the top warm-air heating engineer in the country, and Lennox was the world's largest manufacturer of forced warm-air heating systems. But the Great Depression also brought tough times to the company. "There was almost no demand for furnaces at all, " a family member said. "How D.W. survived that decade is a miracle." D.W. Norris traveled almost constantly by train from coast to coast to make deals with business associates and financial advisors, writing page after page of letters in his careful longhand.
Lennox' salesmen managed to secure several government furnace contracts, including a large contract to heat the barracks of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
At the end of the 1930's, Lennox developed the "Stowaway" furnace, the first forced air furnace designed to be installed in an attic or crawls pace. It was a triumphant finish to a difficult but exciting decade.
The steady growth brought about by John Norris' innovations resulted in the building of a new factory in Columbus, Ohio in 1940. The SS-1000 steel furnace was an instant success when introduced in 1941. After the challenges of the Great Depression, there was plenty of cause for optimism.
Despite the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into the war in December in 1941, D.W. Norris saw even greater things in Lennox' future. "Regardless of Hitler," he wrote, "old furnaces wear out and must be replaced .....". But there was little steal being used to make furnaces or any other civilian products during
the war: special government orders forced Lennox and other manufactures to convert their factories and fill government contracts for war-related material. Lennox responded to the call by purchasing a precision machine shop in Lima, Ohio to produce military equipment requiring close tolerance parts.
Lennox filled orders for combat tank parts, steel landing mats for emergency airfields, frames for portable airplane hangars, and various parts for ships and airplanes. Furnaces were built - but mainly to heat army camps at home and abroad.
Lennox dealers also managed to meet wartime challenges, living primarily on maintenance work. Personnel shortages created new working relationships: "If you retailers think women cannot get a Torrid Zone furnace into a basement, forget it," D.W. Norris said in a letter to dealers. "They can."
In the winter of 1942, the Syracuse factory was nearly completely destroyed in a fire, causing over a million dollars in losses. The plant was quickly rebuilt, and manufacturing soon started again. With the war at its height and backlog of government contracts to fill, Lennox had little time to lose.
By January 1944 Lennox was beginning to return to furnace building. Manpower was a problem, and material was scarce. Railroad service was slow, trucks were not dependable, and people were working in two and three shifts around the clock to fill government contracts. Soldiers started returning home in 1945, and normal furnace production resumed.
In January 1947, Lennox News stated , "The Lennox Furnace Company ... is the largest manufacturer of furnaces in the world." Lennox emerged from the chaos of the war years with disrupted manufacturing schedules, enormous order backlogs, and material shortages resulting from labor strikes at other companies. The same editorial confidently reminded employees, "work, and more work, aggressiveness, and ingenuity ... have been prominent in Lennox success to the present. They will continue to be foremost in the future."
The Lima, Ohio machine shop became part of the Lima Register Company in 1945, a major supplier of heating grills and registers to the entire industry. The demand for Lennox products became so great more outlets were needed, resulting in nationwide expansion in 1948; branches were established in Fort Worth, Salt Lake City, Los Angelos, and Decatur, an Atlanta suburb.
Dave Lennox died in his home in Marshalltown in 1947, at the age of 92. The man who bought the company from Lennox in 1904 for $54,000 - D.W. Norris, still the company president - died in 1949 of a heart attack at the age of 73, while on a business trip to Columbus.
For Lennox, the next 50 years were already beginning to take shape. John Norris, the MIT graduate who introduced forced-air heating to American homes over his father's early objections, became president. Under John Norris' direction, Lennox embarked on its most ambitious program of innovation and expansion to date: between 1950 and 1960, Lennox would become an international name.
An important factor in Lennox' growth was its first national cooperative advertising campaign, launched in major city newspapers in 1949. The first co-op campaign was a huge success, and the second campaign in 1950 was the first to feature a popular new character: "Lennie Lennox."
Lennie was the brainchild of Lennox artist Ernie Helland, who first drew the character in 1946 to illustrate furnace instructions and later adapted Lennie for use in advertisements, sales brochures, cut-out display sets, and even salt and pepper shakers.
The company moved toward developing a higher public profile, while the Lennox research and development laboratory worked behind the scenes to continue developing ground breaking products. John Norris' engineering background and instinctive genius for innovation made research and development a top company priority. A new lab was built in Marshalltown in 1950, almost three times the size of the previous lab.
The first residential perimeter heating distribution system was developed by Lennox in 1950. In 1952, Norris visited several air conditioning manufactures to discuss the possibility of buying a compressor for use in designing its first residential central air conditioning system. Business associates advised him against the idea, claiming a furnace company did not have the experience eor expertise to handle the new complexities of the cooling business. But Norris saw a bright future in residential cooling and led the drive to develop a 3-ton water-cooled air conditioner. which Lennox began to sell in 1952.
Canada became a new market for Lennox in 1952 with the establishment of Lennox Industries (Canada) Ltd., with Ray C. Robbins as the general manager of the Toronto division. By 1953 Canadian sales were so impressive Lennox built a factory in Etobicoke, Toronto, Ontario to service all of Canada. A distribution center was opened in Calgary, Alberta in 1954.
On December 30, 1955, the company's name was officially changed form Lennox Furnace Company to Lennox Industries Inc. By 1960 Lennox had established an International Division, with a facility in Basingstoke, England and sales offices and warehouses in Holland and Germany.
Lennox made another major design breakthrough in 1964 with the Duracurve heat exchanger. The Duracurve was recognized industry-wide as a major break-through in the search for answers to noise problems in gas furnaces. Lennox' innovations continued in 1965 with t he production of the first packaged direct multizone rooftop heating/cooling units. Originally designed for schools, the direct multizone systems (DMS) proved to be flexible enough for offices, libraries, retail stores, factories, churches, and apartments as well.
In the wake of such innovations as the Duracurve heat exchanger and DMS, the company's decision on September 14, 1965 to stop producing and selling coal furnace parts by the end of that year was barely noticed. But it marked the end of an era: Lennox coal furnaces had been produced and sold since Dave Lennox built the first one in 1895.
In 1968, Ted Booth retired as secretary-treasurer. Richard Booth, Ted's son and a member of Lennox credit management team since the 1950's, was promoted to secretary-treasurer.
On December 16, 1970, John Norris Sr. announced Ray Robbins - recently promoted to executive vice president - would become president and chief executive officer of Lennox .
The senior Norris would remain as chairman of the board.
With Robbins at the helm, Lennox embarked on another period of change. A factory was built in Stuttgart, Arkansas in 1974 to build commercial units.
To streamline Lennox operations in the eastern central U.S., the Syracuse sales office operations were consolidated into the Columbus division. In 1977, the Marshalltown research and development laboratory and the heat pump and research facility in Ft. Worth were combined and moved to Carrollton, Texas. And in 1978, Lennox relocated its world headquarters from Marshalltown, Iowa to Dallas, Texas, capping off another decade of growth.
The beginnings of the information age saw Lennox furthering efforts to establish a computerized corporate data center for centralizing data operations. Computer software, marketing, and technical tools were developed and made available
to dealers to help them run their businesses more successfully.
In 1973 Lennox unveiled a two-speed hermetic compressor designed to increase energy savings in both residential and commercial air conditioners. Lennox further strengthened its industry position and reputation that same year by acquiring Heatcraft Inc. of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a manufacturer of heating elements and special components for HVAC industry - and a step toward Lennox becoming less dependent on outside suppliers for critical parts. Heatcraft quickly grew to become not only a supplier to Lennox but also the major player in the refrigeration industry.
Ray Robbins was promoted to chairman of the board in 1978, retaining his responsibilities as chief executive officer.
John Norris Jr. became the third generation Norris family member to head Lennox as president and CEO on January 1, 1980, while Ray Robbins remained as chairman of the board.
One of Lennox' greatest achievements to date was the G14 Pulse furnace - the industry's first high-efficiency furnace - in 1982
The Pulse had its beginning in the mid 1970's, when studies underway at Lennox convinced management the price of natural gas would probably double or triple within the next five or six years. At about the same time, the American Gas Association (AGA) was studying the use of pulse combustion technology to improve the efficiency of forced-air furnaces from an industry average of about 58% to 96 or 97%.
Lennox management entered into a development agreement with AGA, and later with the Gas Research Institute (GRI) to commercialize a pulse combustion furnace. Extensive laboratory and field tests over the next five years helped develop the Lennox Pulse combustion chamber and heat exchanger.
The long commitment paid off. In 1982 the first year of Pulse production, orders ran far ahead of production capacity. Just as Lennox studies had predicted, the price of natural gas had nearly tripled since 1976, and the market was ripe for a high-efficiency furnace.
The millionth Pulse unit rolled off the Marshalltown assembly line in 1992. With almost no failures reported over the years, in 1986 Lennox became the first HVAC manufacturer to offer a limited lifetime warranty - on the Pulse furnace.
The Pulse's spectacular success led to industry-wide development of high-efficiency equipment. Lennox continued its own high-efficiency product development with the release of the HS14 PowerSaver in 1984, the first air conditioner to achieve a 15.0 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER).
Lennox' role as an industry innovator was further enhanced in 1986 when the company was the first HVAC manufacturer to join the SMART HOUSE development Venture, Inc., an organization working to develop high-tech appliance control systems. In 1990, Lennox received its first patents on a revolutionary thermal energy storage (TES) system for residential and light commercial installation. And, in 1994, the company unveiled the Complete Heat system - the first combination space and hot water high efficiency system by a major HVAC producer.
Strategic and organizational changes kept in step with product innovations, demonstrating the company's dedication to business growth. The refrigeration industry, heat transfer industry, and the two-step distributor market were three areas Lennox management looked to as strong foundations for future growth - but these were outside the traditional scope of Lennox Industries.
Lennox International Inc. was formed in 1984 under the ownership of the Norris family. Intended as the parent company for Lennox Industries and future acquisitions, Lennox International soon began to aggressively pursue its goals.
In 1986, Heatcraft Inc. - now a subsidiary company of Lennox International - acquired SnyderGeneral Corporation's Heat Transfer Division in Grenada, Mississippi and expanded it to produce precision tools and dies for heat transfer products. Heatcraft is the leading OEM for heat transfer surfaces, supplying over half of the entire industry. Heatcraft also acquired the Bohn, Chandler, Larkin, and Climate Control brand names in the 1980's establishing their position as the worldwide refrigeration market leader.
Reaching for a larger scale of the HVAC market than the Lennox Industries direct-to-dealer network could ultimately provide, Lennox International acquired Magic Chef Air Conditioning in Bellevue, Ohio in 1988.
Lennox renamed it Armstrong Air Conditioning Inc., planning to develop Armstrong as Lennox International's entry into the two-step distributor market. While still relatively small, Armstrong is the fast growing Lennox International company today.
Now a leader in the HVAC, refrigeration, and heat transfer industries, Lennox International Inc. had grown far beyond its namesake's wildest dreams. With sales of a little over a billion dollars, Lennox International Inc. had quickly become one of the largest privately-owned corporations in the world.
As the "oldest child" of its parent company, Lennox Industries had managed to continue to grow throughout a decade that saw massive change and restructuring in businesses worldwide. But as the oldest child approached its 100th birthday in the 1990's, it faced new challenges of increasing competition and an emerging global market.
Responding to rapid worldwide change, Lennox Industries moved to keep its operation at their most efficient and competitive levels. Subtitled "Positioning For The Next Century", Project 21 was implemented to ensure Lennox' future success.
To improve customer response and better coordinate Lennox Industries activities, many of the marketing and administrative functions of Lennox' five U.S. sales divisions were centralized in Dallas in 1991 as part of Project 21.
Excess production space resulting from
After Project 21, Lennox Industries also made the decision in 1993 to consolidate manufacturing of residential air conditioners and heat pumps in Marshalltown, closing the Columbus, Ohio factory. And the Lennox Export Division began to grow significantly through its new overseas markets, winning awards as one of the fastest-growning corporate export divisions in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.
John Norris Sr. died in 1994.
Faced with the enormous changes in the scope of Lennox International Inc., Dave Lennox would hardly recognize his "overgrown blacksmith shop" today. But he would probably be pleased to see the same dedication to innovations, hard work and sound business instincts - always at the heart of Lennox products, and beating with a strong pulse.
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