The history of ER Wagner dates back more than 120 years ago. On December 28, 1899, Edward R. Wagner purchased the Baby Carriage Hardware Department from Smith Co. for $11,000 borrowing $9,000 of it from American Bicycle Co. which was the world’s largest manufacturer of bicycle stampings.
Mr. Wagner filed incorporation papers on January 1, 1900. These papers were registered in Milwaukee County on the 10th and with the state on the 12th. Following this, Edward had finalized ER Wagner Manufacturing Company.
There were about two dozen customers early on, all being baby carriage manufacturers. During this period, iron castings were widely used for components of baby carriages and Mr. Wagner devoted himself to converting castings into stampings.
ER Wagner moved into automotive parts. With the onset of World War I, the plant mainly focused on making bomb parts and stabilizers along with the introduction of small stampings for automobiles starting up.
The collapsible go-cart came into style, leading Edward to quickly get involved by producing his own go-cart which represented Wagner’s first consumer product.
In the Post War boom of 1920, sales reached $1 million for the first time in company history. In 1924, ER Wagner purchased the assets of the Milwaukee Shock Absorber Company and started making friction type shock absorbers for Model T Fords. The Ford-ERW relationship is still present to this day ranking #1 for our longest partnership.
ER Wagner continued to grow through acquisition purchasing three businesses in this decade. National Clinch Hinge Co. at which point was the largest continuous hinge fabricator in the United States, Parlock Co. to begin manufacturing seat adjuster’s for automobiles and the patent rights to a West Coast carpet sweeping company which became Wagner Komb-Klenaed Sweeper.
With WWII beginning, ERW was devoted to subcontracting work. This included manufacturing products such as bomb fuse parts, miscellaneous bomb parts, hardware for army cots and a large variety of hinges for different vehicles and equipment that they were employing.
An ER Wagner hinge was used on the B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay”, which dropped the first atomic bomb. Other notable aircrafts that we contributed parts to were the Boeing B-17G “Flying Fortress”, Bell P-39, Bell P-63 “King Cobra”, and the Boeing B-29 “Superfortress”.
The production of casters & wheels started in 1953 and the entry into enclosure mechanisms in 1956 both products are still supported
ERW purchased controlling interest in Glamur Products Company – E-Z rug shampoo and shampooers.
This decade saw the passing of the torch from E.R. Wagner to his son, Robert S. Wagner in 1953. E.R. passed away in 1956 after a life filled with achievements.
In December of 1960, ER Wagner purchased the assets and tooling of the Gleason Mfg. Co. making casters and wheels one of the corporation’s main product lines. ERW also added two additional acquisitions during this decade.
Winnecone Mfg. Co., who was producing heating elements and pulleys for the clothes dryer industry and Meyers Safety Lock & Machine Co. in New York City. They were a part of the hardware manufacturing world, so this acquisition provided ERW an entry into the luggage and carrying case market.
The Tubular Products Division was founded at the Milwaukee Plant location. This was an effective alternative to more expensive machined parts and fabricated tubing and a strong product line still today.
The first fine blank press was acquired in 1978 with the second one coming a couple years later. This allowed us to move through the manufacturing process at a faster pace by getting rid of possible secondary operations on the product.
In July 1980, ER Wagner purchased all of the stock of Pho-Tronics from General Binding Corporation. Pho-Tronics is a company that supplied parts for the NASA Shuttle. They were a manufacturer of single-sided, plated through hole and multi-layer printed circuit boards that were used in machine tools, medical systems, military and commercial products.
ER Wagner discontinued Pho-Tronics and sold the company in 1995. Approaching 100 years in business, ERW reflects on the past century including 10 acquisitions, new product segments purchased, and the fact that movement products seem to stick.
100 years! In February 2000, Governor Tommy Thompson recognized all of the companies celebrating 100 years in business. The honors were given out during the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in Madison. ER Wagner was awarded an honorary plaque for the long-term success.
ER Wagner purchased the Haydock & Superba Caster business located in Niles, IL, as a leader in the Furniture Caster Industry. ERW was quick to disperse the operations to Hustisford, WI, Iron Ridge, IL, and Suzhou, China as a part of a newly formed joint venture.
In 2004, ER Wagner purchased Stocker Hinge Company located in Brookfield, IL. As a leading manufacturer of continuous hinges, the Stocker Division manufactures all of our continuous hinge products for non-automotive applications.
In 2017, ER Wagner established Menomonee Falls, WI as the Corporate Headquarters where it continues to grow to this day.