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Industrial museum exhibit pays homage to the past

May 01, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The history of Landis Tool Co. going back to the days when brothers Franklin F. and Abraham B. Landis started a small machine shop that grew into an international company in Waynesboro will be the featured exhibit at the Waynesboro Industrial Museum.

The company the brothers started has gone through several buyouts, mergers and spinoffs over the years. Today, it operates in the same East Sixth Street location under the name of Landis Gardner, a Unova Company.

The museum opened in 2000 in the former Reformed Mennonite Church at 235 Philadelphia Ave. The church was designed by Franklin Landis, who also donated the land on which it was built.

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The museum is owned by the Waynesboro Area Industrial Heritage Trust, a nonprofit group organized in 1999.

The board's president, William E. Shank of Waynesboro, started with Landis Tool as an apprentice and retired 33 years later as vice president of engineering.

William Helfrick is vice president and George Buckey is a board member. Helfrick and Buckey worked for Landis Machine, another company started locally by the brothers. That company, still in operation on Fifth Street, makes threading machines for industry.

Buckey retired after 37 years from Landis Machine as president. Helfrick retired as advertising manager after 37 years.

Landis Tool has always made grinding machines for industry. Their machines, sold all over the world, are used to make engine parts, crankshafts, pistons, axles and valves. The automobile industry is one of its biggest customers, Shank said.

The company has made grinding machines that can turn a 3-ton crankshaft for a diesel locomotive engine to a 3-ounce crankshaft that turns chain saws, Shank said.

"It's the number one manufacturer of grinding machines in the world," Shank said.

It's not big as museum's go, but visitors to the Landis Tool exhibit will learn how the brothers started their company in 1893 in a small building and ran it successfully until 1897 when fire destroyed the building. The brothers had no insurance and lost everything, but a group of local businessmen came to the rescue with investment money and restarted it as a stock company, Shank said.

Visitors will be able to trace the company through its heyday, its support of the country in the two world wars and how it won a coveted Army Navy E Award in World War II. "That was a pretty high honor," Shank said.

The company built a new foundry to keep up with its work during World War II, Shank said.

"Landis Tool had 2,400 people working there during the war. A lot of women worked there because the men were away," he said.

The exhibit will also feature rows of large photographs showing employees in and outside the plant. Local folks may recall many people in the photos.

The Landis Tool exhibit opens at the museum May 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., again at the same hours on May 18 and May 19 and again May 26 and May 27. It will be open July 4 and on Labor Day and other times by special arrangements.

The museum's phone number is 717-762-4460.

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