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The State of One Small Family Business: Crane Co.

A look at some of the milestones and hardships a 200-year-old family business has encountered.
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In 1775, when Stephen Crane sold paper to Paul Revere to use for the Massachusetts Bay Colony's first currency, Crane was simply looking for a way to support his family. But by passing the art of papermaking along to his son Zenas -- who opened a paper mill in Dalton, Mass., in 1801 -- the senior Crane became the de facto founder of Crane & Co., a business that has been managed by seven generations of Cranes. Although Crane is best known for its elegant writing paper, one-third of its business comes from manufacturing paper for both U.S. and foreign currencies. The Crane tradition of innovation and willingness to explore new markets helped the company profit through nine wars, one major depression, and innumerable recessions. -- Mary Furash

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1801 Crane is founded by Zenas Crane, Henry Wiswell, and John Willard.
1820s The cylinder machine replaces the hand-forming process. Production capacity doubles.
1822 Zenas Crane buys out his partners for an estimated $6,500. The mill employs 27 workers.
1836 James Brewer Crane and Zenas Marshall Crane, sons of Zenas, become junior partners.
1842 Zenas Crane retires. The company begins making paper for banknotes.
1848 Employment is at 66.
1860Ñ1865 Because of the Civil War, Crane's market shrinks. Employment slips to 55.
1865 Zenas Crane Jr. (third generation) moves into management. To survive tough economic times, Crane taps into a postÑCivil War fashion rage -- paper collars for men.
1860Ñ1880 Crane experiences rapid expansion -- from one mill to five and from 55 employees to 500.
1879 W. Murray Crane wins a heated competition to make U.S.-currency paper.
1901 Crane celebrates its 100th anniversary. It has five mills and 950 employees.
1914Ñ1918 Forty-four employees, including three Cranes, serve in World War I. Five never return.
1922 Crane is incorporated as Crane & Co. Frederick G. Crane becomes the first president.
1923 Winthrop Crane (fourth generation) takes over the presidency, which he holds for 28 years.
1930s Crane survives the Depression years by going after the cigarette-paper market.
1932 The stationery division of Crane & Co. begins operations.
1941Ñ1945 One hundred ninety-seven employees serve in World War II. Five never return.
1947 Employment is at 700.
1951 James Brewer Crane Couch is the company's only casualty in the Korean War. Bruce Crane (fourth generation) is elected president of the company.
1975 Benjamin J. Sullivan becomes the first nonfamily company president.
1990 Crane's board of directors elects its first female board member. Employment is at 1,150.
1991 The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins using a counterfeiting deterrent invented by Timothy Crane (sixth generation).
1993 Revenues top $150 million.
1995 Lansing Crane (sixth generation) is named CEO. Employment is at 1,340.
1996 David Crane, chief financial officer, and Douglas Crane, manager of manufacturing technology, are seventh-generation family members at Crane & Co., still in Dalton, Mass.
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