The State of One Small Family Business: Crane Co.
BY Mary Furash
A look at some of the milestones and hardships a 200-year-old family business has encountered.
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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Crane is founded by Zenas Crane, Henry Wiswell, and John Willard.
The cylinder machine replaces the hand-forming process. Production capacity doubles.
Zenas Crane buys out his partners for an estimated $6,500. The mill employs 27 workers.
James Brewer Crane and Zenas Marshall Crane, sons of Zenas, become junior partners.
Zenas Crane retires. The company begins making paper for banknotes.
Employment is at 66.
Because of the Civil War, Crane's market shrinks. Employment slips to 55.
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.
Crane experiences rapid expansion -- from one mill to five and from 55 employees to 500.
W. Murray Crane wins a heated competition to make U.S.-currency paper.
Crane celebrates its 100th anniversary. It has five mills and 950 employees.
Forty-four employees, including three Cranes, serve in World War I. Five never return.
Crane is incorporated as Crane & Co. Frederick G. Crane becomes the first president.
Winthrop Crane (fourth generation) takes over the presidency, which he holds for 28 years.
Crane survives the Depression years by going after the cigarette-paper market.
The stationery division of Crane & Co. begins operations.
One hundred ninety-seven employees serve in World War II. Five never return.
Employment is at 700.
James Brewer Crane Couch is the company's only casualty in the Korean War. Bruce Crane (fourth generation) is elected president of the company.
Benjamin J. Sullivan becomes the first nonfamily company president.
Crane's board of directors elects its first female board member. Employment is at 1,150.
The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins using a counterfeiting deterrent invented by Timothy Crane (sixth generation).
Revenues top $150 million.
Lansing Crane (sixth generation) is named CEO. Employment is at 1,340.
David Crane, chief financial officer, and Douglas Crane, manager of manufacturing technology, are seventh-generation family members at Crane & Co., still in Dalton, Mass.