Document 30: George A Schock -- Early History of the Baldor Electric Co 1992

(Click here for background on the history of the development of the induction motor in America)

From: George A Schock, Early History of Baldor Electric Co, 1920-1976. Fort Smith, Arkansas: Baldor Electric Co, 1992

With over 120 pages, this book is an "insider's" chronicle of the history of Baldor Electric, manufacturer of one of America's premier fractional horsepower electric motors. Only Chapters 1 and 2 are reprinted below; the book's remaining chapters take the narrative from the Depression through until 1976. The photo below is one of several in Schock's book.

See also the following documents associated with fractional horsepower motors and woodworking:

Chapter 1: Baldor's Beginning

Very early in the year of nineteen hundred and twenty (1920) two men conceived the idea of becoming a manufacturer of electric motors.  

They were Edwin C. Ballman, a graduate of Washington University with a Bachelor of Science degree and whose major study was electrical engineering; and Mr. Emil Doerr, who had learned the trade of machinist through many years of first hand experience in all phases of metalworking. Mr. Doerr had advanced through all stages of becoming a master machinist, beginning with his apprenticeship. At the time that he co-founded Baldor, he was eminently qualified as a master machinist.

These two men had worked at the same places, Wagner Electric Co. and the St. Louis Electric Co. They did not work closely together in those places, but they were well acquainted and had confidence in each other. Mr. Ballman was experienced in the field of electrical engineering and Mr. Doerr was fully experienced and knowledgeable in electrical manufacturing, including motors; also in supervising and running a metalworking plant. Both were ambitious and hard working and both were honest. Each had respect for the other and they became a team. 

In choosing a name for the corporation they agreed to use the first part of the name of one founder (Ball) and the full name of the other (Doerr) (Ball-Doerr). To make the name simpler and more distinctive a new word was coined, hence Ball-Doerr became Baldor. This was a good choice because Baldor is distinctive and rare. 

The original basis for going into the motor business was to "Make a Better Motor". This basis was adhered to strictly, not only at the beginning, but throughout the company's history. In fact, the company's original slogan     

   -- "Baldor -- a Better Motor" —

aptly expressed the company's philosophy, then and now. 

From the very beginning Mr. Oliver A. Baumann, amply experienced in office procedure and administration, was an essential part of the "beginning" of Baldor Electric. He left his position at St. Louis Electric Co. to become a charter officer of Baldor. His knowledge and experience in the "office functions" of business supplemented the work of the basic founders.

Hence, the fledgling company, Baldor, had the talent, experience, knowledge and entrepreneurship to move the company forward.  

There were only five charter members of Baldor Electric Co.: E. Ballman, E. Doerr, O.A. Baumann, J.F. Gerleman and Dr. J.W. Shaw.

The original officers were:

·         E.Ballman, President;  

·         E. Doerr, Treasurer; 

·         O.A. Baumann, Secretary; and  

·         J.F. Gerleman, Vice-President. 

(J.F. Gerleman, a Baldor Sales Representative was not very active in the company operations; Dr. J.W. Shaw was not active at all.) 

Baldor's first "plant" was a small "store" in the 4100 block of Laclede Avenue in St. Louis, MO. It employed from 10 to 15 workers, some of whom became foremen at a later date. In it was manufactured only single phase, repulsion-induction motors, 1/4 HP through 3/4 HP. Customers liked the design and performance of these motors. They had rugged commutators, brush riggings, and a type of centrifugal switch that was mounted on the end of the armature opposite to the commutator. E. Ballman had a patent on this centrifugal switch, which was one reason for his wanting to manufacture electric motors. Even more importantly, Baldor motors had ball bearings as standard, and for which there was no additional charge. Ball bearings were not standard with any other United States motor maker.

The company quickly outgrew the size of the small store on Laclede Avenue. In 1921, Baldor purchased and moved into its first real "factory", a one story building 48 feet wide and 129 feet long (6,192 square feet) at 4353 Duncan Avenue, St. Louis, MO. This factory was purchased, which started a tradition to own rather than rent manufacturing space. Business was good in 1921, so much so that Baldor made its first plant expansion early in 1922. I can well remember that expansion because it was under construction when I started to work at Baldor on March 24, 1922. The addition consisted of adding 57 feet across the entire width of 48 feet. To utilize all of the land space available, the addition was three stories high: a basement as first floor; a floor at the level of the existing building; and a second floor above the level of the original building; totalling 8,208 square feet. 

The expansion typified one of the admirable characteristics of our then president, Mr. E. Ballman. Being an engineer, and a man with great common sense, he found a way to get the most out of Baldor's limited land space without jeopardizing operations. How did he do this? He used the lower floor (the basement) for certain factory operations such as winding of coils, motor repairing, and other operations that did not involve the moving of heavy materials. The ground floor was used for receiving and storing valuable materials like ball bearings, commutators, insulating goods and others, and the additional space added to the original building for machining and other heavier operations. The top floor was used for offices because this floor would not sustain heavy weight. This also freed space in the original building for manufacturing operations. The arrangement of the addition and the way in which the space was used enabled the company to acquire usable space of 8,208 square feet on a land space of 2,736 square feet, a neat accomplishment especially since all of the space was needed to serve customer requirements which continued to grow month by month. 

By 1922 it was safe to say that Baldor had finished its "beginning" successfully. We still manufactured only single phase motors, but the range of sizes was now from 1/4 HP through 2 HP. Customers liked Baldor motors from the very start and business was good and increasing with each month. As early as January 1, 1922, Baldor had passed through the "starting up" stage and was functioning as a going company. It was well-organized, well-financed, and it was making a profit. In a very real sense, it was a growing motor manufacturer. 

Chapter 2: The Formative Years

The years of 1922 through 1932 can correctly be called the "Formative Years". These years showed steady progress in all areas of the company's business. Slow but steady growth in sales, plant size, profits, personnel, and organization were the chief characteristics of this era. 

For much of this era Baldor made only single phase repulsion induction motors. We were selling them to a small number of manufacturers of pumps, air compressors, floor sanders, and other manufacturers of equipment that needed a motor with high starting torque or the other performance characteristics of repulsion induction motors. Others liked Baldor motors because they had ball bearings; others because they were totally enclosed. In addition to original equipment manufacturers, Baldor got some business from electric motor dealers who liked the rugged construction and good performance of Baldor motors. 

By the mid-1920s, Baldor made repulsion induction motors from 1/ 6 HP through 7 1/2 HP. By that time we also had developed a complete line of polyphase motors 1/6 HP through 20 HP. In addition, we made single phase capacitor start and run motors which were sold to many manufacturers of unit heaters and fans. Through the entire period 1922 through 1932, all Baldor motors were totally enclosed, and all had ball bearings. These two advantages, plus a price that was approximately equal to competitive sleeve bearing open type motors, enabled Baldor to get repeat business with an ever-increasing sales volume.

During this time frame Baldor did not sell motors nationally, rather our business came from customers located close to our factory in St. Louis, MO. Most of Baldor's business came from customers in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, with occasional orders from the Boston and New York areas. One reason for finding customers close to St. Louis was that Baldor sold its motors "Free on Board" St. Louis, MO. There was no freight allowance; the customer paid the transportation expense. 

Our most active sales representative was Mr. E. Willett Bruce, who along with his family, became shareholders early in Baldor's history. Shortly after Mr. Bruce started with Baldor, he became Vice President of Sales and a company Director. His home base was Chicago, IL. For a year or so he worked as a sales representative, but was soon promoted to Sales Manager for the entire United States. He hired several salesmen to cover the Chicago and Northern Illinois territory and by the mid-1920s managed the Baldor-Chicago Sales office. Under Mr. Bruce's direction, representatives for other territories were named; and while they obtained some business, most orders continued to come from states close to St. Louis.

One phase of our business in the 1920s deserves special mention because it greatly influenced Baldor: Mr. J.F. Gerleman became Baldor's St. Louis sales representative, for the St. Louis area and in Illinois as far north as Bloomington, IL. Mr. Gerleman developed a volume customer, the Williams Oil-O-Matic Oil Burner Co., which bought Baldor motors in large quantities. Their needs expanded to such an extent that Baldor built a plant in Bloomington adjacent to Williams Oil-O-Matic. Baldor made many thousands of motors there, all for Williams Oil-O-Matic, year after year in the 1920s. They were by far our largest customer for the years 1924 through 1929. Shortly thereafter, Williams Oil-O-Matic decided to build motors for their own use, and ceased buying from Baldor, at which time the Baldor Bloomington, Illinois, plant was closed. 

During Baldor's formative years there was not a traumatic event or change in operations. Under the direction of its original officers the company made steady and continuous progress adding to its product lines, increasing sales, and showing better earnings through the year of 1931. The great depression of 1929-1933 caused sales and profits to drop somewhat which interrupted a long period of year-by-year growth and pros¬perity. By the middle of 1933 Baldor started moving ahead again.  


George A. Schock started to work for Baldor Electric on March 24, 1922. On the date of this publication he is still an employee with 69 years of seniority, but since 1976 has been a part time employee. He continues as a Baldor Director, a post that he has held without interruption since 1944.

His original purpose in writing this book was to preserve the historical record of the early years of Baldor with which he is quite familiar, having lived and worked through that period. As his work progressed, he decided to continue writing Baldor's history through 1976, at which time Baldor became a public company, being listed on the American Stock Exchange on March 1, 1976. Baldor later advanced to the New York Stock Exchange on January 15, 1980. As a member of 1 the New York Stock Exchange, Baldor complies with all of the information they require which becomes a public record. For the earlier years there is no such record, and the author hopes that this book will preserve some of the more important part of Baldor's earlier history.