National Water Lift Company Division, Pneumodynamics Corporation Collection
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of a spiral bound brochure titled Capabilities for the National Water Lift Company Division (NWL), Pneumodynamics Corporation Collection, a publication of the company called The Lift Line dated September 1966, a small brochure called NWL in Orbit, and a much larger brochure; all from Kalamazoo Michigan.
- Publication: September 1966
Biographical / Historical
The National Water Lift Company is a division of Pneumodynamics Corporation, a subsidiary of IC Industries in Chicago. The NWL was founded in 1909 by Roland Fairchild, who set out to design and build water lifts for use in private homes. He was noted for his fierce desire to remain independent. Innovations over the following years led to the Kalamazoo Electric Pump (1919). His aim was high quality.
After Fairchild’s death in 1942, the company was purchased by Kalamazoo entrepreneur, Balch Engineer. Merging NWL with his existing company, he expanded the NWL’s production into making various aircraft parts to help with World War II efforts. After the war, Balch briefly returned production to making domestic pump production, but the rapid profitability in the missile industry in the 1940s lead him to focus more on the production of aircraft components. By the 1950s the domestic pump was phased out and the pump business sold to Fred Bailey, a former employee of National Water Lift Co. in 1929.
In keeping with Fairchild’s vision of quality, Balch expanded the business through the 50s to include the design and manufacture of actuators for the J-79 engine, hydraulic actuators and control valves for fighter planes, electro-hydraulic components for automatic flight controls, seals for after-burners of several military aircraft, and fuel regulators for Lockheed and Cessna. Though he retired in 1956 and the company was sold to Cleveland Pneumatic Tool (Cleveland, Ohio), the company continued to excel at production of aircraft parts. Subsequent years saw the complete selling of the domestic water pump side of the business, but also a more specialized and more innovative work in the aviation industry particularly in the area of military contracts. The name “National Water Lift Co.” is now only a reference to its history and no longer has any association with making water pumps. Today, the NWL is known as one of the largest value producing facilities in the world.
NWL remained under the parent company Cleveland Pneumatic Tool until 1960 when it was acquired by the Aerospace Division of Pneumo-Dynamics Corporation, but the change in ownership again did not slow it’s expansion. The company now entered the space program and was awarded a contract to make flight controls. With the success of providing components for the Mercury flights, the Gemini flights, and the Apollo flights, the company became the leading supplier of components for Apollo missions. New plants around the country were added to keep pace with the space program as well as production of military aircraft.
Not all the NWL’s production was limited to the air. In 1966, the company expanded production into the area of land and water based vehicles for the Army. The expansion continued until 1968 when the defense budget was cut. Though the company’s contract with the government and later with General Motors and Chrysler was cut, the business owners at the time, Harry Lammers, helped keep the company afloat through the troubled 70s when sales slowly began to increase with the purchase of several commercial contracts in the aircraft industry.
When Lammers retired in 1978, John Jarboe was chosen to replace him. Jarboe refined the company’s production by cutting contracts with the Army and focusing exclusively on contracts with the Air Force. The flight control business expanded and NWL entered the helicopter industry. Later contracts opened up new developments in thrust reverser systems, primarily for jets.
Currently, the NWL how has plants across the world and continues to be a leader in the aircraft industry.
Barbret, Michael. (1982). The History of the National Water Lift : From Pumps to Flight Control. [Senior Individualized Project: History, Kalamazoo College]. https://cache.kzoo.edu/handle/10920/24469?show=full
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Found in the collection in 2023.
The collection amounts to two pieces from the National Water Lift Company, Pneumodynamics Corporation. The Lift Line is a publication printed on thick white paper that is staple bound together and is written with black and blue ink. The publication includes photos, which are printed in blue tones, and has diagrams and illustrations to go along with the three articles printed inside. In 12 pages, the three articles are on suspension, the Apollo spacecraft, and the NWL support program. The front cover is in blue and white and is an illustration of the Apollo spacecraft, and the back cover simply has their location and the location of the sales engineering offices printed in black and blue ink on the back. The publication itself is 8¼”x10¾” and was published in September 1966.
The brochure, titled Capabilities, on the other hand, is 11¼”x8½” and has 18 pages that are spiral bound together. There is clear plastic covering both the front and back cover and the black, blue, and rusty red ink are printed on thick white paper. Photos and illustrations inside are all printed in greyscale, blue tones, and sepia tones. The cover is an illustration of space with map lines intersecting. The brochure itself contains information on who created the NWL, what it does, where it is located, and when it was established. Further inside the brochure, information on their purchasing standards, developmental engineering, manufacturing, quality, control, how they support field service, and product development are included.
The small brochure titled NWL in Orbit amounts to one sheet of pink paper folded into thirds. The brochure is printed in black ink and the front includes an illustration of a rocket in space with the title and “...stepping stone to the moon!” printed on the cover. The inside depicts pictures of Gemini and talks about the products of the NWL that are used in Gemini, as well as a description of their quality and an illustration with the logo and depictions of workers and Uncle Sam. The brochure itself is 3⅛”x6½.”
The large brochure has Millionths Make the Difference printed on the cover. The brochure is printed on mustard colored paper and the words are printed in either white or black ink. The front cover has a picture printed of a worker and the inside has descriptions of 4 of their products inside along with illustrations and the size, taper, roundness, and straightness of each. The back goes on to describe the quality and reliability of their products. It is roughly 8½”x11” in total.
Overall, all pieces from the collection are in good condition. There is some yellowing of the pages and some rougher edges on the publication, however the thicker paper has prevented creases, and the text is still legible.
- National Water Lift Company Division, Pneumodynamics Corporation Collection finding aid
- Leo Gingerich; Stephanie Chapman
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository
Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US