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In early 1901 a group of local industrialists took a gamble and provided the capital for Charles J. Kirk to start a small company known as the Universal Sanitary Manufacturing Company, which would make ceramic plumbing fixtures for bathrooms such as toilets and sinks. The company built a plant at New Castle Junction to take advantage of the railroad facilities and commenced operations with thirty employees in late 1901. A huge fire devastated the facility on July 15, 1911, and its future was in doubt. Kirk decided to rebuild at the same location and made a host of revolutionary changes in the coming years, including erecting a tunnel kiln system that cut production times in half. The company became a major success and its products were in use all over the country. (c1905) Full Size
Universal Sanitary merged with the Rundle Corporation of Milwaukee WI to become Universal-Rundle Corporation in February 1948. The firm was later acquired by other companies to include Sears, Roebuck Co., Nortek, and Crane Plumbing and at its height had over 700 employees in New Castle. I believe Praxis Companies purchased the financially-strapped plant in late 2005 and continues operations there at this time. (c1908) Full Size
Workers pack products for shipment at the Universal-Rundle plant. At center of photo is employee Harry Petrine. (c1955)
The Universal-Rundle facility in Taylor Township. (1975)