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Manufacturers Index - American Electric Motors, Inc.

American Electric Motors, Inc.
Milwaukee, WI; Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Steam and Gas Engines

History
Last Modified: Dec 20 2017 2:51PM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.

American Electric Motors, Inc. was established in Milwaukee in July 1920. The company manufactured AC induction motors in the 1 to 20 HP range, including the market's first fully-enclosed polyphase motors. Orders exceeded expectations and the company struggled to cope. In 1926 the business was in financial distress and sold out to local businessman P. C. Winner, who had a background in the canning industry. In the following year Splitdorf Electric Co., a subsidiary of Splitdorf-Bethlehem Electric Co., acquired the business. American Electric Motors, Inc. became the American Electric Motor Co. subsidiary of Splitdorf-Bethlehem. During this Splitdorf era, the product line expanded to include motors down to ½ HP and up to 30 HP. It appears that the company continued to struggle with poor financial health, and the 1929 stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression only made things worse.

By 1933 American Electric Motor Co. was bankrupt and the assets were sold to Cedarburg Manufacturing Co., makers of outboard motors. Cedarburg had its own financial difficulties and, so far as we can tell, the assets of American Electric Motors languished as Cedarburg stumbled toward its own bankruptcy.

In 1939, American Electric Motors, Inc. of Los Angeles was established. We do not know if this business is related to the earlier Milwaukee-area business of the same name. The 1939 organization was as a partnership; the business was incorporated in 1945 and then reorganized in 1954 as American Electronics, Inc..

We have seen a few Sears Craftsman-branded motors that were made by American Electric Motors, Inc., of Los Angeles. These Craftsman motors had the model-number prefix of 702.

In 1998 Ducommun Inc. acquired the business and integrated it into their Jay-El Products subsidiary.

Information Sources

  • The 1922 book History of Milwaukee, City and County, by William George Bruce.
    Harry Banks Mortimer—A representative business man of Milwaukee is Harry Banks Mortimer, vice president of the American Electric Motors, Incorporated. ...Mr. Mortimer had always been interested in electricity and in 1916 and the early part of 1917 was an employee of the Allen-Bradley Company, receiving training in every department until he was promoted to the position of assistant sales manager. The experience received in that connection and from his previous work well fitted him for the duties given him in the army. Upon his discharge, he returned to the Allen-Bradley Company in the same capacity and remained with them until September, 1919, when he became associated with the Milwaukee Tank Works in a like position. In July, 1920, upon the organization of the American Electric Motors, Incorporated, he resigned that position to become vice president of the new concern. The business is incorporated and the company manufactures alternating current, squirrel cage, induction type motors, ranging from one to twenty horsepower inclusive, in five different types, viz: sleeve bearing, enclosed; ball bearing, enclosed and open and the vertical type enclosed and open. The big feature of the motor is the removable stator, a single piece, non-freezable bronze bearing without set screws and improved end ring details. Carl L. Daun is president of the company and Walter M. Sprinkman, secretary and treasurer.
  • 1926 issues of American Machinist mention American Electric Motors, Inc., of 57 Erie St., Milwaukee. P. R. Keller was purchasing agent.
  • A 1926 issue of Canner/Packer.
    Negotiations have been completed for taking over American Electric Motors, Inc., by business man P. C. WINNER. AMERICAN ELECTRIC MOTORS, INC., CEDARBURG, WIS. of Cedarburg, and this concern will occupy a large new plant situated in the heart of the city. P. C. Winner, formerly Vice-President of the Hansen Canning Machinery Corporation, left his connection with that company on May 1 to assume active management of the new motor company. W. W. Singer, Secretary and Treasurer of the...
  • A 1927 issue of Automotive Industries.
    Splitdorf Buys American MILWAUKEE, Sept. 26— Controlling interest in the American Electric Motors, Inc., with plant at Cedarsburg, Wis., has been purchased by the Splitdorf Electric Co., a subsidiary of the Splitdorf-Bethlehem Electric Co. The new owner will continue the manufacture of the present line of motors on an enlarged scale and broaden the line to include units up to 30 hp.
  • A 1928 issue of The Iron Trade Review mentions that Splitdorf Electric Co. had purchased American Electric Motors, Inc.
  • A 1933 issue of Automotive Industries.

    Cedarburg to Manufacture American-Electric Motors

    CEDARBURG, WIS.—The Cedarburg Manufacturing Co. has acquired the property and patents of the American Electric Motor Co., formerly a subsidiary of the Splitdorf-Bethlehem Electrical Co. of Newark, N. J. It will continue the manufacture of the American-Electric motors sizes running from ½ to 30 hp. as well as the P-K American motor.

    Thorv. Hansen, formerly works manager of the A. O. Smith Corp. of Milwaukee, is the president and general manager, and Mr. Crawford Perego, vice-president, will have charge of sales.

  • A 1947 edition of Iron Age has this snippet:
    American Electric Motors, Inc., Los Angeles is giving employees with 10 years service a year-long vacation with pay. The company was organized in 1939 to manufacture motors, generators and dynamos for the government and was reorganized in 1946. They won't have to start paying off until 1956.
  • Walker's Manual of Far Western Corporations & Securities has the following snippet (Google Books):
    Organized in Calif. September 6, 1945 as American Electric Motors, Inc., of Los Angeles, successor to a limited partnership. Name changed to above June, 1954.
    We do not know what the name was changed to.
  • A 1952 edition of American Aviation gives this address: "American Electric Motors, Inc., 4811 E. Anaheim-Telegraph Road, Los Angeles, 22, Calif."
  • A 1967 edition of Automation mentions this firm: "... is available instantly by plugging unit into a standard ac power line. Motor equipment for 220 to 440 v, single or 3-phase operation is available. American Electric Motors, Inc., 4811 Telegraph Rd., Los Angeles 22, Calif."
  • The 1991 book, Iron Fist: The Lives of Carl Kiekhaefer, by Jeffrey L. Rodengen.

    ...abandoned the facilities, the American Electric Motors Company began operations with a flourish. They designed and built the first fully-enclosed polyphase electric induction motr, and were soon swamped with orders. However, success can often be unkind to the ill-prepared, and as Elmer would later write, "the

    ...used. Fortunately, most customers from the "gadget-free" engine simple enough to trouble-shoot themselves. But Montgomery Ward, who offered a 90-day warranty for the Sea King version of the Thor, had always been proud of the exception service which they afforded their customers, and every Sea King that customers returned to Montgomery Ward for anything ranging from a fouled spark plug to a completely demolished engine was promptly retumed to the Cedarburg Manufacturing Company for warranty service. Warranty work began to pile up. As a result of their large orders, Hansen, along with Evinrude, had to sell engines to Montgomery Ward at a higher discount than even their own best dealers. For Evinrude, this was less of a problem, for they were manufacturing nineteen models in 1936, and had a distribution system with thousands of dealers. For Thor Hansen, though, the orders from Montgomery Ward were a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the orders kept his Cedarburg Manufacturing Company working at peak capacity, building as many as 2,000 Sea King engines a year. But his profit margin was so small, only a few dollars per engine, that the more engines Montgomery Ward ordered, the harder Hansen had to fight to keep costs down. Because Montgomery Ward paid upon delivery, Hansen had to constantly scramble to finance his supply of parts and labor to keep the assembly line moving to meet contract shipping schedules. Hansen also knew that to be able to compete with Elto, Evinrude, Johnson and Muncie, he had to develop a broader range of offerings, and give his dealers a full line of engines. In late 1937, Hansen designed the world's first three-cylinder outboard engine, which developed 6.2-hp. at 3100 r.p.m. Like the development of the twin-engine Thor, the new Pyramid 3 was simply another expanded version of the original single-engine model. Like the twin, it was an alternating firing engine but with three pistons and cylinders, a larger crankshaft and exhaust manifold, it topped the scales at 56 pounds and retailed for a $110.00. The only problem was, the over six horsepower of the Pyramid 3 was delivered through the same steel stampings and nickel gears designed originally for the two-horsepower model, giving the engine only modest performance and a high rate of failure. Montgomery Ward decided not to order Thor's Pyramid 2 or Pyramid 3, and the Thor dealer network couldn't sell them either. Debts began to mount.

    By 1938, Hansen was in trouble. He had managed to sell off more of his stock in the Cedarburg Manufacturing Company, first offering it to his current investors, and then to new sources. At $100 per share, he was only able to raise slightly more than $3,000. He had run out of money, and was in debt nearly...

    All was proceeding according to plan, when, in January of 1939, disaster struck the Cedarburg Manufacturing Company. The previous order of 500 single-cylinder Thor engines which Thorwald Hansen had delivered to Montgomery Ward were almost completely rejected and returned. Three hundred eighty-four engines failed to either pass Montgomery Ward's strict inspection for quality, reliability and performance, or were returned to Wards by consumers who were fit to be tied. Not only were this latest batch of engines difficult, if not impossible to start, but if Herculean efforts managed to get them started, they would promptly quit. If they even got wet they would quit. It seemed to Montgomery Ward's buyers that if you even looked at the little engines sideways they would quit. The Cedarburg Manufacturing Company was not in a financial position to absorb the cost of new shipping labels, much less a huge return of engines for alteration and warranty repair. On top of everything else, Montgomery Ward canceled the current order for 500 engines that Hansen had already begun to assemble. It was the final defeat...

    Thor Hansen turned to Elmer's Uncle John Blank for help. Among John Blank's network of friends and business associates was Edgar H. Roth, vice president of the Cedarburg State Bank. After analyzing the financial condition of the Cedarburg Manufacturing Company, the bank considered Hansen's predicament as too risky for the small community bank, which was only capitalized for $40,000 . The discussion began to swing toward the possibility of liquidating the company in some fashion, discharging Hansen of his enormous debt, and allowing a group of investors to use the facilities to embark on a new business. It would be the third business failure in a row for the unlucky manufacturing facilities, and so the conversations must have seemed like business as usual for the concerned mayor and banker.

    John Blank knew that the building occupied by Hansen was sound, well heated, and among the assets were machinery and tooling from the American Electric Motor Company which went bankrupt before Hansen arrived. Knowing that his nephew, Elmer, as Chief Engineer of Stearns Magnetic Company, might be capable of operating a new electrical company at the location, Blank began to formulate a plan to acquire Hansen's operation. Blank first spoke with Freda, Elmer's wife...

  • 1998-06-18 Aviation Week.
    Ducommun Inc., Los Angeles, acquired American Electronics Inc. (AEI) of Fullerton, Calif. AEI will be integrated with Ducommun's Jay-El Products subsidiary and relocated to Jay-El's Carson, Calif., facility. AEI, with 1997 sales of $7.1 million, makes actuators, stepper motors, fractional horsepower motors and resolvers for commercial and military space applications. William Holland, president of AEI, will remain with the company.