Biographical / Historical
The Washburn Wire Company was originally founded in 1870 for the purpose of manufacturing insulated cable for the then fledgling telephone industry. In 1882, it was incorporated under the name "American Electrical Works, Inc." and subsequently moved to Rhode Island. In 1900 it was merged with the Washburn Wire Company of Maine. The Washburn Wire Company of New York was formed in 1916 and a year later, the Washburn Wire Company was incorporated in Delaware marking the beginning of the consolidation of the two separate operating divisions - one in New York City, and the other in Rhode Island.
The Washburn Wire Products, Inc. is a wire drawing fabricator. The plant converted rolled steel into many sizes of round, flat and shaped high carbon and alloy, cold rolled and cold-drawn, tempered and untempered wire. Major market concentrations were the automotive industry (regulator, chrome silicon, chrome vanadium) and the appliance industry (music wire and hose clay wire).
Washburn Wire Products, Inc. was the most recent acquisition of the Commonwealth Holding Company, the for-profit arm of the parent organization, the Harlem Commonwealth Council, Inc. (HCC). The HCC is a tax exempt, non-profit community development corporation, established in 1967 under the Title 1-D of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Its purpose was to provide leadership in its participation with the community in its overall physical and economic development.
In 1967 the company suffered a major blow in the loss of automotive valve spring to foreign competition.
Over the last few years, Washburn showed serious signs of decline. This occurred as a result of severe pension problems, strikes and critical decisions not to reinvest in capital modernization and improvement programs. Its Manhattan Plant was closed in 1981 in a bankruptcy sale.