W.A. Whitney: A History of Cutting-Edge Technology

The W. A. Whitney Manufacturing Co. opened in 1907 in Rockford, IL.

W.A. Whitney history ranges from handheld punches in the early 1900s to industry-leading fiber LASER cutting machines, plasma tables, and punch plasma combination machines today.

The W.A. Whitney History

The W. A. Whitney Manufacturing Co. opened in 1907 in Rockford, IL, to manufacture punching hand tools, for which William Whitney held the patent. Although the company retained his name, Whitney left to pursue other endeavors in the 1910s. W.A Whitney, the company, continued under the leadership of Frank VanderBogart and N.A. Merlin until the George H. Spengler Co. acquired the company in 1925.

Decades of Innovation

W.A. Whitney introduced several new presses into its product line in the 1930s but remained a small company, with only three part-time employees in 1954. That changed with the hiring of Ted Brolund as W.A. Whitney’s engineer in the mid-1950s. Under his influence, W.A. Whitney became the first company to incorporate hydraulics in punching tools.

W.A. Whitney soon expanded its product line to include coper-notcher-benders, duplicators, gang punches, large panel presses, portable hydraulic punches and shears, all designed by Brolund, although its focus remained mainly on small hydraulic punches and hand tools.

In 1961, Spengler spun off W.A. Whitney as its own stand-alone unit, beginning a period of serious expansion for the company. Through the rest of the 1960s, W.A. Whitney introduced a number of new products, including a sheet metal duplicator and numerous portable metalworking tools. Also around this time, the company pioneered the use of numeric controls with sheet metal punching machines, and it developed the Beamline Punching Unit, capable of punching angle iron, I-beams and structural steel.

By 1963 W.A Whitney employed 50, with sales of $1 million.

Expansion into Plasma Cutting

Esterline Technologies Corp. bought W.A. Whitney in 1969 to provide the capital necessary for W.A. Whitney’s continued expansion. In 1974, the company importantly added a plasma cutting function to its Numerically Controlled Punching Unit. W.A. Whitney continued to expand this feature to other products, launching its combination punch plasma machine in 1982.

As its products evolved in the 1980s and 1990s, W.A. Whitney introduced an oxygen plasma cutting system in 1994 as well as its first plateLASER in 1998, with additional models following.

Piranha bought W.A. Whitney in 2004 and has continued the brand’s leadership in the design and manufacture of LASER, plasma, and plasma/punching combination machines.