Growing up a plumbers son, you pick up some strange habits. One of them was always taking notice of the manufacturer of any plumbing related product you encounter in your daily life. (ah, the comfort of the Sloan Royal Flush… but that’s for another post.)
Here we’re talkng cast iron. Neenah Foundry cast iron. Anyone who has ever walked the streets of Chicago (or most US cities, for that matter) has probably stepped on products from Neenah Foundry. They’re one of the key supplier of manhole covers in the US, and have been for decades. Here’s a link to PDF of a catalog from 1920 that I found which shows their wares: http://www.sewerhistory.org/articles/compon/1920_aca/article.pdf
Neenah makes (or made, in the case of obsolete and discountinued items) many other cast iron plumbing products as well. Many oddly shaped and creatively named. (anyone for an Offset Rainwater Leader ?) And according to my dad, when you find that one of these fittings has rusted into the ether or crushed by a truck if you call them up in need of a replacement, they’ll treat you like an old friend and do their level best to solve your dilemma.
So, with all this context, it was a bit like a pilgramage to shrine for me when on a recent business trip that took me to Neenah, I set out to find the Foundry. (there wasn’t much suspense – it was right there in Windows Live Search, on the map on my phone.)
When I got there – I snapped these few quick pictures.
Here’s the aerial view of the whole facility:
It’s kind of humbling to think how many millions of manhole covers out there in the world came from this spot.