The eight charter members were:
- Richard Brothers of Hillsdale
- Barker Tool Company of Warren
- Davis Tool & Engineering Company of Detroit
- Expert Automation of Sterling Heights
- F. Joseph Lamb Company of Warren
- Snyder Corporation of Detroit
- Standard Machine & Tool Company of Roseville
- Star Tool and Die Works of Detroit.
The primary objective of the Association’s members was the same then as it is today: to provide better tooling, in less time, and at a lower cost. The Association brought together a group of well-known and well-established Detroit manufacturers of dies, jigs, fixtures, molds, gages, special tools and special machines.
Since that time, a large number of services have been added including die tryout, special machining, experimental and prototype work and associate members providing steel warehousing services, pattern, welding, heat treatment, gray iron and steel castings, steel forging services, tool design, research and tool development, short run part production, roll forming tools, composite die sections, jig grinding, jig boring, honing, automation, automatic parts handling, machinery rebuilding, carbide tools, design and machining of master gears, electrical discharge machining and other work required by the metalworking industry. The Association in Detroit was the first group of its kind in the country. The National Tool and Die group was set up many years later, following the successful organization of the TMTA.
The following is a quote from a letter written in 1974 by Charles Davis, Davis Tool & Engineering Company, to the Association’s Managing Director at the time, Ned Stirton:
“…Well do I remember the beginning in 1933 when Clem (C.C.) Richards came to our office on Epworth Blvd. and asked if one of the Davis’ would join him and a group in starting this Association. Of course Bill & Clarence looked at me and said Charles is the one. So it happened I believe because I was the outside man and had the gift of gab. It was a good group and representative of the tool & die industry.
Well do I remember W.E. (Watt) Ray the 1st sec-treas. Watt was a great guy! He was also sec-treas of Allied Products of which Richard Bros & Peninsular Screw Products were divisions. The first meetings were held at Peninsular where Watt Ray had his office…
…I also remember when Fred Haynes was hired as the first manager. He had retired as President of Dodge and [was] quite old. He stayed on until a manager was selected; and, that was George Huebner. He didn’t stay very long when he left to join Roy Wise in Cleveland to help organize the National Association.
In 1935, Chet Cahn was hired as general manager. He was recommended by Ed Jeffries who was Mayor of Detroit. President Roosevelt requested help from industry in the emergency re-employment periods or during the 1933 depression. The Tool Association did a good job. Also at that time General Johnson was the head of the “National Recovery Act” – NRA. He encouraged all labor to organize and that they did of which you know in so far as skilled help was concerned.
From the beginning the Tool Association has had good leadership and management working with the board of directors…”
The National Industrial Recovery Act
The National Industrial Recovery Act was formed in order to boost the declining prices, helping businesses and workers by sanctioning, supporting and, in some cases, enforcing an alliance of industries. Antitrust laws were suspended and companies were required to write industry-wide “codes of fair competition” that effectively fixed prices and wages, established production quotas, and imposed restrictions on entry of other companies into the alliances.
The act called for industrial self-regulation and declared that codes of fair competition – for the protection of consumers, competitors, and employers – were to be drafted for the various industries of the country and were subject to public hearings. Employees were given the right to organize and bargain collectively and could not be required, as a condition of employment, to join or refrain from joining a labor organization. The National Recovery Administration oversaw the operations.
The NRA allowed trade associations in many industries to write codes regulating wages, working conditions, production, and prices. The Association was instrumental in drafting an industry standard in these matters upon its formation on 7/31/33. In the early years of the Association, it was primarily occupied with the preparation of business reports and the dissemination of information to member companies. The NRA set a minimum wage and led to the formation of unions – namely the United Auto Workers in 1935. The Association was heavily involved with union matters.
Chester A. Cahn was named Managing Director of the Association in December 1935. He was an attorney and served as a referee on the Traffic Court staff of Judge John J. Maher. At that time, there were 72 active members in the Association. The first Automotive Tool and Die office was at E. Grand Boulevard and later the office was moved to the Stormfeltz-Lovely Building on the corner of E. Grand Blvd. and Woodward Avenue. In 1948, the Association moved its headquarters to 103 Pallister Avenue in Detroit.
World War II began on September 1, 1939 and unemployment dropped as American factories were flooded with orders from overseas for armaments and munitions. Although the United States did not enter into the war until early 1941, Detroit was busily engaged in tooling up for the production of warplanes for England.
Chester Cahn served in an advisory capacity with the Automotive Council for War Production. He also worked closely with C.W. Davis, who was appointed by General Knudsen to serve with the Office of Production Management (OPM), which later became the War Production Board. During the initial stages, the OPM concentrated on production methods and tooling that would help speed up production of airplanes.
When this country entered World War II, George Romney became managing director of the Automotive Council for War Production. One of the first steps he took was to enlist all Association shops as members of the Automotive Council for War Productions. The Association, at the request of the War Production Board, published the first Tooling Information Service bulletin in 1941. The purpose of the publication was to keep industry up-to-date on the availability of tooling capacity in the Detroit area.
The Tooling Information Service was mailed each month to tooling customers across the country. Association members were listed along with their contact information, products made, and the approximate numbers of weeks required for delivery. Detroit’s tool and die industry was quickly converting America’s industrial capacity to war production. Indeed, among the unsung heroes of “the Arsenal of Democracy” were the tool and die makers whose tireless efforts produced the machines and equipment used to build the planes, tanks, ships and vehicles that were used to defeat the Axis powers.
In a book published by Donald M. Nelson following World War II, the ability of the Association to meet extraordinary demands for tooling is described this way:
“Least know of all, perhaps, was the Automotive Tool and Die Manufacturers Association…Some of the firms which constituted this group were perhaps as small as a shop can be with only three or four regular employees. They consisted largely of men who had been highly paid mechanics and technicians who had struck out for themselves.
Both the owners and the employees of these little firms were craftsmen of high skill and great integrity, and when you explore the initial phases of war production you have got to go back to them because…tools and dies were the first and the worst of all our bottlenecks in production.
I asked my friends in Detroit how such a guild of super-specialists could have existed outside the motor companies. The answer surprised me: It was that none of the big companies had enough seasoned tool and die makers to handle the intensive work of the retooling period of new models.”
The Great Depression…
began in 1929 and with it the rapid decline in the production and sale of goods with a severe rise in unemployment. Businesses and banks closed their doors; people lost their jobs, homes, savings, and hope. Detroit produced more than 5,337,000 vehicles in 1929, but by January 1931 that figure was down to 1,332,000.
The need for a plan to bring users and facilities together did not end with the return of peace. Association member shops found themselves involved with many problems that were both new and time-consuming. Many of the things that had to be done could not be handled effectively or economically by individual shops working alone outside an organization; and the Association was a much needed entity.
The bargaining position of the small company, facing a big and well-organized union was becoming increasingly difficult. Shop managers needed accurate wage statistics to help them measure their competitive position and negotiate wage agreements. Group insurance and retirement plans were fast becoming administrative problems for shops. Someone had to administer these programs and provide day-to-day interpretations of court decisions as well as government regulations. Someone had to provide labor contract guidance and interpretation.
That someone was, and continues to be, the Association. In addition to bringing the user and the tool producer closer together, the Association also offers a growing administration service that wisely avoids needless duplication of effort by members while providing up-to-date information in many areas of business administration.
One of the first steps taken by the Association was to continue the publication of the Tooling Information Service newsletter. A major role of the Association became union negotiations. Having carried out negotiations for members continuously since 1937, the Association staff was an invaluable source of bargaining and negotiation experience. The wage and hour data assembled by the Association provided a barometer to the plant managers who need to measure the true rate of activity for his industry.