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Spark of Genius

The Spark of Genius

Delco Products Division of General Motors Corporation



Greetings to you from Delco Products


            To our friends who enjoy reminiscing, to our new friends who have not as yet heard our story, to our visitors, to our customers, to our suppliers – to all whose interest may be casual or intense we dedicate this book.

            We have a thrilling story to tell – thrilling, mainly, because it is typically American. It is a story of individual struggle and enterprise which succeeded – as such individual effort can succeed in these United States of America.

            Officially, Delco originated as a corporation July 22, 1909; hence this booklet is a memento of Delco’s “Forty Years of Progress.” Sentimentally, Delco was born in the Deeds barn on Central Avenue, Dayton, Ohio, in 1907 as the ensuing narrative will disclose.

            This is the story of the Delco Products Division of General Motors Corporation, which, by virtue of geography and personnel, is the direct lineal descendant of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company whose history is told in Chapter 1. [p. 1]

            Today Delco Products’ main establishment comprises five plants, four of which are located within a short walking distance of downtown Dayton. Because of the downtown location, Delco has been compelled to expand upon limited ground, and therefore expansion has been upward in seven- and eight story buildings.

            One can walk or ride past these plants day after day without realizing the size of the establishment. For that reason, the first tour may be amazing to visitors and new employes. It may be hard to believe that such extensive operations can be carried on in buildings which seem rather inconspicuous when casually viewed from the street.

            The central location is an advantage to out-of-town visitors because of the easy accessibility to hotels and passenger stations. It is an advantage to employes who live in the city, because many of them can walk to work, and others can readily utilize public transportation. A survey shows that more than three-fourths of the employes reside within five miles.

            Confined to less than two city blocks, and employing an average of about 9,000 men and women, Delco Products is a veritable beehive of activity. This comparison is apt in a number of respects: in respect to the swarms of employes who leave and enter the buildings when shifts change; in respect to orderliness of operation.

            The comparison is inept in one respect, however, for Delco is a very human institution. We are folks! We have our individual hopes, ambitions, prides, troubles, recreations, sorrows, and joys. We work for our livings. We aim to contribute toward the welfare of our community and of society in general. We are making products which advance the standard of living. We try to exemplify the American way of life.

            We trust that you will find this booklet interesting and informative. Perhaps it will make you more thankful than ever that you live in a land of liberty where the climate is favorable to freedom of enterprise. [p. 2]




Chapter 1   The Story of Delco


[Photograph: The Deeds Barn] [p. 3]



[Line drawing: Charles F. Kettering]


            In 1907-8 when Charles F. Kettering was tinkering with ignition systems, he did not foresee the enormous business which would grow out of his experiments.

            At this time it was not uncommon for a man to assemble his own car. E. A. Deeds (later Colonel Deeds) was doing this in his barn on Central Avenue in Dayton. He discussed the subject with Charles Kettering who was associated with him at The National Cash Register Company, and “Ket” was soon puttering around the Deeds car.




As the work progressed, the men became interested in trying to develop better ignition. Sparks were then generated by a magneto which worked fine when the car was running; but the magneto’s spark was weak when the engine was cranked by hand to start it. If a good, hot spark could be created for starting, the engine ought to take hold more easily.

            “Ket” and a few other associates from N.C.R. spent their spare time in the Deeds barn working on the ignition problem. If you’re acquainted with barn lofts, you know they’re mighty hot in summer and mighty cold in winter. So you can imagine the discomfort of working under such conditions.

            But the young men were so interested in their project that the heat of summer and cold of winter didn’t discourage them. Some time in [p.4] [line drawing: Colonel E. A. Deeds] 1908, “Ket” perfected a relay to go into an electrical circuit of current from a dry battery. This generated a fat spark which made the engine take hold at the flip of a crank.




Seeing how well the battery ignition worked on the Deeds car, the developers decided to show it to automobile manufacturers. The Cadillac Automobile Company like the invention and placed an order for 8,000 of the ignition systems for 1910 models.

            Now, of course, Kettering and Deeds and their associates couldn’t make 8,000 ignitions in a barn during their spare time! The men were still holding full-time employment at N.C.R. Some of their associates were William A. Chryst, Bill Anderson, Zerbe Bradford, and Bob DeMaree.

            There they were with a big order. They had no organization, no trade name for their [p.5] [photograph: Machine Shop in Hay Loft (from old print)] product, no manufacturing plant, no capital.

            They, together with interested friends, promptly organized by forming the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company. From the initials of the company, William Chryst coined the trade name, DELCO.


[Line drawing: William A. Chryst]




Having had dealings with the Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company of Chicago, Kettering thought he might be able to get them to manufacture the ignition systems. They accepted the contract, and delivery was made to Cadillac on time.

            Then Kettering decided to leave N.C.R. and devote all his efforts to developing new products. Naturally, interested in and familiar with automobile ignition systems, he decided to experiment with an electric starter. He imagined a starting motor which would turn over the engine to avoid the hazard of cranking by hand, which was frequently the cause of bruises, strains, and fractures – and impossible for women or elderly people.




Working in the barn laboratory day and night, Kettering ran into problems and difficulties innumerable. But he refused to be licked. Finally, late in 1910, after more than a year of ef- [p. 6] fort, he made a combined starter and generator system which worked. Gathering his associates together, he pressed a button, and the mechanism kicked the engine over. Again and again the engine started with a roar. The day of hand cranking was on the way out!

            Again Cadillac was approached. Again Cadillac placed an order for a Kettering invention; this time an order for 12,000 DELCO starting, lighting, and igniting systems.

            Expecting to have the Kellogg Company manufacture the systems, Kettering was rudely shocked when they turned him down. Kelloggs decided that setting up for such a big job would be too risky, considering that the self-starter might prove to be a dud.




Now the organizers of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories were in a predicament. It looked as if they had a bear by the tail. Twelve thousand auto electric systems on order, and no place to make them!


[Photograph: “Ket” Makes an Adjustment]  [p. 7]


[Photograph: The Four-Story Building which Became Delco Plant 1]


            The only solution they could think of was to manufacture the system themselves. This posed a lot of problems – the problems of capital, plant, machinery, employment, shipping, billing, etc., etc.

            They decided to take the chance, at the risk of losing all their savings. Every dollar they could raise among themselves was invested. Then they sold preferred stock to friends who had the nerve to gamble. The meager equipment from the Deeds barn was moved to quarters in the Beaver Power Building at Fourth and St. Clair streets in Dayton. Additional machinery was installed and materials purchased. After months of worry and effort, the first auto electric systems were built and shipped to the Cadillac Automobile Company. [Photograph: It Started!] [p. 8]

            The 1912 Cadillacs were equipped with DELCO starters and generators. Buyers were delighted. No more cranking! No more gas lamps! Instead, a starting motor and complete electric power plant self-contained in the automobile! As a result, Cadillac was awarded the Dewar Trophy for making the year’s greatest contribution to motoring. This was the second time Cadillac won the trophy.

            By 1914, practically every car at the Auto Show in New York was equipped with an electric starter. The DELCO system that year was standard equipment on the Buick, Hudson, Stevens-Duryea, Oakland, Cartercar, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Jackson, Moon, Westcott, Paterson, and Auburn. By 1916, DELCO systems were installed in the following other makes: - Meteor, Sayers & Scovill, Elcar, Ahrens-Fox, Apperson, Pilot, Packard, and Keeton.

            Many authorities credit the self-starter with giving the automotive industry its greatest impetus.




Shortly after the first DELCO starters were produced in the Beaver Power Building, the space became inadequate. In 1911, the Dayton Engineering Laboratory Company moved to East First Street, leasing at first part, and later all, of the four-story building which now (with two additional floors) is known as Plant 1 of DELCO Products Division.

            At the time of the Dayton flood in 1913, the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company had become a big business. This was only six years after Kettering and the other men started to assemble the Deeds automobile in the barn, an activity which conveyed no hint that a large manufacturing enterprise would evolve so soon.

            But the husky infant was destined to grow and grow and grow. In 1915, a seven-story building, comprising part of what is now Plant 2, was erected on the other side of First Street, adding 200,000 square feet of floor space to the 300,000 previously occupied by the company – [p. 9] [Drawing: Original Delco Self-Starter] more than eleven acres of floor space altogether.

            Additions to Plant 2, and the construction of Plant 3 during the following years, brought the total floor space to 1,344,500 square feet. If this floor area were laid out in a single-story building, it would cover twelve city blocks; besides which, the equivalent of a number of additional blocks would be required for parking lots, driveways, and trackage.




Resuming the early history of Delco, once production had started on the auto electric system, “Ket” turned to the invention of other things. The first new product was a farm lighting system consisting of a gasoline-engine-driven generator and a storage battery. This was manufactured in an adjacent building by a separate company known as Delco-Light, which later combined with Frigidaire.

            In 1916 Delco affiliated with United Motors which in turn joined the GM Family in 1918. Thus Delco became a division of General Motors Corporation.

            Commercial manufacturing at Delco was practically discontinued during World War I so that production could be devoted largely to aviation ignition. Up to that time, Delco had built approximately a million starting, lighting, and ignition systems. About 25,000 sets of aviation ignition systems were built during the war. [p. 10]




[DELCO logo]


During the eight years between 1918 and 1926, Delco continued to manufacture electric systems for automobiles. Then, in a re-allocation of manufacturing operations, Delco was merged with the Remy Electric Company of Anderson, Indiana.

            C. E. Wilson, later to become president of General Motors Corporation, was appointed president and general manager. With rare wisdom and foresight, he rearranged the production programs of the Dayton and Anderson plants to strengthen each operation. He named the combined operations “Delco-Remy”.

            The manufacture of Kettering’s starting, lighting, and ignition systems was transferred to Anderson. To compensate for this seeming sacrifice, Delco gained the production of shock absorbers, a business acquired from the Lovejoy Manufacturing Company of Boston, Mass.

            In the meantime, Delco had entered the household appliance electric motor field. Impetus was given to this activity by Frigidaire’s need for better adapted and quieter refrigerator motors than were available from other sources. As time went on, Delco motors were supplied to many other manufacturers, and this department of the business became a major enterprise.

            The Dayton and Anderson companies were re-established as separate units in 1928. Delco then became Delco Products Division, continu- [p.11] [Line drawing: C. E. Wilson] ing in the same plants and retaining most of the personnel of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company. The Anderson company continued as Delco-Remy Division.

            In 1934, Delco Products began to manufacture hydraulic brake cylinders. This activity was housed in Delco Plant 3 for a year, then transferred to a plant in the Edgemont section of Dayton. In 1936, the Delco Brake Division of General Motors Corporation was incorporated as a separate entity.

            Although the Delco Brake Division lost its identity by being merged with Moraine Products Division, C. E. Wilson had long recognized the value of “Delco” as a trade name. Hence the name has been perpetuated for five General Motors divisions; namely, Delco Products, Delco-Remy, Delco Radio, Delco Appliance, and Delco-Remy-Hyatt, Ltd.




In the last peacetime year prior to World War II, Delco Products Division manufactured more than eleven million shock absorbers; also two and a half million electric motors. In addition, Diesel generators, control devices, springs, and miscellaneous articles were made.

            During the second war, the facilities of Delco Products were devoted entirely to war work. Not only that, but plants were also operated in Norwood and Cincinnati. [p. 12]

            An idea of Delco Products’ activity in the war effort can be gained from the following list of manufactures:


                        40,000,000 projectiles and fuses

                          7,000,000 shock absorbers

                          1,000,000 electric motors

                          2,500,000 link assemblies

                        23,000,000 A C Spark Plug shells

                          6,500,000 miscellaneous items

                             250,000 units of hydraulic actuating devices

                               25,000 generators

                               24,000 sets of airplane landing gears

                                     250 electric actuators




After World War II was concluded by Japan’s surrender on August 14, 1945, Delco Products Division embarked upon a carefully planned program of reconversion and modernization to carry on increased production of shock absorbers, electric motors, generators, and other articles for a peacetime market. [Line drawing: Frank H. Irelan Became General Manager in 1940] This program was a tremendous undertaking, for it involved the building of new facilities, the planning of new layouts for all the buildings, and the installation of much new equipment.

            Immediately after V-J Day, there was a great clamor for all kinds of products. Delco products’ customers were impatient to get back into [p. 13] peacetime manufacture. To satisfy them, the Company was compelled to start production on an increased scale even while the modernization program was being carried on. Those were hectic days and nights and weeks and months, with construction and production going on at the same time! Nevertheless, the modernization program progressed and production increased. By January of 1948, the modernization and production goals were attained when manufacturing volume reached the planned estimate of approximately 50% above prewar level.

[Photograph: SELF-STARTER: Title exhibit of the origin of the self starter, including a replica of the Deeds barn workshop, is a feature of the General Motors Motorama in the Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Michigan, Chicago.]




It was Kettering’s inventive genius which led to the germination of the Delco enterprises. Inventing was the primary purpose of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company. That fact is evident in the name of the organization.

            The engineering spirit of Kettering, of his associates, and of his successors has been the inspiration of Delco throughout its history. And that same spirit prevails today, as evidenced by the continuous invention and development of new products. [p. 14]


Chapter 2   What Delco Products Division Makes


Of all the diversified products which originated at Delco, the three principal lines now manufactured by Delco Products Division are hydraulic shock absorbers, electric motors, and electric generators. A new product, an electrically operated “Actuator,” was recently put into production for general use.




At first, Delco shock absorbers were accessories which were bought to prevent spring rebound. If you’ve ever ridden in a car without shock absorbers, you know how the riders were frequently bounced against the top when the driver hit a bump too hard, or rocked violently when riding over wavy pavements. After such experiences, many car owners were glad to have “snubbers” installed on their automobiles to avoid bruised heads and battered hats.

            When the virtues of Delco hydraulic shock absorbers had been demonstrated as extra equipment, they were soon adopted as standard equipment by leading automobile manufacturers. Today shock absorbers have become essen- [p. 15] tial built-in equipment just the same as springs, bumpers, and seat cushions. When you ride in a modern motor vehicle, the chances are better than even that you can remain on your seat over rough roads because Delco shock absorbers hold down the rebound. More than 50% of all cars manufactured are equipped with Delco “shocks.”


[Drawing: Cam and Lever Shock Absorber, Knee-Action Type; Direct-Acting Shock Absorber, the New “Delco Sealed-in Ride Control”]




In this day of electrification, everyone is at least slightly familiar with the uses of electric mo- [p. 16] [Photograph: Delco Direct-Acting Shock Absorber on “Train of Tomorrow” tors; but few people imagine the many applications.

            Delco motors range in size from a tiny one of 1/250th horsepower to a 75 hp job for industrial equipment.

            An idea of the variety of types and sizes can be gained from the fact that Delco electric motors are furnished to leading manufacturers of [drawing: Rotor and Stator, Hermetic Type] the following appliances and equipment:




                        OIL BURNERS

                        MEAT CUTTERS

                        HOME FREEZERS

                        FOOD GRINDERS

                        PAINT SPRAYERS

                        AIR COMPRESSORS

                        HOME CRAFT MACHINES

                        DISHWASHING MACHINES

                        MILK COOLING MACHINES

                        GASOLINE STATION PUMPS

                        SUMP, JET, AND WELL PUMPS

                        WASHING MACHINES AND IRONERS



                                    INDUSTRIAL, RAILROAD)


                                    MACHINES, DRILLS, GRINDERS, ETC.


The list could be greatly extended. [p. 17]


[Line drawing: woman wearing short apron gazing into well-stocked refrigerator]


For some years, Delco Products has been the world’s largest manufacturer of motors for household refrigerators. With these motors and others, production at this Division has reached an output of more than 20,000 per day. This seems incredible until you think of how many motor-equipped appliances and machines there are in homes, stores, and factories.




When General Motors began to develop Diesel locomotives, Delco Products was called upon to furnish electric generators for heating, cooling, lighting, and other auxiliary power needs. This activity was flourishing when World War II started.

            Then the Navy asked for generators for boats of many kinds, from landing craft to battle cruisers. To supply this need, Delco engineers [photograph: GM locomotive and train] designed generators which had great capacity in relation to their weight. The reduction of weight permitted substantially greater tonnage of cargo and passengers to be carried. This, according to naval officials, made a great contribution to the war effort. [p. 18]


[Composite illustration: SOME TYPES OF DELCO MOTORS  1. Washing Machine Motor  2. Fractional Horsepower Open Motor  3. Fractional HP Capacitor Motor  4. Two-Speed Railroad Motor  5. Totally Enclosed Fan Cooled Motor  6. Drip-Proof Open Motor] [p. 19]


            Delco generators for Diesel locomotives, railway cars, and allied uses are now being built in quantity. Some exceedingly advanced ideas were incorporated in the “Train of Tomorrow” which first visited Dayton in August of 1947. The story is too long to tell here. [Illustration: One of the Many Types of Delco Generators] [Photograph: Delco Generator on “Train of Tomorrow” [p. 20]




The actuator is a wartime product which is now devoted to peacetime uses. Technically and briefly defined, an actuator is a “device which converts rotary motion into linear motion.” This is done by the action of an intermittent-duty motor on a ball-bearing screw jack.

            There is an interesting application of Delco actuators at the new Terrace Plaza hotel in Cincinnati. The rooms apparently do not have beds; just studio couches. When a switch is pulled, however, the couch moves out and a bed appears, made up and ready for occupancy. A Delco actuator pushed it out. The same actuator makes the bed recede into the wall again when the switch is reversed.

            It doesn’t take much imagination to think of many possible uses of Delco actuators for opening, closing, raising, and lowering things by remote control – windows, doors, gates, ventilators, awnings, valves, vanes, dampers, platforms, elevators, etc., etc. There seems to be no question that many new jobs at Delco Products will arise as the engineering and sales departments develop markets for Delco actuators.




At the present time, two facts are outstanding in Delco Products operation:


1.     The customer list included the names of many of the foremost manufacturing

establishments in the country, reaching far beyond the confines of the General Motors organization.

2.     Aggressive engineering has kept the Company in the forefront of industries

manufacturing kindred products.


Both of these facts presage continuity of business, security for Delco employes, and a lasting contribution toward the prosperity of the community. [p. 21]


[Photograph (partially concealed): …related parts of this truck are mounted…To make them readily accessible, the cab…. A Delco Actuator, shown in the lower…tograph, tilts the cab and restores it to … The actuator control lever can be seen    front tire in the lower left-hand photo.] [p. 22]



Chapter 3   Delco Products Division at Work


[Photograph: Tube-Forming Machine Described on Page 31.] [p. 23]


[Line drawing: gentleman holding hat speaking with woman holding papers seated at a desk]


The reception lobby of Delco Products Division is at 329 East First St., Dayton, Ohio is at 329 East First St., Dayton, Ohio, in Plant 1. The offices and engineering department are on the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors of the building. The basement is devoted to machine repair and utilities. On the first floor are the personnel, purchasing, and medical departments. Tool manufacturing and repair departments occupy the second and third floors.

            A tunnel under First Street leads to Plant 2 which occupies the block bounded by First Street on the north, Second Street on the south, Madison Street on the east, and Race Street on the west. This plant is devoted to the manufacture of electric motors and generators.

            To describe each operation in Plant 2 would require a volume much larger than this book. So, some of the interesting things you see as you tour each of the seven block-long floors are merely listed:


-Long lines of belt conveyers on which parts travel as girls or men assemble motors and generators.


-Overhead conveyors carrying stock and finished products; in some cases conveying the products through ovens to dry the enamel between batteries of infra-red lamps. These conveyors eventually bring completed products to the packing department where they are wrapped and boxed for shipment.


-Machines which automatically wind coils; others which automatically thread wire directly into stators.


-Air-conditioned departments where condensers are wound, inserted into cased, sealed, and tested.


[Photographs: Attaching Lead Wires to Stators; Lacing Stator Coils] [p. 24]


            -Automatic machines which mold plastic housings for relay switches.


            -“Merry-go-rounds” where motors are placed for test runs.


            -Great punch presses of many kinds which stamp rotor and stator laminations of

            all sorts of forms and sizes.


            -Multiple-spindle machines which mill, drill, and tap motor and generator frames.


            You are impressed with the dexterity of many of the operators; with the enormous quantity of production; above all, with the planning which provides the tools and materials for each worker to perform his job in the most efficient manner. In the whole maze of machines and conveyors, there is an orderly procession of operations which starts with raw materials and ends with finished electrical apparatus, tested and ready to install in hundreds of varieties of appliances, vehicles and machines.




This plant extends from East First Street on the south to the New York Central tracks on the north, and from Foundry Street on the west to Sears Street on the east. A broad tunnel under Foundry Street connects it with Plant 1.

            Plant 3 is devoted principally to the manufacture of Delco Hydraulic Shock Absorbers. The building is six stories high, plus a basement. Materials are received on the first floor and are eventually conveyed for most part, to other floors from where the progress of finished products is downward until they reach the packing and shipping departments on the first floor.

            As one starts on the top floor to tour the plant, the enormous tonnage of metal carried on that floor is amazing, all the more so when one is aware that the building stands on ground which was formerly a channel of the Great Miami River.

            As in the case of Plant 2, space does not per- [p. 26] [photographs: Automatic Stator Winders; Slitting Sheet-Metal Coils] [p. 27] [photograph: Packing Department] mit a detailed description of operations in Plant 3. The outstanding things to be seen are:


-Batteries of multiple-spindle machines milling, drilling, and tapping the parts of absorbers. These machines are mostly “Delco Specials” constructed in the plant.

Many similar machines (driven, incidentally, by Delco motors) have been built for

Other manufacturers. [p.28]


-Converging overhead conveyors carrying piston and body parts to the long belt conveyors where the shock absorbers are assembled.


-Batteries of machines making a multitude of springs for various Delco products.


-Ranks of “automatics” tooling parts from bar stock.


-Series of centerless grinders doing the rough


[Photograph: One of the Many Conveyor Systems] [p. 29]


[Photographs: Charging Shock Absorbers with Fluid; A Few of the Automatics] [p. 30]


[Photographs: Making Sandwiches in Commissary; One of the 29 Commissary Trucks]


            -and finished grinding on absorber pistons


            -Hobbing machines cutting gears for motors and generators.


            -Tube forming machines which take strips of metal from rolls, shape them in

            tubes, weld the continuous joint, shave off the excess weld metal, and cut the

            tubing into lengths. This is a business within a business, growing out of the need for tubes used in the manufacture of Delco direct-acting shock absorbers. However, the tube-forming facilities at Delco have grown to such an extent that large quantities of tubing are sold to other manufacturers.

            In a section on Plant 2 is the commissary department where 29 trucks, with hot and cold compartments, are loaded with food and re- [p. 31] freshments to deliver to employes throughout the three plants at relatively low prices. Here you see a 100-gallon coffee urn, said to be one of the largest in use; great soup kettles; a range for baking meats for sandwiches; well-stocked store rooms and refrigerators. At present, sales average 10,000 per day from the trucks.

            The accompanying photographs illustrate some of the operations and equipment mentioned, as well as some not mentioned. [Photograph: Warehouse on Girard Avenue] [p. 32]




In addition to the three manufacturing plants, scattered warehouse facilities have been consolidated by acquiring a quarter-million more square feet of space in two locations.

            A new warehouse on Girard Avenue off Springfield Pike is one of the largest buildings of its type in the country. It has a floor area of 324,000 square feet, of which approximately 40% on the second floor will be utilized by the Frigidaire Division. The remaining 192,277 square feet, comprising the first floor and dock, are utilized by Delco Products Division. The main warehouse is 289 feet wide and 457 feet long, while the dock area is 289 by 200 feet.

            Another building, 45 by 180 feet, located at 511 E. First Street, has recently been purchased. The building comprises four stories and basement with a total floor area of 40,500 square feet. This is occupied the second floor of Plant 3. Vacant ground around the warehouse is to be used for parking space.

            These areas, plus other spaces occupied by Delco Products Division, amount to a grand total of 1,644,000 sq. ft. of floor space – equivalent to 37 3/4 acres. [p. 33]



Chapter 4   Delco Folks  [photograph: stadium grandstands decorated with bunting and

                                                filled with people] [p. 34]


[Map: Dayton, 25N and Troy]


Twenty miles north of Dayton, the city of Troy has a population almost exactly equal to the number of men and women employed by Delco Products. If all the inhabitants of Troy visited the Company’s plants during a 24-hour period, the migration would be less than the daily traffic of employes.

            With their families and dependents, the employes would make a city the size of Sandusky, Ohio. Adding all the grocers, butchers, bakers, carpenters, plumbers, teachers, doctors, policemen, firemen, et al., required to serve Delco folks, the hypothetical Delco City would have approximately the population of Mansfield.

            In the foregoing statements, it is not implied that Delco Products is the dominating industry of Dayton, because at least two others are larger. But this Division is a considerable factor in the life and business activity of the community.




When a new employe joins the Delco organization, he or she is recognized as a person.

            Since this is a large organization, the new employe is likely to feel strange and perplexed, probably a little nervous. So, the Personnel Department tries to acquaint new employes with their surroundings and make them feel at home. The first step is an induction program in which the newcomer is told about the policies, products, and procedures of the Company. Then the employe is introduced to the supervisor who carefully explains the nature of the job. [p. 35] [Photograph: Part of Delco Parking Lot]

            All new employes are given on-the-job training for their specific duties. As they master their original jobs, they have opportunities to progress to work which involves higher skills. In accordance with a definite policy of making promotions from within, all employes are continuously appraised for possible transfer to higher positions. [p. 36]




Although Delco Products Division is a manufacturing company, much of the administration work actually has nothing to do directly with production and selling. For instance, a large part of the Financial Department clerical force is engaged entirely in computing employes’ income tax and social security deductions, bond installments, insurance payments, etc.

            Several departments devote practically all their efforts to the interests of employes, endeavoring to make Delco a good place in which to work.

            The functions of the Personnel Department in engaging, inducting, and training new employes have already been mentioned. In addition, a section of this department administers employe group insurance. Life insurance premiums are paid jointly by the company and employes. Medical insurance premiums are paid by employes. In both cases, rates are low because of the group plan. The benefits have often proved to be godsends to employes and their families.

            At the close of 1948, 98% of all employes at the Division were protected by the life insurance plan and 82% by the hospitalization and surgical insurance.




Delco folks become better acquainted and enjoy healthful fun by engaging in sports which the Company sponsors. [Line drawing: three men greeting each other, smiling]

            As an operating policy, the Company endeavors to provide recreational activities and equipment which would not be otherwise avail- [p. 37] able to employes. Participation is purely voluntary. Activities which embrace the largest number of people are given preference.

            The principal sports include bowling, baseball, softball, trapshooting, casting, golf, tennis, and volleyball. Employes are encouraged to engage in these sports as players or spectators, the motto of the department being “More Participation Makes Better Recreation.

            To stimulate enthusiasm, employe teams take part in the Dayton Industrial Athletic Association activities. The entries are composed of the best players selected from plant teams.

            Besides, a Class “D” baseball team for boys of 15 to 18 and a Class “E” team for boys of 12 to 15 are sponsored. The Delco entry captured the Class “D” city championship in 1948.

            Well known to Daytonians is the Delco Gun Club on Philadelphia Drive and adjoining the Stillwater river. The clubhouse was improved recently. It now can handle much larger departmental picnics and outings.




In addition to sports and athletics, employe entertainment is provided in the form of Christmas parties, shows, contests, and outings. The annual Delco Family Outing is a big annual affair held at the Montgomery County Fair Grounds. Attendance at the 1948 outing numbered more than 25,000.

            Besides providing sports and entertainment, the Division sponsors two Boy Scout troops, one Girl Scout troop, and courses at the Dayton Art Institute. The latter are available to employes and members of their families. [Line drawing: man studying at desk with books, papers, and lamp] [p. 38]


[Photographs: D.I.A.A. Bowling Tournament Winners; Owls Basketball Team] [p. 39]




Classes at the college level for young men interested in engineering and business administration are provided on a co-operative basis. Students spend half the time at work and the other half at school in either General Motors Institute, Flint, Mich., or the University of Cincinnati. While schedules of these two schools vary somewhat, they usually alternate 8-week periods of work and classroom instruction. There were 74 students enrolled in this co-operative college training in 1948.

            Foremen and other members of the supervisory staff attend classes intermittently on subjects relating to management. They study such matters as employe relations, trainee instruction, better methods, and report writing. In addition, about 150 foremen were sent to General Motors Institute for special courses of one or two weeks in basic or intensive management training, supplemented by two-day follow-up instruction in actual management practices and procedures.




Accident prevention is a matter of vital concern to every employe. A continuous activity is the maintaining of safety consciousness in the minds of all employees. This is done through personal contact and training, contests, posters, editorials, pictures, and special letters.

            Whatever hazards can be lessened by means of special clothing, gloves, face shields, goggles, welding helmets, steel hats, etc. the company provides the equipment. Safety shoes, however, are purchased by the employe.

            The company-furnished items mentioned above, plus special ventilating ducts, extra machine guards, and other safety equipment, involve an average annual expenditure of well over $150,000.




Over 2500 separate pieces of fire equipment are located throughout the five plants. This equip- [p. 40] [Photograph: Delco Skating Party] [p. 41]  ment is regularly inspected to assure its good condition. The plant protection service involves 85 people in the three shifts, who are responsible for guarding emloyes and property not only from fire, but also from vandalism and sabotage.




The Transportation Department wrestles with the problems of helping employes get to and from work. It negotiates the best service obtainable from the Dayton transportation companies. It does everything possible to facilitate the parking of employes’ cars.




The General Motors plan of encouraging suggestions from employes for improvement of working conditions, products, and processes is closely followed. Of the 2049 suggestions filed by eligible employes in 1948, 504 were adopted, earning $13,210.69 in awards. [p. 42]


[Photograph: Delco Christmas program taking place in theater] [p. 43]



Chapter 5   Delco Jobs


Comparable to a sizable city in population, Delco Products Division is organized like a city in a good many respects, as you undoubtedly observed when you read about the various activities pertaining to safety, fire protection, traffic, welfare, and recreation.

            In the matter of revenue, however, Delco Products is entirely different from a city. All of its income is derived from sales. Everything manufactured is produced to the end that customers will buy the product. Naturally, customers will not buy Delco motors, generators, shock absorbers, or actuators unless these products are at least equal in quality and price to similar articles offered by its competitors.

            Therefore, good workmanship and reasonable production cost are essential to the salability of Delco’s products. The customer makes the decision whether to buy or not. He is the ultimate boss! He determines whether Delco succeeds or fails. If he buys Delco’s goods at a profit to the Division, Delco can keep on operating and giving jobs to its employes.

            No manufacturing plant can survive except by making and selling products at a profit. That’s where Delco Products is unlike a city. A city gets its revenue from taxes, fees, and fines. If it doesn’t have enough income, it increases [p. 44] taxes or curtails service. Delco can’t do that. It has to maintain its service and sell goods at a profit in the face of competition.

            This is the American system – the system of free competitive enterprise…a battle of competitors to get the customer’s money to keep a business going.




In Delco Products Division, as in all large manufacturing establishments, there are physical jobs and mental jobs. Since the business of a manufacturing establishment is producing things, physical work is indispensable. But much other work has to be done in order to make production possible.

            First of all, the whole enterprise has to be planned. Then buildings have to be erected, machinery has to be installed, materials have to be bought and received in a steady flow, jobs have to be set up, workers have to be trained, tools have to be provided, goods have to be sold and shipped, bills have to be rendered, accounts have to be kept, payrolls have to be computed, wages have to be paid.

            All of these duties are essential to the manufacture and sale of products. A factory can’t be operated without planning and direction any more than an automobile can be run without gasoline, ignition, wheels, and a steering gear. Sure, an automobile requires an engine to perform the actual “work,” but the engine without the transmission, differential, chassis, and body wouldn’t be an automobile.




Taking a job at Delco Products is a serious matter for both the employe and the Company. To the employe it means a living, association with other people, opportunity for advancement, perhaps a lifetime occupation. Some of the original employes of the old Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company are still active at this Division after forty years of service. [p. 45] Membership in the 25-Year Club numbers 412.

            So the Company is careful about the selection of new employes. The following story is pertinent in this connection:

            A father gave his five-year-old daughter a jigsaw map of the world. He asked her to take it apart and put it together again. In a surprisingly short time, she re-assembled the map.

            “How did you do it so soon?” he asked.

            “I drew the picture of a man on the back of the map while it was together. Then, when the man came out right, the world came out right.”

            That’s the way it is with a company. The right people in it make it come out right. [Line drawing: young girl drawing a picture of a man on top of a jigsaw puzzle] [p. 46]


Chapter 6   Delco in the Community


Delco Products Division expects to live in Dayton for a long time. The Company hopes that the relations between it and the community will remain mutually friendly and advantageous.

            One of the objectives of this booklet is to give the people of Dayton and vicinity a true picture of Delco Products Division. This may prevent misunderstandings and misstatements which might otherwise occur.

            Delco Products seeks to avoid prejudiced publicity, whether good or bad. The Public Relations Department is prepared at all times to furnish the facts concerning policies and activities, together with exhibits and photographs.

            Another purpose of this booklet is to give present and prospective employes an insight into the founding, development, functioning, and management of a typical American industry. The future of our country will be determined by the thinking and actions of the rising generation.

            In reading the story of Delco Products, young people have an example of how the American system of democracy and free competitive enterprise works out in actual practice. In the achievements of Charles F. Kettering and his associates can be seen the opportunity for success in a political atmosphere favorable to [p. 47] personal initiative.

            The story plainly shows that an American industrial organization is composed of free men and women who work together for their common good; that the manufacturer of useful products benefits society by contributing toward a higher standard of living.

            Through forty years of progress, “Delco” has become a symbol of quality. Delco Products Division is proud to carry on the tradition. [DELCO trademark symbol] [p. 48]


[Photograph: Continued shot of Delco plants] [p. 49/inner back cover]