The Siemon Company
The True Story of a 20th Century American Dream Made Real
The year was 1903 and the world was ripe with innovation. Henry Ford sold his first automobile, Marie Curie received her first Nobel Prize, and the Wright brothers defied gravity for 12 seconds. As the bright morning sunlight burned off the dew on the dawn of the new 20th century, the golden age of invention and prosperity was finally here.
In the northeast corner of the United States, a transplanted mid-westerner with a flair for chemistry, was mixing up his own version of 20th century innovation and the American dream. Already an accomplished chemist with renowned experience in the newly emerging field of plastics, Carl F. Siemon combined his unique chemical composition with an equally ambitious USD $2,500 investment (equivalent to over $50,000 today), to create the Siemon Hard Rubber Company. Together with partner Waldo C. Bryant, the new company created imitation stag-horn knife handles out of a durable plastic material that offered superior resistance to extreme temperatures and boiling water.
In the next few years, the Siemon Company's legendary entrepreneurial spirit really began to shine, driving still further innovation. In 1906, the company entered the fledgling telecommunications market with the 3-pole connecting block - a product that offered superior performance to the standard ceramic connecting block of the day. Fashioned out of a refined hardened plastic compound, affectionately known as "Connecticut River Mud," the Siemon 3-pole connecting block resisted the cracking and breaking so common with the ceramic blocks. As such, it soon became a staple product for a new customer - Western Electric (better known as AT&T). Though the products may have changed over the years, The Siemon Company is still supplying AT&T and other Bell companies with innovative products, and is today the company's oldest continuous supplier.
In the decades that followed, The Siemon Company developed into a true manufacturing and engineering power. But the twentieth century, with all its idealistic virtues and raw opportunity, also presented some very real challenges. It was an exciting and turbulent time filled with hyperbolic swings of economic prosperity and hardship the likes of which the world had never seen. Through all of this, The Siemon Company not only survived, but continued to thrive and grow.
"Innovation has been the key to our success," says Carl N. Siemon, current President of The Siemon Company and the fourth Carl Siemon to steer the Siemon ship. "It all started with an idea and a dream, and today we are still pursuing my great-grandfather's dream. Products, technology and the faces all change but the underlying principles of The Siemon Company remain as steadfast and unchanging as they did so many years ago in 1903. Build quality products, provide exceptional service, reinvest in technology and make a real effort to understand the needs of the market and your customers. That, more than anything has kept The Siemon Company in the forefront. I am proud to lead the company into its second century of operation and I look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead."
So today, at the dawn of the 21st century, as the company celebrates 100 years of operation, we celebrate not only the outstanding achievements and great technological strides the company has made, but the broad shoulders and strong backs of the people who made this marvelous milestone a reality. This is a true human-interest story. It is the story of a family. In particular, it is the story of four men named Carl whose dreams, aspirations and sheer determination have built a family monument that is ever so much more than the bricks and mortar that house the injection molding and metal stamping machines. It is a monument and a testament to the fact that American know-how and good old-fashioned yankee ingenuity can and do work wonders.
The Early Years
Sculpting the Raw Clay
From the day Carl F. Siemon opened the doors on the Siemon Hard Rubber Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut to today, there has been one thing that has defined the business: plastic. In 1903, plastic was a new technology, destined to become, over the next century, one of the most significant contributors to society and technology. But back then, it was merely raw clay waiting for the sculptor to shape his work of art. Plastics, and the way The Siemon Company used it to create innovative products, was, from the very beginning, the main core competency of the company.
A walk through the company museum in the Siemon Company's world headquarters office, now located in Watertown, CT, USA, bears testament to this fact and is quite like a trip through an antique novelty shop. In addition to the stag-horn handles and 3-pole connecting blocks mentioned previously, Siemon has created such things as ear and mouth pieces for early telephones, rifle butts, lamp switches, battery terminals, poker chips, tiddly winks, even imitation shark's teeth. While some of these items are more frivolous than others, the fact remains that the company was a recognized leader in the plastics field and built a well-earned reputation for high-quality, dependable products.
The Great Challenge
Singing and Dancing to Prosperity
This early time was one of steady growth and market acceptance. There are many ways to grow a company, but perhaps one of the most significant decisions the early Siemon Company made was to expand its capabilities through acquisition. And so, in 1923, the company decided that the roaring twenties and this new obsession with music and entertainment made good business sense, and acquired the Bell Record Company. This was the first entry into the record business for Siemon, and although a departure from telecommunications, represented significant business in an increasingly difficult economy. It proved to be a very wise decision.
Combining its business savvy with its technological expertise, The Siemon Company was actively involved in the invention of a non-breakable plastic record to serve the needs of a booming entertainment industry. Thus, in 1934, Siemon had over 140 people employed and was manufacturing records for five separate labels. Its association with Decca Records is most notable. With recording stars like swooning crooner Bing Crosby and his new "White Christmas" album, over one-million Decca records were produced per month to meet the insatiable demand.
The Baby Boom Years
There are a Growing Number of Mouths to Feed and We've Got the Plates to Serve Them On
With the onset of World War II and the ensuing post-war years, Siemon's reputation for excellence in molded plastics continued to grow. Contracted by the US Navy, The Siemon Company produced plastic dinnerware that was used onboard ships and submarines. Virtually indestructible, these products carried a lifetime warranty and soon found their way into the general population as the Watertown Dinnerware Collection. The dinnerware proved very successful, and that, combined with the continuing record business, truly made these early baby boom years boom business years as well.
The war years also saw the first change in leadership for The Siemon Company. Succeeding his father who passed away a few years earlier, Carl M. Siemon became the second president of the company and successfully steered the company from the economic hardships of the Great Depression to the economic expansion of the post-war years. Like his father before him, Carl M. was a shrewd businessman, and was responsible for re-locating the company in 1954 from its original home in Bridgeport, Connecticut to its current home of Watertown, consolidating operations with the Watertown Manufacturing Company it had acquired in 1926.
But change was still coming. In 1957, Carl M. turned over the helm to his son Carl. Now the third Carl Siemon to steer the Siemon ship, the decisions he would make in the next few years would lay the groundwork for unprecedented Siemon Company expansion.
The Babies Grow Up
Making a Name for Ourselves
The 1960's offered expanding possibilities. Although turbulent politically, population growth combined with steady economic expansion provided a solid foundation on which to grow The Siemon Company. Already a long-time supplier to Western Electric (AT&T), Siemon now began shipping its "66" connecting blocks to other customers, serving the increasing demand for new and better telecommunications. More people meant more telephones and the 1960s and '70s were rising times for telecommunication expansion. The "66" block quickly became the standard for installing new telephone systems.
"66" products continued to grow and place demands on the operations side of the business. As such, the company acquired the Dynamic Tool & Manufacturing Company and expanded operations to Canada and Puerto Rico. And, as time went on, created separate divisions for electronics and molding, in order to better serve the needs of its customers.
But there was an interesting thing happening throughout all this. Renowned for its manufacturing excellence, Siemon was essentially an OEM supplier - Original Equipment Manufacturer - meaning they made things for other companies and received little or no brand recognition. All of this started to change in the late '70s, however, as "66" block sales and the company's reputation for high quality and innovation continued to increase. Customers now began to specify Siemon products. They wanted Siemon because they recognized the name and they wanted the best.
As the '70s rolled into the '80s, Carl Siemon turned over leadership of the company to his son, Carl N. A graduate of Yale University, like his father and grandfather before him, Carl N. had a desire to build not only a respected manufacturer of high quality telecom products, but a world renowned producer of brand-name products for the newly emerging structured cabling sector of the telecom industry. Accordingly, The Siemon Company leveraged its expertise in injection molding plastics, metal stamping and sheet metal forming and automation to produce network jacks, patch panels, tools, testers and much more for the new computer networking industry - all branded under its own name. It was a decision of monumental importance and set the company on a path of meteoric growth.
To the Future
This Operation is Going Global
The 1990s was a decade like no other. Telecommunications deregulation and the proliferation of personal computers created a time of technological expansion unprecedented in history. It was also a time of rampant expansion for The Siemon Company. Under the guidance of Carl N. Siemon, The Siemon Company grew from a respected OEM manufacturer to a world-class supplier of technologically advanced structured cabling systems. Siemon gained acceptance in all areas of the world: US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Now, Siemon is a recognized technology leader in the telecommunications industry, having been the first company to deliver a Category 6 cabling solution (a high-bandwidth network cabling solution) and is the only company in the world to have a commercially available Category 7 solution (the next step after Category 6).
Through all of this the company has maintained its perspective. One-hundred years has not dampened the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit of the company. This is a family-owned and operated business. Working closely with the current Carl are his three brothers: John (VP Engineering), Hank (Executive VP, Sales) and CK (VP Reseller Services). Each provides unwavering support and dedication to the Company. For years, the four have worked together in harmony to build the Siemon Company into the international power it is today. And they don't intend on stopping there.
Nobody knows for sure what the future has in store, but The Siemon Company does not plan to wait for the future - they are making it happen today. Pioneers in plastics, pioneers in manufacturing and technology, The Siemon Company is celebrating its past and positioning itself for the future. 20th century values, 21st century vision, The Siemon Company is living proof that hard work, dedication and a dream can take you far.