Square D marks 100 years in power, control fields

Palatine, IL—Square D celebrated its 100th birthday on Dec. 15. The company is one of America's best-known brands of electrical distribution and control equipment serving residential, commercial and industrial customers.


Palatine, IL- Square D Schneider Electric 's (Paris, France) flagship brand in the U.S.

Before it was acquired by Schneider in 1991, Square D earned a unique distinction on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) of never reporting a financial loss in any calendar quarter during the 55 years of its NYSE listing, and also paying 220 consecutive quarterly dividends to shareholders.

'Very few brands that have been around for 100 years can claim that they meet the same essential needs of society as when they began,' says Chris Richardson, president and ceo of Schnedier's North American division, who has been with the firm for more than 30 years. 'Electrical safety has always been a major priority for us, and new technologies we're introducing to improve electrical energy conservation and support distribution and control of alternative electrical energy production make this business more critical than ever.'

One hundred years ago, on Dec. 15, 1902, Bryson D. Horton and James B. McCarthy formed the McBride Manufacturing Co. (Detroit, MI). They hired two women to assemble an initial order of 1,000 cartridge-type electrical fuses, working in an 18-x-40-ft rented room.

That modest beginning grew steadily to become a multi-billion-dollar leader in the North American electrical industry. Square D set the standard for the metal-enclosed safety switch, the modern residential circuit breaker and a host of other electrical innovations, which still protect people's lives, while efficiently distributing, managing and controlling electricity.

Signature brand, global business
Square D is presently a brand of Schneider, which is a $9-billion enterprise that reports it's committed to 'building a new electric world' in more than 130 countries worldwide. Square D accounts for the greatest share of $2.7 billion in annual sales by the company's North American Division, which provides nearly one-third of Schneider's global revenues and employs 17,000 people in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Complementing the Square D brand in North America are Telemecanique control and automation products and systems, Merlin Gerin products for electrical distribution, as well as Federal Pioneer products in Canada and Federal Pacific in Mexico. Schneider's brands meet the needs of customers in the residential, buildings, industry and energy and infrastructure markets.

Customers call for "Square D"
The cartridge fuse business fueled rapid growth at McBride Manufacturing during its first decade in Detroit. This was also a period when the company underwent numerous name and management changes, while Mr. Horton led the business.

In 1915, the company, known than as Detroit Fuse and Manufacturing Co., began marketing a new sheet metal version of its cast iron enclosed safety switch with a cover displaying an embossed letter 'D,' for Detroit, within a square border. The simple trademark design soon had customers asking for the 'Square D' switch. This new switch was so successful that the fuse business was sold in 1917, and the firm officially changed its name to Square D Co.

In approximately 1920, the company's famous 'Jones Is Dead!' magazine advertisement vividly engraved the Square D safety switch in the minds of many companies' managers concerned about shock hazards from exposed electrical switches.

Throughout the 1920s and on to 1930, Square D grew by acquiring related electrical products, such as porcelain insulating parts and industrial controllers. The firm eventually grew beyond Detroit, and opened operations in Peru, IN, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.

Subsequently, World War II brought dramatic changes. By the end of 1941, Square D was devoting more than 90% of its to defense. For a time, the company even made aircraft in-struments and binoculars.

Peacetime, recent growth
Production and product innovation both expanded rapidly after World War II. In 1955, the revolutionary Square D circuit breaker found eager markets in commercial, residential and industrial applications, succeeding traditional screw type fuse boxes in most homes and businesses. New and acquired manufacturing locations in Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, and elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad helped provide products that supported Square D's advertising slogan at the time, 'Wherever Electricity is Distributed and Controlled.'

The company's continued national expansion led it to relocate its corporate headquarters in 1960 from Detroit to the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, IL; and then move again in 1979 to nearby Palatine, IL.

During its long history, the company also built a 2,000-member network of independent electrical distributors in North America. The company says this network is electrical industry's largest, and that it members are a vital channel in making Square D the brand of choice for quality and reliability among local electrical contractors and industrial and commercial users. In recent years, its focus on strategic accounts in North America and globally has Square D a preferred supplier to leaders in semiconductors, food and beverage, automotive, pharmaceutical and many other industries.

In addition, innovative power management technologies are helping customers of Schneider's North American division gain greater efficiency, cost savings and electrical reliability for opera-tions at single locations or spread hundreds of miles apart.

Also, as global power needs intensify, new technologies are being combined to control and distribute electricity where it's needed, to automate homes, businesses and industries and to tie everything together seamlessly through voice, data and image communications. Square D and Schneider's other major brands also offer web-enabled open standards; technology and equipment for automating factories and power distribution; and products that include web-enabled PLCs, ac drives, motor starters and other equipment connected to the Internet via standard Ethernet cabling in all kinds of buildings.

Brand name continues
In brand studies conducted over more than four decades, Square D's trademark continues to be among the most highly recognized brands of its kind, says Robert Fiorani, vp of communication for Schneider's North American division.

'The North American brand strength of Square D was an asset that Schneider Electric prized when the two companies merged in 1991, and it continues even stronger today,' says Mr. Fiorani. 'Wherever end-users, contractors, builders or engineers make a choice among electrical brands, Square D comes to mind as a preferred brand. We continue working to enhance the perception of Square D brand and Schneider Electric as the most focused, customer-oriented provider of electrical distribution, control and automation solutions in North America, and wherever else our multinational customers may be operating.'

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Jim Montague, news editor

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