CITYSCAPES


Dudlo's Wire Enamel


By KEVIN LEININGER
from the archives of The News-Sentinel

Shortly after the 19th century gave way to the 20th, three fledging industrial giants - automotive, telephone and radio - began to shape America's future. But the three industries had more in common. They all needed lots of magnet wire, and Fort Wayne's Dudlo Manufacturing Co. was for a time the world's largest supplier of it.

Before Dudlo opened shop in a 50-by-100-foot shed on Wall Street in 1912, magnet wire was insulated with cotton fabric, which wore out with continued use. Dudlo founders W.E. Mossman and George Jacobs had been developing an enamel coating which would last.

Through trial and error, Jacobs came up with secret enamel coating. The enameling process was so well guarded that only Jacobs and one other Dudlo employee were ever allowed in the underground room where the enamel was mixed. Bankrolled by Mossman, who was Jacobs' father-in-law, Dudlo opened with 12 employees. The company was named in honor of Jacobs' birthplace, Dudley, Mass., and the state of Ohio. The company operated unsuccessfully in Cleveland for a year before moving to the Summit City.

By 1922, Dudlo was the world's leading manufacturer of magnet wire. The plant was operating around the clock, and between 1912 and 1927 it turned out at least 35 million pounds of enameled wire.

Among Dudlo's 105 major accounts were some of the country's leading manufacturers, such as Westinghouse and Delco-Remy. Dudlo was also the largest supplier of wire to the Ford Motor Co.

By 1917, Dudlo was also producing its own wire. By 1927, though, Dudlo executives became concerned about the country's financial health and took part in a $50 million merger of some of the country's major wire makers, which became the General Cable Corp. Many Dudlo employees did not take the merger news well. Word of the merger, said one, ``came like a word of a death in the family.''

For a time, operations remained unchanged. Then, in 1930, General Cable closed Dudlo's Fort Wayne office facilities and moved them east. In 1933, General Cable's Fort Wayne general manger Victor Rea resigned to form Rea Magnet Wire, still operating here today. Later in 1933, the remaining Dudlo operations in Fort Wayne were moved to Rome, New York.

The Dudlo story does not end, there, however. In 1936, Essex Wire Corp. bought the old Dudlo buildings and has been operating there ever since.

--Dec. 12, 1981


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