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Finding aid for Nesbitt Aire, Inc. Records (1993-2001)

Hagley Museum and Library 298 Buck Road East Wilmington, Delaware 19807 Please direct questions to: [email protected] or 302-658-2400 ext 330

Abstract: Nesbitt Aire Inc., is one of the leading manufacturers for school heating and cooling systems. Nesbitt Aire began making heating and cooling products in the early 1920s and continues to this day. Nesbitt Aire has been an innovator in the heating and cooling industry, developing large air conditioning units as early as the 1930s. The Nesbitt Aire, Inc., records demonstrate the company's effort to showcase its products through 70 years of trade catalogs. Date Range: 1933-2001 Provenance: Gift from Nesbitt Family Restrictions: None Language: English, German, And French Repository Code: DeHV File Name: Nesbitt Papers.doc Extent: 8 linear ft Processed by Jason Sylvestre, August 2006

Nesbitt Aire, Inc. Records Accession 2359 History John J. Nesbitt founded a contracting business in the early 1900s in Atlantic City NJ. In 1917 Nesbitt and his eldest son Albert moved the company to Philadelphia, Pa., and began to manufacture unit ventilators. From this time on, Nesbitt would focus exclusively on manufacturing. The business was incorporated as John J. Nesbitt, Inc., in 1922, and Nesbitt secured his first patent soon afterward. From this simple beginning, Nesbitt became one of the leaders in the manufacturing and sale of heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment. The firm made many significant innovations in classroom heating, cooling and ventilation. Its individual fan-coil units permitted maximum flexibility and efficiency in large school buildings. Nesbitt introduced the first light weight copper radiator in 1926. This made it possible to house a motor and fan assembly below the heating element, a set-up still in use by Nesbitt today. Also in 1926 Nesbitt began to distribute products nationally through an arrangement with the American Blower Corporation. In 1930 Nesbitt introduced the first valve controlled unit ventilator, a breakthrough that allowed for refined control of classroom temperature. That same year Nesbitt purchased the Buckeye Blower Company of Columbus Ohio. With the purchase, Nesbitt acquired all of Buckeye's patents, including a steam distributing tube radiator that had been developed by Buckeye in the 1920s. Nesbitt's Chief Engineer, John W. McElgin improved the steam distribution system so that by 1936 Nesbitt was able to introduce a full line of blast heating coils with steam distributing tubes. This was revolutionary development in the blast coil industry. Steam distributing tubes are still used by all manufactures of blast coils. In 1932 Nesbitt first used the phrase "Syncretized Air." This phrase would go on to become a Nesbitt trademark. In 1933 Nesbitt introduced its first air conditioning system, but its early air conditioners were not a commercial success. In the 1940s Nesbitt introduced drainable water coils, which eliminated draining problems in large cooling elements. When America entered WWII, Nesbitt retooled to produce munitions for the Philadelphia Ordnance District. Nesbitt produced casings for land mines, grenades, and bomb fins. After the War, Nesbitt went back to work manufacturing heaters for schools. Nesbitt continued to revolutionize the school heating industry during the 1950s. In 1955 Nesbitt introduced a hot water heated Wind-o-Line system. The system was designed to sit just below the window line of a classroom. It would heat the room while protecting against the draft from the large windows. In 1956 Nesbitt improved upon its steam coil design by creating the Trombone Steam Distributing Coil. This coil allowed for greater uniformity of steam distribution in all conditions. In 1957 Nesbitt ventured back into air conditioner manufacturing.


By the 1960s Nesbitt employed more that 600 people and had a sales volume close to $38 million a year. In 1961 Nesbitt acquired the Reznor organization in Mercer, PA. This acquisition brought a line of gas-fired products to Nesbitt. In 1964 Nesbitt was acquired by the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. Nesbitt Chief Engineer John W. McElgin was named president of this new ITT subsidiary. Nesbitt became the centerpiece of ITT's Environmental Products Division. In 1967 Nesbitt engineers developed a line of rooftop multizone units that were fabricated in the factory and shipped to the job site in one piece. These units ranged in size from 17 to 32 tons cooling capacity with provision for gas, electric, or hydronic heating. These units introduced the concept of refrigerant reheat to provide warm weather humidity control. Throughout the 1970s Nesbitt would continue to expand on its rooftop units. These units would eventually reach 75 ton cooling capacity. Nesbitt designed and built its own rooftop products test facility that allowed for this continued innovation and growth. ITT sold Nesbitt to an independent contractor in 1979. Unfortunately for Nesbitt the contractor was bankrupt within a year of the purchase. A group of former Nesbitt employees attended the bankruptcy sale and purchased all of the Nesbitt parts in stock and in production as well as the engineering drawings, and all the rights to patents and trade names. The new company was named Mechanical Specialties, Inc. MSI went into the business of keeping existing Nesbitt products in operation. Eventually MSI entered into the production of Nesbitt parts in order to meet demand. In 1991 MSI entered bankruptcy and was purchased by Mestek, Inc from the creditor, CoreStates Bank, on August 21 of that year. Mestek continued to use the Nesbitt brand. Nesbitt was relocated in 1995, from Philadelphia, Pa., to Windsor, Conn. Nesbitt went back to work producing classroom products under the brandnames Wing, Vulcan and DynaForce. In 2000, Mestek Inc. sold the Nesbitt patents and brand to PEF Industries, Inc. They created a new firm, Nesbitt Aire, Inc., as a wholly owned subsidiary and moved production to Somerville, Tenn. The company remained short of capital and entered bankruptcy again in 2003. It was sold to Special Situations Fund, LLC, and Morris Capital Management, Inc., of Chattanooga, specialists in corporate turnarounds and salvage, and was reorganized as NesbittAire, LLC. After a brief period of rehabilitation, it was resold to the RSI Company of Cleveland, Ohio, who continues to manufacture the Nesbitt line. The Tennessee plant was sold at auction on May 21, 2005.


Nesbitt Aire, Inc. Records Accession 2359 Provenance and Arrangement The Nesbitt Aire Records were a gift from the Nesbitt Family. The Records are arranged in three series to maximize their accessibility. The correspondence in the first series is arranged chronologically in descending order. The second series, composed of catalogs is arranged in ascending chronological order.


Nesbitt Aire, Inc Records Accession 2359 Scope and Content Note The Nesbitt Aire, Inc. Records are arranged in three series; Business Records, Catalogs, and Manuals. The first series is divided into either sub-series: Correspondence, Newsletters, Dividends, Meetings, Reports, Company History, Employee Information, and Miscellaneous. The Catalogs series is divided into two sub-series: Notebooks and Other Company's Catalogs. The Nesbitt Records follow the development, sale, and marketing efforts for their line of heating and cooling products designed for use primarily in schools. The many trade catalogs and advertisements are interesting for their use of elementary school classroom images. The Records have a date range from 1932-2000, with the bulk date range for 1950-1975. Series I. Business Records Sub-Series A: Correspondence. This sub-series includes letters and memos to shareholders of the Nesbitt Company. The majority of the correspondence deals with stock issues, including the sale and merger of the Nesbitt company. The range of dates for the correspondence covers most of the 1950s and 1960s with letters from the 1970s and a few from 1998. The second set of letters in the correspondence sub-series are notices to salesmen for Nesbitt. Sub-Series B: Newsletters includes Nesbitt's Newsbits, the Nesbitt company newsletter. There is almost a complete run of newsletters from 1951-1967. Included in the Newsletter sub-series are ITT newsletters from 1972-1974. Sub-Series C: Dividend payments issued quarterly from 1961-1963. Each dividend is numbered by quarter. Sub-Series D: Includes Meeting minutes, agendas, notes, and reports from the Board of Directors meetings in 1961 and 1963. Agendas and minutes from various sales meetings are also included with this sub-series. Sub-Series E: The Report sub-series includes a bound collection of Business Week articles. The Business Week articles were put together for John J. Nesbitt. The volume appears to be a year's worth of articles, but the articles are not dated. A collection of Nesbitt patents is the other bound report in this sub-series. An incomplete run of annual reports from 1950-1970 and the late 1990s can also be found in this sub-series, along with product reports and debut plans, environmental studies, and a report for the Pennsylvania School Heating and Ventilation Commission. Sub-Series F: The Company History sub-series includes pictures of the Nesbitt factory, employees, and members of the Nesbitt family. Nearly all of the photographs give no indication of the people featured. The first folder in the sub-series contains


reprinted photographs collected by John J. Nesbitt III. These reprinted photographs include a picture of the first unit ventilator built by John J. Nesbitt. Histories of the Nesbitt and ITT companies can be found in this sub-series, along with newspaper articles about the relocation an ITT factory, and Nesbitt acquisitions. The sub-series is completed by a tribute to Albert Nesbitt, comprised of a series of conversations with him in 1975. Sub-Series G: Employee Information. This sub-series includes an employment handbook and benefits package from 1959, and a company directory from 1963. The rest of the sub-series is made up of material for salesmen, including a promotional packet, guides to local and state officials in Pennsylvania, and a businessmen's guide to Washington DC. Sub-Series H: Miscellaneous materials including invitations to Nesbitt cocktails parties and ladies Tea events, untitled slide presentations, newspaper articles, and an incomplete, untitled report. The Nesbitt Air Conditioning Course, a large textbook, the final item in the sub-series

Series II. Catalogs The catalogs in Series II range from 1930-1977. Not every year is present; there are gaps in the 30s, 40s, and 70s. There are a few catalogs from as recently as 1992, 2000-2001. There are catalogs designed as promotional sales materials to schools, business, industry, and the home. There are product catalogs, which include Nesbitt's range of heating, cooling, and air-conditioning units. Nesbitt has catalogs for the following types of products: air handlers, condensing units, dehumidifiers, fan coil units, packaged air terminal conditioners, packaged terminal heat pumps, rooftop multizone units, unit ventilators, compressors, controls, heat exchangers, heating & cooling units, motor & fan assemblies, gas furnaces, steam heat coils, hot water heating coils, chilled water cooling systems, electric heaters, sealed flamer/overhead gas heaters, and baseboard/sill heaters. Selection and price catalogs can also be found in the series. There are a number of catalogs from the late 1950s that follow Nesbitt's introduction of cooling systems and air-conditioning units for sale to schools and industry. Many of the catalogs in this series have supplements that include technical data and diagrams, and service bulletins. Sub-Series A: Notebook Catalogs. The notebook catalog sub-series are those catalogs, which have either been prepared for a client or salesman for use. Where possible they have been identified as being for a specific client. The notebooks are ordered chronologically by the first date that appears in the binder. Sub-Series B: Other Company catalogs are single catalogs and binders from Nesbitt rival companies. Rival companies include Alfred Teves GmbH (in German) Sturtevant, Schemenauer, and Warren Webster.


Series III. Manuals This series features installation and repair manuals for Nesbitt and ITT products. There is a large binder that features manuals for nearly all of the Nesbitt and ITT products.


Nesbitt Aire, Inc. Records Accession: 2359 Series I. Business Records Box 1 Sub-Series A: Correspondence 1951, 1959-1964, 1969-1973, 1977, 1998 Sales Information 1963-1977 Sub-Series B: Newsletters Nesbitt's Newsbits, Company Newsletter 1951-1967 ITT Newsletter 1972-1974 Sub-Series C: Dividend Payments Quarterly from 1961-1963 Sub-Series D: Meetings Agenda for American Blower Corporation Sales Meeting, September 15-16. 1952 New York State Department of Education December 9, 1959 Board of Directors and Shareholders July 19, 1961, October 18, 1961 Special meeting November 4, 1963, November 26(shareholder) Regional Sales Meeting June 26, 1972 ­ reproduction of flip chart Sub-Series E: Reports Special Reports on Major Business Problems, Business Week (Bound edition of Business Week articles) Influence of Air on Health Proposed Plan for Announcing the 600 Series "Thermal Comfort System Designed for SCSD Schools" First Report "Pennsylvania School Heating and Ventilating Commission, September 1934. Copies of Patents Owned by John J. Nesbitt, Inc. and Buckeye Blower Co. Annual Reports 1953-1964, 1971-1977, 1991, 1996-1997 Nesbitt Study Report No. 1 February 2, 1959 Spiegel, Walter. "Unique Engineering and Test Center is Basis for Better Rooftop Systems" March 24, 1972 ITT Nesbitt "Operation Sunshine: A Case for Facilities Consolidation" February 23, 1976 Sub-Series F: Company History Pictures arranged by John J Nesbitt III Pictures: Portraits, Work, Award Ceremonies, And Social Functions Presentation, Army-Navy Production Award, February 11, 1944.


Nesbitt Aire, Inc. Records Accession 2359 Sub-Series F: Company History Cont. Box 1

"The Nesbitt Biography" "Historical Biography of ITT Nesbitt" "Nesbitt History" February 1996. Benson, Gertrude. "The Board Chairman's Board Chairman ­ His Legacy To his Family and to Philadelphia" (Series of conversations with Albert Nesbitt) 1975. "Nesbit Corp. Files Bankruptcy Petition. 1970 "ITT is Expected to Move Subsidiary from Phila." September 3, 1976 Play Town buys ITT Factory December 11, 1977 News Release "Nesbitt Acquired by Environmental Technologies Corporation 1979 Sub-Series G: Employee information Employee Handbook 1946 Group Insurance 1947 Employee Handbook, and benefits package 1959 Nesbitt Directory 1963 Promotional Kit 70 for salesmen Legislators and Government Officials in the Delaware Valley Tri-State Area 1973-1974 The 1975 International Businessman's Guide to Official Washington Pennsylvania Legislative Directory, 1975-1976 Sub-Series H: Miscellaneous Nesbitt heater nameplate Invitations: Nesbitt Twenty Year Club Banquet, November 21, 1955 Cocktail and Dinner Party Atlantic City, NJ. 1957 Twenty-Year Club Banquet November 20, 1958 Tea and Cocktails with Nesbitt February 21, 1962 Cocktail Party, 1964 An Invitation to Nesbitt Ladies' Tea, February 18, 1970 Newspaper articles Nesbitt Air Conditioning Course, June 193

Box 2


Nesbitt Aire, Inc. Records Accession 2359 Box 2 Series II. Catalogs 1932-1934, 1938-1939, 1942, 1946-1965 1966-1973, 1975-1979, 1992, 1995, 2000-2001 Sub-Series A: Notebook Catalogs 400 Series 500 Series 600 Series 1930, 1933 Buckeye Blower 1945 The American School and University Catalog, 1951-1952 Notebook prepared for John J. Nesbitt Jr. 1954 1954 Notebook prepared for L. B Mumma, 1956 1957 1965 1968 1976 1977-1978 2000 Sub-Series B: Other Company Catalogs Alfred Teves (ATE) (German Language) B. F Sturtevant Co. Schemenauer Manufacturing Co. Warren Webster & Company Series III. Manuals ITT & Nesbitt Parts and Installation Binder Nesbitt Manuals 1934, 1968 ITT Manuals

Box 3

Box 4

Box 5 Box 6 Box 7

Box 8



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