The founder and inventor of once the largest manufacturing company in Rockford, IL was Howard D. Colman. He was born in Wisconsin in 1873, and came to Rockford, IL in 1894. He got an investor named Barber to sponser him in the beginning of forming the company.
The company is located in South Rockford, on Loomis and Buchanan Streets. Howard Colman was self taught in physics and mechanics. He was an engineering prodigy and he particular liked inventing useful tools to enhance products, and the textile industry. Cotton was a product from the south and it was hand picked at the time, throughout the south.
The company grew very rapidly and became (5) buildings that was the core of the manufacturing. One of his sons Walter Colman took over the company after his faher died. They went into the garage door openers business and this was a first for many companies.
At one time Barber-Colman had 3,000 employees. They later employed up to 5,000 employees. The factory was located along the Rock River, and was accessible from the Morgan Street Bridge, and South Main Streets that led out of town, to the main highways.
Barber-Colman trained their employees to perform specific jobs without any government help. They taught them electrical, blueprint reading and other job related skills. They later ventured out into the aerospace business in manufacturing in later years.
They were very successful until the Teamster's Union came into the plants. This proved to be their down fall. The company de-certified the union, and they were moved out of their plants. The Teamsters came from New York to form protest lines and did harass the workers that came to work. After a lot of fighting they succeed in their manufacturing, at a new location in the south.
Barber-Colman built a company in Huntsville, Alabama. They did some manufacturing in the new company and tried to shop the products to other sites. This did not work, the Union blocked them from shipping to companies that were union organized. This proved to be blocking their profits and manufacturing of their goods. This caused the profits to go down and the company suffered great loss.
The company imported a special man named Roger Sampson to help solve their problems. Sampson stay the course until the company was forced to sell off most of their manufacturing facilities. As of this writing the company only has a small operation in Loves Park, call Gleason that is owned by another country. Fighting with the Teamsters took a toll on their business, decertifying the union that was voted in by their employees, was the downfall of a very viable company.
The large company is now closed, and the buildings are waiting to be town down by the City of Rockford. The demolition should be in the future, as the facility is an eyesore to the public. It is a good location that sits on the Rock River and will probably be used for other purpses.