In 1912, Chicago financier Byron Smith placed an ad in the Economist looking to provide capital to a “high class business (manufacturing preferred) in or near Chicago.” He turned down several initial offers, waiting for the right proposal. When a group of inventors with an idea to improve gear grinding came along, Illinois Tool Works was born. From these humble beginnings, the company endured the uncertainties of war and recessions, expanded into businesses across the globe, and transformed entire industries through simple yet ingenious solutions.

Chicago financier Byron L. Smith places an ad looking to invest in a manufacturing business. A small group of tool inventors comes forward, and together they launch Illinois Tool Works in Chicago in 1912.

Moving toward specialized and patented products, ITW makes its first acquisition, Shakeproof Screw and Nut Lock Company. The company’s innovative washers solve stubborn auto manufacturing problems, just as the industry is taking off.

Harold Byron Smith, grandson of Byron L. Smith, succeeds his father, Harold C. Smith, as company president. ITW continues to sell to radio and farm equipment markets with hopes of diversifying the company. ITW even advertises in mainstream publications—a first for a manufacturing company. Through careful management, ITW shows a profit every year of the Great Depression.

ITW contributes to the World War II effort by developing an innovative wafer cutter that enables faster manufacturing of heavy artillery barrels. Shakeproof and other divisions are split off as autonomous companies, laying the groundwork for ITW’s future decentralization.

ITW forms Fastex to take plastic fasteners and other components beyond automotive applications. It moves into computer and defense markets with innovative electric switches and the Spiroid® right-angle gear. The Smith family creates the ITW Foundation to manage the company’s wide-ranging philanthropic efforts.

“You’re never more than a few feet away from a product of ITW” is heard on local radio stations as ITW expands into new industries and reaches beyond North American markets. The company’s first self-drilling screw opens the door to the construction market, and the Hi-Cone six-ring carrier, one of ITW’s most successful and well-known inventions, transforms the beverage and packaging industries.

ITW acquires the Devcon® brand of wear-resistant coating & MRO solutions, a major step towards solidifying its industrial polymer offerings. 

ITW embarks on an active acquisition strategy to sustain growth and diversification. Over the decade, 32 acquisitions double ITW’s size to 1.5 billion. To stay nimble, leadership decentralizes ITW by handing control over to individual businesses. 

ITW acquires the Chockfast® range of grouting and chocking compounds and the Irathane Futura® range of coating products.

Approximately 100 worldwide acquisitions throughout the 1990s expand ITW’s global presence. Important acquisitions like the Miller Electric welding company and Premark International—ITW’s largest acquisition to date—expand the company’s reach into the growing welding and food equipment industries. ITW becomes one of the top U.S. patent holders.

ITW acquires the Spraycore® sprayable syntactics & specialty products. Founded in 1989, Spraycore® revolutionized the boat building and composites industries by introducing sprayable laminates that are lighter and stronger than hand-applied materials.

ITW acquires the Epocast range of grouting compounds.

ITW’s presence expands in global emerging markets, and revenue generated outside North America dramatically increases. ITW now has businesses operating in every corner of the globe, including the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Important acquisitions like Instron®, Kester® and Speedline® introduce ITW to the growing test and measurement and electronics industries.

ITW expands its presence in the Mining market with the acquisition of UK-based Korrobond® epoxy and polyurethane crusher backing compounds and release agent. 

ITW acquires the Insulcast® range of potting & encapsulation compounds for electronics assembly applications.

ITW acquires the Densit® brand of high-performance grouting & wear-resistant solutions used in a number of industries including Wind, Oil & Gas, Mining and Chemical plants. Densit® is based in Aalborg, Denmark.

2010 and Beyond
In 2012, ITW proudly celebrated its 100-year anniversary, launching another century of manufacturing excellence. To meet the global economic challenges of the new century, ITW also began implementing a company-wide Enterprise Strategy, which is centered on three enterprise-wide initiatives that focus the company on generating maximum performance leverage and impact from ITW’s differentiated business model.

2013 ITW Polymers Adhesives, North America
ITW Polymers Adhesives, North America formed in 2013 with the merging of ITW Devcon, ITW Plexus and ITW Spraycore. 

2014 ITW Engineered Polymers
ITW Engineered Polymers formed in 2014 with the merge of ITW Polymers Europe and ITW Polymers Coatings. 

2018 ITW Performance Polymers
ITW Performance Polymers formed in 2018 with the integration of ITW Polymers Adhesives, North America and ITW Engineered Polymers. The portfolio now includes market-leading brands: 

  • Chockfast®
  • Densit®
  • Devcon®
  • Epocast®
  • Insulcast®
  • Korrobond®
  • Plexus®
  • Spraycore®

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