The story of Truth begins in the early 1900's in a small blacksmith's shop in Ellendale, Minnesota, 10 miles south of Owatonna. Here, the owner and operator of the shop, Arthur E. Cowden, could often be found devoting time to his hobby of manufacturing chisels and punches when he wasn't busy shoeing a horse or sharpening a plowshare for a customer. With practice, Mr. Cowden became quite skillful at his hobby. So skillful, in fact, that soon he began to turn away opportunities of more traditional blacksmith work in order to produce enough of his chisels and punches to meet everyone's requests.
As Mr. Cowden continued to grow as a hand tool manufacturer, he began to draw the attention of many steel salesmen, all wanting to supply raw material for his growing business. Unfortunately, many of the steel salesmen of the day were somewhat dishonest and made false claims about their steel. This irritated Mr. Cowden so much, that he resolved that a company with a good product could sell it by only telling the truth! And so, as he set out to prove his point he made his commitment with a new company name, and the Cowden Truth Tool Company was born.
Roaring into the 20's meant many new things for many people and for Arthur Cowden and the Truth Tool Company, the story was no different. With the 20's came automobiles and a whole new need for tools to service them. Mr. Cowden was among the first to recognize this need and soon began to evaluate the many requests he received from automobile mechanics for special tools to help perform specific tasks. Using his skill as a toolmaker along with the input and assistance of the auto mechanics, Mr. Cowden began to produce his first automotive tools.
The automotive tools were a success. Mechanics across the country soon came to appreciate the thoughtful design and quality manufacturing of Truth Tools. And, as if the popularity of the new automotive tools wasn't enough, Mr. Cowden offered the following two part guarantee:
- Any Truth Tool found to be defective will be replaced free of charge.
- Truth Tools will be reconditioned free of charge, if returned to our factory.
With this type of support from the manufacturer, mechanics could now be certain of endless use from every Truth Tool they purchased. Soon the demand for Truth's automotive tools was overwhelming, and in the early 1920's the Truth Tool Company moved to Mankato, Minnesota in search of larger quarters for its expanding business. It was there, that in 1923 a young engineer by the name of Reub Kaplan came to work for Truth with his ideas for many new tools. Reub's tools were successful for Truth and late in 1924, Reub, realizing the popularity of his designs, left Truth. Reub moved to Owatonna where, in 1925, he founded the Owatonna Tool Company. Little did Truth realize then the real significance Reub Kaplan would some day play in its own future.
Up until 1930 the original chisel and punch product line had remained relatively unchanged as much time and effort was devoted to the research and development of new automotive tools. But, in 1930, in an effort to always produce the best possible product for the customer, Truth became the first manufacturer to produce chisels and punches made from Tarzen, or Gear Steel as it was commonly referred to. The use of this material for this purpose can be attributed solely to Truth's discovery of new heat treating methods.
Though once used only to demonstrate the durability of this new product, the half-inch Tarzen Chisel driven undamaged through a one-inch thick solid block of cold steel serves as our reminder yet today of the traditional high quality and innovation of Truth products. In 1943, as World War II raged, the call went out to America's manufacturers to join together to help support the war effort. The Truth Tool Company answered the call. Proudly performing its patriotic duty by devoting men, machines, and material, Truth spent the war years producing the tools necessary to keep the fight for victory strong. It had been 25 years since Reub Kaplan last worked for Truth, but in the year 1950, he returned. This time though, not as an employee but as owner. Reub's Owatonna Tool Company had prospered over those 25 years and in 1950 OTC was ready to move its operation to newer, larger quarters. But a move of that size was sure to mean lost production time unless an off-site facility could maintain OTC's production during the move. That's when Reub remembered Truth in nearby Mankato, and organized a group of Owatonna investors who purchased Truth.
Truth got OTC through its move successfully and in 1953, led by Reub's son, R.W. "Buzz" Kaplan, began the search for a new product to manufacture. Under Buzz's direction in 1955, that new product was found when a representative from Page & Hill Prefabricated Homes of Shakopee, Minnesota came to Truth looking for an established metal working shop to build a push bar operator for the awning windows used in his company's homes.
While his concept for a window operator would do the job, it required a long metal bar to extend into the room any time the window wasn't completely open or closed. This bothered Truth engineer Steve Stavenau. So before Truth went ahead and built the push bars, Mr. Stavenau designed a non-rotary type operator that eliminated the problem created by the cumbersome push bar. This new operator, patented by Truth as the Lever Lock, rapidly gained popularity for itself, and for Truth as a window hardware supplier. Before long, with the addition of more and more window hardware items to the product line, Truth had successfully established itself as a respected major supplier of a full line of window hardware products for the wood window industry.
Just as Arthur E. Cowden's original success at creating hand tools had taken his business beyond more traditional blacksmith work some 45 years earlier, events of the late 1950's again changed the course of Truth. In 1959, driven by rapid growth in the popularity of products such as the Lever Lock which had been introduced only 4 years earlier, Truth dedicated itself completely to the design and manufacture of the highest quality window hardware. Much as the introduction of hand tools had once been a major growth step for Truth, so too was this move to drop the tool line in favor of the new window hardware line. Prepared once again for the prospect of future growth, Truth's future promised to better serve the window manufacturer with a renewed commitment to the hardware market while at the same time serving the remaining tool customers by assuring that their needs be met by the nearby Owatonna Tool Company and its now firm position in the hand tool market.
With this new commitment to the window hardware market and the resulting growth it would produce, Truth was also once again moving its operation to new, larger facilities. It was this move that finally brought Truth to Owatonna. A move that was accomplished so efficiently, through the efforts of dedicated employees, that production was never interrupted. While larger machinery required more time to move, work on assembly lines continued right up until "quitting time" on that Friday in Mankato and began bright and early the following Monday morning in Owatonna thanks to a coordinated effort to move assembly equipment over the weekend. It is dedication and efficiency such as this that has long been, and continues to be today, the strength of all Truth employees that assures reliable service and quality products.
As Truth continued to expand its market in the early 1960's, it quickly became apparent that the wood window, for which all of Truth's hardware had been designed, was not as widely accepted across the entire country as it was in the regions of the company's midwestern home, the eastern U.S. and Canada. Instead, as Truth looked to the south and west for growth, it became obvious a new hardware system would be necessary to work with the popular aluminum windows already being used in residential construction there. Borrowing from the wealth of knowledge the company had gained from its experience with the wood window market, Truth quickly set out to develop a quality hardware system for the metal window market. Success followed soon after, as Truth introduced a completely new line of locks and operators designed specifically for use with metal windows. With the addition of this line, Truth was now well positioned to meet the hardware needs of all segments of the North American window market.
Expansion in the mid 1960's brought about two major projects for Truth. The first, centered on Truth's next new product and the other involved the construction of facilities to produce those products. The first expansion phase, based on an effort to utilize Truth's well established distribution system, hoped to provide products other than window hardware that were commonly used among the existing customer base. The products that were determined to best fit this requirement, and that Truth then chose to manufacture, were insect screens for windows and sliding glass doors. The space requirements generated by this decision, however, quickly exceeded the Rose Street plant and by 1965, work was completed on the new screen plant here in Owatonna. A building, by the way, that with several additions serves as the company's home yet today.
Having been known only as the Truth Tool Company for more than 50 years, including nearly 10 years since it had produced its last hand tool, the company chose in 1968 to change its name to better reflect the many changes which had occurred in its business. While this meant dropping any mention of tools from the name, it was suggested a portion of the old name be maintained to create identification with the company's long history of quality and service, as well as the strong values upon which the company was originally founded. With that direction and the company's new corporation status in mind, the name Truth Incorporated became the obvious choice.
In addition to the name change in 1968, Truth was also undertaking another significant construction phase. At the site of the new screen plant, Truth was building an addition 2-1/2 times the size of the existing structure to make room for the entire manufacturing plant and office under one roof. Although construction was delayed due to a storm that once leveled the partially completed addition, the new plant was completed in time for equipment to be moved in at Christmas time 1968 and hardware production began at the current location with the start of 1969.
1969 also proved to be the year that a series of events begun some 46 years earlier came to a full-circle conclusion with a change in the ownership of the company. The Owatonna Tool Company, brainchild of onetime Truth Tool engineer Reuben Kaplan, had now grown to significant financial stature and in a move to diversify sought modern, well established, profitable companies for possible acquisitions. Truth Incorporated met those criteria and in 1969 proudly became a member of the OTC family of companies as a wholly owned subsidiary.
By the mid-70's Truth window hardware had come to realize a very strong and loyal following not only in United States but also in Canada. However, in an effort to look toward areas that might provide us with new markets, Truth decided it was time to expand its marketing efforts into the International arena. Since that time, Truth has entered into a number of agent/distributor relationships with countries throughout the world - among them; Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom, just to name a few.
In 1981, the screen business which had originally brought Truth to this site was dropped, however in its place many new products and concepts arose that have helped lead Truth into the future. For example, the patented Truth EntryGard¨ Dual Arm Operator, the first revolutionary idea in window operation in many years swept the window industry. In 1983, Truth entered into the market of Skylight hardware with the introduction of a heavy duty skylight operator with optional motor drive attachment.
Fifteen years had past since Truth had become an "official" member of the OTC family. It was now late in the year of 1984, and OTC Chairman of the Board, Buzz Kaplan (Reub Kaplan's son) addressed the company and made an announcement that would thereafter change dramatically the controlling interest of the OTC group. As Buzz stated, "Ever since Reub started OTC back in 1925, we have operated as a company that believes its greatest strength is in its people. Today more than ever, we recognize the stake that each employee has in our company. In recent months we have spent a great deal of time with another company that has a very similar set of beliefs. That company is the Sealed Power Corporation of Muskegon, Michigan. During this time we have found Sealed Power to be a people company, a growth company and certainly, a quality company. And I firmly believe it would be a great benefit to us all that, pending the approval of our stockholders, we accept a proposal set before us by the Sealed Power Corporation to purchase OTC and all of its subsidiaries".
And so it was done - on January 10, 1985, the papers were signed and the OTC family, no longer a privately held corporation, began its new association with Sealed Power.
The years surrounding that in which Truth became affiliated with Sealed Power proved to be ones of outstanding growth for our company. So much so that the opportunity now existed at Truth where we could begin to look towards acquisitions of our own. The possibility of improving our company not only logistically, but also through the increased capabilities of a broader product line so that we might enhance our business strategy and also our growth opportunities proved to be an exciting idea that was not just attractive - it was now attainable.
During 1986, Truth acquired just that sort of company - the A.W. Anderberg Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles, California. Anderberg, famous for their hinges for project-out windows and push bar operators and also their strategic West Coast location, fit the bill entirely, and proved to be a very valuable addition to our own "family".
1986 also marked the completion of one of the most significant projects that Truth had ever become part of. During July of that year, after a nearly 2-year long renovation, the Statue of Liberty, now 100 years old, was once again show-cased for the eyes of the world to behold. A very visible part of this restoration included the replacement of the windows at the top of the statue. Often referred to as the "jewels in Lady Liberty's crown" - each of these 25 new windows needed to be individually designed and fabricated to take into account the different sizes, angles, and curvatures in the statues crown. And to make them all operable, naturally special hardware also needed to be designed and manufactured.
With this monumental task set before them, Truth's skilled craftsmen eagerly went to work. And when all was said and done, Truth proudly donated the solid bronze security locks and stainless steel project-out hinges that had been created for Lady Liberty.
Less than a decade had passed since Truth came in under the Sealed Power Corporation (now referred to as SPX). During that period, Truth had continued to grow and prosper, and the time eventually came where SPX, in an effort to realign their business for the future, chose to capitalize on the Truth's position in the market and put this highly successful business up for sale. Enter FKI plc of the United Kingdom who, in 1993, purchased Truth Division from SPX Corporation. FKI has long been established as a world leader in the design, manufacture and supply of high technology, engineering based products and processes with a diverse range of applications. Truth joined the Hardware Group, one of four major groups (Material Handling, Engineering, Automotive, and Hardware) that make up FKI plc.
With FKI Industries acquisition Truth took the opportunity to update the name to more accurately describe the business while maintaining its heritage and philosophy - hence the name, Truth Hardware Corporation.
As further evidence of Truth's role as the recognized leader in our industry, in 1994 Truth Hardware completed the work necessary to become ISO 9001 Certified - the first one in our industry to achieve this distinction.
ISO 9001 was developed by the International Standards Organization and requires compliance with standards for management, administration, product development and manufacturing. As the criteria of ISO 9001:2008 are comprehensive and demanding; it results in benefits for customers, especially in service and international trade. With ISO 9001:2008, the focus remains clearly where it should be - on customers' needs. The objective of every Truth Hardware employee is to maintain the highest level of service attainable.
Truth's most recent "corporate" change took place in May of 1998, when the opportunity arose to purchase a group of companies who, at the time, represented one of our strongest competitors in the area of double hung and patio door hardware. Known as the Allen-Stevens Group of Companies, the addition of these buisness units has served to strengthen the width and breadth of Truth's overall product offering, while at the same time increasing our market share dominance.
This acquisition, and the subsequent moves that followed, have allowed Truth to better utilize the specific strengths and capabilities of each facility. Which in turn, has allowed Truth to service our customers at a much higher level.
Truth Hardware's product line has increased dramatically over the years. Where in 1955 it sold just one product, the original Lever Lock Operator, today's catalogue lists over 5,000 salable parts. Truth Hardware produces everything from simple hinges & double hung check rail locks to the sophistication of remote-controlled motorized systems for windows and skylights.
Customers' color options have exploded, from one or two colors in the early years, to a seemingly unlimited number of choices today. With the emphasis on quality products, quality service and quick turnaround of medium to high-volume orders, Truth Hardware's state of the art paint facilities insure that the needs of our customers are constantly met.
Today Truth Hardware does business with virtually every window manufacturer in North America. Handling approximately a thousand customers on a direct basis and over 500 smaller accounts through our regional network of authorized distributors.
After nearly fifteen years of ownership under the FKI flag Truth Hardware, along with all of the companies currently owned by FKI, were acquired in July of 2008 by Melrose plc (England) in a move that will help our company continue to grow an prosper.
A few of the new products which have been introduced into the marketplace recently are:
- The Encore® Hardware Series – Incorporating all the same strength and performance characteristics of Truth's original and highly popular Maxim® Hardware, the Encore Operator offers a special cover and folding handle design which adds to the aesthetic and manufacturing versatility of this product. The Encore Operator is designed to meet or exceed the maximum performance requirements that are sought in today market for larger and more versatile casement and awning window systems. Combine this operator with the Encore locking system and hinge components and you have one of the most attractive, easiest operating, and highest performing hardware systems in the industry.
- The Fusion™ System – The most innovative and versatile combination check rail lock and tilt latch available today, the Fusion System has moved double-hung hardware from ordinary to exceptional. The innovative design allows the tilt latches to be hidden in the check rail and actuated by a single lock / tilt mechanism. Customers love the low profile styling, the removable cover for finishing, and the easy and intuitive one-handed operation.
- The PAL System – Truth's Positive Action Lock (PAL) System is one of the most versatile and easy to operate locking systems in the market place today. A simple movement of the locking tab or push button disengages the lock allowing the sash to move freely. When the window is closed, the PAL System automatically locks securing the window without having to manipulate the lock again.
- The Marvel™ System – Truth's new Marvel power operator system is perfect for the home automation enthusiast who wishes to open/close their windows with a touch of a button. Operating off of standard 110 volt household current, this motorized system is reliable, easy to install and simple to operate. The Marvel System can even operate with a hand held remote and via a rain sensor.
- The Sentry™ Multi-Point Hinged Patio Door System – Designed specifically for the North American market, the new Sentry System combines all of the innovative features you are looking for with the superior quality and performance you've come to expect from Truth Hardware. Combining an innovative and secure multi-point locking system, robust and reliable adjustable hinges, and stylish and secure locking handles, the Sentry System is a completely integrated, engineered solution for the swinging patio door market.
Continually striving and reaching higher levels of quality through innovation, advancements in technology, and a skilled and dedicated workforce, Truth Hardware is poised for future success. Truth Hardware's goal of being the dominant designer and manufacturer of quality hardware to the North American fenestration market, as well as a growing participant globally, seems to be something that is clearly within our reach.
Obviously many things have happened between the time when that first Truth chisel was fired in Mr. Cowden's blacksmith shop to today when the design for a product like our skylight operator is designed on a highly sophisticated CAD/CAM machine and then is built with the help of robotics. But one thing that has never changed throughout this entire time is Truth's commitment to customer service and quality - a dedication towards assuring that the highest quality products continue to be brought quickly and affordably to our customers. This belief is probably embodied best by simply saying that..."In the very beginning, in shaping our policy we decided to stake our all, our future, on TRUTH, and its principles. To be true to ourselves, our employees, and above all true to our customers, and TRUTH has carried us from a small blacksmith shop to our present spacious and strictly modern factory, which is equipped with the latest and most up-to-date machinery, operated by 'people' who are happy and take pride in their work, 'people' who believe in TRUTH and strive to have that belief reflected in the 'products' which they produce". Spoken first in 1927 by Truth's founder, Mr. Arthur E. Cowden and echoed by us all today.