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VLCHEK TOOL CO.

The VLCHEK TOOL CO., a leader in the hand-tool and plastic fields, was started in 1895 as a blacksmith shop by FRANK VLCHEK, a Czech immigrant. A few years later he opened the Vlchek Tool Co. on E. 83rd and Central Ave., making and sharpening tools for stonecutters and masons. By 1909 the firm was shipping hammers, wrenches, and stone cutters' tools throughout the country. As the auto industry grew, manufacturers included Vlchek tool kits as standard equipment in their cars. Rising prosperity led the company to build a larger facility on E. 87th St. near the New York Central tracks in 1918. By 1930 the operation had expanded 8 times to meet a 70% increase in business. That year Vlchek introduced a new screwdriver with a shockproof handle, utilizing a rudimentary plastic material in its manufacture. This development made the company a major producer of screwdrivers and a pioneer in plastics technology. By 1938 Vlchek had set up a plastics division which was soon (1945) located in Middlefield, OH.

When civilian vehicle production resumed after World War II, the company supplied 85% of all tool kits included in new cars, plus an additional 20,000 tools per day for distribution to hardware stores, mail-order companies, and tool suppliers in the automotive and agricultural-implement fields. In 1949 Vlchek was 1 of 9 tool companies charged with restraint of trade by the Justice Dept. for dominating the screwdriver industry; however, the charges were dropped when it agreed to stop the illegal practices. Despite growth in the 1950s, Vlchek was bought out by the Pendleton Tool Industries Co. of California in the wake of a 1958 internal proxy fight over the company's reporting policies. Pendleton itself merged with Ingersoll-Rand in 1964, and Ingersoll closed Vlchek's obsolete E. 87th plant, laying off 275 employees in 1969. The Vlchek Plastics Co. was unaffected by the tool plant closing.