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Gunite Corp turns 150

Gunite Corp, founded in August 1854, is preparing to celebrate 150 years of continuous operation with festivities in Rockford IL to mark the occasion.

In the early years, Gunite, known then as D Forbes and Son, cast products ranging from stoves to branding irons and wagon axles. In the mid 1800s, it perfected a new high test iron from which the firm began to cast cannon barrels. They called this iron Gunite, and the Forbes produced hundreds of cannon barrels during the late 1800s.

From 1854 through 1864, the foundry was called Eagle Foundry, changing its name to Forest City Foundry in 1864. In 1868, it changed its name to Forbes Malleable Iron Works. In 1873 the family dropped their name from the company and called it Rockford Malleable Iron Works until, in 1928, the name again changed to Rockford Northwestern Malleable Corp. In 1932, the name was changed to Gunite Foundries Corp. In 1960, the name changed to Gunite Division, Kelsey-Hayes Co, and in 1987 the name changed to Gunite Corp.

As with the name, ownership of Gunite has changed over the years. The Forbes family owned and operated Gunite as a closely held corporation until 1960, when the company was purchased by the Kelsey-Hayes Corp, a Michigan-based manufacturer of automotive and truck components. In 1973, Kelsey-Hayes merged with Fruehauf Corp's Pro-Par division, which made the suspension and axle systems for Fruehauf and other heavy-duty trailers. In 1987, Gunite was purchased by Lovejoy Partners, a Chicago-based investment banking firm, which purchased several other manufacturers of truck components and formed Truck Components Inc.

After a brief period between 1994 and 1995, when TCI was purchased by Castle Harlan Partners II, a New York-based firm, Gunite and its sister companies were purchased by Johnstown America Inc, a publicly traded manufacturer of railcars. In June 1999, Thomas Begel, chairman of Johnstown, was joined by key management personnel who purchased the TCI component of companies and made them private to form Transportation Technologies Industries Inc. Gunite remains one of the mainstays of the TTI organization.

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