Happy Birthday to Us! Chaney Instrument Co. Turns 80!

AcuRite 80th Anniversary - Lake Geneva, Wis. 1943. Women workers at Chaney Instruments.

Happy Birthday to Us! Chaney Instrument Co. Turns 80!

That’s right! We are excited to say that 2023 marks 80 years of the Chaney Instrument Co.! For our year-long 80th birthday celebration, follow along on social media, the AcuRite blog, and through our newsletters for in-depth history lessons, fun facts, and special surprises that we have planned. For now, here’s a brief history lesson of how Chaney Instrument Co. got its start.

Humble, Yet Confident Beginnings

John. L. Chaney worked at a manufacturing company in Springfield, Ohio, in the late 1930s. The company made glass thermometers and temperature and humidity gauges, but Chaney wasn’t on the main production line and mainly worked as a cleanup crew member. Fortunately, one of his hobbies was glassmaking, so he was able to help with glass tube thermometers when the Springfield workforce needed assistance.

While helping around the shop, he noticed that all the glass tubes were being sealed by hand with welding torches. As a forward thinker, he thought there had to be a better, faster way. He knew he could make a machine that could seal the glass tubes, which would increase production and, subsequently, sales. When Chaney pitched his idea to Springfield leadership, however, they weren’t interested.

This meant that Chaney had to take matters into his own hands. He received a loan from a family member and procured a shop across the street from Springfield. After creating and perfecting his automated glass-sealing machine, Chaney showed Springfield executives and proved that he could outdo their operation. When Chaney offered them a chance to buy the glass tube thermometers he was creating, Springfield had no choice but to say yes.

Wartime Assistance from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

After World War II started in 1939, the U.S. forces were faced with an unforeseen challenge. After arming their aircrafts with explosives and taking flight, some were detonating unexpectedly. The issue was with impurities in the glass components of the explosives. These impurities, when met with pressure and temperature changes, caused cracking.

Realizing they had a rather large problem on their hands, someone in the U.S. forces recommended they reach out to John L. Chaney, who was now living in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Chaney, being the glass expert he was, was willing to help but needed funding and a space to research the impurity issue. With assets from the U.S. armed forces, Chaney worked out a deal with the City of Lake Geneva city garage and soon got down to work.

He hired his two brothers and a handful of local Lake Geneva women to investigate the glass impurities. In the end, they determined the cause of the faulty construction, began to produce higher-quality glass, and sold these components to the U.S. armed forces.

A woman is using a metal rod to handle glass objects on a tray. Caption reads: Women workers at Chaney Instruments. Another woman in the background is working with another tray of the glass objects on a low table.
Lake Geneva, Wis., 1943. Woman handling glass tube thermometers at Chaney Instrument Co. Image from the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives.
Five women are sitting around a table. Three of the women are drinking coffee, and one woman is smoking. On the table are various pieces of equipment. Caption reads:
Lake Geneva, Wis., 1943. Women workers at Chaney Instrument Co. Image from the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives.


Awards and Commercial Success

The success of Chaney’s efforts was quite a newsworthy event. He and his staff were presented with a special award for their service to war, which made headlines in local Lake Geneva newspapers. Of this type of award, only 5% went to businesses! With his new-found local fame and success that came from aiding the U.S. during WWII, Chaney looked to expand his work efforts and start a consumer product business.

In 1943, Chaney founded the Chaney Instrument Co. in Lake Geneva. After the war ended in 1945, the company shifted its focus to making small glass tube thermometers for commercial use and other environmental monitoring products under the AcuRite name.

Early versions of the AcuRite Logo
Early versions of the AcuRite Logo


The company met new heights after becoming a subsidiary of the Primex Family of Companies in 1987. The family-owned business helped Chaney quickly grow into one of the largest and most trusted manufacturers of quartz clock movements in the U.S., ultimately achieving an output of over 10 million clock motors annually.

Fast forward to 2023, and we are proud to say that Chaney Instrument Co. is still going strong under the Primex Family of Companies and remains headquartered in Lake Geneva!

Again, stay tuned all year long for our 80th anniversary celebration!

January 8, 2023
Comments
Mary L. Haston
January 8, 2023
Congrats for the 80TH of Acu Rite!
Henry Dorn
January 8, 2023
Always love historical information about Acurite and its people. Please keep articles like this coming ALL the time !
Zainul Abideen
January 9, 2023
Congratulations on 80th birthday of Acu Rite. From Pakistan
David Albright
January 11, 2023
I was born in 1943 also 80 years young and using Acu-rite products. Sort of a kinship relationship. Congratulation from Texas USA.
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