Fairbanks History

As one of the nation's oldest industrial manufacturing companies, Fairbanks Scales has consistently maintained a solid reputation of providing top quality products and service since 1830.

An Early Partnership Builds Foundations

It all began with two brothers, Thaddeus and Erastus Fairbanks. Thaddeus, a mechanic and builder, was a wagon maker by trade. Full of new ideas for inventions, he built a foundry in 1823 to manufacture two of his inventions—the cast iron plow and a stove.

In 1824, Erastus joined Thaddeus' lucrative business. The two brothers formed the E & T Fairbanks Company in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Once in business together, the two brothers realized that the current weighing system yielded inaccurate results. So, Thaddeus decided to invent a new, more dependable weighing machine.

Innovation Found in the Form of Levers

Through an arrangement of levers, Thaddeus Fairbanks was able to tremendously reduce the amount of weight needed to counter-balance a load. Not completely satisfied with his invention, he took it a step further. He dug a pit for the levers, placing the platform level with the ground. This modification ended the task of having to hoist the entire load.

In his first design, Thaddeus rested a platform on two long levers which were connected to a steelyard, upon which the counterbalance was placed. Although achieving accurate weighing results, Thaddeus was troubled by the instability of the design.

On the morning he was to leave St. Johnsbury for the test marketing of the scale, he discovered a solution to his dilemma. By adding two short levers to his long ones, he established support points at all four corners of the platform. Now his scale was not only accurate, but very stable.

In 1830, Thaddeus built his first real scale and applied for a patent. The new scale was a hit. Before the design was finalized, customers were already placing orders. It looked like the opportune time for the business to expand.

Fairbanks Plays Major Role in Industrialization

While the Fairbanks brothers were building the foundations of Fairbanks Scales, the United States was stepping into the Industrial Age and on its way to becoming the strongest industrial nation in the world.

The E & T Fairbanks Company played an integral role in the emerging world giant. By the time of the Civil War, Fairbanks' scales were the best known American product in the world. Erastus and Thaddeus were now joined by their younger brother, Joseph. With just $4,000 and 10 employees, the company was making scales, plows and stoves.

1860 Marks Major World-Wide Expansion for Fairbanks

In less than 30 years, the three Fairbanks brothers had hired more than 1,000 workers to supply the demand for Fairbanks products. The workforce now included salesmen and agents who combed the marketplace with drawings and watercolors of the scales. The modest one-building operation would eventually grow to 40 buildings with more than 20 acres of floor space within the next 50 years.

E & T Fairbanks & Company offices were soon opened in the cities of Boston and New York. In the meantime, Fairbanks’ scales were also being sold throughout Europe. Thaddeus had the foresight to sell manufacturing rights to H. Poole and Sons in England in the 1830s, thus creating an international marketing niche.

In 1846, trade began in China. Two years later, Joseph Fairbanks began selling scales to Cuba. By 1860, the Vermont-based company was selling scales throughout the Caribbean, South America, India and Russia. In fact, European sales grew to such an extent that Fairbanks established a facility in Budapest to assemble scales.

Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, the United States continued to prosper and grow—so did E & T Fairbanks & Company. Within two years of the war’s end, Fairbanks was turning out 4,000 scales a month and meeting the needs of the expanding worldwide demand.

Buyers knew they could count on Fairbanks-a company respected for its accuracy, dependability and longevity—to deliver the best product available. For instance, when the U.S. Post Office unexpectedly ordered 3,000 postal scales in various capacities, E & T Fairbanks & Company filled the order in just eight days.

1882, Design Improvements Increase Patent Holdings

By 1882, more than 80,000 Fairbanks scales were being produced annually. By 1897, the company held 113 patents for improvements and inventions in weighing. Fairbanks offered its customers 2,000 standard model scales, yet made as many as 10,000 different models and custom systems.

1916 - 1958, Mergers and Acquisitions Bring Experience to Fairbanks

In 1916, Charles Hosmer Morse, a Fairbanks employee, acquired control of the company. Then in 1927, the Fairbanks office in New York became part of the Fairbanks-Morse company, giving Fairbanks-Morse complete control over the manufacturing and distribution of Fairbanks Scales. During this time the Fairbanks-Morse company produced not only scales but diesel engines, electric engines and pumps for industrial use. In 1958, Fairbanks-Morse merged with Penn-Texas and was renamed Fairbanks-Whitney.

Following the merger, came a period of stagnation for Fairbanks-Whitney. New leadership was brought in four years later when George Strichman was appointed president. Renamed Fairbanks Weighing Division of Colt Industries, Fairbanks experienced a rebirth.

1966, 1975 - New Manufacturing Facility Built

A modern manufacturing plant replaced the deteriorating facilities in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, in 1966. And in 1975, a new factory was built in Meridian, Mississippi, producing a variety of products designed for heavy capacity weighing.

1988 - New Ownership Marks Recent Evolution of Fairbanks

It was in 1988 that Fairbanks came under the current management of F.A. "Bill" Norden, president and major stockholder of Fairbanks Scales. He headed a group which acquired the company from Colt Industries.

With new leadership came more changes. Finance, marketing and executive offices were moved from St. Johnsbury to the more central location of Kansas City, Missouri.

1999 to Today

In 1999, F.A. Norden was named Chairman of the Board and his son, Richard Norden, became Fairbanks' President and COO.

Today, Fairbanks has more than 500 employees nationwide and maintains service centers, authorized distributors and sales offices in 49 states and more than 25 countries. Selling everything from precision and bench scales to heavy capacity truck scales and railroad track scales, Fairbanks continues to stand at the leading edge of weighing technology.

Fairbanks' most recent inventions have once again set the company apart as an industry leader. Fairbanks' Intalogix ™ Technology allows scales to achieve higher levels of accuracy, diagnostic capabilities and reliability currently unmatched by industry competitors. Other recent industry-first innovations have included new sanitary design weighing systems to meet the increasing demand for contaminant-free food processing equipment, and the water-tight epoxy encapsulation of circuit boards to ensure years of reliable use out of electronics components. These state-of-the-art technologies continue the Fairbanks tradition of setting the standard for weighing equipment throughout the world.

Although a lot has changed over the years since the day that Thaddeus Fairbanks invented the platform scale, one thing remains unchanged… Fairbanks Scales' time-honored tradition for accuracy, reliability and durability.