Thursday, February 09, 2006

A (very, very brief) History of the L. Wolff Manufacturing Co.

Yet another loyal reader of the Daily Tubber wrote:

Hey, I saw on your blog a bit of info on American Standard clawfoot tubs. My tub was made by Wolff Manufacturing. Do you know the years that company made tubs? Ours is a typical clawfoot tub. We can't find a date on it - any guess on the age? We figure '20s.

According to the Chicago Historical Society, Ludwig Wolff (1836 - 1911) came to Chicago in 1854 and by 1876 he had a large plumbing supply factory under the name L. Wolff Manufacturing Co. Wolff built a large new Chicago plant in 1887; this facility soon employed about 1,000 men and produced $1.5 million worth of goods a year. As indoor plumbing became more common by the late nineteenth century, Wolff began producing a wider array of plumbing items for homes, hospitals, businesses, and schools. By 1910, the company had about 3,500 workers at two Chicago-area plants and sales and service operations in about 10 other cities. Wolff's operations shrank during the Great Depression and the company stopped operating shortly after World War II.

The Chicago Historical Society also has a 1912 Wolff plumbing catalog online.

One of their clawfoot tubs is shown on pages 10 and 11 of the catalog. The only other useful reference I found for Wolff Mfg. was from the Victorian Crapper site.

I am sorry I could not get more information about the company or the approximate date for your tub. If I had to guess, I would say it was built between 1910 and 1939. I know it is not a very tight date range but it is the best I can do for now. Anyone else have any more information about the Wolff company?

20 April 2006 UPDATE: Evan D. wrote to tell us that he found a Wolff tub "without a faucet and some rough holes cut for a replacement. So I cobbled my own freestanding unit. The tub itself was sandblasted (where we found the casting date), reglazed, outside painted, wood rim repaired and refinished, feet brass plated to match drain system."

Here is the stunning result:


Evan's stunning refinished Wolff claw foot bath tub


Here is a detail shot of the Wolff name on the overflow cover:


Close-up of the claw foot bath tub overflow cover