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


Blogger Kristin said...

Thanks for the info! Hey, it's more than I had before! :)

10:04 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Just noticed this quote at the bottom of the Victorian Crapper page: "Immediately following World War I, L Wolff's catalog of products changed. Out were cast iron baths and embossed toilets, in were hot water heaters and glass shower doors that are very similar to modern products."

Wonder if that means they stopped making cast iron tubs altogether after World War I? If so, that narrows down the date a bit more.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Allan said...


Good catch - Based on that tidbit of information, you could guess that the manufacture date of your tub was before 1918.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a 1893 tub by L. Wolff Mfg. with a wide mohoghany rim, the company name and city cast in the brass overflow cover, and a trick brass drain system that is topped by a brass cap through the mahoghany lip. I might be able to post a picture.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Allan said...

Please send us your tub photo. Perhaps we can post it on the blog.
Thanks! Allan

8:44 AM  
Anonymous said...

just purchased my fish tank,$25.
on the bottom is 8-14-1900, 16, l.wolff mfg co. pat june 18 - 85, f6 . has original bolts in feet, drain hole, and rough over flow hole.48"bot/72top. worth anything before the fish go in ?

3:41 AM  
Blogger Allan said...

Our general price guide is located here:

Wolff tubs are rarer than most so that helps increase their value a bit. How is the porcelain? Is it clean, smooth and not chipped? Exterior in good shape? If so, you have a nice tub that might be worth taking some pictures of and offering for sale to the local salvage yards.


8:36 AM  
Blogger Acoustikat said...


I'm a sanitary pottery collector living in Lancaster, PA. I have an cast iron 1898 Wolff Neptuna 5' center fill (Roman style) tub. The tub has a very large under rolled rim and lion's paw feet. I found it in Cincinatti, OH. The Neptuna is missing the original hardware. Consequently, I am working with a metal artist to create the appropriate parts. The story that came with the tub was that is was used in the Presidential Suite of the Alms Hotel. I have been unable to confirm this. The tub is one of many pieces in my collection. I'm planning a master bathroom in my turn-of-the-century carriage house and the tub will be a centerpiece with a J L Mott bidet, John Douglas console sink, John Douglas royal embossed toilet, and a pedistal urinal with fluted base. I also collect plumbing catalogs of the major manufacturers prior to the Great Depression. Acoustikat

7:45 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

We have an L. Wolff 67" tub, gold lion's paw feet, nameplate on th overflow. Our house was built in 1902. We're remodeling the (kids')bathroom soon and I'm looking for any ideas on how to integrate a shower into the tub without the extension kit and curtain (water bound to spill over with kids). Alteratively, thoughts on what it might be worth should we decide to sell the tub?

Brian Saltzman, Montclair, NJ

10:05 PM  
Anonymous James H said...

hi,i have a date on the bottom of my l wollf tube its 7-27-95 its in good shape i repainted and brought the brass pipes back to original brass it was painted over.i got from a older lady that i snowblow here drive way and she just gave it to me it is a great thing to have a 113 year old clawfoot tube to wash in.

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Sam said...

we just repainted the outside of our L. Wolff clawfoot tub. It has a date stamp on the bottom of 2-12-1914. The porcelain is in excellent condition and the tub had never been painted on one side! Hard to believe we found in this condition.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Maureen K. said...

i'm rather late with this comment, but we have a WOLFF Manufacturing toilet in an upstairs bathroom - - our home was built in 1891, I have no idea if the toilet is orignal or not, but I'm pretty sure it's been there at least 75 years now

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Janis said...

I was a given an old cast iron claw foot bath tub, but am curious as to how to find the manufacturer or date stamp on it. It's a very small tub, someone who saw it called it an apartment size tub. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

10:29 AM  

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