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Original building for Indianapolis Air Pump Company, 1919
Q. G. Noblitt (see memorial issue of Arvin Folks magazine featuring Q. G. Noblitt), Frank Sparks, and Al Redmond (the three founders) were working at two different companies in Indianapolis at the time they began Indianapolis Air Pump. Noblitt and Redmond were working for Holcomb and Hoke, Redmond resigned from Holcomb and Hoke to devote all his time to the new venture. Frank Sparks was in a sales position at Haywood Tire & Equipment Company.
The automobile industry in the U.S. was still in its infancy but growing quickly. The quality of roads was extremely poor but only slightly worse than the durability of many tires on the market (and there was a strong correlation between these two little factoids!). There were no service stations offering free air dotting the landscape as there were in subsequent years. So, there was an opportunity to begin supply automobile owners with an important tool --- a tire pump to carry in their auto!
Q. G. Noblitt had developed an improved process for welding tubes, and the three men set about to "build a better tire pump." It was actually Al Redmond that did the building of the pumps, as Q.G. was still working for Holcomb and Hoke, and Frank Sparks was still selling for Haywood, but he was selling the new company's tire pumps on the side. (Might be discouraged in this day and age!) As the story goes (from Coke's book), Sparks, a confident salesman, told Noblitt, "If need be, I'll sell it to people who don't even have tires. Then they'll want to go out and buy cars, just to use our pump --- and that'll help the whole automotive industry."
In 1920, a traveling salesman names Richard Hood Arvin approached the company to discuss manufacture of a car heater for which he held patents. Unfortunately, he did not hold enough cash to actually manufacture the heaters. To make a long story short, the four men (Noblitt, Sparks, Redmond, and Arvin) formed an independent company, The Arvin Heater Company, for the sole purpose of manufacturing these car heaters. The Indianapolis Air Pump company agreed to purchase all the output from the Arvin Heater Company and in turn had exclusive resale rights. (You can read more about the Arvin Heater Company at the above link).
While only around for three years, the Indianapolis Air Pump Company had a significant impact on the company for nearly 90 years:
In its third and final year of existence, Indianapolis Air Pump had $253,000 of sales.
Next in line for the company's history is the Indianapolis Pump and Tube Company.
*** One interesting note that fits here as well as anywhere: In the mid-1980s, Arvin again "re-entered" the tire inflation business with the acquisition of Schrader Automotive. At the time of the acquisition, Schrader was the world's largest manufacturer of valves for tires and inner tubes. Schrader's history with Arvin was a relatively short-lived one. It was almost a shotgun wedding in the first place, as the purchase was essentially made "at gunpoint". Schrader was acquired in 1986 and sold in 1994. But it is interesting to think about this brief return to company roots.
For an album of hi-res images of some early pump materials, please click below for:
To the left are images of a couple of tax documents for Indianapolis Air Pump Company from 1921, shortly before company name being changed to Indianapolis Pump & Tube.
Original Product - A brass tire pump with a stamped base and a cast top.
Close-Up of the cast, screw on top for the pump to the right.
The Indianapolis Air Pump Company was the original name of company that later became Arvin, and it was formed in 1919. Indianapolis Air Pump existed from January 1, 1919 until December 31, 1921 --- all of three years! But the company that was started and the men that started it would reach much further into manufacturing and business history than that.