As I See It

Over 60 years the form changes, not the intent

In January 1954, our founder Herb Walther published the first edition of his news tabloid, The Contractor. All of the principals in the new magazine had been with Plumbing & Heating Business, the official publication of the National Association of Plumbing Contractors, now Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association.

The purpose of the new magazine, which isn’t much different from our mission today, was to “provide editorial features on management, merchandising, methods and materials,” aimed at any contractor who employs two or more persons.

And that’s what we’ve done through John Carlson, the first editor, through Seth Shepard, John Schweizer, Bob Miodonski and, finally, me. Sixty years may seem like a long time, but it’s not compared with some of the companies that we’re saluting in our August 2014 print edition and eventually on

This year, water heater manufacturer A. O. Smith is celebrating its 140th anniversary. Robert Bosch founded his eponymous company in Stuttgart, Germany in 1886. Bosch Thermotechnology North America is headquartered in Londonderry, N.H. General Pipe Cleaners is now a third-generation family business, having been founded in 1930.

Hansgrohe SE is now 113-years-old although Hansgrohe North America has been in the U.S. since 1988. Founded by Polish immigrant Max Gerber in 1932, Gerber Plumbing Fixtures LLC has grown into a leading manufacturer of vitreous china plumbing fixtures, faucets and fittings. Founded in 1918, the evolution of the Parker Appliance Co. into Parker Hannifin Corp. was built on the company’s engineering expertise.

Brothers Richard and Donald Rheem, who founded Rheem Mfg. in 1925, initially created steel drums and other metal products. If it seems like you’ve been using Ridgid Tools for almost forever it’s no surprise since the company has been around since 1923. The Viega Group of companies began in Germany in 1899, founded by Franz-Anselm Viegener, who created an innovative new design for a brass beer tap. By 1901, Viega had begun manufacturing plumbing systems.

Watts Water, founded by Joseph E. Watts in 1874 under the name Watts Regulator, started as a small machine shop in Lawrence, Mass. Watts Regulator supplied parts to the New England textile mills. Woodford Mfg. Co. began in 1929 when J.C. Woodford bought Service Station Equipment Co. and the manufacturing rights for the IOWA Yard Hydrant. Zurn Industries LLC today is a leader in providing engineered water solutions for the commercial and institutional markets. The company might be unrecognizable to J.A. Zurn who set up shop in a family barn in 1900.

A mere 60 years ago in January 1954, Walther wrote in his first editorial, “First, The Contractor is independent. We represent no special interest.

“Second, as most of you who have seen our work under previous auspices should know, we love this plumbing-heating industry, believe it has an expanding and profitable future, and are convinced we can perform a useful purpose, the purpose of creating a better informed industry, and an industry more quickly responsive to its opportunities.

“Third, to do that job effectively we ask your support, which means simply this: write to us about the subjects we introduce; comment pro or con on opinions expressed; tell us where you think we can address new editorial inquiries. In short, make The Contractor part of your business existence. That will help us help you with a better magazine.

“Our pledge to you,” Walther concluded, “is that we will deliver a vigorous, enterprising journalistic service to you on principles of honesty, fairness and integrity.”

Our mission hasn’t changed in 60 years, although today it more typically takes the form of, which we update daily and that includes exclusive columnists like Ed O’Connell and Mike Bohinc; or our Plumbing Talk Forum where we want to hear what’s on your mind; or our weekly E-News or our daily Morning Briefing email. You can get the latest news right away on our Twitter feed and connect with us on Facebook and LinkedIn. And then there’s our annual in-person event, Comfortech, taking place this year in Nashville, September 9-11.

No matter what the medium is, our purpose remains the same: creating a better-informed industry, and an industry more quickly responsive to its opportunities, and doing that honestly, fairly and with integrity.

Connect with me on Twitter @bobmader. I might have something to say

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.