The first H. Mueller, Gun Shop
on 100 block of West Main
Hieronymus Mueller’s first shop in
Decatur, Illinois was in a 2-story frame building in the 100 block
of West Main Street. A sign identified the business as “H. MUELLER,
GUN SHOP.” Hieronymus
and his wife lived on the second floor of this building. He closed
this shop in 1858 for a brief bit of adventure in the gold fields
of Colorado but quickly realized that his path to success lay in
building the business he had begun in Illinois.
Hieronymus returned from the gold fields, he re-opened his Decatur
business in a 3-story brick building in the 100 block of North Water
Street. Again, the family lived in the upper floors. The gun business
was expanded to include clock and sewing machine repairs.
The third Decatur location of the gunsmithing
and sporting goods business of Hieronymous Mueller at the corner
of East Main & South State Street.
was growing and moved to a larger building in 1859. The third Decatur
location was a 2-story frame structure at the corner of East Main
and South State Street. The family started out living above this
shop but, like the business, was outgrowing the space and soon moved
to a nearby home. The business was now concentrated on gunsmithing
and sporting goods (hunting and fishing equipment).
The fourth site of H. Mueller's business
at 220-222 E. Main, Decatur, Illinois.
fourth Mueller site in Decatur was a newly constructed brick building
a 220-222 East Main Street in Decatur. This was initially a 2-story
building with a 3rd floor and rear addition completed around 1885.
It was in this building that the business emphasis changed from gunsmithing
to plumbing goods and the company we know today began to emerge.
By 1880 the gun shop
was sharing space with plumbing, gas and steam fittings. When the third
floor was added, the signage on the building changed from the gun shop
to H. Mueller Manufacturing Co. It is interesting to note that the
downtown business district was home to both retail businesses and to
industrial use – Hieronymus
was operating a brass foundry and machine shop in this building.
The H. Mueller gun shop and sporting
goods store at 138 Merchant St, Decatur, Illinois.
Mueller moved his gun shop and sporting goods business to a separate
location at 138 Merchant Street which was a part of the Seven Stores
Block in downtown Decatur. A 1909 fire destroyed two of the seven
stores including 138. The other five stores make up the largest
part of Merchant Street -- downtown Decatur's best-known “shopping” street
and popular night spot filled with shops and restaurants.
The H. Mueller plumbing shop at 249 E. Main
The Decatur manufacturing business continued
to expand and Hieronymus made additional space in the 220-222 East
Main Street location by moving the actual plumbing business to its
own site at 249 East Main Street. He was now operating three distinct
businesses – a
plumbing goods manufacturing company, a plumbing service shop,
and a sporting goods store.
The H. Mueller gun shop and sporting
goods store at 138 Merchant St, Decatur, Illinois.
Hieronymus Mueller built a new 3-story building at 237
North Main Street in Decatur to house his plumbing business. This business
was sold by the Muellers in 1896 and the building was sold to the Herald
Newspaper. The historic building still stands today with the designation
Block, 1891” in its cornice. It was originally the “Mueller
gun and sporting goods shop was relocated to 134 East Prairie Street
in Decatur in 1892, around the corner from its previous location at
138 Market Street. By 1896 the manufacturing business had grown to demand
the full attention of the family, so the gun and sporting goods shop
present-day Decatur, Illinois campus of Mueller Co. had its beginnings
with a large 2-story brick building erected on the corner of Cerro
Gordo and College Streets. This location was significant for three
reasons – it was outside of the downtown area which
gave space for expansion, it allowed heavier industrial use, and it
had rail access for national distribution of Mueller Co. products.
By 1910 the 2-story plant had acquired a 3rd floor and a new 3-story
office and warehouse facility was built next to it. Other buildings
were added to the complex over the years including a power plant, fountain
plant (manufacturing soda fountain equipment), galvanizing building,
engineering building, and gymnasium. Well over a dozen buildings occupied
nearly 6 city blocks making Mueller Co. an impressive presence in Decatur.
The company's market had grown to the point that it
became practical to open a distribution and sales office in the center
of American commerce – New York City . Office space was acquired
and the youngest of the Mueller brothers, Oscar, moved to New York
to oversee the newly formed Eastern Division. This was the first step
of considerable growth and expansion to come in the next two decades.
addition of a New York office resulted in a large increase in shipments
to Canada. To meet the demand more effectively, a new plant was constructed
just north of the border in Sarnia, Ontario. This plant, under the
name of Mueller, Ltd., produced nearly the full line of Mueller© goods
within easy reach of the important Canadian market. Again, Oscar Mueller
moved to head this operation.
First World War found a shortage of brass rod used in fuses for various
munitions. To meet this need, Mueller Metals Company was formed by
the Mueller brothers and a new plant was constructed in Port Huron,
Michigan, just south of the Sarnia location. Unfortunately, this plant
got into production just as the war ended, leaving the company with
huge losses on the new facility. Oscar Mueller saw an opportunity and
turned the operation from manufacturing brass rod to brass tubing and
fittings. He eventually offered his brothers a swap of all of his interest
in Mueller Co. in exchange for the Port Huron plant. This was accepted
in 1927 and Oscar formed the Mueller Brass Company which became a very
successful independent enterprise.
Mueller Iron Foundry Company was established with the acquisition of
the National Casting Company plant at 1942 Eldorado Street in Decatur.
This operation was made a part of Mueller Co. in 1928 and continued
production until the mid-1950’s.
1925-1933 / 1942-1945
plant to manufacture vitreous wars was constructed south of Decatur.
This facility produced a full line of bathroom and kitchen fixtures
to compliment the other hardware lines of Mueller Co. During this period,
the company greatly expanded its distribution and advertising to reach
a national market. Unfortunately, the Great Depression wiped out much
of the demand for the product line and the plant was closed in 1933.
The building was used for Civilian Conservation Corps and WPA activities
during the Depression and was officially reopened by Mueller Co. in
1942 as a munitions plant. Mueller Co. produced 37mm and 57mm shells
as well as larger naval ordinance at the plant during WWII. The plant
closed at the conclusion of the war and the property was sold in 1948.
and distribution offices were opened in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco,
Dallas, and Atlanta as the company sought to better serve new markets
and alter sales strategies. These offices were gradually closed as
the Depression caused changes in the company’s
product offerings and sales.
production plant was added in Los Angeles, California to provide better
distribution in that rapidly growing region.
Columbia Iron Works
in Chattanooga, Tennessee was purchased by Mueller Co. in 1933. This
plant produced fire hydrants and large gate valves. The Columbia
name was changed to Mueller in 1955. Facilities in Chattanooga were
modernized in 1966 and gate valve production continues there.
Los Angeles plant was replaced by a new facility in Brea, California.
Co. bought the Adams Clamp Company in Los Angeles, California. This
plant was soon closed with the manufacture of the product line being
moved first to Decatur and then to its present site in Cleveland, Tennessee.
1966 - Present
Ltd opened a new iron foundry in St. Jerome, Quebec.
The production of fire hydrants was moved to a new plant in Albertville,
Alabama. Since then, more than 3 million fire hydrants have been
produced there, earning Albertville the designation “Fire Hydrant
Capital of the World.”
Mueller Co. purchased an existing building from Crown Cork Company
at 1226 East Garfield in Decatur for conversion to a new foundry.
This facility took over both the brass and iron pouring which had
been done in the Cerro Gordo and Eldorado plants. Within a few years
the iron foundry operation was phased out of Decatur and the plant
turned solely to brass. It has undergone extensive modernization
and is among the largest brass foundries in the world.
year 1961 saw a significant change to the central Decatur plants with
the construction of a new plant and office building. Most of the operations
which had been spread through many buildings were brought under a single
roof and older buildings were razed or sold off. Still, parts of some
of the earliest structures remained and were incorporated into the
new plant building and provide a link to the company’s past.
plant to manufacture butterfly valves was opened in Clinton, South
Carolina. This operation ended with the 1996 acquisition of Henry Pratt
Co. acquired Henry Pratt Company, a maker of butterfly and specialty
valves. Their operations are centered in Aurora, Illinois with plants
in Dixon, Illinois and Hammond, Indiana. Henry Pratt has subsequently
acquired the operations of Lindsey Fabrications, Virginia Valve Automation
(Salem,Virginia), Milliken Valve (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), Hydro Gate
(Commerce City, Colorado), and Jingmen Pratt (a Chinese foundry).
1996-Present A new plant was constructed
in Brownsville, Texas for the production of gas distribution products.
1998-Present A pipe repair products plant for the Adams Clamp line
was opened in Cleveland, Tennessee.
2010-Present The corporate headquarters of Mueller Co. relocated from
Decatur to Chattanooga, Tennessee.