In 1893, our founder Elmer E. Hanna arrived in Chicago from Montana to
head up the engineering and manufacturing functions of the Gates Iron
Works company. While at Gates, Hanna observed men sifting sand by hand
to separate the coarse sand from the fine sand needed to make the sharp,
clean molds used in the foundry. The sifting was time consuming and was
typically done by the more experienced mold makers.
Hanna experimented with the idea of a pneumatic cylinder attached to screen to separate the sand. After years of designing and experimenting, he developed a machine dubbed a “Screen Shaker” which was then used by Gates Iron Works within their operations. Soon other foundries, hearing about the Screen Shaker, asked where it could be purchased. Since Gates Iron Works was doing very well in the mining machinery business, company management did not want to set up a facility for a completely new and different product line. As a result, Elmer Hanna requested permission from the president of Gates to set up his own company to manufacture the Screen Shaker.
Hanna opened E. E. Hanna company in 1900. The Screen Shaker was an immediate success. In 1901 the company was incorporated as the Hanna Engineering Works. In 1902 the company moved into a new factory built on a five acre tract of land at 2059 N. Elston Avenue. The company remained at this location until 1917, when it was forced to move to 1765 N. Elston due to a reconfiguration of Ashland Avenue.
In 1903 Elmer Hanna invented and patented the Hanna Riveter. Hanna Engineering Works also produced special machinery including units that compressed cotton seeds to produce cotton seed oil and other equipment for baling loose cotton. Hanna produced all the cylinders and valves used on the various machinery they sold. 1914, Hanna began to manufacture air cylinders and valves for sale to other manufacturers.
By the end of WWII, riveting was being replaced by welding for many metal fastening applications. Company management recognized riveters was not a growth market and decided to concentrate on manufacturing and marketing hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders and valves. In 1954 Hanna introduced the T750 air cylinder product line. More than fifty years later, we are still producing this remarkable cylinder. Virtually unchanged since it’s introduction, the T750 is used on high speed packaging equipment. A testament to its durability, includes a T750 cylinder sold in 1961 that operated 12,000 times a day, five days a week for 30 years. That’s more than 50 million cycles! To this day, it is not unusual for Hanna to get a repair request for a cylinder that us 40 or 50 years old. Durability is a hallmark of ALL Hanna cylinders, not just the T750 line.
IN 1963, Hanna Engineering Works was purchased by Chain Belt Company of Milwaukee, WI. Chain Belt soon became Rex Chain Belt and after a subsequent merger with Nordberg, the company was renamed Rexnord, Inc. Hanna Engineering Works became the Hanna Cylinder Division of Rexnord and remained so until 1980. In 1980, the Rexnord Cylinder Division was sold to a group of employees and became known as Hanna Corporation. Hanna then became part of The Chatwins Group in 1986.
In 1990, Hanna purchased Chicago Fluid Power/Roto-Thrust Corporation, further expanding the product lines offered by Hanna. In 1994, Hanna acquired T. J. Brooks Company of Milwaukee, WI. Brooks added a line of welded and mobile cylinders to Hanna’s product offerings.
In 2001 the Brooks plant was moved to Libertyville, a northern suburb of Chicago, occupying space leased by Chatwins. Hanna remained at 1765 N. Elston until 2004 when it joined Brooks at 828 E. Park Avenue in Libertyville. For the first time since the Brooks acquisition, all of Hanna’s manufacturing capabilities now reside under one roof. Hanna’s approximately 150,000 square feet includes over 25,000 square feet of available expansion space.