Making A Go Of It, And Then Some
Syracuse, N.Y. – When the guns of August, 1914 opened fire across Europe, a window closed but a door opened for Willis Carrier and his colleagues. Just as the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America was beginning to prosper, the start of the "Great War," as it was known, indirectly brought about the end of the Buffalo Forge subsidiary.
As we have seen recently, seminal world events often provide a time of great introspect and reflection. In the tinderbox of history – the summer of 1914 – many American businesses paused to take stock. Among them was Buffalo Forge, whose management had already begun to question the advisability of engineering and installing air conditioning systems. Late in 1914, Buffalo Forge decided to confine its activities entirely to manufacturing. And so it was that the news was broken to Carrier and Irvine Lyle. Everyone in the air conditioning company was to be let go, except the two principals, who would retain their previous positions with Buffalo Forge.
Heartsick over the decision, Carrier and Lyle saw that their long, hard work in building the air conditioning industry would now either sink into oblivion or be carried on by others. Neither prospect was tolerable. In New York, Lyle did not tell the engineering staff for a time, hoping against hope for a reversal of the verdict. Back in Buffalo, Carrier concentrated on the problem as only he could, and finally decided the answer was to take the risky step of forming a new company. "If Irvine Lyle is willing to take the chance," he reasoned, "and if we can get his staff of engineers to come along with us, we could make a go of it."
It didn't take but one meeting for Carrier, Lyle and salesman Edward Murphy to draft up the plans for the new company. On June 26, 1915, seven young engineers – Carrier, Lyle, Murphy, Logan Lewis, Ernest Lyle, Alfred Stacey, Jr. and Edmund Heckel – incorporated in New York State as the Carrier Engineering Corporation. Carrier and Lyle each agreed to give their services to the new company for six years, while the others agreed to remain for three years. When all the agreements were reached the company was without any real money. They were good friends, they knew more about air conditioning than any other group, they were rich in courage and ingenuity, but they had no capital. They issued stock and agreed to start operations once stock subscriptions totaled $2,500, with Carrier, Lyle and Murphy investing in 60 percent of the stock.
On July 1, 1915, Carrier Engineering Corporation opened its offices in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Buffalo, with the latter serving as its headquarters and consisting of an office with second-hand furniture – two desks, a drafting board and stool, a few files and two wicker chairs for visitors. Stock subscriptions slowly mounted, with Carrier and Lyle owning the majority. Altogether the original paid-in capital was $32,600, and stayed that way until 1927, when new capital was bought for expansion purposes. By then, the capital and surplus of the corporation was $1.35 million, all built up from the original investment. In 1947 Murphy, considering what human elements and qualifications were present in this enterprising group, wrote:
“We had courage and vision to seize opportunity when it appeared.
“We supplemented each other in all phases of an intricate business.
“We had a superior product, applied with sound engineering.
“We had a product that was needed in industry and took on the responsibility of leadership by continuous improvement in the product and in the broadening of the product’s applications.
“We held steadfastly to a high standard of integrity in our products, in our engineering methods and in our financial dealings with others.
“It would seem also that we had fate on our team. Perhaps it was because we had selected a business that contributes to better health and living for people by which a real service is rendered to mankind.”
Eighteen days after Carrier Engineering Corporation opened its doors, Irvine Lyle closed the new company’s first contract, for $4,350, to air condition the American Munition Company’s fuse loading building in Paulsboro, New Jersey. The war that brought about the end of the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America supplied the new, independent Carrier Engineering Corporation with its first business.