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Universal Sanitary/Universal-Rundle Corporation - Taylor Twnp PA

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In early 1901 a group of local industrialists took a gamble and provided the capital for Charles J. Kirk to start a small company known as the Universal Sanitary Manufacturing Company, which would make ceramic plumbing fixtures for bathrooms such as toilets and sinks. The company built a plant at New Castle Junction to take advantage of the railroad facilities and commenced operations with thirty employees in late 1901. A huge fire devastated the facility on July 15, 1911, and its future was in doubt. Kirk decided to rebuild at the same location and made a host of revolutionary changes in the coming years, including erecting a tunnel kiln system that cut production times in half. The company became a major success and its products were in use all over the country. (c1905) Full Size

Universal Sanitary merged with the Rundle Corporation of Milwaukee WI to become Universal-Rundle Corporation in February 1948. The firm was later acquired by other companies to include Sears, Roebuck Co., Nortek, and Crane Plumbing and at its height had over 700 employees in New Castle. I believe Praxis Companies purchased the financially-strapped plant in late 2005 and continues operations there at this time. (c1908) Full Size

Workers pack products for shipment at the Universal-Rundle plant. At center of photo is employee Harry Petrine. (c1955)

The Universal-Rundle facility in Taylor Township. (1975)


  1. My father worked here for over 30 years, and before the age of OSHA and lawsuits, he sometimes led me to his workstation for a few minutes before or after his paid hours.

    Dad was a glazier, putting the shiny surface on U/R products. This entailed lifting the product to a turntable, holding an air-driven spray gun and applying the glaze so that it would not drip or run, yet still be enough to waterproof and protect the porcelain.

    The spray was dangerous to inhale—silicosis was the issue. To help keep overspray out of the air, behind the product was a wind tunnel. Its fan drew the glaze overspray deep into the tunnel where a curtain of water washed the dust from the air and collected it in the stream below the curtain.

    The tunnel fans and waterfalls kept U/R a noisy place; the kilns kept it hot. And despite the fans, the gray concrete floor was covered with drifts and piles of white porcelain sand.

    Folks my dad knew or worked with there included Oscar Timenski, John Jenista, Bill Anttila, and A.O. Knecht

  2. Mr jessel I remember that name. My dad Robert Morgan worked at the Rundle for many years .He finally died in 199os to much of breathing all the fumes in .I also remember the name al knecht.I knew his son in highschool 1966. Sure was a lot of fumes and dust in there when I go in to pick him up. Tom Morgan

  3. I recently found a group photo of my father seated with many other U/R employees, most of which he identified on the photo’s back. He listed surnames only, and they are these (misspellings are likely mine): Yoho, Costa, Francis, Klingy, Mottle, Spigler, Nye, Adams, Temenski, Aod, Ferry, Rhodes, Attisano, Stewart, Huff. One or two others are unnamed. The photo is undated, but it was in a booklet of others which are likely to have been made between 1953 and 1955.

  4. I worked there for 15 years until close in June 1984. Know men mentioned prior, yes very dusty I worked in casting.


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