Every brand has a story, and every story begins with chapter one. However, not every brand shares a story that is rooted in rich historical events. Wendell August Forge, an aluminum giftware business in Pennsylvania, has a captivating story that all started 95 years ago.
The narrative begins in 1923 when a coal mine owner teamed up with a blacksmith to help forge door latches for his home.
The owner of this coal mine was Wendell McMinn August, a 38-year-old man who started the company once he realized the value of hand-crafted ironware. Admiring the low-cost and high-quality craftmanship, August was inspired to start a decorative ironware business.
The company was commissioned to design gates and elevator doors for the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) headquarters in Pittsburgh. The intricate design on the elevator door was so exquisite, ALCOA asked for the same design to be replicated onto a serving tray. This unique gift propelled Wendell August Forge into high-demand interior design and eventually giftware.
Another historical event that Wendell August Forge left a mark on was creating the mementos in honor of the “Millionaires’ Flight” on the Hindenburg airship, a luxurious 804-foot-long zeppelin that carried passenger between Germany and the United States.
One thing is for certain, Wendell August Forge has witnessed many pivotal historical moments that we can only read about in textbooks, today.
From Door Latches to Open Doors of Opportunity
Today, the company’s specialty is custom gifts that commemorate company anniversaries and milestones, years of service awards, sales and safety recognition gifts, building dedications, employee engagement programs, sales incentives, and conference gifts. And just like a painting, each piece has a different story to tell.
Wendell August Forge has gone from a regional architectural ironware business to an international manufacturer of custom metal giftware. While in 1923, employees were crafting pieces for individual customer’s homes, today they make custom pieces for major brands – from Disney and Berkshire Hathaway, to television shows like Game of Thrones, to professional sports teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins.
In 2011, the company bought the roof of the iconic Civic Arena, former home of the Penguins and the first retractable roof in any sports arena. Wendell August Forge took the metal, turned it into molten, to then create 80,000 Christmas ornaments. The project was so successful that it led to the creation of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. Through this foundation, Wendell August Forge creates custom pieces that benefit children near their hometown.
Along with its charitable efforts, Wendell August Forge is always seeking to partner with other organizations. Recently, it became an official licensee of the NFL – crafting gifts for all 32 teams that allow for customization with unique messaging and branding. There are not many organizations larger than the NFL, and it’s monumental for a company, with a humble beginning of building door latches, to now have the opportunity to partner with an organization that attracts millions of fans.
A Peek Into the Process
The heritage of Wendell August Forge is preserved by its craftsmen, who hand-etch each original design. Every piece is then hand-wrought using an eight-step process with roots in ancient metalworking techniques. They use recycled aluminum or specialty metal and finish the repoussé process by hammering the design from the die engraver onto the metal, forming the metal, and color it using different techniques including the coal-fired forge.
The metalworkers take great pride in their work, and the marks of both artists and craftsmen can be found on the back of every piece – from coasters to personalized Christmas ornaments.
Something that is imperative at Wendell August Forge is high-quality products. The market is inundated with cheap overseas products that do not always respect the integrity of what a gift or award is supposed to be. When someone receives something from Wendell August, whether an employee or client, they will immediately notice how special the product is.
When asked what makes Wendell August Forge stand out, the answer was simple. There is no other supplier quite like them. Whether a custom tray, a unique award, or a beautiful Christmas ornament, the pieces are designed to create memories, yet honor the past. Each gift is a piece of history, that will last forever.