York Town Square

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Bad economy turned York Safe & Lock toward lucrative defense work

York Safe and Lock’s S. Forry Laucks, second from right, is shown in this clipping from 1906. He was part of the initial slate of officers of the York Manufacturers’ Association. They are, from left, John C. Schmidt, president of Standard Chain Co. and Schmidt and Ault Paper Co.; Thomas Shipley, York Manufacturing Company; Laucks; and Francis Farquhar, A.B. Farquhar Co. Background posts: The old-time York County community bank: ‘They know me by sight and voice’, York, Pa. made big, heavy things – and was immensely proud of it and New Freedom station houses alien safe.

Some news accounts say that the current down economy is pushing up the sale of safes.
According to a York Daily Record story (11/9/08), safe business locally is steady but not explosive. The idea is that when the stock market is down, people want gold and other valuables in “safe” places.
Steady business was not the case in the Great Depression, at least not for York Safe and Lock… .

Poor business prompted York Safe and Lock’s S. Forry Laucks to seek government aid in the form of defense contracts in the build up to World War II. That morphed into the York Plan as World War II evolved. That plan called for the sharing of manpower and machinery among York County factories to secure large defense contracts that would have otherwise gone to Ford Motors and other mega manufacturers.
Up to that point, many York manufacturing magnates fell on the Republican side, eschewing government handouts.
The following excerpt from my “In the thick of the fight,” tells about Laucks’ early efforts in going after defense work:

“The company (York Safe & Lock) particularly struggled during the Depression when scores of banks failed. Plenty of second-hand vaults were on the market. In the late 1930s, Laucks’ work force had dwindled to 350 employees, and his company had sustained losses of $2 million.
In 1938, he toured Army arsenals around Washington, D.C., and found them depleted of ordnance equipment – guns and ammunition – the type of machinery his specialty company could build.
‘If the workers in your plant can make something so massive as a bank vault, and yet so delicate and precise as the lock on a safety-deposit box – well, I guess they can turn out not only a gun carriage but the breechblock of the gun and the firing mechanism as well,” he later explained.

For a host of other York Town Square posts on York Safe & Lock, click here.