Springfield Celebrates it’s 100 year old businesses
By Tim Landis
Posted Jan. 25, 2014 @ 9:18 pm
Local soldiers wrote home about Armbruster tents of Springfield during World War II.
“It really gave me a spark of happiness,” Lt. John Stelle Jr. said in a letter from North Africa in April 1943.
As reported by the Illinois State Register, forerunner of The State Journal Register, Stelle had discovered his tent was made by R.H. Armbruster Manufacturing Co. of Springfield.
“I tell all the fellows in my tent, ‘Don’t worry, Armbruster tents cover the world.’”
Rudolph H. Armbruster was all of 23 years old when he opened an upholstery, mattress and pillow-making shop in 1875 on the northeast corner of Sixth Street and Capitol Avenue.
His father, Alphonse, was a jeweler who arrived in Springfield from Germany in 1820, according to archives at The State Journal-Register.
Several moves and five years into the business, Rudolph Armbruster reported hiring the “boss canvass man” from Ringling Bros. circus. The new hire was put in charge of the tent and awning division.
World War II brought a manufacturing boom, according to a company history, with demand from the government and the Red Cross, including billeting tents, small and large wall tents, hospital tents, command-post tents and two-story tent enclosures for work on bomber engines.
Contracts started coming in before the war. The Illinois State Register reported in August 1940 on a $27,350 government contract for 2,500 tents shaped like pyramids.
“The contract was one of a series announced by the War Department,” the paper reported, “in anticipation of conscription, including woolen socks, pillow cases and other supplies.”
Armbruster still makes vintage World War II tents. The plant at 8600 Old Route 66 South — the Interstate 55 frontage road east of Chatham — also makes pole, frame, canopy, Euro, Tension and Clearspan tents, as well as awnings, stage covers and custom fabrics.
Employment ranges from 25 to 50, depending on the season, said company president Hellar Armbruster, a fourth generation executive with the company. His father, Bernard, is CEO.
Hellar Armbruster attributed the company’s longevity to the conservative business approach carried down from his great-grandfather and to skills of the company’s workforce.
“To remain American’s oldest tent maker, we have retained very skilled craftsmen and operated under very strict, conservative business core values,” Armbruster said in an email. “These include not taking any large risks, ensuring profit in each and every product we sell, making decisions … listening to our customers, and helping solve their problems and building safe tents that sell.”
Armbruster Manufacturing Co.
8600 Old Route 66 South (Interstate 55 frontage road east of Chatham).