The History of the Lucas Machine Company

Manufacturers of the World Famous Lucas Horizontal Boring, Milling and Drilling Machine

On January 1, 1900 at the age of 30, Henry M. Lucas organized the Lucas Machine Tool Company with George C. Lucas and Frank Yost as his partners and they soon began production of the world famous Lucas Boring Mill at the original factory on East 99th Street in Cleveland, Ohio. Their first machine (Model #1) was shipped in 1901 and ran to a production of 351 machines.

Mr. Lucas was born in Cleveland on February 25, 1869 and lived there all his life. He started as an apprentice of the Warner & Swasey Co. in 1886 at the age of 18 years, and later became their Chief Draftsman.

Mr. Lucas made machine tool history by designing and building the original of the now familiar 'Lucas Type' Horizontal Boring, Milling and Drilling machine. This was the first commercially available machine with a fixed-height worktable and was equipped for simultaneous adjustment of both the counterweighted machine head and the tailblock or Backrest.

These innovations greatly improved both the accuracy of the boring operation and the 'set-up' of the work. They also permitted the machine bed to be manufactured with a heavily ribbed, deep box construction that was substantially more rigid than other boring machines of that era.

Production quantities for the young company were impressive for many of the early years averaging approximately 67 machines per year until 1930. The great depression, however, affected Lucas Machine as well. The entire production for 1931 was only 12 machines! In late 1938, with Henry M. Lucas acting as President, George A. Yost as Secretary and J.A. Leighton, the owners sold a partial interest in the Lucas Machine Company to a local financial institution that was originally called McDonald & Sons and later became known as the McDonald Investment Corporation.

On January 30, 1942, the U.S. Government took over the direct management of Lucas Machine under the direction of a Mr. Benzon who had been sent from Washington, D.C. for that purpose because of the production needs of World War II.

Mr. Benzon's goal was to increase the machine production quantities for 1942 to at least twice the number of machines that had been shipped in 1941 with no increase in the number of factory workers.

Mr. Henry M. Lucas passed away on March 2, 1942 at the age of 73 years. After his death, the company was controlled and operated by Mr. Lucas' wife, brother-in-law and Mr. Benzon.

On February 13, 1943, Lucas Machine received the coveted Army/Navy "E" award for excellence in wartime production as a result of the increased number of machines that were being produced and shipped for the war effort. The notification of this award was made by a personal letter from the U.S. Under-Secretary of War, Mr. Robert P. Patterson. A formal presentation of the award was made with appropriate ceremony on March 20, 1943. It seems fairly obvious that the employees did not 'rest on their laurels'. The records show that a staggering 300-odd machines were shipped in 1943 alone! The President of Lucas Machine at the time was Mr. George Yost.

The company continued to be operated under the direction of Mrs. Lucas, Mr. Yost and Mr. Benzon until November 1, 1945, when it was finally sold 'outright' to the McDonald Investment Corporation. Mr. Yost continued as the General Manager.

During this time, the land occupied by the original factory became required for the construction of a major East-West freeway that was being placed through the Greater Cleveland area. Realizing that they would soon be required to move, construction started for a new factory in a nearby neighborhood of Cleveland's east side in 1946.

On October 27, 1947, The Lakeland Freeway (later called Ohio Route 2) partially opened and on November 1, 1947, Lucas Machine moved its operations to its new factory at 12302 Kirby Avenue.

The McDonald Investment Corporation held and ran the company until December 11, 1948 when Lucas Machine was purchased by the New Britain Machine Company of New Britain, Connecticut. With the acquisition of Lucas by New Britain, Mr. H.N. Stephan was elevated to the position of General Manager of Lucas Machine. He had formerly been the Chief Engineer.

The early 1950's saw the birth of two new models, which were enormously successful. In fact, most people who think of a Lucas are thinking of a model 41B or a 42B. The 41B was produced from 1950 until 1979 and had a total production of 820 machines. The 42B was made from 1950 to 1980 and had a total production of 1088 machines!

The model 41B and 42B were the first of a long line of Lucas machines that were equipped with Numerical Control. Lucas began production of the first 'tape controlled' Lucas machines in 1956 and was one of the early entrants into the field of Numerically Controlled machine tools.

Mr. Carl F. Stugard became the President and General Manager of Lucas in approximately early 1963, replacing Mr. H.N. Stephan as part of a plan to supply vertical spindle profile milling machines to the aerospace industry. The first of this type machine was sold to McDonnell Aircraft and shipped on December 7, 1965. The total production of these 'VM' profile-milling machines was 32 units.

On January 1, 1967, former General Manager Mr. H.N. Stephan passed away.

In 1968, Litton Industries of Beverly Hills, California purchased Lucas from the New Britain Machine Company and the company soon became known as The Lucas Machine Division of Litton Industrial Automation Systems. Mr. Carl F. Stugard was the President and General Manager of Lucas during this time period and until his retirement.

In approximately 1970, Mr. Carl Stugard retired as General Manager of Lucas. There being no one available to directly replace him, Mr. R.H. Villwock assumed the duties of General Manager for the interim. On July 29, 1971, Mr. William Bancroft became the General Manager of Lucas.

In mid-1972, Lucas began production of two new models of machines that were a significant departure from what had gone before.  The model 30T and 40T series machines were the first Lucas models that were specifically manufactured for operation with variable-speed electronic drive systems for use with modern CNC controls.

On February 15, 1974, Mr. John H. Stephan became the General Manager of the Lucas Machine Division replacing Mr. William Bancroft.

On October 24 of 1975, Mr. Stephan became the President, as well as retaining the position of General Manager.

Lucas Machine began construction of a Flexible Manufacturing System in early 1984. This was to be a total factory automation system comprising not only state-of-the-art CNC controlled machines but also was to include fully-automated 'guided' vehicles to carry tooling and materials to the machines, automatic part and tooling inspection and automated part wash-down, all under the control of a central, master computer system to control part flow, tooling flow and scheduling of all machining operations. Sadly, while the prototype system was made fully operational within the Lucas factory, no systems were ever shipped to customers. The late 1980's were a difficult time for the entire metal cutting machine tool industry and Lucas Machine was no exception. Lucas survived this extremely difficult period in her history by operating across two broad fronts. Part of the factory functioned essentially as a contract machining shop, while the remainder of the operation was devoted to the rebuild of machine tools of any brand, type or size.

Given the difficult economic times and the extreme number of domestic machine tool builders and contract shops that failed during the middle and late 1980's, it should have come as no surprise that Lucas would falter as well.

The Lucas Machine Division of Litton Industrial Automation Systems Inc. was officially closed by Litton Industries on February 28, 1990.

During its 89 proud years of manufacturing, Lucas Machine produced over 5700 Horizontal Boring, Milling and Drilling machines of approximately 40 separate models in addition to various presses, multi-spindle drills, conventional milling machines and other miscellaneous machinery.

The end of the story? Not yet!

The assets of the Lucas Machine Division were sold by Litton Industries to a Cleveland-area group of private investors and a new company called Lucas Precision was born as a limited partnership on June 14, 1990. The founding President and General Manager of Lucas Precision is Mr. Paul W. Mandelbaum.

With the market for large, domestically manufactured machine tools still being rather small and unsteady, the business plan and general focus of Lucas Precision is totally different than that of its ancestor. While Lucas Machine's 'primary mission' was a builder of new machinery, Lucas Precision was conceived as a supplier of repair parts, field service, rebuilding, retrofitting and other general 'support' services for the large installed base of existing Lucas machines.

Following the new business plan, operations continued at the Kirby Avenue factory until approximately June of 1992, when Lucas Precision moved to a smaller facility at 13020 Saint Clair Avenue in Cleveland where we remain to the present day.


September 26, 1994