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A memorial to the
founders and workers of Perfect Circle, a local automotive company with
a successful 100 year run was erected across the street from the former
world headquarters, now home to AutoCar.
In 1894 Charles N. Teetor worked in a small bicycle shop in New Castle where he built a fine bicycle for his wife. When Charles Hartley, Division Superintendent of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and a cousin of Mrs. Teetor, saw the bicycle, he asked Charles Teetor to design a cycle a man could ride on the rails. At that time a railroad inspector could perform his job only by walking the tracks or firing up a locomotive.
Charles Teetor drew the first rough designs for the railway cycle car on the dirt floor of his small shop. He tested his first model on the Pennsylvania Railroad between New Castle and Hagerstown in December 1894, riding the eleven miles in fifty-five minutes.
On February 16, 1895, the Railway Cycle Manufacturing Company was incorporated in Hagerstown, boyhood home of the Teetor brothers. The company was capitalized with cash and work pledges totaling $5,000. They began manufacturing in one end of Stonebraker's warehouse on south Washington Street near the railroad. A few second-hand machines powered by an old steam engine were their only equipment.
Soon the little company was producing one cycle car a day and shipping the vehicles all over the world. Charles Teetor worked four years to develop a single-cylinder gasoline engine to propel the car, an engine that also adapted well to run water pumps and air compressors. With engines replacing bicycle power, the company changed its name to the Light Inspection Car Company in 1900.
With an opportunity to assemble engines for the American Automobile Company in Indianapolis, the company entered the emerging automobile industry in 1905. Soon the Light Inspection Care Company was building its own larger engines. Their fine quality attracted customers, as many carriage makers in Indiana converted to automobile manufacturing. By 1914 the company, which was then named Teetor-Hartley Motor Company, was supplying such pioneer auto companies as Auburn, American, Pilot, Staver-Chicago, Davis, Wescott, McFarlan, Marmon, Stutz, Waukesah, Wisconsin, Continental, Peerless, Willys-Overland, and Franklin.
Company founders were Charles Teetor and his for brothers: John, Henry, Frank and Joe; Charles Hartley and his father, John; and Henry Keagy. John Teetor served as president until 1928 with Charles Teetor superintendent and general manager. Charles Teetor was then president from 1928 to 1937.
While the company manufactured engines, Charles Teetor focused on improving piston rings, a key to engine performance, which were also purchased by other automobile manufacturers. Meanwhile, cost control and mass assembly were spreading rapidly through the auto industry. In 1918 the Teeters sold the handmade engine business and concentrated on producing piston rings. The new product focus required a new company name - The Indiana Piston Ring Company. The company had emerged from the "jack of all trades" era and entered the age of industrial specialization.
By 1921 automobiles had become a popular means of transportation, requiring repair and replacement of parts, a new market for piston rings. The company began selling piston rings to repair shops under the trade name, "Perfect Circle". After the company ran full-page adds in the Saturday Evening Post, the name "Perfect Circle" became so well known and widely respected that it was made the company name in 1926. Growing rapidly, the company merged the General Piston Ring Company in Tipton under the management of Dan Teetor.
Perfect Circle became the undisputed world leader in piston ring technology with practically every innovation in piston ring development originating here. Manufacturing became international and played a vital part in air, land and marine transportation during World War II. In addition to piston rings for cars, trucks, aircraft, locomotive, marine and industrial engines, Perfect Circle manufactured valve seals, cam shafts, seals and gaskets, pistons, cylinder sleeves, turbine wheels and blades and specialized electronic laboratory equipment. Invented by Ralph R. Teetor, Cruise Control, originally known as Speedostat, was introduced in the 1958 Chrysler.
On July 1, 1963, Perfect Circle Corporation, with more than 2,900 employees, became a wholly owned subsidiary of Dana Corporation of Toledo, Ohio. Under Dana's leadership innovative research and expansion of Perfect Circle products continued.
Although Dana maintained the Perfect Circle name and trademark, manufacturing operations were gradually moved from the original Perfect Circle sites in to other facilities around the country. Operations ceased in the former corporate center of Hagerstown exactly one hundred years after it all began.
Perfect Circle attributed its success to its unusually talented and loyal employees. To all those who contributed to this unique example of the American dream for the past one hundred years, this memorial is gratefully dedicated.
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