” I wonder how many people look at the big plants in New Britain today with any thought of their early struggles or the headaches that have contributed to their success. Our concern is one of the youngest in the city. Its beginnings and growth have been only the period of a generation”
Elisha H. Cooper, Fafnir President 1919-1927
Started as an experimental department of the Hart & Cooley Company, where it took 7 men all day to produce 150 ball bearings, the Fafnir Bearing Company grew to employ over 6,000 with the capacity to produce over 42.6 million ball bearings a year. When Fafnir was incorporated in 1911 the domestic ball bearing market was small, components (and in many cases the bearings themselves) were imported from England and Germany and the primary use was in cars and trucks. German bearings set the standard for excellence but were expensive and hard to get. Howard Hart, who had just retired from overseeing production of the Corbin Car and was president of Hart & Cooley, saw an opportunity and set out to investigate the feasibility of producing German quality ball bearings in America. Fafnir, like other New Britain companies, became successful through innovation, invention and the creation of new markets. Before 1925 Fafnir had invented the wide inner-ring bearing, the pillow block, the self-aligning pillow block and the self locking collar. Pillow blocks and self locking collars soon became standards in the industry. During WWII Fafnir was manufacturing airframe bearings which led to their Army-Navy “E” award, the first in the industry and the first in New Britain. After WWII innovation and invention continued with precision bearings and bearings for the space program. Fafnir merged with Textron in the late 1960’s, in the mid 1980’s the Fafnir division of Textron was merged with the Torrington Company and in 2002 Torrington/Fafnir were acquired by Timken who, to this day, continues to sell bearings under the Fafnir name.