Our History and Heritage

 

For 110 years, life at home has always been at the heart of our business.

 

Whirlpool 110th anniversary logo
1911 – 2021

Short takes on a long history.

Celebrate through the decades with us, and hear the stories from our very own senior leaders.
110 Years, Improving Life at Home.
1911 – 1929

IT ALL STARTED IN BENTON HARBOR, MICHIGAN.

Doing right by doing good, World War I, a monumental handshake deal, and the Stock Market crash. Watch to learn more from President and Chief Operating Officer Joe Liotine and Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jim Peters.

1930 – 1949

IMPROVING LIFE AT HOME, AN INTERNATIONAL MARKET

The Great Depression, World War I, investments in innovation, and the Whirlpool brand was born. Watch to learn more from Executive Vice President and North America President Winn Everhart and Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Ava Harter.

1950 – 1969

NINETEEN HUNDRED CORPORATION BECOMES WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION

The Whirlpool Foundation to address social concerns, and partnerships in post-war growth. Watch to learn more from João Carlos Brega, Executive Vice President and President, Whirlpool Latin America.

1969 – 1979

THE OFFICE OF SUSTAINABILITY SETS THE TRAJECTORY: 50+ YEARS CARING FOR OUR PLANET

Technology, energy efficiency, environmental and social responsibility, and employee care provided foundations for business growth. Watch to learn more from Roberto Campos, Senior Vice President, Global Product Organization.

1980s

“DRAGONS BE HERE”

A Spirit of Winning, KitchenAid brand, and the London Stock Exchange. The most trusted home appliance brand in the world. Watch to learn more from Liz Door, Senior Vice President, Global Strategic Sourcing.

1990s

WHIRLPOOL EUROPE, WHIRLPOOL ASIA, WHIRLPOOL LATIN AMERICA

Globalization and new markets, a full line of Energy Star® home appliances, and the Business Environment Leadership Council. Watch to learn more from Shengpo (Samuel) Wu, Executive Vice President and President, Whirlpool Asia.

2000s

GLOBAL INNOVATION AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Partnership with Habitat for Humanity® began, Instituto Consulado da Mulher launched, world’s first appliance manufacturer to set a global greenhouse gas reduction target. Watch to learn more from Gilles Morel, Executive Vice President and President, Europe, Middle East, Africa.

2010s

INVESTING IN OUR PEOPLE, BUSINESS AND COMMUNITIES

North America Headquarters built, LEED-Certified Manufacturing Facility in Cleveland, TN, Wind Farms, emerged into the digital Internet of Things. Watch to learn more from D. Jeffrey Noel, Corporate Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs, and Holger Gottstein, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Business Development.

2020s

COMMITTED TO BE THE BEST KITCHEN AND LAUNDRY COMPANY

A worldwide pandemic, U.S. Action Plan Equality Pledge, advancement of female leadership, and launched a new CSR strategy with the “House + Home World Tour”. Watch to learn more from Carey Martin, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer.

The first Upton Machine Company electric wringer-washer, 1911

The Upton Machine Company

In 1908, our founder Lou Upton invested his savings in a venture to manufacture household equipment. But when that company failed to materialize, Upton was offered the opportunity to select something of value from the venture as a return on his investment. He chose the patents on a hand washing machine that he thought could be motorized.

Lou Upton brought the patents and his innovative vision home to St. Joseph/Benton Harbor, Michigan. In 1911, Lou along with his uncle Emory, patented an electric motor-driven wringer washer. With funding from Lowell Bassford, and help from Lou’s brother Fred, washer production began for the Upton Machine Company.

Whirlpool Corporation History & Heritage 1
Whirlpool Corporation History

Values that have always kept us grounded

The company’s first major order for 100 washing machines came almost immediately, but a problem arose when a cast-iron gear in the transmission failed — in every single machine. However, Lou Upton replaced the defective parts with a new cut-steel gear in every single machine. Impressed with the fledgling company’s business ethics, the customer doubled its order to 200 washing machines.

Upton Machine grew. To meet increased customer demand, it merged with the Nineteen Hundred Washer Company of New York in 1929, and together they formed the Nineteen Hundred Corporation. Despite the Great Depression of the 1930s, the company invested in innovation and entered an international market.

Adaptablilty and innovation: explosive growth

World War II halted washer production, as factories were modified to provide components for the P-40 Warhawk aircrafts and military equipment. More than two million units of war materials were produced, including aircraft propeller pitch controls, trailing edges for fighter wings, hydraulic steering mechanisms for tank retrievers, carburetor parts, pumps, gears and gear cases.

In the summer of 1945, we began producing washers again, anticipating that within three years demand would be twice that of 1941. This began a period of explosive growth that would take us from a small manufacturer of washers and ironers to a large manufacturer of a full line of major home appliances, including the first fully-automatic washer and electric dryer.

In 1949, we changed our company’s name to Whirlpool Corporation to contribute to the recognition of our signature brand. We had grown to lead the industry, achieving $48 million in sales and annual earnings of $3 million.

Whirlpool Corporation History & Heritage 2
Whirlpool Corporation History

Commitment to Community

Lou and Fred Upton established the Whirlpool Foundation following the war, with a commitment to reinvest in the community and provide financial and leadership support for nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life in the communities where we operated.

During the post-war boom years of the 1950s, we looked for new ways to expand our product offering. In 1955, we merged with the Seeger Refrigeration Company, which provided us with a quality refrigerator line. As part of the merger we also acquired RCA’s air conditioning and range businesses, allowing us to provide customers with exceptional products that met their needs. In 1958, we took our first tentative step toward operating in foreign markets by entering a partnership with Brazil’s Brasmotor S.A., parent of appliance maker Multibras S.A. Eletrodomesticos.

The Cool Line, first toll-free customer support

By the start of the 1970s, we offered appliances to handle laundry, home heating and cooling, and the full cycle of food preservation, preparation, consumption and cleanup, in the kitchen. We continued introducing innovative products that performed more efficiently and helped make household tasks easier. To support our customers, we introduced the Cool Line, the first toll-free consumer service support program in the United States.

We formed the Office for Environmental Control in 1970, solidifying our focus on social and environmental responsibility. This group allowed us to standardize strong environmental standards across all of our operations, and we formed partnerships with environmental advocates, industry representatives and legislators to help craft robust energy and water efficiency standards, test procedures and policies – a commitment that continues today.

Whirlpool Corporation History
Whirlpool Corporation History

The First Space Kitchen

In October 1960, we received a government contract to design and build America’s first experimental space kitchen. The kitchen included a miniature thermoelectric refrigerator, freezer, three-cavity oven, self-heated water system, storage space for food and disposal units for both dry and wet waste. This was the first attempt by appliance engineers to cope with the problems of zero gravity, and a number of innovative solutions were developed. Our work helped build public knowledge of and confidence in the space effort. We continued working with the government to develop food and equipment for space travel, pioneering the development of food, waste management and personal hygiene systems used in all of NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions.

We began growing our international business, expanding into Mexico. We also built a manufacturing plant in Pondicherry, India, and began manufacturing and marketing appliances throughout Europe. In 1986, we purchased the KitchenAid division of Dart and Kraft, allowing us to continue the excellent tradition of major and countertop appliances for which KitchenAid brand is known.

Operating as an even bigger and better Whirlpool Corporation, we accelerated our global expansion in the 1990s, with an expanded presence throughout Europe, Latin America, Asia and parts of Africa. We were well on our way to becoming a global force in the home appliance industry and the industry’s eventual leader.

Habitat, Whirlpool Build

Continued Focus on Community

One of the ways we demonstrate our commitment to community and society is through our signature charities and support of volunteerism in the communities in which we reside. At Whirlpool, we believe it is not enough to simply give back, but to give with a purpose.

Throughout the years, we have built the Whirlpool Corporation culture by doing the right thing, living up to our commitments to stakeholders and by quietly working behind the scenes to strengthen the economic and social fabric of the communities in which we operate. Our employees live by the values that have made our company the international leader that it is today. We are delivering strong performance, providing an outstanding portfolio of brands, and we’re creating better, more innovative products that improve consumers’ lives in and around the home each and every day. Nearly 100 years ago, the Upton family continually improved their washer; they cared about their community, their employees and their customers. They believed that “there is no right way to do a wrong thing.” We still believe that today.

Learn more about the ways we are improving life through House + Home.