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Machinery maker shares 60th year with celebration

From three employees and a multistory building in 1934, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of converting machinery has grown to 65 employees working in a modern, one-story, 56,300-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant.

Elsner Engineering Works Inc., Hanover, PA, celebrated its 60th anniversary in 1994 and shared the milestone with customers, suppliers and the Hanover community during a week-long celebration last August.

Elsner Engineering Works produces a wide range of machinery to rewind and package consumer-size roll products. End uses include a wide range of products from gift wrap to wall covering to self-adhesive paper and plastic shelf liner to tear-perforated wet wipes and fabric-softener sheets to aluminum foil and kitchen wrap. The firm specializes in designing and building machines tailored to the exact converting specifications of the customer.

On Aug. 4, 1034, Franz and Johanna Elsner started their own machinery manufacturing business. They had emigrated to the US in 1924 from Germany. Johanna supervised the office, using her training in business school and experience in banking in Germany, and Franz was the engineer, designer, manufacturer and service man.

The first machine development was a potato-chip slicer and later major work was in cigar box machinery. An improved lid-hinging machine was designed and sold to the trade, soon followed by Elsner Cigar Box Automatics for hinge back stripping, lid wrapping and inside cover labeling. Before Elsner machinery was available, the manufacturing of cigar boxes was a very labor-intensive industry.

The open house week included four nights of activities with an open house and demonstrations of Elsner equipment each night. Two nights were devoted to customers and suppliers, and for two nights, the plant was opened to the community. The spirit was to share the celebration with those who have helped Elsner Engineering achieve its success.

Featured was a demonstration of a refurbished model AH Elsner hinging machine. It applied the lid to cigar boxes with paper tape. Originally, the machine was built starting in November 1939 and delivered in 1940. It was the fifth of 42 hinging machines built from 1939 through 1957. Production speed is 60 boxes/min., an unheard of speed in 1939 and a respectable speed today.

The restored machine was carefully rebuilt and returned to its original condition by several company retirees. The machine was made available by Autokraft Box. Corp., Red Lion, PA, the original purchaser. The machine will he placed on permanent display in the Agricultural and Industrial Museum of York County, York, PA. Open house attendees received commemorative cigar boxes.

A total of 115 of the cigar box manufacturing machines - all designed by company founder Frank Elsner - were produced. The last one was made in 1965.

Today's modern converting equipment was also featured. Demonstrations of an automatic rewinder for gift-wrap rolls and a folding line for paper tablecloths were featured, and computer-aided-design engineering capabilities were highlighted.

The company's recent 3,300-sq.-ft. expansion project was also showcased, including a state-of-the-art paint booth and warehouse facility.

Bertram F. Elsner said the firm has seen many changes in 60 years. "Many changes have occurred in this time frame since our founding in 1934," he said. "We've seen the maturing of many markets. We've still survived because we've been able to respond to the needs of our industry and provide them with the special machines as they require them."

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