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History of the manufacturer  

Barber-Colman Co.; Rockford Ill.

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Name: Barber-Colman Co.; Rockford Ill.    (USA)  
Abbreviation: barber-col
Products: Model types

Barber-Colman Co.; Rockford Ill.: Barber-Colman Co. has at least also built or distibuted an early radio controlled garage door opener. In 1961 Barber-Colman closed the Framingham site and moved to Rockport, Ill. See the radio controlled garage door opener from Barber-Colman in "Radio Retailing" January 1931.


Barber-Coman Co. was in business with garage door systems for decades and their garage door division was called "Barcol Doors". By the way: When they moved in 1961, Heimar "Ed" Niit who left Estonia during the World War II, purchased some inventory from Barber-Colman where he worked and built up and started Barcol Overdoors of Framingham. In 1974 he changed the name of the company to Door Systems Inc.

Back to Barber-Colman: Binders, drawings and 16 mm film of the company can be seen at Midway Village Museum in Rockford. since it had been removed from the Barber-Colman Co. building in Rockford and was donated to the museum. The city of Rockford bought the building in 2002, and officials contacted Midway Village Museum the next year when they found the documents. In 2007, former Barber-Colman executives created the Barber-Colman Artifacts Fund through the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois to get the project moving and for preservation efforts. Founder Howard Colman had 149 patents to his name. The late Jon Lundin's book about Colman, "Master Inventor: How Howard Colman Created a Multi-National Corporation," shows how Colman worked to reinvent his company and the manufacturing industry during his time. The company started as a producer of textile manufacturing equipment but diversified its work to produce items like electric fans and early automatic garage door openers.

Barber-Colman Co. was once one of the largest manufacturing corporations in the city of Rockford. As it stands now, the site is comprised of 15 vacant buildings, totaling over 795,000 square feet, on approximately 65 acres. Located along Rockford's cultural corridor, and within one block of the city's old "Water Power District", Barber-Colman Corporation was at the core of the city's industrial center, including the city's sawmills, foundries, and furniture industries.

The Barber-Colman site began in 1902 and flourished until the early 1980's when it decided to relocate its headquarters to Rockford's East side, just off of I-90. Shortly after, Reed-Chatwood took over the plant, however after a few years, it decided to close its doors, leaving behind the industrial complex.

The existing industrial site began with an idea of Howard D. Colman. At seventeen years of age, Howard D. Colman, son of a Methodist minister, invented a warpdrawing machine. Intrigued by Colman's invention, Mr. W. A. Barber, a lumberman from a nearby sawmill, loaned Colman $100 to further develop a wooden prototype into iron and steel.
This was the foundation of the machine and the beginning of a partnership of Barber-Colman. Colman, relocated from his Wisconsin home, into Rockford Illinois where he located a machine shop capable of manufacturing his product.

Throughout the years, he continued to work on his warp drawing machine, while developing further inventions. In 1894, Colman received his first patent for a check valve used to measure the flow of milk, "assuring dairy farmers of their proportionate share of skim milk after the cream was separated out." It was after this patent where Howard D. Colman formed his company, Barber-Colman. Several years later, in 1901, Colman introduced the hand knotter making him a widely recognized contributor to the textile industry. In 1902, Colman's company began erecting buildings along the west side of the Rock River, at Loomis and River Street, its present day location. Three additional buildings were constructed by 1911, and by 1915, the company had purchased the entire block south of the existing plant, with a recreational park anchoring the site.

By 1916, the factory spread had spread over two city blocks, employing over 500, to work on the five product lines: the check pump, hand knotter, warp tying machine, milling cutters, and hobbing machines.

Within the years, Barber Colman manufactured products ranging from the first garage door opener and aviation climate control system for commercial aircraft, to the plastic manufacturing, office machines, and home appliances. Howard D. Coman is believed to have invented the first remote garage door opener.

Some models:
Country Year Name 1st Tube Notes
USA  30/31 Radio-controlled Garage Door Operator   Details about this very early Radio-controlled Garage Door Operator can be read from the p...