Rodgers Hydraulic, Inc. was founded by brothers John L. Rodgers, Sr. and George A. Rodgers in 1929. Incorporated in 1936, the company started by making parts for construction tractors. Brother Jim invented a hydraulic device, and it attracted business from the CCC and Caterpillar. From 1941, the business operated at 7401 Walker Street, which had been the old Martin Manufacturing Co.
Their ad in the 1945 Directory read:
Rodgers contributions to the war effort have been in the form of hydraulic track presses to service tracks on all types of Crawler Tractors, Wheel presses to service Crawler Tanks and Amphibious Landing Craft, Universal Presses for general maintenance and as standard equipment on Mobile Machine Shops, [and] Plastic Molding Presses to form numerous plastic products used by all branches of the service. Some day these products will be available to Peace Time Industry. All designed and built by the People of this Community.
That prophecy came true as its products were used in the construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile River between 1960 and 1970.
In 1961-62, David L. Blair was the Vice President and General Manager of the company.
Al Hartman’s father had close dealings with the company and sheds some light on the fate of the company:
By the early 1960s Rodgers Hydraulic was not doing well. John Rodgers was spending a lot of time at his little pet projects and apparently not enough on the business. He built a miniature aircraft carrier with sophisticated radio controls and lights that he would run at night on Lake Calhoun. He had a motorized surfboard that would go about 2 or 3 mph he had patented and tested out on Lake Independence. But, customers of his hydraulic presses were not finding them to be adequate and there was less and less return business. In some kind of handshake deal, Gene Booker of Booker and Wallestad took over the company. Gene stripped it of plans, good parts and good presses before it was ultimately sold.
During the years that Rodgers Hydraulic was just South of Republic Creosote, oil from floor cracks, spills, etc. got into the ground. That is why in the ’80s when the land was being prepped for the eventual apartment buildings, a big kiln was brought in to burn of all that oil from the dirt. This was not a creosote problem in this case but an oil problem from Rodgers.
In 1966, the company was sold to the Victor Equipment Company of San Francisco. The Rodgers Brothers retired from active participation but remained on the board. David L. Blair became President.
On December 22, 2000, Victor Fluid Power was sold to Granite Fluid Power in Granite Falls, Minnesota, and the Rodgers Hydraulic name is still attached to some equipment.
For more information on Rodgers Hydraulic, see the chapter in Something in the Water.