The following brief biography of Carl Whitlock was generated mostly from my memory with a few jogs from existing materials. I welcome any additions or corrections any interested party wishes to make. The recollections from Carl Whitlockâs earliest career in the Plastics Industry are from my childhood and take the form of snapshots remembered. With that caveat, Iâll proceed.
HMW June 10, 2007.
Revised June 21, 2008.
Carl Whitlock was born September 5, 1901 in Rochester, New York, the youngest of four children. When he was about 5, scarlet fever struck the whole family, taking his father, James Whitlock and leaving Carl deafened. He attended the Rochester School for the Deaf and with partial hearing managed to overcome his deafness. His college career was shortened by a football injury. As an ambitious young man he had jobs running a service station, and learning product design for an appliance manufacturer.
In 1929 he took a job with the plastics manufacturer, Norton Laboratories, Inc. in Lockport, N.Y. working for J.B. Neal. The range of available plastic materials at that time was very limited; Norton produced its products in thermosets. Carl Whitlock (he was called âWhitâ in those days) was responsible for a number of innovative product designs. Notable among them was a molded wristwatch case for Elgin that acted as a package and a display case for the watch. He was also instrumental in the design and development of the Norton Camera. This 50-cent depression era product featured a completely molded lightproof case and the only special film roll Kodak ever produced for a non-Kodak camera.
In 1935 Whitlock took a job at General Industries in Elyria, Ohio. He continued product and mold design and was introduced to some of the new thermoplastics then coming on the market. Sales and travel were always part of his jobs.
1939 saw a move to Akron, Ohio then several months later, to Fall River, Massachusetts for Firestone Plastics Division of Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.
With war clouds looming in 1940, the latent entrepreneur in Whitlock emerged. He formed a one-man firm, C. Huber Whitlock, took a government contract and produced injection molds for gas mask lenses in a design that was used throughout World War II and the Korean War.
He closed the firm and in 1941 accepted a position with Monsanto Chemical Co. Plastics Division in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts. During the war years, Monsanto developed materials for military use. The M35 adjustable timed plastic fuse was used on artillery and mortar shells and Whitlock was instrumental in its development and testing.
In 1944 he was made Plastics Division Sales Manager in Monsantoâs Detroit office. This was a time of material shortage, rationing and allocation that continued following the War. Carl Whitlock used his people skills and diplomacy to keep customers satisfied.
In 1942 the Society of Plastics Engineers was founded in Detroit. Carl Whitlock became a member. In 1946 the SPE held an exhibition in Detroit that later evolved into the Annual Technical Conference. âWhitâ was heavily involved in that effort.
The desire for his own business surfaced in 1948 and he formed Whitlock Associates, a sales representative company, with Mary Denny (later Mary Whitlock.) The firm sold plastics materials, and represented equipment suppliers to the plastics industry.
In 1953 he developed a pneumatic hopper loader for the plastics industry in his garage at home. By this time family members had entered the firm as sales help and the loaders were assembled and packaged in the basement of the office in Oak Park, Michigan. Shortly, increased sales and newly developed products required a leased manufacturing facility. The next innovative device was a dehumidifying dryer to condition materials at the molding or extrusion machine.
In 1957 the firm was incorporated. A vacuum loader was designed to move larger quantities of plastic materials economically. Development of conveying and storage systems followed, as did several items of complementary auxiliary equipment. The business grew, eventually adding complete machining and fabricating facilities and employing over 100 people by 1967.
During his entire career in the plastics industry, Carl Whitlock was committed to its growth. He supported and was active in the Society of Plastics Engineers virtually from its inception.
His company participated and supported meetings and programs and presented papers at many ANTECs and at numerous local SPE chapter meetings.
In 1967 Carl Whitlock was General Chairman of the Silver Anniversary ANTEC held in Detroit commemorating the 25th year of SPE.
He was also an active member of Plastics Pioneers. The company first exhibited at the Society of the Plastics Industry show in 1954 in Cleveland, and continued to participate throughout his business life.
On June 19, 1979 Carl Whitlock was honored by induction into the Plastics Hall of Fame for his contributions to the plastics industry. He pursued an active retirement until his death in 1983.
His philosophy was simple and direct. When reminded of his many accomplishments he said, âWell, I just sold the equipment to my friends.â His friends included most of the fathers of the plastics industry. He is fondly remembered.