Inventors Hall of Fame
Reuben A. Kaplan
Operating a small repair shop in the early 1920s, Kaplan saw a need for special-purpose tools for servicing the automobiles of the day. His success in designing, making and selling these tools encouraged him to found Owatonna Tool Company in 1925. In 1927 he invented and patented a universal gear puller which became the cornerstone upon which OTC’s growth was built. The tool remains virtually unchanged to this day. Copied throughout the world, it is testimony to the soundness of his original design.
By 1934, OTC had a substantial selection of mechanic’s tools being peddled to farmers, service stations and garages all over the country. When the war broke out in Europe in 1939, the United States Army and Navy began buying large quantities of tools, and by 1945 OTC had doubled its staff. The company received 5 "E" awards for excellence from the Army and navy for the production of war materials during World War II.
Then, in 1950, with an OTC mechanical puller in need of hydraulic power, he began his pioneering efforts in the area of ultra-high-pressure fluid power technology, an area virtually untouched by hydraulics manufacturers of the day. He built a twin-cylinder ram that operated at 10,000 p.s.i. - pressure almost unheard of until many years later. He was granted 15 patents, was the guiding force behind many others, and created hundreds of specialty tools that were never patented. OTC became the largest employer in Owatonna. Kaplan felt a kinship, admiration and loyalty for his employees. OTC was one of the first companies in Minnesota to institute a profit sharing program for employees, and it was Mr. Kaplan’s idea. OTC, now OTC Division of SPX Corp., has become a leading manufacturer of maintenance tools and hydraulic equipment throughout the world.