History: decades of innovation

Chicago Pneumatic is a brand name in the pneumatic tool industry which has a history traced back to 1889.

John W. Duntley had in mind the idea of sourcing and selling construction tools "that weren’t yet available." In 1894, he established the Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company, with an office in Chicago. The first plant to begin manufacturing product specifically for CP was the Boyer Machine Shop in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1901, Duntley met steel magnate Charles M. Schwab, who invested heavily in the company. On December 28, the company was incorporated and the first single-valve pneumatic hammer was patented.

1904 was the year of expansion for CP. Offices were opened in England, Canada, and Germany; and new lines of products had been developed such as air tools and rock drills. In 1912, CP began to produce horizontal 2-cycle semi-diesel oil engine to power CP compressors. One year later, CP finalized the Simplate valve; it deleted valve gear, offered controllability with high speeds and brought more capacity.

In 1925, CP manufactured the Benz diesel engine that was used in various racing cars in Europe at that time. The same year, CP began manufacturing rotary oil-well drilling equipment. In 1939, CP designed and manufactured the world’s first impact wrench (pneumatic and electric versions).

CP developed the “hot dimpling machine” in response to war effort demands, a device heating rivets to 1000°F and using 100,000 pounds/inch² of pressure to squeeze the rivet head into its final shape.

Evolution of Chicago Pneumatic Logo since 1904

  • In 1943, the Saturday Evening Post published a cover picture by Norman Rockwell portraying a female aircraft worker, Rosie the Riveter, eating her lunch with a CP riveting hammer in her lap. 

  • The 1950s and '60s were an era of performance research. CP drill bits broke depth records approaching 20,000 feet and were used in oil prospecting. The portable broach puller for aircraft rivets was introduced in 1957. A Chicago Pneumatic electric motor played a role in America’s Apollo space mission to the moon. It powered a pump that inflated three bags on the capsule upon its splashdown in the Pacific on July 24, 1969. The bags ensured the escape hatch was on top and the astronauts could open it safely. CP introduced in 1969 the world’s first speed ratchet “CP728” at Ford MotorCompany.

  • In 1970, the CP611 impact wrench was used in the steel erection phase of the World Trade Centers (New York City). Sold for several years into industrial markets, CP torque impact wrenches were introduced in the 1970s into the automotive market.

  • In1987, Chicago Pneumatic became part of the Swedish conglomerate AtlasCopco. During 1988, more new products were launched than at any time since the late '70s, such as screwdrivers, assembly tools and new ratchet wrenches. The following year, the current logo was designed and adopted.

  • In 1990, CP won a silver award from the AMA with its "23 parts" advertising campaign. The ad portrayed how over 250 light assembly tools could be made from only 23 interchangeable component parts. In 1994, the production of compactors and portable power generators began.

  • 2007 marks the inauguration of a new technocenterin Nantes, France. In 2010, a new global design highlighting the brand colors—red and black—was adopted.