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The legacy of Chicago Pneumatic


From designing the world’s first impact wrench to playing a role in the Apollo 8 space mission and powering construction of the Riyadh metro network, we have evolved and transformed with every decade and for the future. This is our journey:


  • John W. Duntley meets steel magnate Charles M. Schwab in 1901 and Chicago Pneumatic is incorporated.
  • We patent the first single-valve pneumatic hammer, and develop a new line of products including air tools and rock drills.
  • We expand overseas, opening new offices in UK, Canada, and Germany.


  • We produce a horizontal, two-cycle, semi-diesel oil engine to power our compressors.
  • We perfect the Simplate valve, which replaces mechanical valves on compressors – a technological breakthrough adopted by all compressor manufacturers.
  • Production begins for the gasoline-driven CPT car and ‘Little Giant’ trucks.
  • We develop a new line of products to meet a growing demand for air tools and rock drills.
  • We begin production of a 2-cycle, semi-diesel engine to power Chicago Pneumatic compressors.


  • We manufacture a diesel engine that will be used in racing cars around Europe.
  • We begin manufacturing rotary oil well drilling equipment, a technology that will continue to be used for oil prospecting into the next century.


  • We design and manufacture the world’s first impact wrench, in both pneumatic and electric versions.
  • Our tools and equipment are used in the excavation work and construction of the Empire State Building.
  • Our construction and mining equipment is used in the making of landmarks such as the:
    • Lincoln Tunnel, New York
    • Triborough Bridge, New York
    • Chicago subway system
    • Boulder Dam, Arizona
    • Grand Coulee Dam, Washington
    • Eight dams comprising the Tennessee Valley Authority flood control and power generation project, and the
    • Golden Gate suspension bridge, San Francisco.


  • The image of Rosie the Riveter with her Chicago Pneumatic riveting hammer debuts on the Saturday Evening Post; it will go on to become a cultural emblem.
  • We develop the hot dimpling machine which is used in almost all aircraft manufacturing at the time. 


  • Our drill bits break depth records approaching 20,000 ft.
  • We introduce a portable broach puller for aircraft rivets.
  • We introduce torque control impact wrenches in steel erection for the Tishman Building in New York.
  • Our CP610 impact wrenches are used to assemble the Carquinez Bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Our torque control impact wrenches are used exclusively in assembling the deck structure of the Glen Canyon Bridge which connects Utah and Arizona.
  • CP G-900 Tracdrils equipped with CP-450 DR drifters, CP-69 sinker drills and CP-39A sinker drills are used in construction of the two-lane highway through the historic Donner Pass.


  • Our electric motor powers a pump that inflates three bags on the Apollo 8 capsule, upon splashdown in the Pacific.
  • We customize tools for new aircraft designs: the Boeing 737 and 747, Lockheed L1011 and C5A, the Douglas DC-10 and British Aerospace’s Concorde.
  • Our rock drills, compressors, and impact wrenches are used to construct the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland.
  • We introduce the world’s first speed ratchet, the CP728.


  • We introduce our wrenches to an automotive market already familiar with our speed rachets.


  • We roll out new industrial products: screwdrivers, assembly tools, and ratchet wrenches.
  • Our logo gets a millennium-ready makeover.
  • Atlas Copco acquires Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company.


  • ‘The Classics’ are launched: the CP789H reversible drill, the CP828H ratchet, and the CP854 angle grinder. Our authentic styling is available today in The Classic Range.
  • We win silver from the AMA for our ‘23 parts’ campaign which shows how just 23 interchangeable components can be used to make over 250 light assembly tools.


  • We inaugurate a state-of-the-art Technocenter in Nantes, France. Here our teams will focus on R&D, design, prototyping, testing, and certifying industrial tools, with a view to advancing automation across industries.

2010s, 2020s

  • Through tough weather and geothermal conditions, our generators and light towers rise to the challenge, perform and deliver on the Riyadh Metro network.
  • We open a new tool showroom for customers and distributors at our Rock Hill location in the US.
  • The popular TV science series ‘Wicked Inventions’ features Chicago Pneumatic.

Chicago Pneumatic history video


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