(This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Read Part 1.) Last time, we saw how many well-known brands in the American building industry got their start through innovation and invention. It's a credential that many of today's reverse-engineered, flash-in-the-pan competitors can't lay claim to -- something to bear in mind next time you're tempted by a slickly advertised brand you've never heard of. Ironically, many old American companies tend to downplay their long experience, perhaps for fear of seeming fuddy-duddy in today's high-tech world. As I have no such compunctions, however, I'll single out a few more of our most venerable brands, some of them now well past the century mark. Way back in 1901, for example, Chicagoan Albert C. Brown opened a small shop that made plumbing fixtures and o...
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