100 Years of Ulbrich: Our Founder’s Story

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Ulbrich Celebrating a Century of Precision Metals Excellence

We are thrilled to announce a milestone that stands as a testament to resilience, innovation, and enduring quality: Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals is celebrating its 100th anniversary!

From our humble beginnings in 1924, we have journeyed through a century, evolving with the times while staying true to our core values.

To commemorate this remarkable centenary, we invite you to read select stories from our rich history. These highlights will honor the people who have shaped our journey, the breakthroughs that have helped define our industry, and provide valuable lessons for a promising future.

The series’ first story will be a profile of our founder, Fred Ulbrich Sr.

Fred was just 23 years old when he founded a modest scrapyard, but his values and principles laid the foundation for the century of precision metals excellence that would follow. Through wars, economic turmoil, and industry shifts, his values held as the company evolved to crafting cutlery, supplying vital components for space exploration, and much more.

The Founder

Fred Sr Quote

Upon graduating from Wallingford High School in 1918, Fred Ulbrich Sr.’s yearbook page read, "I aim to be the best in all that I do.” He personified this motto. Fred was a natural leader who earned the loyalty of his peers. He cared for his neighbors and those neighbors instinctively reciprocated. People went the extra mile for him because they knew he would be there for them. He was interested in all people, regardless of status, wealth, race, or religion.

His first son, Fred Ulbrich, Jr. once recalled a memory of his father:

“Two men from New York City came up to buy some metal. My father, not knowing them, said they would have to go to the Wallingford Bank & Trust Company to establish credit. I drove my father and these two gentlemen to the bank (he had a few errands to do on the way, if they didn't mind).

The first stop was the Post Office. My father greeted not only all the employees by name, but every customer as well.

The next errand was at Town Hall, where he called everyone by name, including clerks, policemen and the judge.

Next stop was Footes, an ice cream parlor, where he spoke to everyone in the store.

Finally, they arrived at the bank, and stopped on the sidewalk for Dad to talk with a passerby. While talking, a dog walked by, and Dad said, ‘Hi, Rover.’ One of the New York men cried out, ‘He even knows the names of the dogs in town!’ It was a typical day for my father.”

Fred Jr. & Fred Sr. Handshake
Fred Ulbrich Jr. & Fred Ulbrich Sr.

Fred Sr. cared for his fellow man, but he was also a stern judge of talent. He distinguished between those with God-given talent and those without. He expected people to do their best at whatever they did; be it a homemaker, plumber, metal worker or executive. It was as if he could neither accept nor comprehend mediocrity. If someone was unable to function correctly for whatever reason, such as an accident, insufficient schooling or an addiction, Fred Sr. expressed his support. Though if a person had abilities and did not properly utilize them or did not live up to his or her potential in life, then Fred Sr. did not hold them in high esteem.

He was known to be generous. After World War II, there were hundreds of thousands displaced Europeans. Fred Sr. brought about 150 refugees to America over a period of six years. United States Immigration Law allowed displaced families, but they had to be sponsored by an employer that guaranteed wages for six months. Ulbrich became a safe haven for immigrants at Fred Sr.'s expense.

Fred Sr. with workers
Fred Sr. with Ulbrich Steel workers

Many of these individuals, after working at Ulbrich for a short period, sought out other jobs in professions or trades they had held before the war — such as tailors, printers, bakers, and carpenters. Many people have stuck around and employees over the years have been sons, daughters, grandchildren, in-laws and relatives of families who were displaced during those war-torn days.

Fred Sr. receiving recognition award

Fred Sr. had another strong trait: persistence. Once he had a plan, nothing would deter him until the task was accomplished — or if he discovered that his idea was untenable. He was rarely on the wrong track.

Fred Sr. had a gift for sifting through non-essential information to get to the heart of a matter. He would sometimes announce that problems were, “opportunities in work clothes." So many of his best problems turned out to be terrific opportunities. He was able to accomplish so much for his fellow man through business, public service and philanthropy. He was a workaholic motivated by the challenge — not the money.

His first consuming interest in life was always his family. Fred Sr. was not only a good person and a persuasive businessman, but he was also an unusually fine human being and a credit to his hard-working immigrant parents who had high hopes for their eldest son. Like so many men and woman, Fred Sr. lived out the American Dream of free enterprise, prosperity, and innovation. After 50 years of service to the company and to others, he left behind an immense legacy.

Ada, Fred Jr., Fred Sr., and Dick Ulbrich
Fred Sr. with his wife Ada and sons Fred Jr. and Dick Ulbrich

Want to learn more about Ulbrich’s century of excellence?

Visit our Centennial website for a company timeline, treasured memories, and more!

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