Han’ over your factory business

Little-known gem produced solenoid valves

A solenoid valve

Solenoid valves were exclusively manufactured in Hanover, Illinois for most of the second half of the 20th century.

It’s a sadly familiar story: another plant closes, moving jobs, but not employees, to Mexico. Robertshaw, the largest employer in Hanover, Illinois, took little more than a year to shut down what had been a town landmark for more than half a century.  The closure of the Illinois factory last month reveals more than just a recurring trend; it marks a historical point on the country’s manufacturing timeline, as an article by Chad Broughton in Atlantic magazine explored in the September issue.

Hanover, Illinois is a “small town’s small town”. It’s been around as long as Chicago, and owns the slogan “Best little village by a dam site”, in reference to the Crescent Falls Dam nearby. With less than a thousand residents, a quiet river running through it, and small businesses that forged its core from the mid-1800s, this is the type of place that signifies America outside of its urban epicenters. One of those businesses was a factory that produced an integral piece of mechanical equipment for half a century.

The plant is referred to simply as “the factory” by most locals, and it has been home to some of America’s biggest companies over the years. Most recently used by Invensys, it was built in 1929 next to the Hanover Woolen Mill and operated as part of that business for the next three decades. In 1965, the building was bought by the Dole Valve Company and its parent company, the Eaton Corporation, under the name Valves and Control Plant Number Two. As home to Hanover’s largest employer since then, the factory has specialized in making one crucial thing: solenoid valves.

EA readers may be well aware of these ubiquitous devices – but, for many other millions who unknowingly depend on them and haven’t a clue: A solenoid valve is an electromechanical device used for controlling liquid or gas flow. The solenoid valve is controlled by electrical current, which is run through a coil. When the coil is energized, a magnetic field is created, causing a plunger inside the coil to move.  2-way solenoid valves have one inlet and one outlet, and are used to permit and shut off fluid flow. The two types of operations are “Normally Closed” and “Normally Open”. 3-way solenoid valves have three pipe connections and two orifices. When one orifice is open, the other is closed and vice versa.

These mechanisms have been an integral component for dishwashers, washing machines, and refrigerators: any appliance that requires a regulated direction for water flow.

After Schneider Electric purchased Invensys in 2014, its corporate structure called for certain tailoring that resulted in moving the Hanover factory’s production to Mexico. This was officially finalized on September 25th of this year. It results in the loss of 100+ jobs in the small town, and the end of an admirable run of endurance by the small town’s most reliable building. The town’s spirit endures through businesses like Apple River Well & Pump Company and events such as MallardFest, which takes place in White Park, right next to Hanover’s workforce landmark.

The Crescent Falls Dam on the Apple River, overlooked by the factory.

Crescent Falls Dam on the Apple River.


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