Willis Clark Pulver was born in 1906 to a mother who had been totally blind since her youth. Her tremendous courage, toughness and conviction were traits she would pass on to him.
In 1928, he moved his family to Chicago and worked for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company as a mechanic at one of its bakeries. Over the next 20 years he rose to the position of Chief Engineer. A&P was still a largely manual operation. Clark saw this as an opportunity, knowing that manual product handling would be unable to keep up with increasing production rates. Working with Frank Velten, he built a small conveyor manufacturing business out of a hobby shop behind Velten’s home. In 1948, Velten & Pulver was formerly born.
In 1951 they built a 2,000 square foot shop. By the 1960’s the original hobby shop had grown to a factory of 30,000 square feet, employing 50 workers. One of those workers was his wife, Norma, his partner in business as well as life. Her role as the heart of the company was key to their continued growth.
In the next three decades, they acquired many patents for innovative material handling equipment. Clark developed rod belt conveyors known under the trade name LINKLOK; oven loaders and unloaders; mechanical and magnetic pan stackers and unstackers; automated pan storage systems; continuous chain bread and roll coolers; basket and wire pallet loaders for bread and buns; and snack cake loaders.
Pulver Systems grew to be an internationally recognized systems manufacturer employing over 150 people in its modern 70,000 square foot facility. From his early awareness that production demands would far surpass manual capabilities, Clark Pulver led a group of talented personnel to become an internationally recognized leader in automation for the baked foods industry.
His retirement in 1973 left behind a legacy of achievements, a valued baking industry equipment manufacturing firm and an industry that was stronger for having had his talents. As the Director of Engineering for the Quality Bakers of America wrote upon Clark’s retirement, “…I can’t imagine the industry being as advanced as it is today without calling to mind many of your contributions.”
Click on the images below to view .pdf files of the inductee’s biography and plaque.