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A History of Innovation

1880s    1890s    1900s    1910s    1920s    1930s    1940s    1950s    1960s    1970s    1980s    1990s    2000s


1880s 1885

An enterprising young man of 22 named William Clark Bradley moves to Columbus, Georgia, to work as a clerk for Bussey-Goldsmith, a cotton factoring firm.

  1887

W.C. Bradley marries Sarah M. Hall, daughter of the famous Connecticut ship builder, Henry T. Hall. Shortly after, he and his brother-in-law Samuel A. Carter purchase the cotton factoring business, changing the name to Carter and Bradley.

Immediately after buying the business, W.C. Bradley expands the business by adding a wholesale grocery department and begins to manufacture a high-grade fertilizer for the farmers who grew cotton.

  1888

W.C. Bradley and G. Gunby Jordan found the Third National Bank and the Columbus Savings Bank.

1890s 1895

W.C. Bradley buys his brother-in-law’s share of the Carter and Bradley business, and changes the name of the company to the W.C. Bradley Co.

Over the next five years W.C. Bradley buys the Eagle & Phenix Mill and establishes the Columbus Manufacturing Company, two of the largest textile mills in the South. He also builds a large cotton warehouse in Uptown Columbus, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it houses the corporate and administrative offices of the W.C. Bradley Co., the W.C. Bradley Co. Museum, and the D.A. Turner Memorial Chapel.

In the late 1800s, W.C. Bradley becomes General Manager of the Merchant and Planters Steamboat Line. He ships groceries and fertilizer down the Chattahoochee River to plantations, as far south as to Apalachicola, Florida. The steamboats return back to his warehouse and mills loaded with cotton, as well as providing traveling accommodations for passengers traveling to and from the plantations. W.C. Bradley was one of the dominant figures during the last 25 years of the Chattahoochee River’s steamboat history.

1900s    
1910s 1917

W.C. Bradley purchases five plantations located 30 miles south of Columbus, along the Chattahoochee River. They form the base of the company’s Farms division, one of the largest farm operations in the state of Georgia through 1995. Today much of this property is leased for agriculture and timber management.

W.C. Bradley’s only daughter, Elizabeth, marries D.A. Turner. D.A. Turner immediately begins learning to manage the company’s diverse operations.

  1919

W.C. Bradley and Ernest Woodruff organize an investment syndicate and purchase the Coca-Cola Company for $25 million from Asa Candler in Atlanta. W.C. Bradley becomes Chairman of the Board and remains active on the Board for 27 years until 1946, just one year before his death.

1920s 1920

During the early 1920s, W.C. Bradley continues to diversify his holdings. In 1920, he acquires the Hamburger Cotton Mills and renames them the Bradley Manufacturing Company.

  1923

W.C. Bradley donates the entire steamboat line, as well as the operating capital, to the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

  1925

The W.C. Bradley Co. acquires control of the Columbus Iron Works. The Iron Works, dating back to 1849, manufactured cannons, cannon balls and gunboats during the Civil War, and in 1872, the world’s first commercial ice machines. When W.C. Bradley takes over ownership, it begins manufacturing wood-burning heaters and stoves as well as horse-drawn farm implements.

1930s 1930

The Third National Bank and the Columbus Savings Bank merge to form Columbus Bank and Trust Company (CB&T®). Today, CB&T is the lead bank of Synovus®, a multi-billion-dollar financial services holding company based in Columbus, Georgia.

1940s 1943

W.C. Bradley and D.A. Turner form the W.C. and Sarah H. Bradley Foundation, which later becomes the Bradley-Turner Foundation. The Foundation has contributed over $270 million to charitable, educational, religious and cultural programs, and for community improvements.

  1947

W.C. Bradley dies on July 26, 1947. D.A. Turner becomes Chairman of the Board of the W.C. Bradley Co. The company sells its textile mills.

  1948

As the agricultural belt moves west, and electricity outdates the wood and coal-burning stoves and heaters, the Columbus Iron Works manufactures its first cast iron charcoal Char-Broil® barbecue grill, marking the birth of the present-day Char-Broil company.

1950s 1952

The Columbus Iron Works is merged with its parent company, W.C. Bradley Co. D.A. Turner's son, William "Bill" B. Turner, is elected President and Chief Executive Officer of the W.C. Bradley Co.

1960s  

During the 1960s the company begins manufacturing gas grills.

  1961

The company files a patent for the first grease handling system for an outdoor grill.

1970s 1973

Bill Turner becomes Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the W.C. Bradley Co.

The Manufacturing Division moves from the Iron Works to a new, modern plant in Bradley Industrial Park and becomes known as W.C. Bradley Enterprises.

  1977

W.C. Bradley Enterprises becomes known as Char-Broil — today, a leading marketer of infrared, gas, charcoal, portable, and electric outdoor barbecue grills.

During the 1970s, Char-Broil is the first to package the LP tank and grill in one box, revolutionizing the grill industry; it is the first major manufacturer to offer electric grills; it is the first to offer portable gas grills versus post-mount natural gas grills; and it is the first mass marketer of table-top portable grills.

1980s 1980

D.A. Turner retires from the Coca-Cola Board and is replaced on the Board by his son, Bill Turner.

  1982

D.A. Turner dies on August 11, 1982.

Bill Turner becomes Chairman of the W.C. Bradley Co., after his father’s death.

D.A. Turner’s son-in-law, Lovick P. Corn, becomes Vice Chairman of the W.C. Bradley Co. after his father-in-law’s death.

During the 1980s, Char-Broil introduces Certified Grill Parts and Accessories, including Universal Fit parts.

1984

Char-Broil's CB940 grill is cited as the "World's Best BBQ Grill" in the Book of Bests.

  1985

The W.C. Bradley Co. celebrates its 100th anniversary.  As part of its Centennial Celebration, the company commissions 120 paintings and sketches for a Centennial Art Collection for the W.C. Bradley Co. Museum.  The collection reflects the W.C. Bradley Co.'s culture, people, diverse interests, and commitment to the communtity.  The museum is housed at the corporate headquarters in Columbus, Georgia.  Adjacent to the museum is the D.A. Turner Memorial Chapel.  The chapel is funded entirely by donations from team members as a centennial gift to honor the company's shareholders.

1986

The W.C. Bradley Co. Real Estate group begins developing Brookstone Centre, a professional and medical office park which will ultimately encompass 148 acres, with walking trails, a four-acre park and a lake.

  1987

On August 4, 1987, Bill Turner steps down as Chairman and turns the management of the company over to the fourth generation of the founder’s family. Stephen "Steve" Turner Butler is elected Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and William B. "Brad" Turner, Jr. is elected President of the W.C. Bradley Co.

  1988

The W.C. Bradley Co. becomes a Partner-In-Education with River Road Elementary School.

1990s 1990

The W.C. Bradley Co. introduces its Spirit Award program. Through this program, the company recognizes team members whose character, behavior, and work performance build positive relationships, enhance their work environments, and uphold high standards of integrity and performance. The Spirit Award Program helps clarify, through role models, the corporate values for which the company stands.

During the 1990s, Char-Broil introduces the mass market to grills with powder coat paint, easy-to-clean weather resistant plastic sideshelves, rotisserie burners, electonic ignition and a new-styled Widebody grill frame system.  Char-Broil also creates the first "no-tools required" quick assembly grill.

  1992

The W.C. Bradley Co. Real Estate group begins development of Maple Ridge Golf Community in Columbus — a master planned residential community centered around a championship golf course.

  1997

Char-Broil acquires the New Braunfels Smoker Company, headquartered in New Braunfels, Texas. The company is a leading manufacturer of heavy-duty charcoal grills, smokers and accessories.

Char-Broil buys the barbecue grill division of the Thermos Company of Schaumburg, Illinois.

  1998

New Braunfels Smoker company acquires the Oklahoma Joe's® (based in Stillwater, Oklahoma) brand name with a product line of high-end smokers, grills and accessories.

The W.C. Bradley Co. acquires Lamplight Farms Incorporated, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.  The company manufactures indoor lamps and oil, scented indoor candles, and decorative outdoor natural flame products.
 

  1999

In The Learning of Love – A Journey Toward Servant Leadership, Bill Turner chronicles the journey that led him to embrace the concept of Servant Leadership. “Leadership is an opportunity for service, not an opportunity for power ... leadership must be grounded in a love that is a spiritual gift. And it must reach outside the organization in many ways to create a caring community and ultimately to build a better world,” he states in the book. Bill Turner is the grandson of W.C. Bradley and the past Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the W.C. Bradley Co.

2000s 2000

Char-Broil launches www.charbroil.com

  2001

The Thermos® Grill2Go® is introduced by Char-Broil for the on-the-go grilling consumer.

Zebco, headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is acquired by the W.C. Bradley Co. Zebco is a leading designer and marketer of branded fishing tackle in North America. The brands marketed by this division include Zebco®, Rhino®, Quantum®, and Martin®.

Lamplight Farms acquires Tiki®, based in Corona, California. Tiki® is the leading brand in outdoor torches.

  2003

Char-Broil launches its Commercial Series brand of products at Lowe's.
 
Zebco acquires Van Staal, Hopedale, Massachusetts. Van Staal® products are uniquely designed, super-premium saltwater fishing tackle aimed at avid anglers.

Char-Broil launches its Mobile Marketing tour, which visits retail locations, football games, and special events to show consumers the Char-Broil difference.

  2004

The W.C. Bradley Co. purchases the vacant Eagle & Phenix textile mill. The company had first purchased the mill in the late 1890s and sold it after W.C. Bradley's death in 1947. The purchase of the mill is part of the company's focus on redeveloping Uptown Columbus. Plans for the Eagle & Phenix include developing space for loft condominiums, offices, retail shops, and restaurants.

The Zebco Casting Pond opens at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks, Oklahoma.

The W.C. Bradley Real Estate group completes the development and construction of the Synovus Centre. This premier office building is located on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in Uptown Columbus.

Zebco opens its Oceanview manufacturing facility in Kunshan, China.

 

  2005

Zebco acquires the Fin-Nor® brand and products, Wilmington, North Carolina. Fin-Nor is a brand of big game saltwater fishing tackle first introduced in 1933 and made famous by angling greats around the world.

  2006

The company moves Char-Broil's grill production from Georgia to China. The Char-Broil headquarters remain located in Columbus.

Char-Broil partners with TEC®, the pioneer of infrared technology, and introduces infrared gas grills. These grills offer all the advantages of infrared grilling at affordable price points for backyard chefs.

  2007

Char-Broil expands its line-up infrared gas grills and introduces The Big Easy® oil-less infrared turkey fryer.

The Learning of Love – A Journey Toward Servant Leadership, by Bill Turner, is translated into Mandarin Chinese and published in China. It is now being sold in bookstores throughout China.

Zebco acquires four brands of fishing line from Shakespeare Co. LLC of Columbia, South Carolina. The purchased fishing line brands are Cajun Red,® Omniflex®, Supreme® and Outcast®.

The W.C. Bradley Real Estate group begins development of the Eagle & Phenix Mill and the surrounding 16-acres into a mixed-use "live, work, shop, play and dine experience" in Uptown Columbus.

  2008

Zebco changes its name to Zebco Brands to reflect that it has grown into a company with a portfolio of brands.

Char-Broil launches its RED® Series of Infrared products at Home Depot.

Zebco Brands acquires Vortex Outdoors, (based in Salt Lake City, Utah), a privately-held marketer of backpacks and gear for hunters, fly fishermen, and avid outdoors enthusiasts. The purchased brands include William Joseph™ premier fly-fishing gear and Badlands® hunting equipment.

Char-Broil's Big Easy® oil-less infrared turkey fryer wins a VESTA Award at the HPBA (Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association) Expo.

Brad Turner retires as President of the W.C. Bradley Co. Marc Olivié becomes the company’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, with Steve Butler remaining as Chairman of the Board.

  2009

Lamplight launches a "B2B" (business-to-business) E-commerce website aimed at its smaller customers.

Char-Broil exceeds two million units sold of its Commercial Series branded products at Lowe's.

Zebco Brands forms a strategic partnership with Jarvis Walker and expands internationally into Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

 

  2011

Zebco Brands acquires Zebco Sports Europe, one of the oldest and most successful producers of fishing tackle in Europe.  This move reunites the two Zebco businesses and brands that were sold separately in 2001 and supports Zebco Brands’ global growth strategy.

Saber Grills, LLC, is formed as a stand-alone entity from Char-Broil, and introduces SABER® grills – a line of premium grills sold through the independent outdoor retailer channel. 

Char-Broil expands internationally and acquires Kriswell A/S, a Danish grill and grilling accessories company which markets products under the Dancook brand.

  2013

Whitewater opens on the Chattahoochee River in Uptown Columbus, Georgia.  This is the longest urban whitewater rafting adventure in the world.


2014

Zebco Brands acquires Preston Innovations, based in Telford, England.  Preston Innovations® is the United Kingdom's leading match fishing brand and has a growing presence in the coarse, carp and bait segments of the market with its Korum®, Avid Carp® and Sonubaits® brands.