When Edward Bayard Heath founded the Heath Aeroplane Company during the early 1900's, little did he realize what would eventually evolve from his small "airplane trading post" as it was commonly called. Before he died, Mr. Heath was able to see the fruition of his early dreams. In 1926, he produced an airplane in kit form—the famous Heath "Parasol." For years this light aircraft was a favorite in the flying fraternity. Mr. Heath was killed during a test flight in 1931, marking a tragic end to a brilliant career. From that point through World War II, the Heath Company remained in the aircraft and replacement part business.
But it wasn't until shortly after World War II, that the character of the Heath Company changed. It was then that an ambitious engineer named Howard Anthony, who had purchased the Heath Company in 1935, took a calculated gamble. The ingenious Mr. Anthony bought a large stock of surplus wartime electronic parts, designed and "mail order marketed" an oscilloscope for $39.50.
Mr. Anthony based the success of his idea on the premise that anyone, regardless of technical knowledge or skills, could assemble a kit himself, and save up to 50% over comparable factory-built models. All that would be required were a few simple hand tools and some spare time.
Orders poured in for the oscilloscope kit and the foundation for the Heath Company as it exists today was established. Mr. Anthony expanded his test instrument line and soon added amateur radio and hi-fi component kits.
The key to the kit-builder's, and consequently Mr. Anthony's, success, was the instruction manual. Its contents still guide the Heath Company today. It contains simple, non-technical instructions and large "exploded" diagrams that take the builder through each and every step...show him exactly what to do and how to do it. Proof that every Heathkit is designed to be "beginner-built" can be found in the cards and letters Heath receives daily from people of all ages and from all walks of life expressing their delight and satisfaction.
Tragedy struck again in 1954 when Howard Anthony was also killed in an airplane crash. Daystrom, Inc. then acquired the Heath Company. In 1962 Daystrom, Inc. was purchased by Schlumberger Limited, a leader in the development of electronic techniques for oil exploration.
Since 1954, more kit products have been added until at present Heath boasts 11 different product lines, consisting of over 300 kits...the world's largest selection. Whatever your interest, you'll find a kit to match it...
1958 Heathkit Catalog
In order to produce the vast array of Heathkit equipment, a modern 205,000 sq. ft. plant was constructed in 1958 on the shores of Lake Michigan in St. Joseph, Mich. And recently another 156,000 sq. ft. of engineering and manufacturing facilities were added, bringing the total space to 361,000 sq. ft. The plant was located on Hilltop Rd. just off Business I-94, south of St. Joseph.
The graphic used in the masthead is an artist's rendering of the Heath plant in Benton Harbor, Michigan, that was constructed in 1958.
...the Heath Company will be moving into its new plant now nearing completion. The modern factory and office will contain 140,000 square feet of floor area, which will enable us to do an even better job of serving you in the future. New Office equipment and methods of order handling as well as a smooth flow of materials from the receiving platform through the production lines and to the shipping platform, will help us to expedite your orders..New engineering facilities will alleviate overcrowded conditions allowing us to more rapidly expand and improve our present line of kits to continue giving you the most for every dollar you spend.1958 Heathkit Catalog
Chuck Penson, WA7ZZE, author of many Heathkit-related publications, has given his permission to use his article, "Heathkit's 50th: The Green Turns to Gold," which commemorated Heathkit's anniversary when they turned 50. This article, which originally appeared in the January, 1997, issue of Electric Radio and was chronicled in a slightly different version in the April, 1997, issue of QST, relives the origin and history of the Heathkit in sparkling detail. Don't miss this chance to learn all about Ed Heath and his unique business!
The Heath Company East Coast operations center is located in Ottsville, Pennsylvania, and their design facility is located in Santa Cruz, California.