Wendell August Forge was founded by coal mine owner Wendell McMinn August in 1923 in Brockway, Pennsylvania. In the early 1920s, August undertook the building of a fine new home with colonial architecture and ornamental hand wrought iron. One of Wendell August's early metalworkers said that August couldn't find "two door latches that would match the ones he had. So he took one of them to a blacksmith at his mine {Ottone Pisoni} and asked him if he could make two like that." This would lead to the two men starting Wendell August Forge.  


Wendell August Forge is contracted to build gates for Alcoa's famous Aluminum Research Laboratories in New Kensington, PA, outside of Pittsburgh. This would start a relationship between the two businesses that would revolutionize Wendell August Forge. These gates are now on display at Wendell August Forge's Flagship Store.


Wendell August Forge was commissioned to create ornate elevator doors for the Alcoa Aluminum Research Laboratories using the repousse process by hand hammer aluminum sheets. This was the first time the Forge used this process, which is still used today.

Early 1930s The birth of a business

Alcoa was so impressed by the elevator doors, they requested that two trays, using some elements of the motif from the elevator doors, be crafted and gifted to the company's chairman and President. Alcoa executives, ever mindful of new product opportunities, ensured that the items were brought to the attention of Edgar Kaufmann, the Pittsburgh department store magnate and patron of the arts. Frank Lloyd Wright would design and build the renowned Falling Water retreat at Bear Run for the Kaufmann's in 1936. It was Kaufmann, who had Wendell August Forge create a tray featuring his estate, who suggested the Forge's aluminum repousse process be implemented in the development of an elite line of art and gift items.


1932 Moving to Grove City

Wendell August Forge moved from Brockway, PA to Grove City, PA. This move happened following the Forge helping to renovate the Grove City National Bank Building in 1931. Edwin J. Fithian, president of the bank, connected with Wendell August himself, and convinced him to move both his family, and the Forge, to Grove City. This was during the Great Depression and Fithian was trying to bring new industry to the community.

The Golden Era 1932-1938

Wendell August Forge worked on ornamental aluminum in banks and firms from Pittsburgh to Cleveland and Philadelphia, as well as for the passenger ships of the American Scantic Line and lighting fixtures for the chain of Stouffer Restaurants. Trays and giftware, considered the "novelty line" was initially used to keep the plant at a stable level of operations between architectural assignments. However, Wendell August was astounded at the enthusiastic reactions to the line that were received at the art and gift shows in Boston and New York. In November 1932, the Grove City Reporter-Herald reported that the Forge "has lost sight of the depression in a scramble to keep up with a stream of orders for forged aluminum products that is keeping the plant busy more than 60 hours each week," elaborating that the "increased production is due almost entirely to the development of a line of gift novelties in forged aluminum which has added more than 200 accounts since August 1st."

1936 The Hindenburg

Following the 1929 around-the-world flight of the Graf Zeppelin dirigible, the public had become enamored of the possibilities for international airship travel. As one approach of increasing Commercial airship travel, Hugo Eckener, who had commanded the epic Graf Zeppelin flight, arranged for a special public relations flight of the Hindenburg airship at the end of the 1936 trans-Atlantic flight season. Dubbed "The Millionaires' Flight" by the press, the 72 guests on the flight were considered to be among the most powerful and wealthy men in the United States. Unique ashtrays were produced by Wendell August Forge and presented to invited guests. The first flight of the following season in 1937, the Hindenburg would explode at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey, killing 35 people.


Wendell August Forge created incredible pieces for churches and cathedrals throughout the region. One of the most exquisit was for Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, in Toledo, Ohio. The Forge crafted baptistry gates for the church. The completed gates, embellished with bronze rosettes, would be acclaimed as "the handsomest examples of hand-forged aluminum ever produced in this country."

1939-1948 The War Years

By 1942 the Forged closed its doors. With no metals available for consumer product goods, aluminum giftware manufacturers either closed down or converted to the production of war materials. Wendell August Forge was not successful in acquiring war production contracts. However, the Forge did get a contract to house and feed military personnel who were being trained at Cooper-Bessemer in Grove City. According to the Brockway Record, "The forge building of steel and concrete, 160 by 160, is to be turned into a dormitory with 100 bunks... as well as three class rooms, offices, a projection room, and two rooms for petty officers." With the end of the war, the military vacated the Forge by February 1946. Wendell August Forge would be back to full production by April of 1946.

1949-1977 A Struggle to Survive

In 1949, after pioneering the aluminum giftware industry, the Forge faced increased competition from other aluminum giftware manufacturers after the war. While Wendell August himself was anticipating a Florida retirement, he was forced to stay in Grove City and try to get the business back on track. Over the next 2 decades custom pieces for businesses became a growing focus for the Forge as well as redesigning many bank lobbies. As things were starting to look up for the Forge, Wendell August died of a heart attack while eating lunch in downtown Grove City. His son, Bob August took over. Shortly after he opened a little gift shop in the Grove City plant that would someday become a National Historic Landmark. This represented the first step taken by the Forge into the retail business.

1978 The Knecht Transformation

Wendell August's son, Robert August, considering retirement, and no family members looking to take on the business, the choice was between closing the facility or selling. Frank Willson "Bill" Knecht III, who worked in marketing and sales at IBM for 18 years, was looking to buy a small business. In February 1978, within 90 days of learning about the opportunity to purchase the Forge, Knecht aquired the firm.

1979 Salt Two Treaty

The Forge received an important commission from the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency to produce 12 solid bronze plates commemorating the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. The plates were presented to diplomats at the signing of the treaty in Geneva, Switzerland.

1980 The Annual Ornament

Connie Knecht, Bill's wife, came up with the idea of the Christmas Heirloom ornament series. It could become the Annual Ornament, a tradition for more than four decades that has sold by the hundreds of thousands.

1990s National Historic Landmark

Wendell August Forge's original Grove City location is designated a National Historic Landmark. The building became a popular tourist attraction in the area, bringing in bus tours and locals alike.

2010 Tragedy

In 2010, Wendell August Forge's historic Flagship Store and manufacturing facility burned to the ground. Lacquer spray ignited in a faulty vent fan. All employees and customers were able to get out safely. Nearly all historic dies were saved, allowing for the businesss to survive.

2011 Civic Arena Ornament

The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation teamed up Wendell August Forge to turn parts of the stainless steel roof from the team's former home -the Civic Arena - into Christmas ornaments. The project went on to sell more than 80,000 ornaments.