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Mosler and the Cold War

Mosler and the Cold War. An unsolicited letter arrived at the Mosler Safe Company office on Grand Boulevard in Hamilton in 1950, proclaiming "the superiority of your goods are completely verified" and "admired for being stronger than the atomic bomb. "It wasn't an idle boast. The writer was the manager of the recently re-opened Hiroshima branch of the Teikoku Bank, formerly the Mitsui Bank. He explained that vault doors from Mosler's Hamilton plant had been placed in the bank's new building in 1925. It was there Aug. 6, 1945, when a U. S. plane dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in the final days of World War II. The blast destroyed the bank building, the banker wrote May 22, 1950, but "it was our great luck to find that though the surface of the vault doors were heavily damaged, its contents were not affected at all and the cash and important documents were perfectly saved." Ironically, Mosler was one of several Butler County industries that contributed to the Manhattan Project, the urgent U. S. wartime mission to develop the first atomic bomb. As early as 1938, Mosler had joined the American Rolling Mill Company (later Armco, now AK Steel) in producing large steel castings (the largest 406,550 pounds) for atomic research. The huge magnets -- termed cyclotrons, or atom smashers -- went to Ohio State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California and Westinghouse Electric. Mosler earned the job of milling the cyclotron castings because of its experience in accurately machining and polishing large steel vault doors, including those which have guarded the nation's gold reserves at Fort Knox since 1937. U. S. atomic experiments in the early stages of the Cold War in the 1950s also tested the strength and effectiveness of Mosler products. Mosler engineers at Yucca Flats, Nevada, in 1955 placed 25 document and money safes at varying distances from ground zero of a nuclear explosion. Most of the Mosler devices suffered little damage, but Edwin Mosler Jr., the company president, admitted in a speech that "the closest ones went around the world in a cloud of dust." In "Operation Plumb-Bob," a 1957 test, a Mosler Century steel vault door and concrete vault and its contests withstood the blast. They resisted pressures of 48 tons per square foot. Idle curiosity wasn't the reason for subjecting American industrial products to atomic explosions. It was a practical exercise. For Mosler, it meant government orders which supplemented its traditional bank security products. In 1959, for example, Mosler designed and built "the largest and heaviest hinged shielding doors in the world" for the Atomic Energy Commission's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The five-foot thick doors covered an 11x15-foot opening. The door and frame weighed about 137 tons. Although each leaf was about 58 tons, the door could be opened and shut manually by one person. Another steady customer for blast-resistant doors was the defense department, which required them at military installations. Smaller doors also were produced for other nuclear facilities, including power plants. In the 1970s, the Tennessee Valley Authority ordered 120 Mosler doors for nuclear power plants. The tornado- proof doors had been mandated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in areas subject to such storms. (See Mosler for company details.)
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