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1930-1939: An Empire State of Mind

Posted by: Bell Performance

The times have changed and so has the name. Bell Laboratory. Bell Additives. Bell Performance. Three names which have come to signify quality, value, problem-solving and innovation to thousands of consumers around the world over the last 100+ (actually now 104) years. We invite you to sit back as we go through history decade-by-decade and also throw in a few tidbits about what we at Bell were doing while the world was changing around us all.

The World's Tallest Building

Do you know what the world's tallest building is, right now? There's always been something about that "race" to climb higher and higher. The folks in Dubai have it locked out of reach for the foreseeable future with the Burj Khalifa tower that soars to over 2,700 feet tall, more than 700 feet higher than second place. The "tallest building" honor sees its history date all the way to the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egpyt which set the first benchmark at 481 feet. It's interesting to see that some famous structures were, at one time, the tallest in the world. The Pyramid was succeeded by various religious structures until the Washington Monument was buily in 1880 and won the honor at 550 feet.  The Eiffel Tower succeeded that by a long ways (989 feet) and lasted until the late 1920s, when American bravado decided it was going to take the title back to US soil.

Empire State Bldg 05On May 3rd, 1931, the most famous tall building of the 20th century and landmark representation of American prosperity and ambition, the Empire State Building, officially opened. It's a little ironic to look back and see that the Empire State Building was designed and opened in the midst of the worst of time, the Great Depression. It was actually designed from the top down, and even when the World Trade Center overtook it for tallest building in the 1970s, the Empire State Building still remains perhaps the dominant symbol of our greatest city (apart from the Statue of Liberty, of course).

R.J. Bell Continues Formulating During Hard Times

In the 1930s, the United States was in the throes of the Great Depression. Automobile sales fell to an all-time low; formerly robust companies like Cadillac would sell as few as 2,000 cars per year during the height of the Depression.

Robert Bell never lost sight of the potential of the people and the country around him and
continued to work on innovative ideas in his laboratory in Virginia. His Mix-I-Go additive formulation, still the best on the market, was now helping American consumers keep their hard-earned vehicles running smoothly and problem-free. This was greatly valued by the typical American consumer who likely had a great portion of their remaining wealth tied up in their state-of-the-art machines.

In 1939 Robert Bell made the significant decision to move his 30-year old company from
Virginia to Orlando, Florida. Orlando at the time wasn’t anything like we know it today; Disney
World would not make its impact there for another thirty years. At the time Mr. Bell moved Bell
Laboratory 700 miles south to Orlando, the city had seen hard times from the Depression but was just starting to recover as Army servicemen and their families moved into the area to be stationed at the nearby Army base and Air Field, and later to fight in the war.

Perhaps Robert Bell recognized the potential that the area held. Perhaps he recognized the
possibility of burgeoning markets for marine vehicles and the military, both of which could
benefit from his water-suspending and cleaning gas formulations. Or perhaps Robert Bell simply
liked the warmer climate better. Bell Laboratory would stay in the Orlando area through Robert
Bell’s death and subsequent changes in company ownership.

The War Years were busy years for Mr. Bell. How many new products did he invent during the
1940s? Join us next week to find out the surprising number!

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This post was published on April 18, 2013 and was updated on November 19, 2013.

Topics: Cars and Light Trucks