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Elgin Sweeper marks 100 years making street cleaners

An ElgSweeper vehicle is used clean street downtown Elgin. | Submitted

An Elgin Sweeper vehicle is used to clean a street in downtown Elgin. | Submitted

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ELGIN — An Elgin firm world-famous for helping towns keep their streets clean is marking its 100th year.

“Ours is a great success story, for the company and for Elgin,” Elgin Sweeper General Manager Mike Higgins said.

Higgins noted that Elgin Sweeper is the largest manufacturer of street sweepers in North America and the second largest worldwide, with its equipment in use in more than 90 countries.

Higgins said the company was located more toward downtown Elgin near the Fox River until the mid-1960s, when it moved to its current location at 1300 W. Bartlett Road on the city’s southeast corner. It is part of the Environmental Solutions Group of Oak Brook-based Federal Signal Corp., which itself was founded in 1901.

Elgin Sweeper employs about 200 people in factory-related jobs, and another 120 to 150 in office-related positions.

Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce President Carol Gieske noted that the company also has “a workforce that has amazing longevity — many people have been there 20, 30, or 40 years.”

“Almost all of our machines are made here in Elgin, and we make a lot of our parts here as well,” Higgins said. “We now have a distribution agreement with one other manufacturer, but that accounts for just a small part of our total volume.”

The company was started by Elgin resident John Murphy, who, according to the company website, “recognized the health hazards caused by streets filled with filth and debris, and created the very first street sweeper. The sweepers we produce today aren’t just any sweeper — they are the toughest and most rugged sweepers on the market.”

Local historian and Courier-News columnist E.C. “Mike” Alft notes a newspaper story from June 1913 which reported that Murphy was trying out his invention of an “auto-street-sweeper” on Walnut Avenue in Elgin.

The product line today uses “the latest sweeping technologies — mechanical broom sweepers, vacuum sweepers, regenerative air sweepers, waterless dust control street sweepers, alternatively fueled, and high-efficiency filtration — to ensure you have what it takes to get the job done,” the website states.

And the sweepers come with animal names, including Pelican, Eagle, Broom Bear and Broom Badger, along with Road Wizard.

For the centennial anniversary year, the company is digging through its archives to find the exact date when Elgin Sweeper incorporated, Higgins said.

The company was recognized for its accomplishments by proclamation at the Feb. 12 Elgin City Council meeting.

In summer, Elgin Sweeper will host an event marking the 100 years on June 19 with a luncheon bringing attendees for a distributions sales training session together with the people at the West Bartlett Road location who make the machines. And on June 21, there will be a celebration for all employees, their friends and families, with local officials invited as well.

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