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Deister Machine Co.: More Than a Century of Screening Solutions

By Carol Wasson

Deister Machine Co. Inc. recently celebrated its 100th anniversary as a leading manufacturer of high-quality feeding, scalping and screening equipment. As a family-owned business with a history of innovation that began prior to World War I, Deister says that “it continues to build upon its century of service via solid engineering and customized screening solutions that allow today’s aggregate producers to efficiently meet the most stringent specifications.”

Irwin F. Deister Jr., chairman, and E. Mark Deister, president, represent the family’s third generation at the company’s helm. Their coveted tradition of quality and customer satisfaction began with their grandfather, Emil Deister, the company’s founder.

Born in Germany in 1872, Emil Deister migrated to the United States with his parents as a youth. He grew up in Woodburn, Ind., and took his first job as a lathe operator at the Bass Foundry and Machine Co. in Fort Wayne in 1893. As of 1905, he had risen to the position of draftsman and erecting engineer. Throughout his career with Bass, Emil Deister took up the study of ore separation.

Eventually, Emil Deister would patent his own equipment, starting with a centrifugal separator that extracted gold from mercury amalgam, and continuing on to develop ore separating tables. His differential-motion ore separating table had riffles attached to its surface. These riffles collected the heavier ore particles and conveyed them in one direction toward a collector, while water washing across them carried the lighter impurities away. The table is praised in Taggert’s Handbook of Ore Dressing, the official textbook at many mining schools, as the first serious competition to the only other kind of ore separating table available at the time.

Emil Deister built his first ore-separating table in his basement and took his invention to Arizona, where he begged space from mill owners for its demonstration. Successful and armed with orders for the new equipment, Emil returned to Fort Wayne to set up business in 1906, as the Deister Concentrator Co. In 1912, Emil sold his interests in Deister Concentrator Co. and established Deister Machine Co. Inc.

Deister Machine Co. began manufacturing operations at 1933 East Wayne Street in Fort Wayne, Ind., its current location. The original building, a 5,500 sq.-ft. plant, is still in active use amidst a total operation that today spans more than 360,000 sq. ft. and four plant locations in Fort Wayne.

By 1913, the company had already expanded internationally with representation in London. However, that office was closed in 1914 as World War I swept across Europe.

Deister’s London sales manager was ordered to sell or store the office furniture and return home. His Atlantic Ocean crossing was made most uncomfortable by the fact that just days before, a German cruiser sank two British ships and chased a passenger boat en route to England. In addition to the London office, the company maintained a New York City office until the mid-1950s to handle all exports of the concentrating tables.

Until World War II, Deister Concentrator Co. and Deister Machine Co. operated as competitors. However, in 1926, upon the request of its customers, Deister Machine Co. began manufacturing vibrating screens for the separation of materials according to particle size.

In 1933, Deister introduced a special screen for sizing aggregate materials used in hot-mix asphalt plants. Subsequently, the company added vibrating feeders and foundry equipment, including shakeouts, compaction tables, reclaimers and oscillating conveyors. Products varied in the 1930s and 1940s to meet the economics and sociology of the times with water softeners being produced during the Great Depression. Battery test stands meeting U.S. military standards were manufactured during World War II.

Today, Deister Machine Co. focuses entirely on its core business, providing feeding, scalping and screening equipment to the aggregate, mining, and recycle industries. Deister equipment is used in all 50 states, Canada, and in many countries throughout Latin America, Europe and Asia. According to its engineers, Deister equipment is designed to integrate with all components of the production system, while delivering maximum performance and productivity. In fact, some of the earlier models of Deister vibrating screens are still in operation due to their rugged construction and continued high efficiency.

Irwin and Mark Deister are proud to say that “the long-term customer relationships, which the company has developed over years of support, consultation and service, have resulted in ongoing improvements in the design, engineering and customization of Deister feeding and screening equipment – a mission never more important in an era when material specifications are tightening and producers are searching for the means to remain profitable in an increasingly competitive business environment.”

Carol Wasson, a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based freelancer, wrote this special anniversary section.