Company History

American Cornice Works (ACW), predecessor to Buckley Industries, was founded in the mid-1880s by Fred Buckley and A. E. English in Wichita, Kansas. In 1900, Buckley bought English’s share of the company for $200.00. The company distributed, installed and fabricated sheet metal products throughout the central Plains states from their shop at the corner of First and Water streets in Wichita.

Fred was joined in the business by his two sons, Mert and Roy, however Roy left the business in the late 1920’s to start an airplane company. ACW moved to 237-239 North Water. Mert Buckley designed and patented the “Buckley’s Multi-Syphon” ventilator which was specified by architects for use on buildings throughout the world, and can still be found in use on buildings today.

The family tradition continues

In 1939, Mert’s oldest son Duane (Dewey) graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and joined the company in 1940. In December, 1941, Dewey joined the Army Corps of Engineers. He later became a B-24 pilot in the Army Air Corps. Following high school, Mert’s other son, Bill, joined the Army Air Corps and piloted B-25s. Following the war, Dewey rejoined the company, and Bill obtained an Industrial Engineering degree from the University of Illinois, then also joined the family business.

Dewey had specifically studied mechanical engineering to learn about the new field of air conditioning. Consequently, the company added mechanical contracting to its products and services, operating that division as a separate corporation, Buckley, Inc. ACW built the sheet metal duct work for the air handling systems, and also began carrying insulation products and doing insulation contracting. They designed and built an early laminating machine for laminating duct wrap and insulation for the fledgling metal building industry. When Boeing wanted a local supplier for aircraft insulation, the addition of that type of fiberglass to American Cornice Works’ product line was a natural fit.

In 1957-58, American Cornice Works was one of several Wichita construction companies chosen to build the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. An office was established in Colorado Springs for the duration of that project and was closed soon after the company completed their contract at the Academy.

In February, 1960, the company again expanded and moved from 239 N. Water to a newly constructed office/shop/warehouse facility at 1600 E. Murdock. To more clearly reflect the nature of the business, especially since fewer people remembered what a cornice was, the name of the company was changed to Buckley Construction Industries.

Paring down

In the mid-1960s, it was decided to discontinue the insulation contracting business, yet continue with insulation supply and fabrication. It was also at this time, when the company was looking for something to replace the revenue lost by the discontinuation of the insulation contracting, that one of its aircraft manufacturing customers was seeking a new supplier of foam cushioning products. The company bought some saws and began fabricating seat cushions and other foam products.

In 1970, the different divisions of Buckley Construction Industries were divided into separate companies. Mert and Dewey owned Buckley, Inc., which was managed by Chuck Wagner until it was closed in 1987. Bill owned and operated the roofing and sheet metal departments as Buckley Roofing Company, Inc., and in the mid-70s moved to a new facility on north Hydraulic. The foam and fiberglass operations were owned by Mert and Dewey and operated as Buckley Industries.

The right people in the right places

In 1972, a fourth generation became involved when Dewey’s son Tim, who graduated from Wichita State in 1971, joined Buckley Industries as a salesman. In 1977, Mert died and Tim was named vice president of the corporation. In 1986, the company purchased the assets of Polyplastics, a foam fabricator near Austin, Texas, and Tim moved to Austin to manage that division.

In 1998, Dave McArthur, who joined the company as a buyer in 1980, was named President, and Dewey was named Chairman of Buckley Industries, Inc.

In the Spring of 2000, three operations of the company in Wichita were consolidated into a new 126,000 square foot office/shop/warehouse facility at 53rd Street North and Hydraulic. Dewey died in July, 2000, shortly after the opening of the new building. That location has now expanded to four buildings and 158,000 square feet under roof.

In April, 2013, Kent McArthur, who has been with the company since 1999, was named to serve as President to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Kent’s father, Dave.

Where we are today

Today the company employs approximately 95 people in Wichita, Kansas, and Austin, Texas. It utilizes state of the art equipment and facilities to provide insulation, cushioning and acoustical products to contractors and manufacturers in numerous industries around the United States and beyond. It has touched many industries, structures and non-profit entities throughout the city of Wichita, state of Kansas, and the world. Through the years, its products have been delivered in horse drawn wagons and used to train astronauts. The employees have been proud to hold on to traditions while exercising the far sightedness to seek, grasp, and develop new products and procedures. The intelligence, ingenuity, work ethic, cooperation and friendliness of the employees over the decades have been vital to the growth of the organization.

A few of the facilities and industries which bear, or have borne, the fingerprints of this company include the Sedgwick and Butler County, Kansas, courthouses, First Presbyterian Church in Wichita, University of Wichita Fieldhouse, Kansas State University, Friends University, United States Air Force Academy, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Wichita, Wichita High School East, healthcare products, athletic equipment, medical furniture, marine and boating equipment, packaging, metal building manufacturing and construction, agricultural equipment, general construction, aircraft and aerospace, electronics manufacturing, auto racing, HVAC ( heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), railroads, and many more.

By Tim Buckley