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Records of Small Beginnings, Inc

Donor:
Webber, Austin J., II  Search this
Rogone, Philip N.  Search this
Croteau, Winnifred D.  Search this
Rogone, Mary S.  Search this
Croteau, Kenneth S.  Search this
Creator:
Small Beginnings, Inc.  Search this
Extent:
2 Cubic feet (6 boxes)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Compact discs
Correspondence
Patents
Photographs
Date:
1986 - 2006
Summary:
Records relating to Small Beginnings, Inc., a medical supply company that designs, invents, manufactures, and distributes products for premature infants. The records include contacts with distributors, correspondence, product advertisements, patent and trademark files, photographs, a scrapbook, and oral history interviews with Kenneth S. Croteau, Mary S. "Sharon" Rogone, and Philip N. Rogone.
Scope and Contents:
Series 1, Background Information, 1983-2006, is divided into nine subseries and includes articles of incorporation for the business, correspondence, corporate identity branding, and journal articles and magazine and newspaper clippings about Small Beginnings, Inc. The correspondence consists of thank you letters from hospitals and medical centers for visits made by Small Beginnings staff during the holiday season and a September 2001 letter from Kenny Loggins discussing his partnership with Small Beginnings to distribute his CD "More Songs from Pooh Corner." The Entrepreneur packet was created by Kenneth Croteau of Caring Creations, Inc., to assist potential inventors/entrepreneurs in developing ideas into a patented product and bringing it to the marketplace.

Series 2, Oral History Interviews and Logs, 18 January 2007, is divided into two subseries. Subseries 1 contains reference CD-ROM copies for listening and Subseries 2 consists of master CD-ROMs. The interviews were created digitally using a Marantz PMD 660 recorder. The oral history interviews were conducted by National Museum of American History staff members Maggie Dennis and Judy Chelnick. The interviewees include Kenneth S. Croteau, Mary S. "Sharon" Rogone, and Philip N. Rogone, founders of and business partners in Small Beginnings, Inc. Each interview has a time code log. Full text transcripts do not exist.

Series 3, Product Information, 1994-2006, is divided into four subseries.

Subseries 1, Small Beginnings, Inc. Products, 1998-2004, contains documentation on the products made available by Small Beginnings, Inc. The company offers a wide variety of products for neonatal intensive care units and newborn nurseries. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by product name. The bulk of the documentation consists of printed product literature that was disseminated to distributors and/or at conferences. In some instances, such as the Bili-Bonnet, Climate Cover, and Pacee Pacifier—correspondence, testing information, and sketches exist.

Subseries 2, Disclosure Statements, 2000-2003, contains waivers and agreements between Small Beginnings, Inc., and individuals which state that an idea or ideas will not be used or revealed to others.

Subseries 3, Competitors, 1994-2004, includes files on competitors in the neonatal medical supply business. The documentation is primarily product literature and company overviews. The subseries are arranged alphabetically by company name.

Subseries 4, Miscellaneous, 1999, 2001, undated, contains printed paper examples of the fabric Small Beginnings used on its products and a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) booklet designed for parents of preemie infants. The booklet provides a checklist of tasks for parents to be conscious of when caring for their premature infant.

Series 4, Sales Records, 1993-2006

Subseries 1, Catalogs, 2001-2005, contains catalogs in hard copy and on CD-ROM for distributors and other interested parties.

Subseries 2, Price lists, 2000, 2003, undated, includes itemized pricing lists for all Small Beginnings products and special pricing lists designed for hospital admission kits. There is also a pricing list with similar competitor products and the savings gained by using Small Beginnings products.

Subseries 3, Distributor Information, 1993-2006, consists of documentation on distributors around the United States who are distributing or considering distributing Small Beginnings, Inc., products. Arranged alphabetically by the name of the distributor, this subseries consists primarily of contracts—the independent distributor contract—between Small Beginnings, Inc., and the distributor.

The contract details the sales representatives appointment, terms, permitted sales, distributor sales and service obligation, supplier organizations, prices, orders, payment, shipment, trademark protection, no competitive products, proprietary rights protection, warranty, disclaimer, and warrant service, limitations or remedies and liability, termination, taxes, duties, import permits, approvals, and general provisions. In some instances, there is correspondence with a distributor and sales report information detailing the product type, cost and to which hospital it was sold.

The Advanced Medical Systems file also contains vendor sales information. This report details what Small Beginnings product(s) were sold, to whom, when, how many, the price, and any shipping details.

The HealthTrust file documents a "purchasing group." A purchasing group negotiates with suppliers to provide member facilities with high quality supplies, equipment, and other services at competitive prices through national, regional and local supply agreements. Small Beginnings did not enter into a formal agreement with HealthTrust but explored the idea of becoming a prospective vendor.

Subseries 4, Licenses and Agreements, 1998-2005, includes license and compensation agreements with five individuals (Eileen Clayton, Linda Cook, Diane D'Eugenio, Ilija Kainovic, and Kathleen Porter) for a variety of products. The agreements cover the definitions, license grants, royalties and payments; term and termination; best effort; breach and cure; patent, applications, prosecution and ownership; new inventions; infringement; representations by the licensee; force majeure; and other rights and conditions.

There are also letters of agreement for purchase and compensation documents. These agreements between Small Beginnings, Inc., and said party states what the product/idea is, how much it will cost, if the product/idea will be commercially produced and marketed, and if the product/idea can be altered. There is one agreement among the officers of Small Beginnings, Inc., dated 1999 which states that any and all future intellectual property(s) and/or product(s) and/or idea(s) shall be the property of the individual and not Small Beginnings, Inc.

Subseries 5, Finances, 2000-2003, contains sales summary data, expense allocations, invoices, and cost analyses. The sales summary provides an itemized breakdown of Small Beginnings's inventory for the period January 1, 2000 to July 10, 2000. The expense allocation spreadsheet of January 2000 to July 2000 provides a detailed breakdown of salary payments, office equipment, goods sold, and other line items such as printing, attorney's fees, and shipping supplies. Also provided is the total actual expenses, total income, difference, and starting and ending balance information. The invoice reports provide information about the customer, the invoice number, date due (0-30 days, 31-60 days or 61-90 days or over 90 days), amount due, purchase order number and the date paid. The projected cash flow from January 2000 to May 2000 details the amount of cash taken in and cash spent. The cost analyses provide a breakdown by list price, materials, manufacturing, labor costs, and packaging for six products: Bili-Bonnet, Climate Cover, Iso-sphere Covers, Baby-Crates, Security Baby Wrap, and Baby Blotters, Preemie Swaddler, Preemie Gown, Privacy Poncho, Bed Buddie, Posture Pillow, Preemie Nest, Bebeonkers and Pacee Pacifier.

Subseries 6, Neonatal Conference Programs, 1998-2002, consists primarily of conference programs and, in some instances, only the program cover.

Subseries 7, American Hospital Association Guide (partial), 1998, contains a partial print out of hospitals located in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.

Series 5, Patent and Trademark Files, 1991-2002, contains copies of patent and trademark information relating to Small Beginnings, Inc., products. The trademark file includes documentation with the law firm of Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP and the United States Patent and Trademark office for Small Beginnings, Peeweeonkers, Bebeonkers, Nasalonkers (all infant nasal suction devices), and Doctor Nurse Apparel, (DNA) trademark logos. The patent files contain correspondence, drawings and narrative text for Bebeonkers, Bili-Bonnet, Climate Cover, Pacee Pacifier, Positioning Device, Preemie Nest, and Privacy Poncho.

Series 6, Photographs and Scrapbook, 1987-2007

Subseries 1, Photographs, 2000-2001, are arranged by topic and include color and color photocopies documenting some of Small Beginnings products, a 2001 Christmas party, a 2000 neonatal conference, and office and factory images.

Subseries 2, Digital images, 2007, consists of office, factory and employee images taken by National Museum of American History staff members Judy Chelnick, Maggie Dennis, and Alison Oswald.

Subseries 3, Scrapbook, 1987-2000, consists of nineteen pages featuring photographs of employees, products and the factory, as well as printed product information.
Arrangement:
The collection is organized into six series.

Series 1, Background Information, 1983-2006

Subseries 1, Articles of Incorporation, 1997-2005

Subseries 2, Small business certification, 2006

Subseries 3, Women's Business Enterprise Council, 2004-2006

Subseries 4, Corporate Identity, undated

Subseries 5, Correspondence, 2001-2003

Subseries 6, Entrepreneur packet, undated

Subseries 7, Articles (Perinatalogy/Neonatology), 1990-2002

Subseries 8, Magazine and newspaper clippings, 1983-2003

Subseries 9, Miscellaneous, 1988-2001

Series 2, Oral History Interviews and Logs, 18 January 2007

Subseries 1, Reference copies of interviews, 2007

Subseries 2, Original interviews, 2007

Series 3, Product Information, 1994-2004

Subseries 1, Small Beginnings, Inc. Products, 1998-2004

Subseries 2, Disclosure Statements, 1999-2003

Subseries 3, Competitors, 1994-2004

Subseries 4, Miscellaneous, 1999, 2001, undated

Series 4, Financial/Accounting Records, 1967-1971

Subseries 1, Catalogs, 2001-2005

Subseries 2, Price lists, 2000, 2003, undated

Subseries 3, Distributor Information, 1993-2006

Subseries 4, Licenses and Agreements, 1998-2005

Subseries 5, Finances, 2000-2002

Subseries 6, Neonatal Conference Programs, 1998-2002

Subseries 7, American Hospital Association Guide (partial), 1998

Series 5, Patent and Trademark Files, 1991-2002

Series 6, Photographs and Scrapbook, 1987-2007

Subseries 1, Photographs, 2000-2001

Subseries 2, Digital images, 2007

Subseries 3, Scrapbook, 1987-2000
Biographical / Historical:
Small Beginnings, Inc., of Hesperia, California, was founded by Mary S. Rogone and her business partner, Austin J. Webber, II in the late 1990s. It officially incorporated on November 21, 1997, in the State of Nevada. The company specializes in products conceived and developed by healthcare professionals, specifically nurses who work with premature infants. The name "small beginnings" originated from the small amount of money used to start the company and for the tender age of the patients it serves. The company motto is "Clinicians on a Mission" with the entire company dedicated to making better, more innovative products for premature infants.

Mary Sharon Shoffstall was born August 8, 1942 and raised in the San Bernardino Hills of California. She attended Huntington Park High School where she concentrated on math and science and graduated in 1960. She earned degrees as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in 1976 and as a registered nurse (RN) in 1980 from San Bernardino Valley College. Rogone worked a variety of nursing jobs—labor and delivery and surgical—but found her niche in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

In the late 1980s, Rogone was motivated by her work in the neonatal intensive care units at St. Bernardine's Hospital (now St. Bernardine Medical Center) and San Bernardino County Hospital in California to create a better phototherapy mask for premature infants suffering from bilirubin. "Bilirubin is a brownish yellow substance found in bile. It is produced when the liver breaks down old red blood cells. The most obvious symptom of high bilirubin levels is jaundice, a condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes appear yellow. Therefore, some babies who develop jaundice may be treated with special lights (phototherapy) or a blood transfusion to reduce their bilirubin levels."

Rogone's phototherapy mask was fashioned out of a variety of hospital materials and was designed to take the pressure off the ocular socket, transfer it to the cheekbone and reduce the ability of light to penetrate the mask. With no objections from fellow nurses or doctors, Rogone developed the Bili-Bonnet Phototherapy Mask and began using it on infants in the NICU. Encouraged by Austin Webber, a medical sales representative she met at the hospital, Rogone formed a financial partnership with Webber. Both Rogone and Webber contributed $1,500.00 to start the business. Webber provided knowledge about materials, manufacturing processes, and distribution while Rogone supplied the ideas and medical background. Rogone began the patent process for the mask in 1992 and was granted US Patent # 5,613,502 for a "Photo therapy eye mask" in 1997. This invention launched Rogone's inventive career and her company, Small Beginnings, Inc.

In 1995, Sharon married Phil Rogone, a respiratory therapist and physician's assistant she met while working at St. Bernardine's Hospital. Phil soon joined the company as Vice President for Marketing and began attending tradeshows to promote the company's growing line of products. In 1998, Ken Croteau, a respiratory specialist and close friend of Phil and Sharon's, joined the staff of Small Beginnings, Inc., as the business manager. Croteau established the company's website, www.small-beginnings.com, and began to recruit distributors. Croteau, along with Sharon Rogone, Philip Rogone, Winnifred Croteau, and Ted Lopez founded Caring Creations, Inc., a separate corporation on May 1, 2002. Caring Creations, Inc., is a vehicle intended to launch Small Beginnings products into the retail market. By 2000, Sharon Rogone left full-time nursing to focus on the company as Chief Executive Officer.

As the company grew, more products were developed. The company now offers: Bebeonkers (oral suction device), Lil' and Nu' Pacee Pacifiers, Cuddle Buns™ Diapers; Preemie Nest (swaddler and positioning device); Bed Buddy (positioning device); Baby Blotters (absorbent, moisture proof plastic blotters); Abdominal Pillow; Head Pillow; Wedge Pillow; Preemie Gown; Arm immobilier; Baby Crates™ (allows moisture to flow through and away from the baby), Baby Blankee™; Isosphere™ covers (for NICU warmers); Universal Climate Cover II, and the Privacy Poncho.

Not all products are developed and patented by Small Beginnings, Inc. The company inspires and assists budding inventors, especially nurses and other healthcare professionals to realize their dreams. The Pacee Pacifier sold by Small Beginnings (US Patent # 4,909,253) was invented by Linda L. Cook from Infrapreem, Inc., of Connecticut. Cook licensed her invention to Small Beginnings in 1999 so they could commercially develop, produce and market the pacifier as the Lil' and Nu' Pacee Pacifier. In a 1998 letter Cook wrote to Rogone, "It is so good to know there are people like you in the world that are out there to help nurses. Thank you." Other products, such as the Cuddle Buns™ Diapers, are not patented, but the name is trademarked.
Related Materials:
Materials at the National Museum of American History

The Division of Medicine and Science holds artifacts related to this collection. See Accession # 2007.0022:

Bili-Bonnet mold with masking tape

Bili-Bonnet mold with foam inserts

Pacifier choking test stand (includes barbell and pacifier)

Pac black foam disk

Diapers from Children's Medical Ventures

Diaper, prototype 1 from Mexico, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Diaper, prototype 2 from Mexico, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Diaper, prototype 3 from Mexico, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Diaper, prototype 4 from Mexico, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Diaper, prototype 5, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Diaper, final version production model

Diaper, ultra preemie production model, 2003

Diaper, Pampers Preemie Swaddler from Procter & Gamble

Oral suction device, Bebeonkers

Pacifier, Original Pacee with product literature, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Pacifier, second generation with packaging, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Pacifier, Competitor's "Soothie" Children's Medical Ventures

Pacifier "Lil' Pacee," Small Beginnings, Inc.

Phototherapy mask, competitors, Children's Medical Ventures

Phototherapy mask, Bili-Bonnet #1, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Phototherapy mask, Bili-Bonnet #2, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Phototherapy mask, Bili-Bonnet #3, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Packaging, new Bili-Bonnet, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Packaging, old Bili-Bonnet, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Phototherapy mask, original preemie Bili-Bonnet, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Posture pillow sets for preemies, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Bed Buddy 36" for ultra preemies, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Preemie nest set, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Bendy Bumpy, Children's Medical Ventures

Bulb syringe "Adult Yankauer," taken from NICU

Suction tube with collecting bottle, Delee taken from NICU (for use after c-section)

Bulb and syringe, taken from NICU

Catheter, size 6 cut, for suction, taken from NICU

Catheter for oral and nasal use (by Ballard)

Pen, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Phototherapy mask, original ultra preemie, cat #OIC 38, Small Beginnings, Inc.

Pacifier, 'Nu' Pacee" in packaging, Small Beginnings, Inc.
Provenance:
The collection was donated by Small Beginnings, Inc., through Mary S. Rogone, Philip N. Rogone, Austin J. Webber II, Kenneth S. Croteau and Winnifred D. Croteau, February 2007.
Restrictions:
The collection is open for research use.
Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Diapers  Search this
Infants -- Care  Search this
Inventions  Search this
Inventors  Search this
Infants -- Medical care  Search this
Medical supplies  Search this
Neonatal intensive care  Search this
Neonatology  Search this
Nursing  Search this
Pacifiers (Infant care)  Search this
Perinatalogy  Search this
Women inventors -- 20th century  Search this
Women inventors  Search this
Genre/Form:
Compact discs
Correspondence -- 1950-2000
Correspondence -- 2000-2010
Patents
Photographs -- 1980-2000
Photographs -- 2000-2010
Citation:
Records of Small Beginnings, Inc., Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0940
See more items in:
Records of Small Beginnings, Inc
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0940
Online Media:

Records of Wedge Innovations

Interviewer:
Shayt, David H.  Search this
Creator:
Wedge Innovations  Search this
Extent:
13 Cubic feet (28 boxes, 5 oversized folders)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Videotapes
Notebooks
Oral histories (document genres)
Audiotapes
Financial records
Financial statements
Interviews
Correspondence
Photographs
Drawings
Advertisements
Date:
1985-1996
Summary:
The records of Wedge Innovations document the invention and development of a new hand tool, the SmartLevel, an electronic builder's level; also included are company management and policies.
Scope and Contents:
The SmartLevel story gives excellent insight into the life cycle of a small Silicon valley start-up in the 1980s. SmartLevel's creator, Wedge Innovations, established a market for a new product, achieved national distribution, off-shore manufacturing, and product licensing, before going out of business due to pressure from profit-hungry venture capitalists.

The records of Wedge Innovations is a "tool biography" that documents the invention and development of a new hand tool, the SmartLevel, an electronic builder's level first conceived in 1985 by Andrew Butler. The SmartLevel Collection is divided into seven series: Corporate Records, Engineering Records, Financial Records, Marketing Records, Operations Records, Product Development Records, and Corporate Culture, reflecting both the organizational structure of Wedge Innovations and the company's working environment.

Series 1, Corporate Records, 1985-1993, address the overall management of Wedge Innovations and document its policies, especially through the company's annual business plans, 1986-1992, and the monthly reports prepared for the Board of Directors' meetings, 1989-1992. This series also details the workings of each department through weekly departmental reports. The staff meetings files, July-November 1989, February 1990-November 1992, are particularly useful for understanding the day-to-day operation of the company.

Series 2, Engineering Records, 1985-1993, document the design and development of the SmartLevel from its conception in 1985 as the WedgeLevel, through its production as the SmartLevel in 1989, and through its refinement into the Pro SmartLevel and the Series 200 SmartLevel in 1991. The design process is particularly well documented through Andrew Butler's and Kevin Reeder's design notebooks and through the detailed technical drawings done by Butler, Reeder, and Ronald Wisnia. Also well documented are the efforts made to solve the many problems associated with the development and quality control of the electronic sensor module that was the heart of the SmartLevel.

Series 3, Financial Records, 1985-1992, include Wedge's summary financial statements from 1985 to 1992.

Series 4, Marketing Records, 1986-1992, document customer and dealer relations through marketing department correspondence, operational records, and advertising campaigns. This series is particularly rich in promotional material (1988-1992), such as advertisements, advertising copy, photographs, product promotion plans, and videotapes that demonstrate the varied features and uses of the products.

Series 5, Operations Records, 1990-1993, document the manufacturing process and the Company's offshore operations.

Series 6, Product Development Records, 1986-1993, document the company's intended development of an entire "Smart Tools" line.

Series 7, Corporate Culture, 1985-1996, contains employee photographs and oral history interviews with key Wedge personnel conducted in 1995 and 1996 by David Shayt, Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History. The interviews discuss the background of the participants, the company's origins and history, product development, the Silicon Valley context, and the efforts of Wedge Innovations successor firm, SmartTool Technologies.
Arrangement:
The collection organized into seven series.

Series 1, Corporate Records, 1985-1993

Series 2, Engineering Records, 1985-1993

Series 3, Financial Records, 1985-1992

Series 4, Marketing Records, 1986-1992

Series 5, Operations Records, 1990-1993

Series 6, Product Development Records, 1986-1993

Series 7, Corporate Culture, 1985-1996
Biographical / Historical:
Andrew G. Butler (b. 1955), the founder of Wedge Innovations exhibited an interest in building construction and an entrepreneurial spirit early in life. From age 12 to 17 he built a boat that he then sailed alone from California to Tahiti, where he spent several years as an independent carpenter and building contractor. After returning to the United States, he earned a B.S. degree in electromechanical engineering from Stanford University (1983) and became a software specialist for Bechtel Construction. In 1985, he conceived of an idea for an electronic carpenter's level that could read a range of angles. Butler formed Wedge Innovations in 1986. He worked in the basement of his home in order to develop and market this level, selling his boat to finance the venture. He hired Marilyn Crowell as his secretary and Robert Nagle and Dan Kellogg as engineers. This company developed the sensor technology and software necessary to build the company's first product, the WedgeLevel. The heart of this tool was an electronic sensor circuit connected to a microprocessor capable of measuring the tool's orientation. This sensor module fit into an ergonomically-designed teak rail with anodized aluminum edges jointly developed by Butler, engineering design consultant Kevin Reeder, and engineer Ronald Wisnia.

In 1987, Wedge moved to Santa Clara to begin manufacturing the WedgeLevel. The transition from a research and development concern to a manufacturing company proved difficult, due to manufacturing and financial difficulties. It was difficult to obtain a reliable yet inexpensive source of teak for the rails, designs for a plastic composite and aluminum rail were developed, while offshore manufacturing of the sensor components was established. Overarching all concerns was the persistent difficulty of obtaining sufficient investment capital. While managing his growing company, Butler also began planning for a line of hand tools that combined microelectronics and user-oriented, ergonomic design. In 1988, the company changed the name of its product to SmartLevel in order to emphasize the company's proposed line of Smart Tools. That same year, the company adopted a new corporate logo, a stylized W with a red wedge, signaling its growing maturity. Promotion of the product also began through demonstrations of the prototype done by consultant building contractor, Rick Feffer.

In January 1989, the SmartLevel prototype was launched at the National Association of Home Builders Show in Atlanta, Georgia. The favorable publicity generated by this launch and by the company's media campaign generated many orders. To supply these orders, Wedge moved to larger quarters in Sunnyvale on April 1, 1989. In June 1989, Wedge gained further publicity by donating several SmartLevels to a Habitat for Humanity project in Milwaukee, where former president Jimmy Carter used one. Although Wedge expected to ship the first SmartLevels in July 1989, there were considerable delays in manufacturing. In particular, there were stability and performance problems with the sensor, which engineer Ken Gunderson was brought in to remedy. The sensor module was re-engineered to be more rugged and the level was redesigned with a plastic composite and aluminum rail. The new level, known as the Pro SmartLevel, was intended for the professional construction market. The first SmartLevels were shipped on September 5, 1989.

In 1990, patents were granted to Andrew Butler, Donald G. Green, and Robert E. Nagle for an inclinometer sensor circuit and to Butler and Ronald Wisnia for a carpenter's level design. That same year, Brian Bayley joined Wedge as Vice-president for Engineering, and Edwin "Win" Seipp joined as Project Manager - DIY SmartLevel. Seipp's responsibility was to develop a low-cost, "do-it-yourself" version of the SmartLevel, which was eventually called the Series 200 SmartLevel. This level had an all-aluminum rail and a non-removable sensor.

In September 1990, the company moved to San Jose and by 1991 had over 60 employees. Although sales continued to grow and name recognition of the product was quite strong, Wedge had difficulty meeting the expectations of its investors. Butler entered into financial negotiations with the Macklanburg-Duncan Corporation, a large-scale manufacturer of hand tools, to seek investment in his company. These negotiations led in November 1992 to the acquisition of Wedge by Macklanburg-Duncan, which dissolved all but Wedge's engineering section. Macklanburg-Duncan today manufactures a "SmartTool" level, while Butler co-owns D2M (Design To Market), a company that develops new product ideas for the market.

SmartLevel Chronology

1992 -- Butler negotiates with Macklanburg-Duncan for a merger to save Wedge. In the midst of the negotiations, Butler is fired by his Board of Directors. Butler regains control of Wedge three months later, fires the replacement president, and sells Wedge outright to Macklanburg-Duncan, which dissolves all but the engineering functions of Wedge.

1991 -- Wedge sponsors a "New Product Development Conference," where numerous designs for new hand tools are worked on. SmartLevel sales and name recognition grows but not quickly enough to meet overhead expenses of new facility or investors' demands.

1990 -- Yet more redesign work, both in-house and with Kevin Reeder, who also develops idea for "SmartTube" carrying case (not built). Patents granted to Andy Butler et al. for inclinometer sensor circuit and carpenter's level design. Wedge hires Brian Bayley as vice-president for engineering to develop a low-cost model of the SmartLevel. The all-aluminum Series 200 SmartLevel is born. Wedge moves to larger facilities in San Jose.

1989 -- SmartLevel launched at National Association of Home Builders show in January. Good press coverage, but cannot meet orders. More publicity from Habitat for Humanity project when former President Jimmy Carter uses a SmartLevel. But stability and performance problems plague sensor. More redesign work results in more rugged Pro SmartLevel. The first SmartLevels shipped on September 5, 1989.

1987-1988 -- Wedge moves to Santa Clara; intends to begin manufacturing and todevelop an entire line of "Smart Tools" but encounters financial and engineering difficulties; Wedge consults with independent design engineer, Kevin Reeder, on level design. Intensive redesign effort develops the SmartLevel, made of plastic and aluminum rail.

1986 -- Wedge Innovations founded in the basement of Butler's house; basic sensor design worked out; teak & aluminum WedgeLevel developed.

1985 -- Idea for electronic carpenter's level formulated by Andy Butler.
Related Materials:
Materials at the National Museum of American History

The Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History contains artifacts related to the SmartLevel Collection. These include five SmartLevels (Accession #1991.0823; 1996.0284; 1996.0285; 1996.0288; and 1996.0289). They are an original teak WedgeLevel, a Pro SmartLevel, a Series 200 SmartLevel, a Bosch version of the SmartLevel, and a Macklanburg-Duncan SmartTool level. There are also four sensor modules (torpedo levels), two sensors, two carrying cases, one cap, one tee shirt, and one wooden puzzle with the inscription "The World Isn't Just Level and Plumb."
Provenance:
The collection was donated by Andrew Butler, SmartLevel inventor and company founder, Brian Bayley, Vice-President for engineering at Wedge Innovations from 1989-1992, and Kevin Reeder, an independent industrial designer, 1995-1997.
Restrictions:
The collection is open for research use.
Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Product demonstrations -- 1980-2000  Search this
Technological innovations -- Hand tools -- 1980-2000  Search this
Electronics -- Tools and implements -- 1980-2000  Search this
Industrial design -- 1980-2000  Search this
Leveling -- 1980-2000  Search this
Teak -- Use of -- 1980-2000  Search this
Level indicators -- 1980-2000  Search this
Venture capital -- 1980-2000 -- United States  Search this
Silicon Valley -- 1980-2000  Search this
Tools -- 1980-2000 -- United States  Search this
Small business -- Management -- 1980-2000  Search this
Investors -- 1980-2000  Search this
Inventors -- 1980-2000  Search this
Engineers -- 1980-2000  Search this
Industrial designers -- 1980-2000  Search this
advertising -- Tools -- 1980-2000  Search this
Carpenters -- 1980-2000  Search this
Carpentry -- Tools -- 1980-2000  Search this
Merchandise displays  Search this
Genre/Form:
Videotapes
Notebooks -- 1980-2000
Oral histories (document genres) -- 1990-2000
Audiotapes
Financial records -- 1980-2000
Financial statements -- 1980-2000
Interviews -- 1980-2000
Correspondence -- 1970-2000
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- Silver gelatin -- 1980-2000
Drawings -- 1980-2000
Advertisements -- 1980-2000
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- Silver gelatin -- 1950-2000
Citation:
The Records of Wedge Innovations, 1985-1996, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0534
See more items in:
Records of Wedge Innovations
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0534
Online Media:

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