Olin Brass began as Bridgeport Brass, which was founded in 1865 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The company remained in that state until the early 1940s when it designed and built the Indianapolis westside plant. 

A group photo of electrical workers in front of a building.
Electrical Workers Local No. 481 at Bridgeport Brass, January 1942 Credit: W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

Bridgeport operated the facility for the U.S. Army, employing 2,500 people around the clock during World War II to produce ammunition. After the war, Bridgeport purchased the plant from the government and converted it from defense to commercial manufacturing, although it continued to produce shell cases in the 1950s and 1960s for the Korean and Vietnam wars.

In 1980, the Bridgeport, Connecticut, facility was shut down, and all brass was manufactured in Indianapolis. The company’s fortunes declined in the 1980s. Sales fell from $400 million in 1981 to a loss of $6 million in 1986. Employment also dropped during this time from 1,200 people in 1982 to fewer than 750 in 1987.

After several changes in ownership, Indianapolis entrepreneur Beurt SerVaas bought the plant in 1986. Workers approved wage and benefit concessions to keep the plant running. The Olin Corporation purchased the operation in 1988, renaming it Olin Brass. Based in New York City and Connecticut Olin Brass, like Bridgeport Brass produced ammunition during World War II, a facet of business it continued for the Korean and Vietnam wars.

By the early 1990s, metals produced by Olin Brass comprised about 20 percent of the parent company’s sales. The 1.3-million-square-foot facility at 1800 South Holt Road produced brass, copper, and other metals for use in the automotive, electronics, and communications industries as well as for use by the U.S. Mint and the U.S. Department of Defense. At that time, it employed approximately 1,000 workers.

The recession that began in the 1990s severely impacted Olin’s earnings, forcing it to again pare down operations. In 2003 Olin closed its Indianapolis operations to move all operations to its East Alton, IL plant. 

However, employment declined significantly at the turn of the century. Olin Brass closed the plant in 2002, releasing just over 300 employees. The Olin Corporation then sold Olin Brass to Global Brass in 2007. By 2019 Olin Brass’s parent company merged with German-based Wieland-Werke AG.

Revised February 2021

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