On Friday, or maybe it was Saturday, I was watching President’s Trump daily briefing on the coronavirus pandemic and my ears picked up when I heard him him mention some of the companies that were leading the charge against the virus. One of the companies he mentioned was Hillrom.
If you have been around funeral service as long as I have you know that name and you know the history. I thought today might be a good day for a little history lesson to those younger in death care than I to learn about the incredible contributions of the Hillenbrand family to our nation. As you might expect from the name “Hillrom” the company comes from its former parent company Hillenbrand Industries, parent of Batesville Casket Company.
Here are a couple of articles on how Hillrom is helping.
- Hillrom doubles production of products, including ventilators
- Hillrom donates more than $5.5 million to fight COVID-19 pandemic care
I’ll make this somewhat brief but with links for those of you that want to learn more. The story goes that back in about 1861 the father of John A. Hillenband purchased timber land in Indiana instead of farmland since it was cheaper. He cleared the land and sold the timber to railroads for track ties and sold the cleared land, now with more value, to new farmers. In 1906, John A. Hillenbrand rescued the Batesville Casket Company from bankruptcy.
And, then the story that I have always been told was that John’s son, William, was working with the local hospital in Batesville to come up with better beds for the hospital’s patients. Here’s what a history of Hillenbrand Industries (published in 1995 and available for your reading here) says about the history of the hospital bed enterprise which became the foundation of what is now known as Hillrom:
“William A., the second oldest son, vastly broadened the scope of the Hillenbrand operations into the health care field. In an attempt to start a furniture business, he founded the Hill-Rom Company in 1929, during the Great Depression. Determined to set himself apart from other furniture makers, William decided to enter the hospital market. He spent almost a full year visiting hospitals throughout the United States to determine how he could improve furniture in patient’s rooms. The end result was his development of the first wood and metal hospital bed, which soon replaced the prevailing white tubular steel beds.
. . . .Hillenbrand also led changes in the hospital furniture business. In 1950, for instance, Hill-Rom introduced the first electronically-controlled bed. A slew of advancements followed, such as beds that monitored patients, maternity beds, and special beds for burn victims. The company boasts that it has developed virtually every meaningful innovation in the hospital room furniture and equipment industry since World War II.
. . . .In 1991, Hill-Rom acquired French manufacturer Le Courviour S.A., a leading European supplier of hospital beds and furniture. . . .and in 1994 Hill-Rom bought L. & C. Arnold S.G., a major German hospital manufacturer.
. . . . .To jump-start shipments in the slowing hospital furniture market, Hill-Rom focused on the development of niche products. One of the company’s most notable achievements in 1993 was its introduction of the first voice-activated control system for hospital beds. Using a new high-tech attachment, a quadriplegic patient, for example, could operate the bed, call a nurse, adjust a television or radio, make a telephone call, or activate a light switch. The system was designed to pick up sounds from only one direction, and can be trained to respond only to the patient’s voice.
. . . .In 1991 Hillenbrand acquired Block Medical, Inc., of Carlsbad, California, a leading manufacturer of infusion pumps. Block introduced a portable home infusion pump and was experiencing significant productivity gains under Hillenbrand management.”
In 2007 Hillrom split from Hillenbrand Industries and two public companies were formed that are both traded on the New York Stock Exchange to this day. Here is some information on Hillrom as provided by Yahoo Finance.
In today’s world, Hillrom is an international medical products and services company that in 2019 listed sales at about $2.9 billion and Net Income at about $152 million. The company had a market capitalization of about $6.7 billion. Here is their company website.
Hillenbrand Industries, known in death care circles for its subsidiary Batesville Casket Company is a death care solutions and a global diversifed industrial company that had 2019 sales of $1.8 billion and Net Income of about $121 million. The company had a market capitalization of about $1.3 billion. Here is their company website.
Funeral Director Daily take: Knowing the history of these companies I’ve always found it interesting when I either visited people or made death call removals in hospitals and/or nursing care centers. I always looked at the beds the patients were in. I could not help it. . . and in many cases I found it interesting that the patient/deceased would be moving from a Hillenbrand bed to a Hillenbrand (Batesville) casket.
I hope that I added a little insight to the Hillenbrand family and their contribution to American industry.
Death Care in the News:
- Estimates show Wuhan death toll far higher than official figure. Radio Free Asia.
- Cremation of first Jewish victim of coronavirus in Argentina stirs controversy. The Times of Israel
- Coronavirus and funeral restrictions. . .embalmers are concerned. Fox 5 Atlanta.
- Swanson Funeral Homes Founder O’Neil Swanson dies at 86. Detroit Business.
- Kate Cheman, woman funeral home owner. Observer-Reporter Washington County, PA