Maryland has a proud industrial heritage including being the birthplace of game-changing mechanical inventions and hosting major milestones. In this Made in Maryland series, Preservation Maryland and the Baltimore Museum of Industry, will bring you many, “I didn’t know that was invented here!” moments.


The Black & Decker Corporation was founded in Baltimore in 1910 by S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker. The idea for their capstone product began in a small machine shop that produced machines for making milk bottle caps and candy dipping. The breakthrough came in 1916 when Duncan and Decker invented the 1/2 inch portable electric drill. Their invention combined a pistol grip and trigger switch into its design. This drill was revolutionary because it laid the groundwork for today’s power tool industry.

The next year, in 1917, Black and Decker, began working on making a larger, 20,000-square-foot factory just north of Baltimore City in Towson, Maryland, where the company is still headquartered today.

By 1919, the factory had been completed and Black & Decker’s annual sales exceed $1 million, which was a gigantic milestone to hit just nine years after being founded. Another big milestone that Black & Decker accomplished was in 1936 when their common stock began to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Black & Decker helped to aid the cause by manufacturing fuses, gun shells, and other wartime supplies at its Towson plant. For their extensive production output, the company received its first of four World War II citations in 1943, the Army-Navy “E” Award the “E” stands for Excellence in Production. Inadvertently, this massive scale of production would lay the groundwork for the postwar innovation that would turn the company into a household name.

After World War II, Black & Decker again made waves in the consumer market by announcing the world’s first portable electric drill in 1946. Similarly, in 1957, Black & Decker revolutionized the consumer lawn and garden market with the first electric outdoor tools designed for everyday homeowners. They again stunned the world by announcing that they acquired the DeWalt brand from the American Machine and Foundry Corporation in 1960, and then by announcing the world’s first cordless electric drill and the cordless hedge trimmer in 1961 and 1962, respectively. Eighteen years later, in 1979, Black & Decker introduced the Dustbuster, a popular hand-held cordless vacuum that was a groundbreaking new concept in household cleaning, which expanded the cordless revolution from the workbench to the home and beyond.

By 1989, Black & Decker had acquired many other companies on their way to becoming a large manufacturing corporation. The largest was the Emhart Corporation, which owned a plethora of consumer and commercial products. Furthermore, Black & Decker had also been inducted into the Space Foundation’s Space Technology Hall of Fame in 1989 for its cordless power tool achievements and contributions to NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. In 2010, Black & Decker merged with Stanley Works to become Stanley Black & Decker, and celebrated its 100 years of innovation. Just last year, in 2017, Stanley Black & Decker purchased the Craftsman from Sears.

The Preservation Maryland Made in Maryland blog series is part of a partnership with the Baltimore Museum of Industry. The Baltimore Museum of Industry celebrates Maryland’s industrial legacy and shows how innovation fuels ongoing progress. The author is Ross Bater, a Waxter Intern at Preservation Maryland.