In 1901, a 22-year-old Lynde Bradley invented the compression rheostat. This innovative product offered a better way to control the speed of electric motors. He soon quit his job, secured a $1,000 investment from his lifelong friend and father figure Dr. Stanton Allen, and founded a business that would become the Allen-Bradley Company. In early 1904, Lynde’s younger brother Harry joined the team. Together, they persevered through an array of technical and business challenges, until ultimately the fruits of their labor were rewarded.
Over the next 80 years the company grew to become internationally-recognized for high-quality electronic products found in everything from radios and televisions in times of peace, to walkie-talkies, RADAR, and fighter planes in times of war, to components that helped send man to the moon and enter the computer age. In 1985, the Allen-Bradley Company was sold to Rockwell International for $1.65 billion. A portion of the proceeds of that sale went to The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, boosting its assets to more than $290 million, making it one of the largest foundations in the United States at the time. To date, the Foundation has awarded nearly $1 billion in grants to almost 2,000 organizations that are committed to preserving and extending the values and institutions that were essential to the Bradley brothers’ success.
The Bradley brothers lived and worked according to several philosophical principles. They believed in the dignity and decency of each person and celebrated both the individual and community. Harry and Lynde Bradley valued principled individuals who developed grit and self-reliance by taking risks, making the most of educational opportunities and working hard. They believed in robust social networks where co-workers and neighbors enjoyed “good living” and supported one another.
The Bradley brothers also believed that the good society is a free society. Only in an environment of political and economic freedom could individuals fully develop their talents, skills and intellects and contribute to the improvement of the human condition. The Bradley brothers were committed to preserving and defending the traditions of representative government and private enterprise that enabled America to flourish intellectually and economically.
The Bradley Foundation continues the Bradley brothers’ commitment to supporting vibrant community life in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin. The Foundation also supports efforts across the country that protect and promote the ideas and institutions that made the Bradleys’ success possible. The Foundation’s local and national giving are intended to be complementary, with Wisconsin serving as a locus in which the Foundation’s principles can be tested and their worth demonstrated.