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Bretting History


For the video of our timeline, click here.






It all began in 1880 when Christopher George Bretting set sail for America.




Christopher George, commonly known as CG, boarded the TSS Rotterdam at 26 years old.




Upon arriving in New York May 1, 1880, he is listed on the passenger log as Christoph Bretting, a laborer from Germany.




When CG first came to America, he worked for his uncle, John C. Roth, owner of a meat packing company in Ohio.





In 1882, CG became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.





He traveled through the St. Louis, Missouri area where he met and married Jane Elizabeth Richards in 1885.




They ventured on to Fargo, North Dakota, where they welcomed their first son, Ralph Christopher. CG worked at the Union Pacific Railway company.




At that time, several businessmen were trying to generate interest in their city. They boasted that Ashland would become “the Chicago of the Northland.”





One gentleman, John Parish – a businessman from Chicago, took a leap. Mr. Parish reached an agreement to build an operation in Ashland and construction began.




CG moved his family to Ashland. He began working at Parish Manufacturing and it was not long before he became the superintendent.





A short time later, he purchased the Parish Manufacturing Company and renamed it C. G. Bretting Manufacturing Company. With 500 workers, it was a large operation with shops, warehouses, woodworking, foundry, and its own dock in Lake Superior.




From 1890 into the 1920s, the company manufactured machinery and equipment for the sawmill industry.




The Ashland area had the world’s largest concentration of sawmills that harvested the great white pine forests of the region.





In 1901, CG purchased a home for his family at 222 Prentice Avenue in Ashland. This home still exists today.




By this time, CG and Jane were blessed with three sons: Ralph, Howard, and Lyman.





On May 31, 1904, Christopher George Bretting passed away at 50 years old while on vacation with his wife in St. Louis.




He died of a heart attack at the home of Jane’s parents.




Jane was faced with raising 3 sons on her own.




Ralph was 17 . . .



. . . Howard was 10 . . .  


. . . and Lyman was just 4 years old.  



Jane and Ralph went into action to keep the business running. Jane was now president and Ralph the general manager at just 17 years old.




Jane was already authorized to manage the company and was often left in charge when C.G. was out of town on business.




With this transition in management came a transition in manufacturing. Because of the depleting number of sawmills and the increasing number of mines, Bretting began catering to the needs of the mining and shipping industry.





In 1926, C.G.’s youngest son, Lyman, returned to Ashland with an engineering degree from MIT and worked for his brother Ralph.





Lyman assumed the position of President and general manager in 1929 after Ralph moved to Green Bay. He was the sole operator of the company until 1958.




In 1929, Bretting Manufacturing began to manufacturing paper converting equipment designed by and for the Marathon Paper Mill.





By the 1950s, the mining industry heyday was over. Bretting reached another fork in the road.





In 1958, Tad returned to Ashland with a business degree from the University of Notre Dame and went into business with his father.




Tad took over sole management of the company with a dozen workers and his wife, Barbara, as the secretary.




Tad took over sole management of the company with a dozen workers and his wife, Barbara, as the secretary.





In the early 1960s, Bretting began to concentrate on the design and manufacture of paper converting equipment. The first Bretting napkin folder was shipped in 1965.





A new main office was constructed in 1969.




The old office was torn down shortly thereafter.





By the mid-1970s, the reputation of Bretting had spread and the company began receiving inquiries from all over the world.





Bretting pioneered automatic count and separation and by 1974, the first automatic napkin folder shipped.





This allowed Bretting to lead the industry as the demand for dispenser napkins increased with the popularity of fast food restaurants.





And just 2 years later, our first Interfolder machine was created.





On July 20, 1979, Lyman Bretting passed away at the age of 80.



Lyman is pictured here with his 14 grandchildren.





By 1988, the 4th generation of the Bretting family was now active in the business.





In 1989, Tad was honored by the United States Small Business Administration as the national “Small Business Person of the Year.”





His award was presented by President George Bush.





David Bretting was named chief operating officer in 1995.





By 1997, Tad turned over the company to his sons David and Paul. David took the role of president and chief executive officer.





And Paul took the role of chief operating officer.





Tad was inducted into the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame in 1999.





Contract manufacturing services (also known as CMS) expanded its offering to customers throughout the Midwest in 2001 by providing fabrication, machining, and assembly to a variety of industries.





In 2002, Bretting introduced the LCi series equipment at Tissue World Americas.





On September 12, 2003, Tad Bretting passed away at the age of 67.





Tad and Barbara pictured here with their grandchildren.





Tad and Barbara Bretting





Bretting introduced the Elite Series Napkin Folder in 2005.





2006 marked the introduction of the High Speed Multifold Towel Interfolder.





Bretting acquired polywrapping technology in 2009 to begin sales and service of polywrappers.





The company was granted the Management System Standard I.S.O. Certification in 2010. This designation validates company commitment to quality in design, manufacturing, and service.





March 5, 2011, Bretting acquired S&S Specialty Systems in Iron River, Wisconsin, offering expansion into the non-wovens market. Concurrently, the company entered the bag machine market using S&S as the center of operation.





This year, we welcomed two Brettings to the company. Ricky Bretting . . .





. . . and Shawn Bretting as mechanical engineers.




Bretting has been fortunate to commemorate 125 years of heritage, pride, and manufacturing in Ashland with its excellent work ethic and stable work force.


Bretting Open House | 15-16 July 2015




With over 400 employees, the company, which spans over 280,000 square feet, supplies converting equipment and service to 39 countries involving 17 different languages.




The goal to remain focused on the customer and to offer quality products in an ever-changing marketplace is still the driving force at Bretting.

We deliver on our promise, earning the right to be the customer’s choice.

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© C. G. Bretting Manufacturing Co., Inc. • 3401 Lake Park Rd. • Ashland, WI 54806