Bretting History

C.G. Bretting has served the converting and contract manufacturing industry for over 125 years.

We work to deliver reliable, durable and innovative converting equipment that meets our customers’ needs. Consistently, we exceed customer expectations and provide unsurpassed customer service. You can learn more about C.G. Bretting Manufacturing and its history through the following resources.

C.G. Bretting Manufacturing 125th Anniversary Historical Timeline

In celebration of the 125th anniversary of C.G. Bretting Manufacturing and the 5th generation of the Bretting family joining the ranks of managing the company, the team created this video timeline.

C.G. Bretting Manufacturing

C.G. Bretting’s Historical Timeline Download

Access a print version of C.G. Bretting’s historical timeline by clicking here.


It all began in 1880 when C.G. Bretting set sail for America.

Christopher George Bretting


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

Christopher George


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

Laborer from Germany


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

John C. Roth


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

 United States of America


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

Elizabeth Richards


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

Ralph Christopher


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

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.

Mr. Parish


C.G. 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.

C. G. Bretting Manufacturing Company


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

Machinery and equipment


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

Ashland area


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



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

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.

Christopher George Bretting


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

 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 and Ralph


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.

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 manufacture paper converting equipment designed by and for the Marathon Paper Mill.

Marathon Paper Mill


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

Mining industry heyday


While attending the University of Notre Dame, Tad played baseball for the university.


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



Lyman continued to be involved with the business until he retired in 1965.



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.

Napkin folder


A new main office was constructed in 1969.

Main office


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.

Bretting pioneered automatic count


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

Fast food restaurants


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

Interfolder machine


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

 Lyman Bretting


Lyman is pictured here with his 14 grandchildren.



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

Bretting family


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

Small Business Person of the Year.


His award was presented by President George Bush.

President George Bush


David Bretting was named chief operating officer in 1995.

David Bretting


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.

Industry International Hall of Fame


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.

Contract manufacturing services


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

LCi series


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



Tad and Barbara pictured here with their grandchildren.

Tad and Barbara


Tad and Barbara Bretting

Tad and Barbara


Bretting introduced the Elite Series Napkin Folder in 2005.

 Elite Series Napkin Folder


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

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 ISO Certification in 2010. This designation validates company commitment to quality in design, manufacturing, and service.

Management System Standard


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.

S&S Specialty


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


. . . and Shawn Bretting as mechanical engineers.


In 2016, two more Brettings joined the company. Tad Bretting as assistant assembly supervisor . . .

and Blake Bretting, sales and marketing.


S&S Specialty Systems, LLC, is renamed Absolut Manufacturing, LLC.

Absolut Manufacturing


Bretting enters the digital print market. The first Bretting digital print napkin line is shipped.


The Life Multifold Interfolder is rolled out.


The first ATOM line is introduced.


Brand new 30,000 square foot facility is built for Absolut Manufacturing.


T&T Manufacturing, LLC, is added to the Bretting family of companies.


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



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.

400 employees


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.