William Wheeler Coleman was a great visionary for the mining industry, who served 46 years, from 1911 to 1957, as President and Chairman of the company that is now Bucyrus International, a world leader in the manufacture of surface and underground mining equipment. Founded in 1880, Bucyrus has been led by many talented managers and directors; however, William Wheeler Coleman stands out as a leader who never lost sight of the mandate on which Bucyrus is founded—the focus on the manufacture of machines that move the earth.
William Wheeler Coleman, a trained engineer and metallurgist, started his career with Bucyrus as foundry superintendent in 1905. He was promoted to works manager in 1907 and to second vice president in 1909. During 1910, he gained experience in sales and promotion, engineering, manufacturing, and purchasing. By 1911, only three years after 77 Bucyrus shovels had played a major role in the building of the Panama Canal, he became President of Bucyrus at the age of 38. As President and Chairman, he served Bucyrus through both World Wars and the Great Depression. He then became a member of the Bucyrus Executive Committee, and in 1962 he became Honorary Life Chairman.
Shortly after Coleman’s election as President of Bucyrus, the company purchased a long-established competitor, the Vulcan Steam Shovel Company of Toledo, Ohio. In the spring of 1912, the first newly designed revolving shovels were being built at the former Vulcan plant in Evansville, Indiana. Also in 1911, Coleman initiated the purchase of the Atlantic Equipment Company, another competitor, and Bucyrus became a public company named Bucyrus Company.
In 1922, Coleman saved jobs by overruling the decision of his Board of Directors to close the Evansville plant and instead initiated measures to raise the plant's efficiency and modernize its product line. Within a short time, the plant returned to profitability and became an essential manufacturing base for the following 60 years. Coleman also initiated strategic acquisitions such as the Erie Steam Shovel Company (1927), Monighan Manufacturing Company (1931), and Armstrong Drill Company (1933), whose products can still be regarded as the backbone of Bucyrus' dragline and drill products. Following the Erie acquisition, the Bucyrus Company name was changed to Bucyrus-Erie Company, and that name was retained until 1997, when it became Bucyrus International.
William Wheeler Coleman recognized the importance of international markets early in his career, when he opened several Bucyrus offices in Europe only months after the end of World War I. William Wheeler Coleman was both a great visionary and a great businessman. He guided Bucyrus through periods of depression and prosperity. He developed a Bucyrus corporate culture. He developed a business strategy that enabled the company not only to survive but to prosper into the dynamic entity that today is Bucyrus International, Inc., with 10,000 employees worldwide. With foresight and business acumen, William Wheeler Coleman became one of America's great industrial leaders - and a true Bucyrus Warrior.