Times were simpler back in 1904. The Wright Brothers had just made their historic first flight at Kitty Hawk. A patent for the disposable safety razor was issued to King C. Gillette. And a soon-to-be American tradition - the ice cream cone - was introduced to the globe at the World's Fair in St. Louis.

These were the times that inspired Charles Bryant to lay the foundations for another American tradition: simple, reliable comfort.

From those early gas-fired boilers to today's sophisticated home comfort systems, Bryant Heating and Cooling Systems has certainly come a long way. And, this week, Bryant is kicking off its 100th year anniversary as it plans to have its largest national dealer convention in company history at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

It looks to be a big hoopla - as maybe it should be. Not many companies can weather the financial and consumer storms for 50 years, much less 100.

Heating, Cooling, And Racing

Sure, when Charles Bryant founded his Natural Gas Regulator Company in Cleveland, he was not necessarily looking to manufacture more than gas-fired water heaters. However, 20 years later, Bryant made the majority of gas boilers sold in the United States.

By 1933, Bryant became part of Dressler Industries. Four years later, it launched the Dualator, an all-in-one heating and cooling unit. A few years later, the U.S. Army and Navy called on Bryant to use its heating expertise in the war effort. Before 1950, Bryant, Day & Night, and Payne bought themselves out of Dressler to form Affiliated Gas Equipment (AGE).

There are some of you who may remember when Carrier Corp. purchased AGE. (For the record, the year was 1955.) That year, Bryant moved its corporate headquarters to Indianapolis; it's here that Bryant began its affiliation with Indy racing. The first Bryant car debuted at the Indy 500 in 1958.

Through the years, drivers such as Eddie Sachs, Rodger Ward, Janet Guthrie, Scott Brayton, and Arie Luyendyk have carried the Bryant colors during the traditional Memorial Day event.

The rest, as they say, is history.

At this week's festivities, the company plans to introduce even more products and services to be rolled out this year, including what they are billing, as "the company's most advanced heating and cooling system." Al Unser Jr. and Scott Sharp will be a part of Bryant Racing in this year's Indy Racing League season.

As part of the celebration, the company said it will have a "Hall of Fame," where reclaimed and refurbished functioning products throughout the company's history will be on display. Don't be surprised if there is a large birthday cake, too.

The Century Club

While you're at it, put candles on the cake for CertainTeed Corp. One of the leading North American manufacturers of building materials, which includes residential, commercial, and mechanical insulation, is now in the prestigious Century Club.

Founded by George Brown in 1904, CertainTeed got its start in East St. Louis, Ill., as the General Roofing Manufacturing Co. A decade later, the company slogan, "Quality Made Certain, Satisfaction Guaranteed" became the inspiration for the CertainTeed name.

"We are proud to be among the enduring companies that have had the acumen to thrive through a century's worth of evolving business climates," said Jean-Francois Phelizon, president and CEO of CertainTeed.

With all of these 100-year-old companies around, I don't feel so old turning 50 this year. (Yeah, right.)

Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or markskaer@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 02/16/2004