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H.O. Penn Machinery Company
Hamilton O. Penn, Frank Ginsberg, and E. Gwynn Robinson formed the Ginsberg-Penn Co. in 1921.
The new firm was incorporated on February 17, 1923, and represented various manufacturers of construction and industrial equipment and operated out of offices in the Hudson Terminal in downtown New York City.
Sales at that time centered around cement mixers, small shovels, and paving machines. The name of the company was changed to H.O. Penn Machinery Company Inc.?on December 9, 1926.
Moving Out of Manhattan
Not long after the company’s name change, Hamilton Penn moved operations out of Manhattan and into a new location in the Bronx.
The company’s new warehouse and service shop was located at 220 E. 134th Street. The business had grown so rapidly, however, that the company was moved to the Port Morris Terminal at 140th Street and the East River in the Bronx on May 30, 1930. This location provided dock facilities and a private railroad siding and was the company's headquarters until 1976, when the corporate offices were moved to Armonk, N.Y.??
Awarded New Territory
In 1933 the company was awarded the Caterpillar Tractor Co. territory for New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, and Dutchess counties in New York State.
The Caterpillar line was one of about 40 lines that HO Penn Machinery Company carried at that time. A branch store for parts and service was opened on Long Island in a Roosevelt Field hanger, which was later moved to Mineola and then to Westbury.
A Major Player in the New York Construction Market
H.O. Penn and Caterpillar were key factors in the construction of new highways and the reclamation of lands throughout the area. In 1937, New York City revamped its entire landfill operation with the purchase of 10 Caterpillar crawler tractors, and 18 crawler type refuse wagons. This replaced the narrow gauge railroad the New York City had previously used. ??
‘Dollar a Year Man’
During World War II, Ham Penn supported America by serving as a “Dollar a Year Man,” serving for compensation of one dollar per year. Ham Penn specialized in acquiring used construction equipment for the armed services. While Ham Penn was in Washington serving his country, Jerrold A. “Jack” Frost managed H.O. Penn; Frost was then vice president and sales manager, joining H.O. Penn in 1931. Through his sales efforts, Frost was instrumental in expanding the company's business on Long Island. During the War, H.O. Penn also served as a repair facility for broken down construction machinery sent by the armed forces. ??
Around this time, Caterpillar had begun looking to increase its presence in Michigan. The manufacturer chose H.O. Penn to be its dealer there. Eventually, Caterpillar decided that it wanted its dealer network to operate only in territories that were geographically connected. Ham Penn turned the Michigan dealership over to Jack Frost on April 1, 1944. The HO Penn Dealership, renamed Michigan Tractor & Machinery, is now known as Michigan CAT and is run by Jack’s grandson, Jerry Jung. ??
H.O. Penn in Connecticut
In 1944, in return for giving up the Michigan territory, H.O. Penn became the Caterpillar dealer for the state of Connecticut. A parts and service store was subsequently opened in Newington. ??
Leadership Changes at H.O. Penn
In 1946, Ham Penn, who was serving as president of the Associated Equipment Distributors, died suddenly of a heart attack.
Robert W. Cleveland Sr. and Royal E. Cleveland asked Caterpillar if they could acquire the H.O. Penn dealership. At the time, Bob Cleveland Sr., along with his brother, Roy, ran a construction company, Robert W. Cleveland & Company, which was based in New Jersey.
Bob was also the president of the New Jersey AGC. His construction experience included building roads at Fort Dix and the Naval Ammunition Depot in New Jersey during World War II. He also did the landscaping for the first New York World’s Fair and the Henry Hudson Parkway, as well as building the first two sections of the Garden State Parkway. ??
But Caterpillar informed Bob and Roy that H.O. Penn had already been taken over by some of its key employees, Ralph Johnson and Stuart Wade.
In 1948, Caterpillar offered the Clevelands a new territory in central Pennsylvania that formerly belonged to Beckwith Machinery. They accepted and, as a result, Cleveland Brothers Equipment Company was formed. ??
Stuart Wade died in November of 1955 and by 1965 Ralph Johnson was looking to sell his controlling interest in the H.O. Penn business. Caterpillar approved the Cleveland Brothers Equipment Company’s acquisition of H.O. Penn.
H.O. Penn and Cleveland Brothers had common ownership, they were operated as separate businesses. Bob came to New York to run H.O. Penn and Roy stayed in Pennsylvania to run Cleveland Brothers. ?
Separating the Companies
A few years later, the two companies were split up with Bob Cleveland and his family having controlling interest of H.O. Penn. Roy Cleveland and his family became the sole owners of Cleveland Brothers Equipment Company.
H.O. Penn Today
HO Penn now operates out of five locations, all of which offer full sales and service for Caterpillar products. The Newington, Conn., facility was occupied in 1968. The Poughkeepsie, N.Y., operation, originally established with the purchase of Poughkeepsie Farm Supply Co., was moved from Brickyard Hill on Route 44 to its current location in 1968. It was remodeled in 1995 when it became the H.O. Penn's corporate headquarters after the Armonk facility was sold. The Bronx store was relocated to its current location in 1976 and the Holtsville, N.Y., store was completed in 1982, replacing the Westbury location. The Bloomingburg, N.Y., location was opened in 2004.??
H.O. Penn has nearly 400 employees working to serve its customers. H.O. Penn offers extensive service expertise in Caterpillar products and a vast inventory of parts as well as more than 700 Caterpillar machines available to meet customers' rental and equipment needs. H.O. Penn also added Metso crushers and screeners, and Crane Carrier trucks to its product offerings. Service and sales personnel are factory-trained to help provide the quickest and most cost-effective solutions to customers. ??
H.O. Penn Used Equipment on Construction Equipment Guide
The Web site for Construction Equipment Guide lists hundreds of pieces H.O. Penn’s used equipment. Our holdings offer detailed information on each piece, including Hours, Make/Model, and Serial/Stock numbers. In addition, the CEG database contains thousands of photos of H.O. Penn’s used equipment.
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Dealer Information at a Glance
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Check Out H.O. Penn’s Inventory
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