William E. Buchanan (1903-1993)
1997 Paper Industry International Hall of Fame Inductee
Appleton, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
William Buchanan was born January 11, 1903, in Appleton, Wisconsin. In 1924, he received a bachelor of arts degree from Dartmouth College, and in 1926, he received a master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School. Also in 1926, he began his professional career with Appleton Wire Works as sales manager. Twelve years later in 1938, he was elected president of the company.
Mr. Buchanan’s primary contribution to the paper industry was the successful development of Appleton Wire Works from a relatively small regional supplier of Fourdrinier wires in the 1920s to the largest and most successful manufacturer of forming fabrics. This success led to the subsequent consolidation of Appleton Wire Works and Albany Felt Company, which became Albany International, the world’s largest manufacturer of paper machine clothing.
Mr. Buchanan was constantly developing and promoting advances in Fourdrinier wires to allow the papermaker to make better paper at higher speeds and lower costs. Examples include the welded seam, which replaced hand-sewn seams; the staggered weave, which eliminated the problem of wires hanging or freezing to the suction boxes; and finally, the monofilament forming fabric, which made today’s high-speed paper machines possible. He was granted several patents on Fourdrinier wires, the most important being a method for seaming metal wires.
In addition to his technical abilities, Mr. Buchanan had an uncanny knack for recognizing and motivating talented people. This was true whether it was someone on the shop floor or in management. He also knew them all by name.
Anyone who knew Mr. Buchanan considered him a success by any measure. He took a modest legacy and multiplied it many times, assuring his family’s prosperity and providing a solid base for the coming generations. He enjoyed the respect and devotion of a wide-ranging group of associates, from hourly shop workers to the heads of Fortune 500 companies. His gifts were self evident: financial acumen, an eye for talent, the ability to lead, and a deft personal touch. He conducted his business career according to principles that are available to everyone: commit yourself; grow, but carefully; hire good people, give them clear direction, and let them grow; listen and decide; never look back; never underestimate the value of common sense; and repay your good fortune.
Mr. Buchanan became a leading philanthropist in the Fox Valley, giving generously of his time and money to private colleges, particularly Lawrence University and Dartmouth College. His generosity was motivated by a deep and abiding gratitude.
During his lifetime, he served on the board of directors of Northern Paper Mills; Marathon Corporation; American Can; Chicago Northwestern Railroad; Girldings and Lewis; Employers Mutual of Wausau; and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance. He also served as chairman of the board of trustees for Lawrence University and served on the board of trustees for Dartmouth College. In addition, he contributed his time and talents to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance; Appleton Chamber of Commerce; Appleton Memorial Hospital; and the Appleton YMCA.
Mr. Buchanan was a member of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI); Paper Industry Superintendents Association; and Paper Industry Management Association.
Both Lawrence University and Dartmouth College bestowed upon him honorary degrees, and he was awarded the Distinguished Citizen Award, Appleton, Wisconsin.
Mr. Buchanan was elected chairman of the board for Albany International. In 1968, he elected to step down when he reached the age of 70. He remained active well into his eighties, visiting the Fox Valley office every morning during his months in Wisconsin, and he continued to chair the company’s annual meetings.
Mr. Buchanan died on February 12, 1993, one month after his 90th birthday. His widow, Josephine, continues to live in Appleton, WI.