Joseph J. Plank was born in Brillion, Wisconsin, December 30, 1881. He received his high school diploma at Appleton High School. He initially was employed as a designer at Appleton Screen Plate Company. While delivering screen plates to local papermakers, he noted the dandy rolls were arriving from Europe and the East Coast in damaged condition, causing long delays for repairs. He got permission to take a damaged roll home and repaired it successfully.
With a $500 family loan and an old horse barn, Mr. Plank founded J. J. Plank Company in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1907. Today, the company is a multi-million dollar firm producing dandy rolls and auxiliary equipment for paper companies worldwide.
Mr. Plank’s company was dedicated to developing and producing dandy rolls, an important mechanical part of a paper machine’s wet end. Dandy rolls were designed to improve formation and to provide distinctive watermarks differentiating sheets.
He received two patents on the design of dandy rolls, both covering their improved construction. He also pioneered the transition of hand-formed watermarks to the electrotype process. The techniques in dandy roll construction significantly improved the durability and life of the rolls. Improved watermark clarity led to a superior production process for making watermarked grades of paper.
Among his civic contributions, Mr. Plank was commissioner of Appleton Water Works and was instrumental in taking the water utility public. He reorganized the corporation and modernized the facilities to make it safe and reliable.
Mr. Plank died October 17, 1949. At the time, he was survived by his wife, Henrietta Kamps, and children, Sybelle, Gertrude, Mary, William, Margaret, and Annette.