Overhead Door Company of Olmsted County

406 37th Street NE, Suite A • Rochester, MN 55906 


Overhead Door Company of Olmsted County Blog

The History Of The Garage Door

Posted by Meagan Steinberg on February 24, 2015 at 8:30 AM

For any history buffs out there, we thought we’d share some historical information on the garage door industry which was provided by Door + Access Systems Newsmagazine.  The Door People take pride in understanding their roots of the garage door industry, and it is in fact quite interesting to learn how it all evolved!   

C_G_Johnson_Inventor historical-truck-back historical-truck-side

Somewhere between 1921 and 1941, the garage door industry was launched.  C.G. Johnson of Detroit, MI, started Overhead Door Corporation in 1921.  This is when the mass manufacturing of sectional garage doors began.  Vehicles were becoming more popular and affordable.  In 1913, Ford introduced the Model T and was the first company to produce more than 100,000 cars.  The first Model T’s sold for approximately $850, but by 1924, mass production techniques brought the selling price down to just $290. 

Through the 1920’s auto production remained high and Americans traded in their horses and buggies for gas-powered vehicles.  They began building garages with doorways sized to accommodate the height and width of cars and trucks.  Sectional garage doors became preferred over swing-out barn doors. 

The crash of Wall Street in 1929 put a major halt to auto production and dropped over 75 percent.  Even though the 10-year Great Depression took its toll on car production, many entrepreneurs pushed through the tough times to find a new way to make a living.  By the outbreak of World War II in 1941, about 10 companies were making sectional doors and the top three were Overhead Door, Crawford Door and Rowe Mfg. 

The postwar boom forced some garage door companies to shut down, while others contributed to the war efforts by producing needed parts such as aircraft wing struts and bracing for fighter planes.  By 1944, garage door manufacturers knew business was about to take off.  Housing skyrocketed and Americans realized the importance and convenience of having attached garages and sectional garage doors.  By 1960 the number of garage door manufacturers more than doubled. 

In the beginning most of the commercial and residential garage doors were made of wood.  In 1956, federal funding for the interstate highway system began and this led to the demand to have aluminum and even glass garage doors.  In 1959, the production of fiberglass garage doors became popular. 

By 1970, more than 30 garage door manufacturers existed in the U.S. By 1974 a majority of new homes that were being built included a two car stall garage, which helped the garage door industry to expand once again.  By this time, some of the first door manufacturers had been in business for nearly 30 years.  A number of acquisitions began taking place. 

Consumers’ preferences continued to evolve.  Wood and fiberglass doors lost their popularity while steel doors became the most desired for commercial applications.  Between 1980 and 1999, the steel raised panel garage door spurred a boom in garage door production, regardless of a stale economy.  Many garage door manufacturers pushed for expansion by entering into other markets, including Canada, and began exporting to other locations around the world.  In addition, some of the earliest garage door brands/companies opted to close their doors including Rowe, Barcol and McKee. 

By the year 2000, garage door companies were forced to do away with old, boring designs and raise the bar when it came to offering new designs, colors and styles.  Even during this most recent time period, our economy has faced its own challenges, resulting in the garage door industry feeling the overall impact as it saw new construction for homes decrease significantly.  The economic downturn forced several manufacturers to exit the market, which some focused on acquisitions.  For instance, Overhead Door bought out its long-time major competitor, Wayne-Dalton in 2009.  The financial strength of Sanwa Shutter of Japan, Overhead Door’s parent company, helped make the purchase possible. 

You may be asking yourself, What does the future hold? Some experts believe our economy is comparable to America’s resurgence after the Great Depression.  In the meantime, Overhead Door Distributors, such as Overhead Door Company of Olmsted County, are proud to offer garage door products and services that are second to none for its customers in Olmsted County, MN.