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About Us
  American Wilbert, Chicagoland's Hometown Vault Company
 
American Wilbert serves Cook, DuPage, Northern Kane, Lake McHenry counties in Illinois and Northwestern Lake county Indiana. 
 
American Wilbert is the only burial vault manufactured and delivered by union personnel in the greater Chicagoland area.
 
9 out of 10 funeral professionals trust Wilbert when burying their family members, why consider anything else?  Ask your funeral professional for Wilbert by name and if they do not carry Wilbert then call us toll-free at 855.269.4523 for a list of funeral homes carrying our full line of products in your area.
 
American Wilbert Mission Statement
 
To direct, develop and implement appropriate strategies resulting in a value proposition for families incorporating quality deathcare products and service while respecting the long-term funeral director relationships built on trust and mutual respect.



  


 

History of American Wilbert Vault Corporation
 
Since 1880

An old adage maintains that necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of the Haases, Forest Park's first family, necessity not only led to the invention of the first waterproof, concrete burial vault in the United States, it also prompted the development of the American Wilbert Vault Corp.. Incidentally, American Wilbert celebrated its centennial in September of 1980 and has the distinction of being the largest burial vault manufacturer in the world.

Chicago was just a small town when Ferdinand Haase arrived from Germany in July of 1849. He believed in the promise of the "new country", and relying on his skills as an upholsterer and harness maker, he came to build a life for himself in America.
 
Chicago of the 1850's there was little call for the skills in which he apprenticed in the old country. Because of this, Ferdinand bought a large tract of land west of the city and turned to farming and raising cattle. Along with his family, he settled in a small house on the property. The Haase family prospered in the cattle business for several years until the prairies began to be bought up in small lots, developed, divided and fenced in. Ferdinand then turned his grounds into a park to meet the needs of the growing Chicago metropolis. It soon became a very popular and profitable resort. As the resort's reputation began to catch on, weekend guests and picnickers flocked to its woods and lakes and broad green meadows. Ferdinand became taken up with the resort business and bought more land on which to expand his enterprise. Ferdinand's landholdings of Chicago's west boundaries then became very extensive, so he sold one tract of the land to Concordia Cemetery.  Unfortunately, the Haase estates, (as Ferdinand's landholdings and investments were then called) came upon some unaccustomed lean times. This was due to a number of poor financial decisions including mismanagement of his funds, bad investments, bank failure, and countless generosities that were never repaid.
The problem now was to revitalize the family finances and get a fresh start. Ferdinand decided to call his two oldest sons Emil and Leo to a meeting. At this meeting he suggested that with the family's vast acreage west of Chicago, it may be a good investment to go into the cemetery business. In 1874, the two eldest Haase sons opened Forest Home Cemetery.
As the cemetery business grew, so did several of its problems. There existed a confusing hodge-podge of corner posts and lot markers which lot owners at Forest Home and other cemeteries throughout the country built to show their lot boundaries. Further problems came with the necessity both to provide water throughout the cemetery and to also provide a drain off for excess water after winter thaws and spring showers. Leo Haase found solutions to these various problems could be made of concrete.
With the knowledge he had gained over the past several years in selling gravel and aggregate to concrete contractors, he decided to spin off a separate operation from Forest Home Cemetery. The function of this new company would be the manufacture of concrete products. In 1880, Leo Haase opened the L.G. Haase Manufacturing Company. Cemetery lot markers, concrete benches, hydrant boxes for cemetery hydrants, well tile, catch basin covers, sewer tile, and sectional concrete boxes used as outer burial receptacles in Forest Home Cemetery were some of the major products he produced.
Leo Haase managed the L. G. Haase Manufacturing Company for the Haase estates from its inception until 1913 when his nephew Wilbert W. Haase became manager. The concrete products business grew along with all of the other investments and businesses of the now financially revitalized Haase estates. The L. G. Haase Manufacturing Company carved an enviable reputation for itself on the quality of its concrete products which it made from cement imported from Germany and Belgium. Although concrete burial vault receptacles did not come on as one of the most successful products in the company's early history, the L. G. Haase Manufacturing Company reported good volume and steady increases in the sales of this product.
In 1913, 139 concrete burial vaults were sold in the Chicagoland area by the L. G. Haase Manufacturing Company. In 1916, a portion of the present office and factory at 1015 Troost Avenue, Forest Park, Illinois was built with factory facilities used primarily for the manufacture of concrete burial vaults. An increase in burial vault sales was experienced due to the influenza epidemic that took place from 1918 to 1919 when influenza deaths reached 1,500 for every 100,000 people. At that time only L. G. Haase Manufacturing Company had sufficient inventory to meet the demand.
In 1919, Wilbert W. Haase purchased the L. G. Haase Manufacturing Company from his uncle, changed its name to American Vault Works, and operated the business as a sole proprietorship.
In 1921 and 1922, the Forest Park plant was expanded to permit the manufacture of additional burial vaults. During this period, land was acquired on Chicago's far southside and a plant comprising 4,000 square feet was built for manufacturing burial vaults. This was done in order to provide better service to southside funeral directors.
Influenza deaths in 1922 and 1923, which had numbered 500 per 100,000 people, were again responsible for additional volume. Due to its large inventory of finished units, American Vault Works was able to meet the heavy demand for vaults, just as it did in 1918 and 1919.
On May 15, 1924, the business was incorporated as the American Vault Works, Inc. During this year, five acres of land were purchased in Des Plaines, Illinois and a plant of 2,250 square feet was erected. This plant serviced funeral directors interring vaults in cemeteries on the northside of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.
In 1928, experimental work on the development of the asphalt lined Wilbert burial vault began. Wilbert applied his creativity to the vault business and in 1930 he had invented the first waterproof concrete vault in the country. On October 7, 1930, the first Wilbert burial vault was interred in Oak Woods Cemetery located in Chicago. At about this time, the south side plant was enlarged to accommodate the continuous heavy demands from funeral directors in that area.
In 1930, Wilbert, as a sole proprietorship and separate from American Vault Works, Inc., formed a new company called the Wilbert W. Haase Company. This business was established for the purpose of selling exclusive territorial franchises to prospective licensees. The licensees purpose was to manufacture and sell Wilbert burial vaults under their "applied for" patents. In addition to selling the franchises, this new company also sold burial vault forms as well as other equipment, materials, and supplies necessary to manufacture concrete burial vaults.
Wilbert, who was also a pilot, then took to the skies to introduce his vaults to potential manufacturers throughout the country. His own company, American Vault Works, became the first licensee. Today approximately 350 Licensees, Sublicensees, Branches and Distributors of Licensees exist. This "Family of Licensees" and their employees stretch from coast to coast, in small towns and large cities, from single-plant ownerships to multi-state operations.
For many years the American Vault Works, Inc. manufactured forms and other equipment for the Wilbert W. Haase Company. In its early days, the licensor company was actually housed in the offices of the American Vault Works, Inc. in Forest Park, Illinois.
In 1937, American Vault Works, Inc. purchased acreage in Broadview, Illinois to provide production and storage space not available in the Forest Park plant. On May 15, 1944, the corporate name was changed from American Vault Works, Inc. to the American Wilbert Vault Corp.
In 1946, the company purchased an old salvage yard in Rockford, Illinois to be used as a manufacturing plant site to service the Rockford area. The building at this location was renovated and expanded to provide facilities for the increased business.
In 1952, American Wilbert Vault Corp. purchased the Otis Vault Co. in Elgin, Illinois. This plant was enlarged to provide greater production and service capabilities for this market northwest of Chicago.
Three large manufacturing plants in the Chicagoland area, coupled with the Rockford and Elgin divisions, utilized more than 148,500 square feet of manufacturing and warehousing space. This was necessary for serving the 650 funeral directors who in turn serviced the 13.9 million people of the greater Chicagoland metro market.
The early success of American Wilbert Vault Corp. was due primarily to the untiring efforts of Wilbert W. Haase and his officers and sales staff. The present corporate officials adopted the philosophies of business which had been practiced by Wilbert W. Haase, and the continued success of the business can be attributed to solidarity of the foundation upon which it was built. While it is true that American Wilbert Vault Corp. owes its strong beginnings and early success to the determination and good business sense of Wilbert W. Haase, it is equally true that its phenomenal growth and present preeminence are the results of the judgments, drive, and character of Mr. Haase's successor, Richard G. Reichle, Sr.
Mr. Reichle and Mr. Haase met when Mr. Reichle was teaching at Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago. Dick Reichle joined American Wilbert Vault Corp. in 1945 and became its President in 1947. He is an alumnus of Xavier University in Cincinnati and is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. After his college graduation and completion of Mortuary Science school, Dick worked as an associate of the Gilligan Funeral Home in Cincinnati. He joined the Cincinnati School of Embalming as an instructor where he taught for two years. He left this post to join Worsham in Chicago and was a faculty member and Registrar for five years. He finally left Worsham in 1945 to join American Wilbert and became President of the company in 1947. Mr. Reichle served his Presidency from 1947 through 1974.
By the very nature of its business, American Wilbert Vault Corp. became enmeshed in major tragedies as they occurred in its market. One of the most recent and heartrending was no exception. On December 1, 1958 a fire that occurred in Chicago shocked its millions of citizens. The blaze at Our Lady of the Angels Grammar School claimed the lives of 95, all except three of them were children. Because of its inventory, American Wilbert Vault Corp. was able to immediately donate 53 MONARCH WHITEX burial vaults for the mass burial of those interred in Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois.
In 1970, Dick Reichle and the American Wilbert Vault Corp. received national recognition as well as a citation by Wilbert, Inc. for the company's sale of its 1,000,000th Wilbert unit. The presentation of the citation to Mr. Reichle was made by Mr. John J. Jameson, Wilbert, Inc.'s President (now deceased). Mr. Jameson remarked, in giving the citation to Mr. Reichle, that this was, "an accomplishment that bears out the quality of American Wilbert's products and the high esteem in which this company is held by its customers." It may also be noted that this accomplishment was very much in the tradition of old Ferdinand Haase himself.
Gregory C. Reichle, who assumed the Presidency of American Wilbert Vault Corp. when his father retired in 1975, now oversees the day to day operations of the company.
American Wilbert Vault Corp. maintains its own fleet of delivery and pick-up trucks, and also has its own cement trucks and trailer rigs that haul sand and gravel to the various plant sites.
The executive and sales offices are headquartered on the site of the original American Vault Works, Inc. in Forest Park, Illinois where all vault orders are received.
American Wilbert Vault celebrated its centennial in September of 1980 at its Broadview and Elgin plants. A local businessman man stated, "The history of the company stands as a testament to the determination, inventiveness and hard work that characterizes so many Forest Park businesses. It also contains a happy solution to one businessman's response to financially troubled times."
Mr. Reichle and several others modified the original Wilbert vault to keep pace with the latest technology. In 1967, a thermoplastic liner was introduced. Under Reichle's leadership, American Wilbert Vault sold its one millionth Wilbert unit in 1970.
Wilbert sold the Wilbert W. Haase Co. to those who had bought Wilbert vault franchises and helped make his invention a respected part of the vault industry.
Images

American Wilbert's civic responsiblity
 
Our Lady of Angels Fire burials
 
American Wilbert donated burial vaults to the Chicago Catholic Cemeteries to inter victims of this tragedy.
 
Cook County Indigent burial
 
American Wilbert outer containers are used to bury the unclaimed remains.
 
Children's Memorial Hospital
 
 
 
The Wilbert Foundation: Shining Rays of Hope on North American Children

When a family member dies, surviving children often struggle with the meaning of life and death. Without proper grief counseling, a child’s wounded emotions can develop into lifelong problems.
Formed by Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc. in September 2002, the Wilbert Foundation provides crucial funds and resources for supporting children and their families as they cope with the trauma of grief, death, or preparation for surgery.
 
The foundation pledges numerous grants to children’s hospitals’ Chaplaincy programs each year. The funds are used for volunteers, counselors, ministers, and awareness initiatives that help guide children back to peace, hope, and comfort after their ordeals.
 
Other Wilbert Foundation goals include building an endowment fund of more than $1 million, distributing $500,000 in grants by 2010, and offering a matching grant program for Wilbert employees and licensees.
For more information about the Wilbert Foundation, please contact Terry Whitlock at (888) WILBERT (945-2378).