The Easy-On Cap, Part of Eaton History

Eaton has manufactured parts for automobiles since the early days of the American automobile industry. The company was initially founded in 1911 by Joseph Oriel Eaton as Torbensen Gear and Axle Company to manufacture the first gear-driven truck axle. Originally located in New Jersey, the company moved to Cleveland in 1915. In 1916, it was incorporated as the Torbensen Axle Company.

The old cap pictured above is interesting for the inscription on the inside which is a part of Eaton’s history and also helps to pinpoint the date of manufacture. It is difficult to make out in the photos, but it reads, “THE EATON AXLE & SPRING CO. EASY-ON CAP DIV.”

The Torbensen Axle Company had become the Eaton Axle & Spring Company in 1923. Throughout the twenties and thirties, the company acquired other concerns involved in the automotive business, and one of those acquisitions was the Easy-On Cap Company. The Easy-On Cap had been invented by Dr. J. S. Reid of the Cleveland Health Department who had been looking for something more efficient than the threaded cap and came up with the Easy-On which was fastened by a simple half-turn. When Eaton purchased the company in July of 1928, the company was making about one million caps per month including gas, radiator, and oil caps. The Eaton company underwent another name change in 1932 when it became the Eaton Manufacturing Company, so the cap pictured must have originated sometime between the 1928 purchase of Easy-On Cap and the 1932 name change from Eaton Axle and Spring.

The Metal Polisher’s Union was apparently peeved at Easy-On for some reason in 1929, but Easy-On was in good company with Stant, Louisville Slugger and Winchester Repeating Arms also appearing on the Union’s plaintive “We Do Not Patronize” list:

The 1926 Nash came equipped with Easy-On oil and gas caps, and one automobile that featured a stock Easy-On radiator cap was the Silver Anniversary 1929 Buick.

By 1934, it was reported that one-third of American automobile manufacturers used Eaton bumpers, springs, and valves. A 1961 story about the company’s 50th anniversary said there was at least one Eaton-made part in every American-made truck and car on the road. The Eaton company underwent additional name changes before becoming the Eaton Corporation in 1971, but whatever it calls itself, it has played an important role in the history of the American automobile.