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The name would seem to say it all: Capewell Horsenails Inc. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see what has been the foundation of the company’s fortune. Today, as at its founding in 1881, Capewell Horsenails is in the business of manufacturing nails for attaching horseshoes to hooves.
But to think that the name represents the full telling of the company’s tale is to fail to recognize a remarkable history that has seen Capewell survive fire, flood and — most impressively — a revolution in transportation that swept away hundreds of other companies that once rode the horse to financial security.
The Capewell story is an odd combination of old and new. The company still makes its nails using the same automatic cold swaging process that was revolutionary when it was first introduced in the 19th century. Its nail-making machines still turn out nails at the rate of 112 a minute in more than a score of styles. But the same nails are packaged by equipment using a computerized scale with integrated box making and automated filling of the right unit of nails in the boxes. The equipment allows one operator to package, seal and label a year’s production that runs in excess of 1 1/4 million pounds.
Today, Capewell is owned by Mustad — itself an international company with a history that stretches back 132 years. The acquisition by Mustad was part of a century-long process that saw the number of companies…