During the 1896 presidential campaign, the big political debate of the day centered on whether to stick with the gold standard or go with the silver standard. Meanwhile, a Michigan plumbing company was getting its start thanks to a metal of a different sort.

Wolverine Brass Inc. celebrated 110 years of business this year. L.A. Cornelius founded Wolverine Brass in Grand Rapids, Mich., inside a two-story wood-frame building, producing two small brass fittings made largely by hand.

Cornelius began his career at 16 working as a plumber’s helper for $4 a week. He remained the head of the company until he turned 78.

Today, the company operates from a 126,000-sq.-ft. factory in Conway, S.C., offering thousands of different products including faucets, ballcocks, toilet and tank repair parts, drainage products, valves, sinks and lavatory supplies, and plumbing and heating specialities.

However, the old adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” certainly applies to Wolverine. From the beginning, Cornelius inaugurated Wolverine’s basic sales policy that remains in place today – selling direct from factory to the plumber.

“For 110 years, we have never deviated from our sales policy,” said Russell E. Dueger, Wolverine’s vice president of marketing, “which is quality product from our plant directly to the professional plumber, allowing a greater and guaranteed profit that cannot be shopped in the retail market.”

In addition, the company employs more than 80 district managers located throughout the United States to provide service to its contractor customers. Contractors can also easily place orders online through Wolverine’s Web site, www.wolverinebrass.com, or by calling 800/944-WBWB or faxing 800/945-WBWB.