Only in America!

Joseph Behr and Sons, Inc., a recycling company, was founded in 1906. It began in Rockford, Illinois with a capitalization of $30,000.

Joseph Behr, the company’s founder (pictured on the left), immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1902. A year later his wife, Celia, with three children—twins (one boy, one girl) and a baby boy—boarded a vessel to join him. Sadly, measles claimed the lives of the twins during the voyage. Only Isadore, the baby boy, arrived with his mother. Seven more children were born in the U.S. So many mouths to feed necessitated a strong will for economic achievement!

Joseph began his American career based from Chicago’s famed Maxwell Street, pedaling wares from a horse and wagon. He traveled through the countryside selling his produce, eventually settling in Rockford. (Family lore states “that’s where the horse died.”)

The family business started by bottling ammonia, vinegar and bluing. These products soon gave way to scrap iron, metals, rags, paper and glass (cullet). Eventually, the scrap recycling business emerged as their focus.

The family then followed a pattern that was typical of that era—Isadore, the oldest son, quit school after the sixth grade, joined the firm and went to work to help support the family. He became president while still in his teens. After graduating from high school, Phillip Behr, the next oldest, joined his father and brother in the business. Phil succeeded as president after Isadore’s untimely death in 1958. Modest success provided an income that afforded a college education for the six younger children. Isadore’s son, Richard, joined the firm full-time in 1956 and became the company’s third president in 1964. In 2008, Richard moved to Chairman of the Board and William Bremner, the first non-family member, assumed the presidency.

Over the years, Behr has expanded to 16 operating facilities (and counting), located in 3 different states, each with a different name. In 2011, to make it easier for the marketplace to recognize that all of their separate operations were those of one company, with one mission, Behr changed all locations’ names to BEHR IRON & METAL. Along with the new name, a slogan was added—“Recycling Since 1906”—as a reminder that recycling is at the core of everything they do for their customers, and has been, for longer than almost any other company in their industry.