Ann Klein of Elizabethtown, a Woman in a Man's World

Kathleen Forney

In 1951, William Klein Jr., of the Klein Chocolate Company, married Elizabeth Ann Fisher, known to all as Ann, of Lancaster County, PA when she was 21 years of age. Her father, J. Henry Fisher, was a keen businessman. In 1940, he purchased the forty-five-year-old struggling New Holland Machine Company with four other local investors. Using their innovative ideas and savvy business skills they catapulted their newly reorganized company into a worldwide success.
As the company grew exponentially it drew the attention of the international Sperry Corporation. Sperry purchased the successful company than turned around and sold it to Ford Motor Company in 1986.
Ann's father's sense of adventure and interest in machinery strongly influenced her. However, Ann's interest did not focus on farm machinery but cars, in particular, Rolls Royce and Bentley. Ann and her husband, William Klein, Jr. had over 55 antique cars garaged in Elizabethtown. Ann became somewhat of a legend and there are many stories surrounding this colorful woman. One that many locals fondly remember is the spirited Ann driving down South Market Street behind the wheel of one of her beautifully restored antique convertibles with a cigar dangling from the corner of her mouth.
Ann's father’s entrepreneurial skills also had a strong influence on her. That quality was evident when Ann encountered difficulty in finding tires for the families collection of antique cars. As Firestone and Goodyear automated their plants they found it too troublesome and too expensive to continue making tires for her antique cars. To meet the need of collectors, drivers and antique dealers Ann founded Universal Tire Company in in the spring of 1968. A courageous undertaking for a woman in a male dominated business in the 1960's. The Universal Tire Company started to manufacture tires in various sizes for old cars in the basement of Collins Motors on Route 230, just east of Elizabethtown.
The “plant” opened with three workers and turned out an average of 20 tires daily. The assembly line was complete with tire molds and factory equipment. As the demand for more tires increased so did the need for a larger production facility. By 1971, the operation was in the Lancaster Building on 2650 Columbia Avenue, Lancaster, PA. Irvin Strohm, the operations manager reported that the company was producing 4000 tires annually. The Universal Tire Company tire making process differed from standard tire production only in that everything was done by hand.
Shortly after the Universal Tire Company was established , Ann was asked to expand operations to include manufacturing tires for antique airplanes. One of the company's first orders was to equip an antique plane with tires that was to be exhibited in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Universal Tire Company is still operational and is located between Hershey and Elizabethtown on Route 743.
Ann also founded Klein Kars to service her collection and many other collectors who owned antique automobiles. She continued to be active in Klein Kars until her death.
In 1982, Ann developed ALS, a disease with a life expectancy of 4 to5 years. Ann applied the same courage, determination and spirit that she had used in her business endeavors to battle the disease. She defied the odds and lived an active and productive life for twenty-two more years.
Sources:
Mr. Fisher's company : history of New Holland, 1940-1985. by Ivan Glick
Expertise in Antique Car World Leads Local Ann Klein to New Business: The Chronicle 4/22/1971 section 2 page 1 by Alice Hastings