Little Giant Manufacturing Company, Inc. is one of the oldest continuing businesses in Orange, Texas. Founded in 1904 by the late W. E. McCorquodale, the family business, is located at the corner of South and Donnell streets. W. E. originated the business as a plumbing services company but he had other ideas that would transform the enterprise.
In 1927, W. E. McCorquodale invented and was granted a patent on the first thermostatically-controlled instantaneous gas water heater. He called the device the “Hotomatic.” Filled with heavy copper coils over an array of impinged gas jets the Hotomatic® was impressive technology at its inception. When fired, the small heater would roar, heating water to 180 degrees immediately.
The concept was new, safe and convenient. Cold water entered the Hotomatic® at the bottom, forced by local water pressure through the copper coil. Hot water flowed from the top after climbing the coil. A thermostat controlled the final exit temperature. Hot water was provided on demand when a hot water valve was opened.
The New Generation
The younger McCorquodale joined his father after serving in the Pacific in an artillery unit during World War II. He began an expansion program that skyrocketed the company’s business. He patented other Little Giant water heater inventions and devices.
Alan McCorquodale received a patent in 1986 for an improvement on how cold water could be injected into the water heater which would sense water temperature automatically. “It all came to us very naturally,” said Alan McCorquodale. “I grew up and I knew I would work at my father’s business.”
Little Giant is now producing four sizes of instantaneous gas water heaters from the smaller 40,000 BTU to the largest 180,000 BTU heater. Any of these models can be connected to tanks, resulting in an automatic side arm heater. In addition to Instantaneous Gas Water heaters, Little Giant also manufactures immersion and circulation electric water heaters.
Alan found a niche market perfectly suited to the features of the Hotomatic® – churches. Most churches practicing “total immersion” baptism needed to heat water (often 600 or 700 gallons) filling the baptistry. The Little Giant Hotomatic® heated the water as it filled the baptistry. Thousands of churches have benefitted from the mighty little marvel. Little Giant is now in its third generation of ownership.
Alan McCorquodale, father of Timothy and Rex, died July 27, 1996. Before his death the company expanded yet again by creating subsidiary TMRX, an acronym combining the consonants from the names of sons Timothy and Rex. TMRX began manufacturing fiberglass steeples, baptistries, crosses, and fishponds in 1980.
Unique & Varied Uses
So popular are Little Giant’s products that organizations from the Soviet Union, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and even Saudi Arabia bought steeples, baptistries and water heaters from the company since its inception in 1904.
Little Giant’s instantaneous heaters became so diverse in their uses, they sometimes surprise the owners. The McIlhenny Co., (owners of Tabasco) in Avery Island, Louisiana, found a unique application for the Little Giant Hotomatic®. Circulating warm water throughout the sprawling beds of pepper plants protecting them from freezing during cold winter months. The heaters have been used to destroy fire ant mounds particular to the southern states.
Many of the heaters that Little Giant makes have industrial applications in regions of the world where it gets very cold. Our heaters circulate heated water in pipes through the concrete foundations of houses, to keep the concrete from cracking. Circulated heated water is used in hydronic heating of commercial buildings.
Tractor manufacturers such as Caterpillar Inc. used them to keep the tractor fluid circulating during Caterpillar’s Alaska pipeline construction project. Some heaters are installed on large trucks and earth-moving machines to keep the water in the engine warm enough overnight so that the machine is operational in the morning.
Companies have used the equipment to clean the Astrodome and airports, graffiti from walls and water systems of submarines. Commercial vessels operating during the Alaska oil spill used the company’s custom-built heaters to clean the vessels with hot water before entering ports.
Little Giant heaters are used by carpet cleaning companies to steam clean carpets when the heaters convert the water to steam. Remote Hotomatic® heated showers are used by construction workers. These workers, who remove asbestos from buildings, must follow strict procedures for washing the asbestos from their bodies into special containment vessels before they can leave the construction site.
Our commercial water heaters are used to wash such things as alligator pond landings, animal shelters and kennels. Super-heated water helps to kill and to stop the proliferation of bacteria and other dangerous microbes keeping animals in these places disease-free.