Townsend Engineering Co., Des Moines
1913 -

Ray Townsend revolutionized the meatpacking industry. He not only devised ways to speed up production, he increased the yields as well.

Townsend, born in 1913, grew up in Des Moines and graduated from East High School before going on to Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) where he graduated in 1935 with degree in mechanical engineering

After college he went to work for his father, R. F. Townsend at Star Machine Shop. It was during this period that Ray did some custom fabrications for local meat packing plants. He observed the skinning process and concluded that there had to be a better way to do it. An inveterate tinker, he kept working on an alternative. While others were trying to develop a better means for pulling the skin from the hide, Townsend looked for a whole new approach to the problem. He came up with a device that employed a power driven turning device that draws the skin under the blade that cuts directly beneath the hide. This patented machine made Townsend Engineering, the company he founded in 1946 after working as engineer at the Des Moines Ordinance Plant during World War II, the world’s largest producer of skinning equipment. Ray continued to invent meat and fish skinning equipment that revolutionized the industry. The Frank-O-Matic, which Townsend developed in the early 1960s, was the first automatic sausage-linking machine. It produced over 36,000 hot dogs an hour – today’s model does more than 56,000. Over the years Townsend obtained more than 100 U.S. patents and more than 300 in various countries around the world.

The significance of his contribution to the state was noted in 1978 when he was named as one of the first three individuals inducted into the Iowa Inventors Hall of Fame.