Early Officer of American-Standard Corporation
Francis J. Torrance was born in Allegheny in 1859. Torrance spent his entire life in Allegheny, attending the public schools of the city as a child and obtaining his degree at Western University, now The University of Pittsburgh. At age 16, he became a clerk at The Standard Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer of bathroom and other fittings, then on River Avenue in Allegheny. By the time he was 30, Torrance had moved up thru the ranks of the company to become Vice President of the firm when it merged with The Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company. The new company quickly became the region’s largest provider of plumbing fixtures and supplies. Torrance had other business interests outside of his main position with Standard, concurrently serving as president of the Canonsburg and Washington Street Railway Company and as a managing director of the T.H. Nevin Company.
Torrance was one of over thirty two businessmen from sixteen companies named in an anti-trust lawsuit, one of over twenty such suits advanced by Attorney General George Wickersham, in 1910. Known collectively at The Bathtub Trust, the businesses and their directors were accused of brokering unlawful patent license agreements that gave them control of over 80% of the annual nationwide output of the enameled ironware that was used for plumbing and bathroom fittings at the time. The case was eventually heard by the Supreme Court with the Bathtub Trust companies being found guilty of criminal conspiracy. The Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company was fined $10,000 with Torrance and two other Standard Sanitary executives each being fined $5,000.
Beyond the name he made for himself in manufacturing, Torrance was well known as a civic leader. In 1895 he was appointed President of the State Board of Public Charities by Governor Hastings in recognition of years spent managing and advising such diverse concerns as The Western Pennsylvania Exposition Society, The Pittsburgh Natatorium, The Council on Lunacy. Torrance was an active clubman, belonging to The Duquesne Club, The Pittsburgh Press Club, The Pittsburgh Athletic Association and serving as director of the Union Club. His popularity served him well in those instances where he ran for elected offices. He served on the Third Ward School Board for 18 years and was a member of the Allegheny select council for 16 years, 10 years of which he spent as that council’s president. Torrance died of pneumonia on January 8, 1919, having been reelected President of the Western Pennsylvania Exposition Society just days earlier.