Founder Leslie Leroy Irvin was an inventive man with great vision. He made aviation history as the first ever free-fall parachute jumper-with a parachute he invented and made himself in 1919. The first fall was from over 1500′ over McCook Field in Ohio, USA. He used a 28′ Flat Circular canopy in a 4Pin Container.That single ambitious jump brought orders for more chutes, giving his aviation manufacturing company, Irvin Air Chute Company, its beginning. The Irvin parachute gained rapid acceptance, and by the early 1930’s was in service with some 40 air forces around the world.
In 1922 Irvin started a club called the “Caterpillar Club”. To become a member, your life must have been saved by a parachute (not a club many try to get into). He selected the name Caterpillar Club in homage to the silk threads that made the original parachutes and the fact that the caterpillar lets itself down to earth by a silken thread. “Life depends on a silken thread,” is the club’s motto.
Irvin introduced his product into automotive applications in 1922 when he designed and built the first seat belt for famed auto racer Barney Oldfield. Diversification, along with company growth, has continued at a steady pace over the years. Business historians easily track the introduction of automotive products from Irvin as a close parallel to the growth and development of the automotive industry itself.