SCANDINAVIAN-AMERICAN HALL OF FAME
Gilmore Schjeldahl (June 1, 1912 – March 10, 2002) was a packaging and plastics innovator. The Northwood, ND, native combined engineering genius and business savvy to impact business with products and techniques from air sickness bags to heart catheters.
Schjeldahl, named to the North Dakota Entrepreneur Hall of Fame in 1988, launched a string of companies. Born in 1912, he helped his father with threshing machines, watched blacksmiths mend and make farm machinery, and worked as a theatre projectionist. Working for a local paper, he built a static eliminator for the press.
The North Dakotan attended North Dakota State School of Science and North Dakota State University where he met his wife, Charlene. They have five children. After WW II Schjeldahl joined Armour and Company in Chicago where he explored a new packaging material, polyethylene. Using his kitchen as a laboratory, he developed a technique for cutting and sealing the material at the same time, a packaging revolution.
That led to a bag-making machine; the air-sickness bag; and resin to seal the polymer Mylar. The Schjeldahl firm, launched to work with Mylar, diversified into aerospace research and electronics systems, including satellite balloons. His Gil-Tech company formed in 1966 to mold plastic containers next, and in 1970 he started a company to fill rigid plastic containers.
A mild heart attack in 1978 sent him another direction: Schjeldahl came up with a technique to open blocked arteries, resulting in improved coronary angioplasty catheters and a new business venture – The Cathedyne Corportion, which later sold to Angiomedics, Inc, a subsidiary of Pfizer, in 1983.
Schjeldahl died in his home in Lenox, Mass., after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. His business records are archived at the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections at the University of North Dakota.