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BRUSH ELECTRIC CO.

The BRUSH ELECTRIC CO., established in 1880 to manufacture and sell the electric street lighting system developed by CHARLES F. BRUSH, traced its origin to Cleveland Telegraph & Supply, founded in 1872. Influenced by its major stockholder, George W. Stockley, the company agreed to market the Brush dynamo, built in the mid-1870s, and to subsidize the development of his electric street lighting system. Dynamo sales were meager until Brush perfected and successfully demonstrated his new arc light system on Cleveland's PUBLIC SQUARE in 1879. At that point, sales of both the system and the dynamo used as its central power source increased, crowding out the telegraph supply business. As a result, Brush Electric Co., capitalized at $3 million, was organized in 1880 to manufacture and sell Brush street lighting systems, produced at facilities on Mason St., which employed 400 people. Brush street lighting provided better light than gas illumination at one-third the cost, and sales were brisk. Initially, Brush Electric supplied 80% of the arc lighting equipment used in the U.S., with New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia among its customers. However, in the mid-1880s the company lost its dominance by failing to develop a large-scale research facility or expand the firm. Competitors utilized the basic process of arc lighting to design and build more and better improvements to the system. Charles Coffin of Thomson Houston Co. bought Brush Electric in 1889 and effected a merger with the Edison General Electric Co. to organize General Electric in 1892. Although GE produced Brush equipment for many years, the Brush Electric works in Cleveland was closed in 1896.


Charles F. Brush Papers, Freiberger Library, CWRU.