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CLEVELAND HARDWARE

 

 

CLEVELAND HARDWARE & FORGING CO. is one of only a few present day Cleveland industrial concerns descended from the city's once-numerous wagon and carriage parts manufacturers. Originally started as a small iron works and wagon hardware factory in the late 1870s, the firm was incorporated as the Cleveland Hardware Co. by Samuel E. Brown, Leander McBride, L. Austin, W. H. Stuart, and Myron T. Herrick in 1881. Initially located on Hamilton on the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad, the firm moved to Euclid and Willson (E.55th) in 1882 before moving to Lake between Kirtland and Belden (E.45th) in 1887. By this time, Cleveland Hardware had established itself as a major producer of wagon and carriage hardware under the direction of founder and president Leander McBride. Cleveland Hardware began by making wrought iron hardware but in 1886, took advantage of advances in metals production to switch to items made from rolled steel blanks. They soon developed an extensive line of rolled steel wagon and carriage hardware and were one of the only firms in the country to offer a complete line of sleigh hardware. Like its competitor, EBERHARD MFG. CO., Cleveland Hardware relied on widely circulated trade catalogs to promote its goods and tapped into the large immigrant labor pool; employing between 750 and 1,000 workers by the turn of the century. Although it continued to make wagon hardware into the 1930s, the growing popularity of the automobile saw the firm gradually shift to the manufacture of automotive parts and hardware early in the twentieth century.

 

In 1906, Cleveland Hardware opened a second plant on E.79th near Bessemer to manufacture drop forgings and three years later Charles E. Adams became president of the company. At this time, the firm was one of the largest producers of drop forgings in the nation and would continue remain an industry leader throughout much of the 20th Century. Taking advantage of military contracts during WWI, Adams instituted many original benefits for employees at its E.45th and E.79th plants. Similar to other experiments in corporate paternalism nationwide during the 1920s, Adams' reforms included factory cafeterias and spacious worker dining areas, two well-stocked company stores, an in-plant bakery, medical services, profit sharing, and numerous other benefits. The firm established a die casting division at the E.45th plant, which permitted it to offer a wider variety of hardware to both automobile and other industries. In 1932, the board of directors changed the name to the Cleveland Hardware & Forging Co. and its two plants went on to be important military producers in WWII.

 

By the mid 1950s, the firm's nearly 500 workers were busy producing forgings for the automobile, truck, bus, farm equipment, and household appliance industries at its two plants. In 1957, H. K. Porter, a Pittsburgh-based machine tool and heavy equipment builder, purchased Cleveland Hardware and ran it as their Cleveland division until the late 1960s. Consolidating its Cleveland operations to the E. 79th works, H.K. Porter sold the plant to a group of Chicago investors in 1968. Restoring the original name, the investors exerted great efforts in renovating the plant's worn and outdated machinery, as well as revitalizing its manufacturing and distribution structure. Overall, the 1970s were a period of considerable strain for the drop forging industry, but Cleveland Hardware was able to take advantage of the situation by acquiring divisions in Wisconsin and Illinois and, thus, greatly improved its market share. In 1996, forging operations shifted to these divisions in order to permit the Cleveland facility to concentrate on stamping and assembly. By 1998, Cleveland Hardware & Forging's plant at 3270 E.79th employed approximately 75 people and was a major producer of stamped hardware for heavy commercial trucks, commercial and school busses, military vehicles, and general industry.