The CLEVITE CORP. was founded in 1919 as Cleveland Graphite Bronze to make bearings and bushings for the automotive industry. Under a name derived from the graphite baked into the interior of the self-lubricating bearings used to support engine crankshafts and piston rods, Ben Hopkins began CGB operations at 2906 Chester with 20 employees. The demand for bearings followed the rise of the auto industry; by 1937 the company, then located at 8880 E. 72nd St., made 183 million parts annually and employed 2,300. This growth was due largely to the introduction of the Thinwall bearing in 1930. As World War II approached, CGB anticipated the need for aircraft bearings, and after 2 years of research it developed a silver-plated bearing that could be mass-produced and withstand heavy wear. The aircraft business tripled the CGB workforce to 7,000 by 1945 and necessitated the building of a large new plant and addition at 17000 St. Clair. As a result of the strains produced by overwork and the unassimilated workforce, CGB was the scene of strikes throughout the war. In 1944 one strike culminated in a seizure of the plant by the army (see CLEVELAND GRAPHITE BRONZE SEIZURE). After the war, the company retained a foothold in aviation but saw the importance of broadening its base. It bought out 2 Cleveland bearing makers in 1949 as its first subsidiaries: the Harris Prods. Co. and Monmouth Prods.

In 1952 CGB purchased the Brush Development Corp. for $7 million, a historic move that gave it entry into the expanding electronics field. To reflect the new product lines, Cleveland Graphite Bronze changed its corporate name to Clevite, but the bearing division retained its former name. By 1959, over one-third of the company's sales were in electronics, and that segment was split into 4 units: Clevite Transistor Prods.; Brush Instruments; Clevite Electronic Components; and Clevite Ordnance. Clevite's electronics expertise won it major defense contracts, and in 1967 the company opened a new ordnance plant at 18901 Euclid to double its production and workforce. In 1969 Clevite merged with Gould, a battery firm one-fourth its size, under the name Gould, Inc. However, the Clevite name was retained for the bushing and bearing division, and Clevite's president, Wm. Laffer, became chairman of Gould. As the new company sought to concentrate on batteries, electronics, and defense, the Clevite bearing division was sold in 1981 to the Reading Co., the bankrupt but reorganized railroad. Reading merged it with the Imperial Brass Co. under the name Imperial Clevite. Citing "structural changes in the U.S. auto industry" and following its failure to win concessions from the Clevite union, the MECHANICS EDUCATIONAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA, Reading closed the St. Clair plant in 1985. It was subsequently purchased and operated by JPI Transportation Products Inc. before being shut down again in 1987.

Article Categories