FOSTER, CLAUD HANSCOMB (23 Dec. 1872-21 June 1965), automotive inventor, industrialist, and philanthropist, was born in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn to George and Julia Wells Foster. In 1891, he opened a machine shop, playing the trombone for 11 years in the Euclid Ave. Opera House orchestra to support his business. In 1896, Foster became an automobile dealer, selling the Cleveland-built General, in 1900 also acquiring Peerless and Ajax automobile agencies. Foster developed the Gabriel Horn, a multitone automobile horn powered by exhaust gases, starting the successful Gabriel Co. in 1904. Foster then patented his "Snubber" automotive shock absorber in 1914, capitalizing its production at $1 million.

From 1920-25, the Gabriel Co. earned annual profits of more than $1 million, selling 75% of all shock absorbers marketed in the world. Foster developed an employee profit-sharing incentive program, between 1917-25 paying his employees more than $600,000 in addition to their salaries. He sold the Gabriel Co. in 1925 to Otis & Co. for $4 million, only half the company's evaluated price, and remaining the company's chairman 1928. Known as the "Doctor of Car Riding," Foster was often consulted by manufacturers when new car models developed riding difficulties. Throughout his career, Foster made numerous large anonymous gifts to hospitals and charitable institutions. On 22 July 1952, he announced to the heads of 16 educational and charitable institutions that he was dividing the bulk of his wealth, almost $4 million, among them. Married to Emma Schultz on 2 May 1894, Foster had 2 sons, Earl and Daniel. Foster is buried in RIVERSIDE CEMETERY.

Thomasson, Wayman H. Claud Foster: A Biography (1949).

Article Categories