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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

G. C. KUHLMAN CAR CO.

G. C. KUHLMAN CAR CO.

The G. C. KUHLMAN CAR CO. was founded in Cleveland ca. 1893 by Gustav C. Kuhlman. Predecessor firms were run by Gustav, his three brothers, and father, Frederick. The Kuhlman family produced finished hardwood interiors for office buildings and private residences. The firm first built horse-drawn streetcars during the 1880s. During the subsequent decade Gustav started his own firm, specializing in street railway and interurban vehicles. Expansion led Kuhlman from the family shops along St. Clair Avenue to two former carbarns at Broadway and Aetna. A large plant was finally built ca. 1901 at E. 140th (Adams) and the NYCRR tracks (near Aspinwall) in COLLINWOOD.

The company was incorporated in 1901; Fayette Brown served as president during that time. Kuhlman was taken over in 1904 by Philadelphia's J.G. Brill Co., replacing Kuhlman's officers with Philadelphia executives. Gustav Kuhlman remained with the firm briefly as general manager, and continued to visit the plant until his death in 1915.

Kuhlman ultimately built over 5,000 electric railway vehicles, most of which were streetcars. Only about fifteen percent of Kuhlman's output consisted of interurban cars. Railways in Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Illinois accounted for most of Kuhlman's orders, with Cleveland and Detroit being the two largest city customers. During the early 1920s the firm branched into bus body construction, becoming one of the first manufacturers to build bus bodies entirely of steel. Cleveland's WHITE MOTOR CORP. was a major customer.

As the market for electric railway vehicles shrank in the wake of the automobile and bus manufacture concentrated in specialist firms, Brill expanded Kuhlman's product line to include steel diners. The firm was re-incorporated as the J.G. Brill Co. of Ohio in 1925, though it continued to be known as Kuhlman until 1930. The firm was closed permanently by Brill during the mid-1930s.