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GABRIEL CO.

 

The GABRIEL CO., a major supplier of shock absorbers for the original-equipment and automotive aftermarkets, was founded by CLAUD H. FOSTER in 1904 to market an automobile horn he had created and named for the Angel Gabriel. The Gabriel Horn became popular on luxury cars throughout the world. Within 5 years, Foster invented the "Snubber" shock absorber, which dominated the market until the 1920s and made him a multimillionaire. In 1925 Foster sold his interest in the Gabriel Snubber Co. for $5 million, a fraction of its worth, and divided the profits among his employees. After Foster's departure, the firm officially became the Gabriel Co.; however, business declined until the company developed a lighter, less expensive, and more efficient "air-type" shock absorber, which was adopted by Ford Motor Co. Variations on the products were used in motor vehicles in World War II which, together with other government contracts, propelled Gabriel's 1944 sales to over $5 million. The firm outgrew its facilities at 1407 E. 40th St. and leased a government plant at E. 140th and Darley.

Although Gabriel's Cleveland shock absorber division remained its largest division, the company diversified by acquisition to increase its foothold in the automotive market, and also entered the electronics and aerospace fields. Gabriel expanded with the purchase of the Burd Piston Ring Co. (1951); EA Laboratories (heaters; 1956); the Gladden Co. (guided-missile and aircraft parts; 1957); and the Bohannon Mfg. Co. (aerospace technology; 1958). Gabriel opened a rocket power division in Mesa, AZ, and an electronics plant in Millis, MA. In 1962 Gabriel was acquired by the Maremont Co. of Chicago, a major supplier of automotive parts. The company had 1,000 employees in Cleveland when the Intl. Assn. of Machinists, which represented local Gabriel employees, was challenged by the TEAMSTERS UNION in 1962. A series of contested elections (eventually won by the Teamsters) disrupted company operations for about 4 years. Citing declining orders at the Cleveland plant, Maremont closed the Gabriel facilities in 1966, putting over 450 people out of work.