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LEECE-NEVILLE CO.

The LEECE-NEVILLE CO., an important developer and manufacturer of electrical products for heavy-duty trucking (see AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY), was organized in 1909 by Cleveland inventor Bennett M. Leece and financier Sylvester M. Neville. Incorporated in 1910 with capital of $61,000, Leece-Neville opened at 2069 E. 4th St., moving to 5363 Hamilton Ave. by 1915. Leece began the company by developing a self-starting ignition system, for which he received the patent in 1918. By 1950 the company held 56 patents, 47 of which were registered in whole or in part to Bennett Leece. It flourished during World War II, producing electrical starters, generators, and regulators for airplanes, trucks, and industrial and marine equipment. After the war, the company pioneered the use of the alternator on municipal vehicles such as fire trucks, police cars, and buses. The introduction of the alternator on passenger cars in 1960 contributed to further company growth. In 1955 Leece-Neville purchased a plant at E. 51st St. and St. Clair to expand production, and in 1959 it established a plant in Gainesville, GA. Prior to Leece's death in 1948, Leece-Neville had grown largely as a result of the development of new products; in the 1960s the company began to grow from acquisitions and mergers with other companies as well. On 1 Feb. 1969, Leece-Neville merged with Victoreen, Inc., and became a subsidiary of the VLN Corp. It was purchased in 1987 by Prestolite of Toledo, under which it operated as a division of PEI Holding Corp. of GenStar Capital. In 1990 Prestolite filed for bankruptcy. In 1992 the company closed its Cleveland operations.