The LINCOLN ELECTRIC CO., a pioneer in the development of the arc-welding industry and the originator of an innovative employee incentive system, was founded by engineer John C. Lincoln in 1895 to manufacture an industrial motor of his own design. On 9 June 1906, with 20 employees and $10,000 in capital, he incorporated the Lincoln Electric Co. Originally located at Frankfort and Seneca (W. 3rd) St., the firm changed locations as it grew, moving to E. 38th St. and Kelley Ave. in 1908, then in 1923 to Coit Rd. and Kirby Ave., and again in 1951 to a new facility at 22801 St. Clair Ave. in EUCLID.
Organized to manufacture industrial motors and dynamos, the firm began to produce welding machines in 1909. After the founder's younger brother, JAMES F. LINCOLN, became general manager in 1914, he actively promoted the welding industry, which expanded with the need to repair navy vessels during the first World War. The company established a welding school in 1917 and published instructional technical materials as the manufacture of welding machines became a substantial part of its business. Soon after James Lincoln took over the firm, he established an Employee Advisory Board where elected representatives from each department met for bi-weekly meetings- a practice the company continues to this day. James Lincoln was also influential in developing a worker incentive plan in which the company offered its employees free life insurance and paid vacations; however, the plan's major element was an incentive bonus instituted in 1934. With $4 million in sales that year, the company paid $131,800 in bonuses; in 1981 Lincoln's 2,684 employees shared a record $59 million in bonuses, an average of $22,008 per recipient. In 1993 the 2,675 Lincoln employees shared $55 million in bonuses, or about $20,553 per worker. Another aspect of the Lincoln plan was the guaranteed-employment program begun in 1958, in which the non-union company guaranteed jobs for its workers while the employees agreed to accept necessary job and schedule changes. In 1995, Lincoln Electric- then in its hundredth year- achieved $1 billion in sales. Since that time, Lincoln Electric has continued to be an industry leader and employs approximately 18,000 worldwide. By 2003, Lincoln Electric had manufacturing operations in 18 countries and annual sales of just under $1 billion annually.
James F. Lincoln Papers, WRHS.
Moley, Raymond. The American Century of John C. Lincoln (1962).