The OHIO AWNING & MANUFACTURING COMPANY, originally the Wagner Awning & Manufacturing Company, was founded in 1865 by James Wagner and his brother, Jacob. Primarily in the business of sail-making, the company soon expanded its production to include awnings, flags, and tents from a small plant on River St. In 1883, James sold the business to his brother, who brought his son, F.A. Wagner into the firm. By the turn of the century, the company had officially incorporated and had moved to a new, larger headquarters at 1207-1211 Euclid Avenue.
The Wagner’s were pioneers in the awning business. According to the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, James Wagner was the first man to travel through Ohio and Pennsylvania introducing awnings. The company also created the Wagner chain and tube roller awning, which was celebrated as the best and most easily handled awning in the world. To protect its interests, the company owned and controlled its own patents.
In 1898, with the advent of the Spanish-American War, the Wagner Awning & Manufacturing Company specialized in outfitting military units with quality tents. The company produced encampment supplies for the United States military during the SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR, WORLD WAR II, the VIETNAM WAR, and the GULF WAR. The company retains a subcontract with the U.S. Navy at this time (2015).
In addition to military-grade supplies, the Wagner Awning & Manufacturing Company specialized in providing tents, awnings, and floor cloths for weddings and special events. They also advertised quality camping tents for outdoor excursions. All materials were made by hand until 1877, when the company introduced machinery to its production methods. The company’s products were shipped across the United States, and, at its peak, the business employed 350 people.
In 1913, the Wagner Awning & Manufacturing Company was purchased by the Cleveland-Akron Bag Company, which retained the Wagner name. Eleven years later, in 1924, the company merged with ten other Cleveland awning companies to, once again, form the Wagner Awning & Manufacturing Company. In 1931, the company moved from Euclid Avenue to a 78,000 square foot location at 2658 Scranton Road.
In the early 1990s, the company changed its name to the Ohio Awning & Manufacturing Company. It was purchased by Andrew Morse in 1995, and moved to a new location at 5777 Grant Avenue in Slavic Village in May 2015. The old Scranton Road building was sold to Sustainable Community Associates, who plan on turning it into an apartment complex. Today, the company mainly produces military supplies and fabric and metal awnings for homes and commercial buildings. The current president is William Morse.
Jennifer Graham, Western Reserve Historical Society
Cleveland, the Making of a City