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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History



OSBORN INTERNATIONAL, INC., a division of Jason, Inc., evolved from the Osborn Manufacturing Corp. Osborn Manufacturing had grown into the world's largest manufacturer of industrial brushes and foundry machines by the 1940s. The firm was organized in 1887 a group of investors headed by John Osborn. By the time the company was incorporated in 1892, it had eight employees and made several kinds of wire brushes and brooms at 18 Huron Rd. In 1902, the company moved to its present location at 5401 Hamilton St. The long-standing occupation of the Hamilton St. location, shared characterized the steady and consistent nature of the company's management throughout much of its history. In 1892, Franklin G. Smith became an investor in the company. He moved into management and ran the company until his retirement in 1950, when he was succeeded by his son, Norman F. Smith. Norman Smith, who began working for the company in 1925 after he graduated from Dartmouth College served as president until his retirement in 1968.

Osborn began manufacturing molding machines in 1908, and the operation became more profitable as the automobile industry grew after the FIRST WORLD WAR. The firm picked up additional foundry business by supplying equipment and supplies to the industry. Osborn added the more efficient, power-driven industrial brushes to its line and after 1918 began to sell its products abroad. By 1942, the firm employed 768 workers and by 1950, sales reached $8 million. The following year the company merged with Rubico Brush Mfrs., Inc. of New York. SHERWIN WILLIAMS CO. purchased Osborn Manufacturing in 1968, but a poor economy and troubles in the domestic automobile industry forced Sherwin Williams to sell Osborn Manufacturing to machine-tool maker Giddings & Lewis, Inc., in 1975.

Still struggling amid the stale economic environment of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the company phased out its foundry equipment business to concentrate on the sales of its brushes, but Osborn continued to change hands. After becoming part of the conglomerate AMCA Intl. of Toronto, Osborn was acquired by Jason Inc. of Milwaukee in 1985; a transaction that supplied Osborn with much needed capital. Operating as a division of Jason, Inc., Osborn soon returned to profitability and began to expand. In 1995, the company employed 300 workers at its Cleveland plant, with additional plants in North Carolina, France, and Mexico. In 1996, Osborn acquired the Advance wide-face brush business from Milwaukee Brush Manufacturing. Two years later, Jason, Inc., acquired the British Firm, Brushes International Ltd., and combined it with its Osborn Manufacturing subsidiary. The new company, called Osborn International, gave Osborn access to new international markets. This new Osborn remained the world's largest maker of industrial brushes by adding manufacturing operation, joint-ventures, and distribution centers in Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, Brazil, Romania, France, and Portugal, to its existing operations in Cleveland, North Carolina, France, and Mexico. Operating in 12 countries, Osborn International sold its products in over 90 countries, and employed over 2,000 workers worldwide (with over 350 in Cleveland) in 2004. Still headquartered at 5401 Hamilton Ave. in Cleveland, Osborn International was headed by Timothy E. Hitesman.

Street, Julian. Men, Machines, and Morals (1942).