The PROGRESSIVE CORP., a Cleveland-based insurance holding company specializing in non-standard, high-risk automobile insurance, began in 1937 when attorneys Joseph M. Lewis and J. H. Green formed the Progressive Mutual Insurance Co. with $10,000 in capital. Although licensed to write all types of automobile and casualty insurance, they limited themselves to auto insurance, and by 1940 were writing about $100,000 worth of insurance annually. Progressive grew in the postwar period, acquiring assets of $2 million and more than 25,000 policyholders in 1951, and establishing offices at 3600 EUCLID AVE. and branches in Akron and Youngstown. In 1956 the company organized Progressive Casualty Insurance, which, along with 3 other related insurance companies, became part of the Progressive Corp. incorporated on 8 Feb. 1965. By 1970 Progressive Casualty, which accounted for 75% of the corporation's business, was writing its non-standard, high-risk auto insurance in Ohio and 8 other states. Progressive became a publicly held company in 1971 and constructed a new corporate headquarters at 6300 Wilson Mills Rd. in MAYFIELD VILLAGE the following year.
Lewis' son, Peter B. Lewis, who joined the firm in 1955 after graduating from Princeton, became Chief Executive officer in 1965; the same year of the founding of the Progressive Corporation. Peter B. Lewis would continue to be the dominant figure in the firm and his emphasis on profitability over volume, relying on specialized markets and short-term investments for its profit, led to the corporation's impressive and steady growth. In 1965, the company had $23 million in premiums written and by 1985, Progressive had $456.5 million in total revenues, a net income of $35.6 million, and ranked 55th in size among property-casualty insurance company groups in the U.S. By the time the company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 1987, corporate revenues reached $1 billion in 1987 with a net income of $93 million. The firm continued to prosper until 1991. That year it suffered a decline in income due to overstaffing and losses from its trucking insurance business, begun in 1987. By reducing the number of employees and eliminating most of its trucking insurance, Progressive returned to profitability in 1993. In addition to adding new cost efficiencies, Progressive instituted the Immediate Response Claims Service, whereby, claims adjustors were deployed directly to the scene of traffic accidents to speed the filing and processing of claims. By 1994, the company operated a fleet of 2,600 vehicles, complete with laptop computers and internet access, as part of its Immediate Response service. In addition to providing faster service, the brightly marked vehicles increased the company's visibility, aiding the company's return to profitability. In 1994, Progressive reported net written premiums of $2.4 billion, helping the company to grow 37.7% that year. In 1995, Progressive served its policyholders in the U.S. & Canada through more than 30,000 independent agents, 200 claims offices, and 7,500 employees nationwide and in Canada. The company continued to grow and by 1997 the company had 275 claims offices and over 14,120 employees, and by 2000, Progressive Corp.'s total written premiums topped $6 billion.
In addition to become one of the largest employers in Northeast Ohio, Progressive Corp. remained prominent in Cleveland through the various philantrophic efforts of its head, Peter B. Lewis. Lewis, a long-time collector of art, first began the Progressive Corp.'s art collection in 1974, when he purchased Andy Warhol's Mao Tse Tung Series. Later acquisitions, included lithographs by Roy Lichtenstein and other notworthy contemporary artists. More recently, Lewis became active in aiding the development of UNIVERSITY CIRCLE by funding community initiatives and donating money to CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY's Weatherhead School of Business for the construction of a $61.7 million, state-of-the-art building designed by the famous architect Frank O. Gehry. Other major gifts outside Ohio, included $55 million to Princeton University to fund human genome research and $50 million to the Guggenheim. In 2000, Lewis, then 66 years old, stepped down as CEO of the company, but remained chairman of the board. Lewis was replaced by Glenn M. Renwick, former head of operations at the company. By 2003, the Progressive Corp. was the third largest insurance company in the United States, with more $11.9 billion in written premiums, underwriting 12 million people.