The RELIANCE ELECTRIC CO., a leading manufacturer of electrical products for industry, was founded in 1905 by Cleveland industrialist Peter M. Hitchcock and his cousin, inventor John C. Lincoln. Originally founded as the Lincoln Electric Manufacturing Co., with offices in the CAXTON BUILDING, the company was incorporated in 1907 as the Lincoln Motor Works Co. to produce variable-speed motors designed by John Lincoln. When Peter Hitchcock died in 1906, Lincoln sold his interest in the firm to Peter's sons, Charles and Reuben. In 1909, the company became the Reliance Electric & Engineering Co. and moved into a new facility at 1088 Ivanhoe Rd. in 1911. Clarence Collins became president of the company around this time; a position he would hold for 40 years. During WORLD WAR II, Reliance built two new plants on E. 152nd St., and in 1951 began construction of an additional facility at 24703 Euclid Ave. in EUCLID. Growing dramatically after the war, Reliance consolidated with the Dayton-based Master Electric Co. in 1957, and merged with the Toledo Scale Co. and the Dodge Mfg. Corp. of Indiana in 1967. Reliance Electric continued to expand into the next decade through a series of mergers and acquisitions in this country and abroad.

In 1979, Reliance Electric posted record earnings of $64.6 million on sales of $966.2 million. That same year, the Exxon Corp. purchased the company for $1.23 billion. With the recession of the early 1980s, Reliance Electric operated in the red for three of the next four years (1980-1984). The company returned to profitability, but not without trimming about a quarter of its manufacturing space and payroll. A leveraged buyout by management returned Reliance Electric to private ownership in 1986, through the firm would again be publicly traded by 1992. By 1995 Reliance Electric was headquartered in MAYFIELD HTS., and employed 1,700 people in the Cleveland area and over 35,000 people worldwide in its 9 divisions.

In August 1994, executives at the company entered into an agreement with General Signal (based in Stamford, CT) to purchase Reliance Electric for $1.4 billion in General Signal stock. Before the sale could be completed, however, Rockwell International initiated a hostile takeover of Reliance Electric for $1.6 billion in stock and by November, Reliance Electric became part of Rockwell's Automation Power Systems division, which had total annual sales of $3.5 billion and 27,000 employees worldwide. In 1998, Rockwell International Corp. announced that Reliance would be relocating its headquarters to Greenville, SC. In 2004, Joe Swann served as the company's president and the company employed approximately 23,500 worldwide, with nearly 2,000 in Greater Cleveland.

Moley, Raymond. The American Century of John C. Lincoln (1962).

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