TRW, INC., headquartered in Cleveland, was a major international corporation recognized for its leadership in the AUTOMOTIVE, AEROSPACE, and electronics (see ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONICS) industries. The company was founded as the Cleveland Cap Screw Co. which was incorporated on 28 Dec. 1900 to produce connectors and fittings primarily for automobiles and light machinery. Its first technological innovation was the production of automobile valves in 1904. It soon became the recognized leader in the field and became the world's largest independent producer of engine valves (its innovative sodium filled valves were used in the Spirit of St. Louis on Lindbergh's 1927 trans-Atlantic flight). Although the WINTON MOTOR CARRIAGE CO. owned the company from 1905-15, its principal development began under CHAS. E. THOMPSON, who reorganized the firm in 1908 as the Electric Welding Products Co., started to purchase chassis parts, and acquired plants in other cities. Thompson bought the firm from Winton in 1915 and changed its name to the Steel Products Co. When it was renamed Thompson Products, Inc., in 1926 it was a well-established manufacturer of finished automotive and aviation goods.
Thompson's development of an effective replacement-parts system during the 1920s allowed it to survive the Depression, and as a dramatic sales promotion, the company initiated the Thompson Trophy Race in 1929 (see NATIONAL AIR RACES). After Thompson's death in 1933, FREDERICK C. CRAWFORD took over the firm. To quell unionizing efforts by the CIO through the Natl. Labor Relations Board in the 1930s and 1940s, Crawford fostered the organization of the Automobile & Aircraft Workers of America, a company union. In anticipation of World War II, Thompson Prods., with government funding, built the TAPCO plant in EUCLID in 1941 to increase its production of aircraft engine components. Following the war, Thompson diversified further into the aerospace industry, manufacturing parts for jet engines and entered the fields of electronics and ballistic-missile development, principally through investing in the Ramo-Wooldridge Corp. of California in 1953. Five years later, the two companies merged into Thompson Ramo Wooldridge, which shortened its name to TRW in 1965. The firm played a prominent role in the U.S. space program, producing a third of the satellites, and the descent engine for the Apollo Lunar Lander.
By the late 1960s the company was globalizing and entering a variety of new markets —bearings, fasteners, tools, oil-field equipment, alternative energy sources, and automotive safety restraint systems. In 1972, for example, it purchased 70 percent of Repa Feinstanzwerk, GmbH, a German-based seat belt producer. That would then lead to a significant role in the production of airbag restraint systems. Along with the new markets it continued to play a major role in aerospace developments for the space and defense industry including the production of software for satellites and defense systems. In 1995 TRW was ranked at 126th in the Fortune 500 and continued to be headquartered in Cleveland where it had 1,800 employees and headquarters in LYNDHURST.
TRW's work in the defense industry, which began during World War II continued and by 2001 it was the eighth largest military contractor in America thus making it appealing to purchase or takeover in this field. TRW Inc. was purchased by military contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation for $7.8 billion in stock in 2002. Northrop became the second largest defense contractor after the deal. Northrop, based in Los Angeles, closed TRW's Lyndhurst's offices. TRW's Aeronautical Systems division was sold to Goodrich Corporation for $1.5 billion in 2002.
After the merger Northrop Grumman planned to separate TRW's automotive business. it was sold to the Blackstone group in 2002 and organized as TRW Automotive in in 2003. It was headquartred in Livonia, Michigan, but continued to maintain a regional presence with facilities in two Cleveland suburbs, Valley View and Warrensville Heights. In 2015, German parts manufacturer Z. F. Friedrichshafen purchased TRW Automotive and renamed the operation ZF TRW Automotive Holdings Corp.