Collected in several lots at Lisbon and Evins Street in Cleveland, Ohio were the Cleveland Rubber Company,the  Glidden Varnish Company that grew to become one of the largest paint producers in the United States, the Gerson-Stewart Corporation, which produced cleaning compounds and sanitation chemicals, and the Strong, Cobb & Company that had become the largest custom formulator of pharmaceuticals in the nation. The propery was also home to the Ohio Confection Company and the Pennsylvania Refining Company.


Cleveland Rubber Company

Founded in 1872 2 3 as the Cleveland Rubber Company at Ellsworth and Lundy streets, the company formally incorporated in 1877 with a capital of $650,000.3 By 1892, Cleveland Rubber covered three-fourths of a block of ground, contained several three-story structures and employed 500. The company manufactured rubber used for belts, the largest was the “2-X-L” that measured 226 feet long and 60 inches wide, and was 8-ply thick for use in an elevator. Other products included “High Grade” belting, “elevator and drive belts, hoses, leather matting, rubber covered rolls, wringer rolls, horse covers, rubber blankets, printer blankets, tubing, rubber clothing and fruit jar rings.”

Below: A 1898 Sanborn Map overlaid on a 2007 aerial show the Cleveland Rubber Company occupying property along Ellsworth Street.

mechanical-rubber-company-1898

On February 15, 1893, a warranty deed was filed with the county recorder transferring the property of Cleveland Rubber to the Mechanical Rubber Company.1 The transfer included four acres along the Cleveland & Pittsburg Railroad right-of-way, two acres on the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate) right-of-way and 1.25 acres on Lundy Street, 361 feet on Ellsworth Street and 400 feet on Lisbon Street.

Below: A 1912 Sanborn Map overlaid on a 2007 aerial shows that the Mechanical Rubber Company expanded northward.

mechanical-rubber-company-1912
Mechanical Rubber Company acquired the Sawyer Belting Company among other works, and was absorbed into the Rubber Goods Manufacturing Company.42 The Rubber Goods Manufacturing Company was incorporated on January 25, 1899 in New Jersey, and produced rubber automobile tires, bicycle tires, hoses and belting.39 One-third of the company, in stock, was owned by the United States Rubber Company.39 40


Sawyer Belting Company

The Sawyer Belting Company was formed in 1892 by H. M. Sawyer, a manufacturer of oil clothing, in Cambridge Massachusetts.37 Sawyer’s brand, Sawyer Oil Clothing, was well regarded and led to the development of his next venture. In its early years, the company manufactured 600 feet of canvas stitched belting per day, and the growth was so potent that Sawyer relocated to double the space in a new factory on Lisbon Street in Cleveland on January 1, 1906. Production expanded to the point that more than six miles of belt was being produced per day.

Sawyer Belting was absorbed into the Mechanical Rubber Company.42


United States Rubber Company

The United States Rubber Company was incorporated on March 30, 1892 in New Jersey, and manufactured rubber boots and shoes.39 Through numerous acquisitions, United States Rubber had become the largest consumer of crude rubber.

In July 1905, the company acquired a controlling interest in the Rubber Goods Manufacturing Company and owned a 90% of the stock by the end of 1906.40 41 42 In February 1907, arrangements were made to liquidate the company and merge its operations with the United States Rubber Company.42 At the end, the United States Rubber Company listed as its subsidiaries in the Mechanical Goods division: Sawyer Belting Company,  Indiana Rubber, Eureka Fire Hose Manufacturing, Peerless Rubber Manufacturing, Revere Rubber, Mechanical Rubber of Chicago and the above mentioned Mechanical Rubber of Cleveland.38

Today, the United States Rubber Company is known as Uniroyal and is a part of the Michelin Group.


Glidden Varnish Company

The Glidden Varnish Company was founded by Francis Harrington Glidden, who soon took on Levi Brackett as partner with the company becoming Glidden, Brackett & Company.29 The company produced 1,000 gallons of varnish per week that was delivered by horse and wagon 27 to streetcars and railcars, it’s primary clientele.

In 1875, Glidden purchased Forest City Paint & Varnish Company, modifying the name to Glidden & Joy Varnish Company and locating at 2686 Lisbon Road.29 33 34 The company expanded in 1882 with the construction of a warehouse, boiler house and office, all designed by local architect George F. Hammond.28 In 1888, Glidden built a second factory at the corner of Madison and Berea avenues,33 34 also designed by Hammond. As partners retired, the company became known as the Glidden Varnish Company by 1894.29

Below: The Glidden & Joy Varnish Company in 1882. Reproduced from the Clevleand: Village to Metropolis book.

The introduction of Jap-A-Lac in 1895 greatly expanded Glidden’s marketshare.27 The color varnish was introduced into the consumer market and was one of the best known varnish brands by the early 20th century.

Due to the rapid growth of the company, and the inability to expand its physical plant on Lisbon Road, it was decided to construct a new facility.32 The company purchased a 20-acre tract at its Madison and Berea site, and plotted the construction of a new 25 building complex, with all work to be conducted by the Hunkin Bros. Company. Erection of the new structures began in June 1906.

A fire on February 15 destroyed the main building at the Lisbon Road factory,31 followed by a larger fire on October 26, 1907 that destroyed much of the Lisbon Road operations.30 A lantern, carried by a workman, was dropped next to a bank of benzine causing an explosion that injured the workman and allowed the oil to leak out and cause the fire to quickly spread. It required nearly an hour for ten fire companies to control the flames.

The new Madison and Berea plant was completed in 1909, and the Lisbon Road plant was closed.33 34

Francis Glidden retired in 1917 and sold the company to Adrian Joyce in 1917, who renamed the company to the Glidden Company.29 Joyce greatly expanded the company’s offerings by acquiring 11 paint manufacturers and distributors and then expanding into vegetable oil-processing facilities. By the late 1930s, Glidden was one of the largest soybean processors in the United States, using the oil in the production of paint, linoleum and margarine, and the flour and proteins in the production of plastics, synthetic resins and paper coatings.27

The Madison and Berea location was in use until June 1976.33

Glidden is today one of the largest paint manufacturers in the United States.


Peerless Motor Car Company

The Peerless Motor Car Company was established in 1889 as the Peerless Wringer & Manufacturing Company and was located on the east side at the junction of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh and New York, Chicago & St. Louis railroads.36 By 1892, the company was known as the Peerless Manufacturing Company and produced washing machine wringers. It moved to 2654 Lisbon Street in 1895 and began manufacturing bicycles. It entered the automobile market in 1901 and was renamed the Peerless Motor Car Company two years after, initially producing De Dion-Bouton vehicles under license from the French company. As the company expanded, it became known for its premium automobiles and was part of the “Three-P’s of Motordom,” alongside Packard and Pierce-Arrow.

On October 15, 1904, Peerless announced that it had purchased 5.5 acres of land at 9400 Quincy Avenue (then Oakdale Street) and had already started construction of a two-story, 258-feet by 50-feet long machine shop. It was to be followed with a foundry, 100-feet by 70-feet in size, an erecting shop 300-feet by 60-feet in size and a painting and upholstering shop 200-feet by 50-feet in size over the next year.35 The facilities were designed by J. Milton Dyer.36 The company was expecting to double its automobile output over the next year and that its present location was insufficient in size to expand.35 The new Peerless plant opened in 1906.36

But its conservatively-styled vehicles and its long lag time between new car introductions led its sales to slow during the 1920s. The Great Depression did not help matters.36 Just as a new vehicle design was set to be unveiled, the Board of Directors opted to pull Peerless out of the automobile industry and the last vehicle rolled off the assembly line in 1931. The company then reused the former Peerless plant to bottle beer under the Carling Brewing Company in 1933.


Splitting the Property

Gerson-Stewart Corporation

The Gerson-Stewart Corporation was founded in 1914 6 on Prospect Avenue, the company gradually expanded and later grew into space at East 76th Street and the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad.7 In 1932, Gerson-Stewart purchased the Cleveland Soap Company, followed up with the signing of an industrial lease for 17,000 square-feet at the United States Rubber Company location, overseen by the Kunkie Factory Site Service, on March 23, 1933. The space, which doubled the size of its old factory location, was needed to consolidate the Cleveland Soap operations into Gerson-Stewart, and amounted to $20,000 per year for five years. The firm by 1958 had sales of $1.3 million and 100,000 square-feet of research and manufacturing space,6 producing cleaning compounds, sanitation chemicals and floor preservatives.4

On November 19, 1958, Gerson-Stewart was purchased by Lewis R. Schilling.6 The company was purchased by U.S. Borax in 1964 10 so that Borax could expand its Boraxo and Luron hand soap business into the broader field of industrial and janitorial maintenance supplies.9 The plant was closed on January 31, 1966.8

Strong, Cobb & Company

The Strong, Cobb & Company was founded in 1833 12 14 as Henderson & Punderson, a retail drug store on lower Superior Avenue near West 6th Street.14 In 1858, S. M. Strong and A. C. Strong acquired the store and established a wholesale department that became one of the leading suppliers to retail drug stores in Ohio, western Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Kentucky.

Its first private formula was Dr. Strong’s Fever Destroyer which was produced for Dr. Samuel Strong of Elyria.14 15 In 1870, the Armstrong interests were sold to Ahira Cobb and the firm was renamed to Strong & Cobb. L. A. and R. L. Cobb, sons of Ahira, became principals, and their sons, R. H. and H. B., became directors. T. S. Strong, son of Edwin Lee,13 was later president.

By 1888, the pharmaceutical production section of Strong & Cobb became so great that it was established in a separate laboratory.14 It began to specialize in manufacturing private formulas in 1912 and exited the wholesale business in 1918 when it sold that department to the Hall, Van Gorder Company of Cleveland, which later became part of McKessons & Robbins, Inc. two years later. The retailing operations were sold in 1920 to a local retail druggist.

On November 28, 1932, the company announced that it was relocating for the third time in their existence from 206 Central Viaduct, where it had been for 25 years, to 2654 Lisbon Road.12 The building, six-stories high and built of reinforced concrete and steel in 1921 for Mechnical Rubber, contained 110,000 square-feet. It was leased for 15 years at $20,000 per year, a deal finalized by Kunkie.

George Miller, founder of the Miller Drug Stores and vice president of American Home Products Corporation Miller Drug division, became associated with Strong & Cobb when he became general manager in 1937.14 He was promoted to president in November 1940.

Strong, Cobb & Company was one of the largest private formula houses in the United States by 1942, and manufactured vitamin and other pills and tablets at a rate of 60 to 85 million per month.14 It also produced 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of liquids per month, and 25 to 35 million pounds of ointments per month – and in total, 1,500 to 2,000 different medicinal items It’s biggest seller was Cet-ets, a sugar-coated vitamin capsule; the sugar eliminated the burp commonly associated with the fishy taste of other vitamins. The company boasted 135 employees, a majority of whom were women.

On January 1, 1944, Standard Brands, a nationally known food corporation, purchased Strong & Cobb.15 Strong & Cobb had transacted a substantial volume of product to Standard Brands. Strong & Cobb was spun off to Miller and other investors on July 17, 1947.

In the early 1950s, Strong, Cobb & Company acquired the American Chlorophyll Corporation.16 Chlorophyll was a food additive that appeared in chewing gum and breath mints, and the company marketed the addition as one that eliminated bad breath when consumed.17 After numerous reports concluded that chlorophyll had no demostrable effect on minimizing breath odors, or doing much of anything, sales quickly faded from their peak of $12 million in 1952.16 Strong, Cobb suffered losses in 1953 and 1954, made profit for the following three years, and suffered a loss in 1958 as it struggled post-Chlorophyll.

Strong, Cobb announced a proposed merger with Arner Company, Inc. of Buffalo, New York on May 11, 1959. The new, combined company, Strong, Cobb, Arner, Inc. (SCA), was expected to have combined annual sales of $20 million. Arner’s average sales from 1956 to 1959 were more than $9 million; Strong, Cobb averaged $7.3 million.16 Under the terms of the merger, each of Strong, Cobb’s 623,060 common shares, which were selling for $7 per share, would be exchanged for stock in the new corporation on a share-for-share basis. Each of the 5,000 preferred shares would be split into four preferred shares of the new company, with $25 par value. Each of Arner’s 223,316 common shares, which were privately held, would be exchanged for four shares of the new corporation’s common stock.

In early 1965, SCA employed 550 and was the largest custom formulator of pharmaceuticals in the United States.18

In June, SCA announced that it was proposing a sale of the company to Foremost Dairies of San Francisco, California.18 The deal was finalized for more than $15 million in cash and Foremost subordinated debentures and assumption of SCA liabilities. Foremost placed SCA under the trusteeship of Crocker-Citizens National Bank in San Francisco in January 1966, in part to avoid possible antitrust charges when Foremost was acquiring McKeseson & Robbins shares.19 But on February 3, 1967, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an order that required Foremost to sell SCA. The ruling was part of an arrangement by which Foremost was permanently barred to acquire without FTC approval of any pharmaceutical or drug wholesaler other than McKesson & Robbins of New York City.

SCA was sold to International Chemical & Nuclear Corporation of Los Angeles, California on November 13,19 a deal that was finalized on December 1.21

In 1970, SCA announced plans for a new $6 million research and manufacturing plant on Enterprise Parkway in a Twinsburg industrial park, although that facility was never constructed because of problems with the Twinsburg planning commission.21 After not locating a suitable industrial site for its operations in the Cleveland area, SCA looked at possible locations in Puerto Rico and several southern states. On August 4, 1972, SCA announced that it was relocating to a vacant 180,000 square-foot RCA transistor and tube plant on 17 acres in Cincinnati’s Pleasant Ridge neighborhood for $17 million.

The company, the oldest manufacturer in Cleveland and the second oldest pharmaceutical plant in the United States, employed 300 and produced about 100 pharmaceutical products at the time of the announcement.21

Ohio Confection Company

On August 17, 1934, the Ohio Confection Company signed a ten-year lease on a five-story, 65,000 square-foot building at 6110 Grand Avenue/8602 Evins Avenue in a deal brokered by Kunkie.23 It relocated from a smaller Grand Avenue location due to an expansion of product lines.

Pennsylvania Refining Company

The Pennsylvania Refining Company purchased a parcel of land at 2686 Lisbon Road on September 24, 1942 at the United States Rubber Company site that it had been leasing from Kunkie.24 The plant largely resided on the former Glidden & Joy Varnish site. Pennzoil acquired Pennsylvania Refining in 1973,25 and use the site for its Penreco division to produce automobile detergents and specialized lubricants.26

In 1976, the Penreco Division of Pennzoil Company leased the former SCA building and spent more than $100,000 in remodeling for expansion of its product lines and warehousing.22 But on May 31, 1978, Pennzoil announced that the Cleveland facility would close on June 9 after management and 75 laborers failed to come to a conclusion on fringe benefits.26 Negotiations had begun in March. In addition, outdated equipment was also cited as a reason for its closure, along with Cleveland being the only Pennzoil car-detergent division in the state.


Other Companies

Kunkie also signed Western Machine & Dye Company, the Western Biscuit Company, the H.J. Heinz Company and the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company to other buildings at the former rubber company site in 1933.7 A revised 1951 Sanborn Map revealed,

  • Gerson Stewart Corporation occupying the corner lots at Grand and Evins Avenue.
  • Ohio Confection Company occupying the center of the complex.
  • The Pennsylvania Refining Company occupying the northern section of the complex.

mechanical-rubber-company-062907-aerial-overlay

Portions of the property were used by U.S. Consolidated in the 1970s. The Gerson Stewart lots were used by Ramsey Laboratories from the 1980s until 1995. Today, the complex has either been razed or is used for storage.

[stag_toggle style=”normal” title=”Sources” state=”closed”]
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  3. “Cleveland Rubber Company.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 14 July 1892, 24. Print.
  4. Mauk, James F., Harold Peacock, and Melvin S. Ruffner, comps. Industrial Research Laboratories of the United States. 10th ed. Baltimore: Waverly, 1956: 218, 253. Print.
  5. Gribbin, John H., and Sue Singer Krogfus, comps. Industrial Research Laboratories of the United States. 11th ed. Baltimore: Waverly, 1960: 220, 451. Print.
  6. “Gerson-Stewart Changes Hands.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 20 Nov. 1958: 16. Print.
  7. Monnett Jr., James G. “Takes Leases to Expand Business.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 24 Mar. 1933: 10. Print.
  8. Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association. Soap, Cosmetics, Chemical Specialties. Mac Nair-Dorland, 1966. n.p. Print.
  9. Randolph, Carl L. “Western Mining in the Twentieth Century Series.” Interview by Eleanor Swent. Internet Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. Interview.
  10. Standard & Poor’s Stock Market Encyclopedia. Standard & Poor’s Corporation, 1964. n.p. Print.
  11. “R.F. Valentine is Dead in Illinois.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 14 Oct. 1941. 6. Print.
  12. Monnett Jr., James G. “Strong, Cobb & Co. Lease New Home.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 29 Nov. 1932: 9. Print.
  13. “Edwin Lee Strong.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 18 Jan. 1932: 8. Print.
  14. Rockwell, Guy T. “Strong, Cobb has Busy Pill Mill.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 29 Mar. 1942: 12C. Print.
  15. Rockwell, Guy T. “Standard Brands Sells Out Interest in Strong, Cobb.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 18 July 1947: 6. Print.
  16. Bryan, John E. “Strong, Cobb Merger with Arner Proposed.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 12 May 1959: 25. Print.
  17. Young, William H., and Nancy K. Young. “Leisure Activities: Chlorophyll.” The 1950s. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2004. 114. Print.
  18. “SCA to Vote on July 1 on Sale Proposal.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 11 June 1965: 30. Print.
  19. “FTC Orders the Sale of Strong Cobb Arner.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 4 Feb. 1967: 38. Print.
  20. “Foremost Sells Cleveland Firm.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 14 Nov. 1967: 34. Print.
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  30. “Oil Fed Flames Leap to the Sky.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 27 Oct. 1907: 11. Print.
  31. “Fire in Varnish Works.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 15 Feb. 1906: 1. Print.
  32. “Busy Week for the Builders.” Plain Dealer [Cleveland] 24 June 1906: 29. Print.
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