National Acme

National Acme

National Acme, a merger of two notable machine tool manufacturers, is an abandoned factory in Cleveland, Ohio. At its height, National Acme was one of the largest manufacturers of machine tools in the United States.






History

The Cleveland Twist Drill Company had its roots in a small Dunkirk, New York twist drill factory founded by C.C. Newton. 6 Jacob Cox, Sr. used $2,000 borrowed from his father to acquire a 50% stake in the factory in 1875. Cox convinced Newton to relocate the business to the bustling port city of Cleveland in September 1876.

In 1880, Cox bought Newton’s stake in the business but was left with $9,000 in debt. 6 He invited a nephew, Frank F. Prentiss, to take a 40% share and become the company’s salesman. That left Cox to focus on the design and manufacturer of tools and machines for what was then known as Cox & Prentiss.

By 1886, Cox attempted to sell the floundering business for $75,000 but after finding no investors, Cox continued, and the company rebounded. 6 In June 1888, the firm relocated to larger quarters (at today’s Lakeside and East 49th Street). The Cleveland Twist Drill Company was incorporated in 1904. Thereafter, Cox retired, with Prentiss succeeding him.

In 1910, Cox rejoined Cleveland Twist Drill and served as president until 1919 when he became chairman. 6 His son, Jacob Cox, Jr., was elected president.

Cleveland Twist Drill’s research and eventual patent of the “Mo-Max” brand of high-speed steel, manufactured out of molybdenum-tungsten, cut costs and saved the company from having to rely on increasingly scarce tungsten steel. 6 It helped the company expand at the end of the Great Depression and into World War II.

The National Acme Company was founded in Hartford, Connecticut as the Acme Screw Machine Company in 1895 by mechanics Edwin C. Henn and Reinhold Hakewessell. 1 The pair had taken more than a decade to perfect and patent their first multiple spindle automatic lathe in 1894. 6 A friend loaned them capital to start up the business, but by 1897 it was in financial peril.

Henn sent his brother, A.W., to Cleveland to search for an investor. 6 That effort proved to be successful, and Henn traded 25 Acme machines for a combination of cash and a 50% stake in a new Cleveland-based firm called the National Manufacturing Company. In 1901, Acme Screw merged with National Manufacturing to form the National Acme Manufacturing Company and moved to Cleveland. 10

By 1914, National Acme was one of the city’s top manufacturers. 10 The company constructed a new plant, designed by George Smith Rider, at East 131st Street and Coit Road in 1916. 10 Rider, a Rhode Island-born engineer, was responsible for the design of many industrial facilities in the Cleveland region.

With the move, National Acme simplified their operations, 1 and it exited the manufacturer and distribution of screw machine products, focusing instead on the production and sale of automated machine tools, foundry equipment, and electrical controls. 2

In 1915, National Acme acquired the Windsor Manufacturing Company of Vermont, which produced Gridley-brand multiple spindle automatic machines. 6 It was a wise move as demand for that product spiked during World War I. But its reliance on the federal defence department left vast surplus inventory and underused buildings at the conclusion of the war. The Great Depression that followed nearly ruined the company.

National Acme had learned its lesson from the previous world war and correctly anticipated weakening demand for its products. 6 Over the coming years, the company acquired the Bay State Tap & Die Company of Massachusetts in the 1950’s, Shalco Systems in 1959, and the Eastern Machine Screw Company of Connecticut in 1967, among other subsidiaries and operations in Mexico, Canada and Europe. 4 6

The Acme-Cleveland Corporation was formed on October 25, 1968, 2 through the merger of the Cleveland Twist Drill Company and the National Acme Manufacturing Company. 1 It was focused on the machine tool, foundry equipment, and electrical controls in the automotive, screw machine and capital equipment industries. 6

In 1972, Acme-Cleveland acquired LaSalle Machine Tool, which manufactured systems for the automated production of internal combustion engines. 6 By 1980, Acme-Cleveland had become one of the largest machine tool manufacturers in the United States, with net sales of $405 million.

Decline

Acme-Cleveland’s machine tool operations became a drag in the early 1980’s. Between 1982 and 1983, total annual shipments of its metal cutting machine tools dropped from $5 billion to under $3 billion. 6 Imports of those tools from cheaper production countries rose from 10% in 1974 to nearly 42% by 1984. Acme-Cleveland reported a net loss of $31.9 million in 1983 1 on sales of $164 million. 6 To reduce operating costs, Acme-Cleveland restructured, selling off some subsidiaries and trimming its workforce. The number of employees dropped from 6,300 in 1980 to 2,600 by 1984, 6 and down to 2,000 by 1993. 1 Fifteen manufacturing plants were closed or consolidated. 6

To diversify its product portfolio with emerging technologies and to shield against the effects of a long-term slump in machine tool sales, Acme-Cleveland acquired telecommunications manufacturer Communications Technology Corporation in 1984 for $33 million. 1 5 It spun off the LaSalle division in that year, which helped reduce the company’s dependence on the automobile market. 6 Acme-Cleveland purchased TX Port in 1994, a producer of network access equipment. It also acquired Namco Controls Corporation, a manufacturer of electronic sensors, and M&M Precision Systems Corporation, a manufacturer of precision measurement products.

The turnaround was working. By 1990, Acme-Cleveland had recorded its third successive profitable year, but the divestment of its metalworking operations continued on. 6 The company sold Cleveland Twist Drill in the fall of 1994 to Greenfield Industries, a cutting tool manufacturer, 1 followed by the sale of National Acme to DeVlieg-Bullard Inc., a corporation that specialized in machine tools, in 1995. 1 6 By the end of the year, the telecommunications sector of the company accounted for 75% of its total operating earnings. 6

Acme-Cleveland’s stock rose accordingly. In 1996, the company was acquired by the Danaher Corporation, a manufacturer of tools, components, and environmental controls, for $200 million. 1

The East 131st Street plant continued to be used by DeVlieg-Bullard for the manufacture of original equipment. 9 DeVlieg-Bullard filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-1999, and the factory was sold to a real-estate holding company. One-sixth of the space was leased back to DeVlieg-Bullard which began moving machinery to its other plant in Twinsburg. In January 2002, the sales and engineering departments were relocated out of the building to Twinsburg to consolidate operations with the DeVlieg Bullard’s rebuild division. 9 All that remained was the manufacture of the high-precision spindle carrier for the Acme-Gridley machine.

Post-Closure

In June 2011, Christopher L. Gattarello, on behalf of All Points, a garbage disposal company, leased the former National Acme factory for a cardboard and paper waste recycling facility. 7 8 A July estimate to complete partial demolition and asbestos abatement in the factory was $1.5 million.

Gattarello motioned in August that cardboard and paper waste, along with municipal garbage, be delivered to the facility for recycling. 7 8 Thousands of tons of recyclables and garbage were delivered to the plant, and by April 2012, most of the interior of the factory was filled with trash from floor to ceiling.

Gattarello and Jackson were each charged with two counts of violating the Clean Air Act for releasing asbestos fibres into the environment during demolition and for leaving open piles of debris and asbestos that were exposed to the wind and elements. 7 8 Gattarello and two of his companies, Axelrod Recycling and Reachout Disposal, were indicted on charges of illegal open dumping, operating a solid waste landfill without a license and on operating a solid waste transfer facility without a permit. Gattarello was also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. Gattarello’s brother, Anthony Gattarello, was indicted on charges of illegal open dumping and on operating a solid waste disposal facility without a license. Jackson was charged on a count of unlawful open dumping.


Gallery






Further Reading


Sources

[su_spoiler title=”Sources” icon=”caret”]

  1. “ACME-CLEVELAND CORP.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University, 16 Aug. 2012. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. Article.
  2. Cleary, John. “Buyer of Acme Stock Bows Out.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 26 Oct. 1968, Business sec.: 24. Print.
  3. Koshar, John Leo. “Cleveland has rich industrial past.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 17 Apr. 1978, 9C. Print.
  4. Cleary, John J. “Twist Drill Here Plans 4th Expansion in Year.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 10 Nov. 1967, 30. Print.
  5. Gerdel, Thomas W. “Acme buys L.A. firm, diversifies.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 5 Oct. 1984, 16B. Print.
  6. “Acme-Cleveland Corp. History.” History of Acme-Cleveland Corp. Funding Universe. Web. 27 Mar. 2015. Article.
  7. “Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine – Cleveland Man Indicted for Violating Clean Air Act, Illegally Dumping Garbage and Defrauding Company.” Cleveland Man Indicted for Violating Clean Air Act, Illegally Dumping Garbage and Defrauding Company. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 30 Mar. 2015. Article.
  8. McCarty, James. “Cleveland Man Indicted on Clean Air Act Charges for Dumping, Asbestos Pollution at Collinwood Buildings.” The Plain Dealer. Web. 2 Oct. 2014. Article.
  9. “DeVlieg Bullard Moves Its National Acme Unit from Cleveland.” The Free Library. Gardner Publications, 17 Jan. 2002. Web. 30 Mar. 2015. Article.
  10. George Smith Rider. Cleveland Landmarks Commission. Web. 30 Mar. 2015. Article.

[/su_spoiler]

32 Comments

  1. I worked in the Industrial Engineering department from 1973 to 1982, my badge number 6892. I looked forward to going to work every day, it was like magic being one tiny part of this great company. Just remembering one of the greatest manufacturing operations of the 20th century, the so complex Acme Gridley machines and all of it’s model variants produced under one roof in Cleveland Ohio. National Acme Co. was not only a factory it was an institution of intellectual integrity. So ” Made in the USA ” now an extinct phrase, USA manufacturing exported to China and Mexico. So sad to see the photo’s of the building in ruins, once such a thriving institution and assembly of intellectual manufacturing talents now only distant and fading memories of those Good Old Days !!!

    1. If anybody interested in Acme Gridley check us out and join the acme Gridley fb yes the is one and we all love these machine

  2. There is a huge hole in the building and a perfect parking area across from area I went late June of 2017 and it is wort going and very very easy access also a mattress factory about 100yds down the road on the opposite side of the street with a garage door enterance

  3. My dad, Mitch Marczewski, was a sheet metal worker in the “Tin Shop” from the early 1960’s until the late 1980’s and worked with Earl Cortright and Sam Barresi. He was probably best known for telling Polish jokes to his co-workers and friends, and always had a new one every time you’d see him. He knew the value of humor and he learned to laugh at himself — in contrast to our current overly sensitive PC culture. His highest level of education was 10th grade, but he could fabricate just about anything made of sheet metal just by looking at an informal drawing. He loved his job and his co-workers. I miss his jokes and his Acme stories as he passed away in 2013 (age 76). If he could access this site, he would wish the best to his old Acme friends (and might even tell a joke or two).

  4. I’m thinking of using this facility to propose a redevelopment project. I’m not a developer however, it’s for a school project. This space would be perfect for a sound stage for filming or even reinvented as artists lofts or office space since it has a close proximity to highway and there seems be in interest in a reinvestment of the Collinwood area. Thank you for sharing!

  5. My father, Bill DiPuccio Sr., worked for Acme until the late 1970’s. I hope you consider posting your videos. Sadly, the only YouTube videos of Acme show the abandoned building.

    1. My father know Stan Cordish and I took an estimating class taught by Stan in the middle 80’s. Stan gave us a history of the company. During WW-2, The National Acme Company manufacture 80% of the munitions’ for the war effort. This company played a vital roll in the war effort. The company had some employees that where forth generation with the company. Had this company been managed correctly after being sold it would still be in business to this day. The machines are still competitive and we still using them in our manufacture process successfully to this today.

      Dana Kalchoff / Comturn Manufacturing LLC

  6. I started working at National Acme in January 1964, badge number 5510. My first job was working in the mail room replacing Gary Fink and working with Larry ?, then Bob Nelson and Tim ? before transferring to engineering working as a tooling clerk for Harland Leber and Tom Calevich. Jim Smith was Chief engineer. After I year, I transferred to the Hydraulic Engineering department where I remained until being laid off in December 1982. The picture with the gapping hole in the brick wall is the exact spot where my desk and drawing board was. Bill Morgan was my supervisor in hydraulics. My starting salary in the mail room was $245.00 per month. In 1968 my salary was $540.00 per month. In 1982 I was making $12.68 per hour, the hourly pay for office people was low but the company allowed us to work a lot of overtime to compensate for it. The cafeteria was great, Danny at the register and Tony on the wagon were employed by Bates Catering owned by Quentin ?. Then there was Larry the coke man that filled the vending machines. I can still name most of the office staff, there titles and where they sat. Acme provided a great learning opportunity. I to have the BROWN BOOK, the RED BOOK, and a small NATIONAL ACME HISTORY BOOK.
    I have many vivid memories of the people, the building, and what it felt like to grow up there.
    I made vides of the factory in the early 1990’s and took tome pictures of the interior in recent months. The dispensary had two nurses and a doctor named Dr. Restfio. Free annual physicals were provided to those that wanted them. I could write a book about a lot of the people that worked there. I welcome any questions or comments.

  7. My father was also a timekeeper at National Acme. I do not know when he began working for National Acme, but worked there until his death in 1973. He made a lot of good friends throughout his time there. M’y dad was John Berger.

  8. My grandfather worked here at National Acme on Coit Road. My father worked here as a Timekeeper in Dept. 17 from the 1940s through the 1960s.
    My mother worked here in the Bookkeeping Dept. They met in this plant and that meeting led to their marriage, and then I was born in 1947.
    (I think that makes me officially an “ACME “BRAT”.)
    When I graduated high school in 1965 I WENT TO WORK HERE, first in the mail room, then in Plant 2 across the street.
    Years later I eventually worked for two manufacturing companies, where I ended up as a foreman in their Multi-Spindle screw machine departments, where I taught employees how to set up and operate multiple-spindle screw machines – including Acme-Gridleys!!!!!

  9. National Acme was 10 acres under roof. All the supervisors used electric carts to get around. It was an amazing factory. On occasion I have business that takes me by the old girl. I can see into where the Tool Room was located and beyond to the milling department.

  10. I applied for employment with National Acme as a Journeyman Machine Tool Repairman. I was instead, offered the position of second shift Tool Room Foreman. Within eight months I was promoted to Second Shift Plant Superintendent. At age 36, I was the youngest to have held this position in the companies history. In 1987 there was a huge layoff. Second shift was reduced to myself and one setup man. I was finally let go May 1, 1987. In 1989 the new Manufacturing Manager,, Richard Kohagan, talked me into returning. However, after speaking with a wise older foreman. I decided against it. I am glad I did.

  11. Worked at Acme from 1979 to 1985.. Strange to see such a wasteland where there was once so much vitality…..I own the last Brown Gridley Operator’s Manual printed in the in house print shop.. John Bedocs was my mentor…

    1. your all wet BOB when did floor sweepers and laborer take over…the union did every thing it could to save the company,than greed fron outsiders destroyed it. Jerry-tool rm .engine lathe 1962-2001 last of 10 employees….P.S. best friend of joe kanocz

  12. I worked at Acme on the assembly floor from 1964 to 1979 and those were great years, they got me a deferment from the war as we were obligated to work on war machines. You couldn’t ask for a better management. John Bedox, Frank Slovenick and many more totally dedicated to National Acme. We got through the riots dodging all the crap they were throwing at the building.
    In my opinion the union had a lot to do with the downfall of Acme. When the uneducated but popular union people start running the company , yes management let them do it, because we had 700 plus orders for machines and did not want trouble. Early on the union was great, Then the idiots took over in 1970 we had a strike and never recovered.. Our company was run by floor sweepers and laborers. 1979 I left and opened up Pride Machinery in California and now rebuild 3-4 million dollars worth of Acmes every year. I shed a tear while looking at those pictures as it was a great run. and will always be a great machine.

  13. I ran these machines for many years before moving into another job then came back to the machining department, took over as process engineer, and they are still running today. I actually have two ACME Gridley 2-5/8″ RB8s out for rebuild as we speak. I believe in these machines and their history. I believe innovation got to the National ACME company as we all know people in the mid 90s were wanting to try the bells and whistles from over seas that take a fortune to repair. These ACMEs are awesome machines, I did my research before sending out for rebuild. Basically found all the good things about ACMEs design and kept them then added our own robust bells and whistles to the machine to make it easier to setup and operate. While visiting my machine rebuilder a few weeks ago we drive by the National Acme facility and took some outside pictures, it was a sad day! Thanks for the article and facts it is good to know our industrial revolution history!

  14. i just purchased 2 1910? Gridley screw machines and being sandblasted and painted to be installed in my free car factory museum .it will be hooked up ti a old lineshft. it will be in the old marathon motor works factory in nashville tenn , ck out marathon village.com Barry Walker love to find out any infor or pre-1914 photos on the early screw machines.

  15. Thanks for this pictures, it is kind of sad to see it this way, I thought the buildings were used by other businesses or taken down !
    Do you have the exact street location of this buildings ?
    Best regards, Donato

  16. Hey this article is amazing. I’m not sure to whether or not i just missed it, but what is the adress of the building, or the location other than cleveland

  17. I am currently a machinist running several ACME Gridley Screw Machines in Michigan. I am also an aspiring photographer. I was curious if this building is still currently standing, and what the status is about being able to photograph inside?

    Great article!

  18. My father worked at National Acme from the late 1930’s until 1978 when he retired. He is nearly 97 now. I visited the factory once as a child when it was still thriving. Thank you so much for this comprehensive history and these photos. It is a sad ending to a great company.

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