by Ken Bushell
In 1884, Charles N. North and George W. Drumheller established a small electrical shop for the repair and manufacture of telephone equipment in Cleveland, Ohio. The firmís name was Drumheller and North.
Mr. North and Mr. Drumheller undertook the venture after several years of experience in telephone operating company work. Bringing, as they did, a broad practical experience to the problems of telephone equipment manufacture, the firmís products immediately achieved a place in the field.
In 1889 Charles North succeeded to the company and the firmís name was changed to the North Electric Works.
In 1899, in association with Mr. George C. Steele, he commenced the business as the North Electric Company. Under the management of Messrs. North and Steele, the company forged rapidly to the front and from the small repair shop on a side street, it became one of the prominent manufacturing concerns of Cleveland, employing over 300 workers.
In 1912, they acquired the Telephone Improvement Company and in 1918, the North Electric Company was reorganised under the laws of Ohio as the North Electric Manufacturing Company. The new company acquired, clear of debt, all the property of the old North Company, including a going factory in Galion, Ohio, and a large group of important patent rights covering machine switching telephone systems.
Charles N. North, who for more than 30 years had been predominately identified with the telephone manufacturing business of the USA, remained with the new company as President.
Mr North remained associated with the company until his death in 1926. Due to declining health, however, he retired from the presidency in 1921. His gradual withdrawal from active work during the last years of his life was a distinct loss to the art of telephony and to his host of friends.
North Electric became a member of the Ericsson Group in 1951 and was to become the oldest continuous manufacturer of telephone equipment in the USA.
Ericsson had bought 60% of the shares in the company for US$1.68million and three years later invested a further US$0.4million acquiring a two-thirds majority.
North had at that time approximately 100 employees in four factories, the most important in Galion, near Cleveland. Their production was mainly telephone sets, including the American version of the Ericofon, as well as dials and exchanges for the American telephone companies, There were also large orders from the US Government for military telephone equipment. North developed electronic exchanges for the US Air Force in conjunction with LM Ericsson. In 1960, a factory was bought to manufacture power supply equipment for computer and telephone exchanges.
In 1966, the majority of shares were transferred to United Holdings (a holding company for a group of telephone operation companies that had become the third largest in size in the USA after ATT and General Telephones).
In 1967, United Utilities became the sole owner of the North Electric Company.