Midland Steel Products Co. - Parish & Bingham Co - Detroit Pressed Steel Co - Midland-Ross Corp. - 1894-2003 - Cleveland, Ohio


   

Midland Steel, another major manufacturer on Berea Road in Cudell, began as the Parish & Bingham Co. in 1894.

The company produced trolley, wagon, and bicycle parts. The company made automobile frames with the introduction of the car. Today Midland Steel makes heavy duty frames for trucks, busses, and tractors.

In 1923 Parish & Bingham, a Detroit Pressed Steel Co. was merged into the Midland Steel Prods. Co. by Elroy J. Kulas.

Kulas came from the Peerless Automobile Company where he had served as its sales manager.

In March 1923, "E.J." left Peerless and formed the Midland Steel Products Company by merging the Parish & Bingham Company of Cleveland with the Detroit Pressed Steel Co. and the Parish Manufacturing Company of Detroit.

Midland supplied stake and platform bodies for Ford during the late twenties and early thirties. 

Midland Steel built mostly truck and commercial bodies, and darn few at that. By 1936, Briggs was building approximately 66% of Ford's purchased passenger-car bodies. Murray supplied another 22%, Budd 11 %, and Midland Steel about 1 %. Murray Corp. of America, the Edw. G. Budd Co., Hayes Body Corp., and Midland Steel also built Model A bodies, but not in the volume that Briggs did.

Midland was one of the few firms who had deep-draw presses which were capable of stamping out intricate contoured body panels. Other firms with deep-draw presses were Briggs, Budd and Murray.

During World War II it was pressed into service to make frame rails for jeeps and hulls for the Sherman tank.

The business switched gears in the 1960s as the car industry moved to a "unitized body" that melded frame and body in one unit. Midland-Ross Corp., then the plant's owner, focused on frames for medium-sized trucks.

Years later and after "E.J.'s" death, Midland Steel Products Co. became the core of Midland-Ross Corp. "E.J." remained President of Midland Steel Products Co. from its founding until his death in 1952.

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Elroy J. Kulas, known as "E.J.", was born in Cleveland in 1880. He received his education in Cleveland Public Schools. At age 18, he commenced his working career in the freight department of the B & O Railroad. Three years later, 1901, E. J. Kulas joined the National Electric Lamp Association (NELA). NELA had been formed through a joint venture of three organizations: Franklin S. Terry's Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company of Chicago, Burton G. Tremaine's Fostoria Incandescent Lamp Company of Fostoria, Ohio and General Electric Company, (which had a secret participation as a 75% stockholder).

During World War I, "E.J." left NELA and became one of the founders of Cuyahoga Stamping & Machine Company, which made cartridge cases for the Allied Armies. In 1917, Burton G. Tremaine and Franklin S. Terry, the co-founders of NELA, joined others in purchasing the Peerless Automobile Company and soon thereafter engaged E. J. Kulas as Sales Manager for that company.

In March 1923, "E.J." Kulas left Peerless and formed the Midland Steel Products Company by merging the Parish & Bingham Company of Cleveland with the Detroit Pressed Steel Co. and the Parish Manufacturing Company of Detroit. Years later and after "E.J.'s" death, Midland Steel Products Co. became the core of Midland-Ross Corp. "E.J." remained President of Midland Steel Products Co. from its founding until his death in 1952. But in a highly unusual step, in 1925, he took on the additional responsibility of being President of Otis Steel Co., a position he held until 1942 when Otis Steel was bought by Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation. During 1928, "E.J." permitted Margaret Bourke-White to photograph steelmaking in the Otis Steel plant. Later he became so enthusiastic about her work that he published and distributed a small booklet of 16 of her pictures to the stockholders of Otis Steel Company. That booklet and those photographs caught the eye of Henry Luce, who engaged her for his new magazine, "Fortune." Several years later, when forming Life Magazine, Henry Luce asked Margaret Bourke-White to become one of the four original staff photographers.

"E.J.'s" other business interests included directorship in the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad, the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad and the North American Coal Company.

In addition to his business career, "E.J." was very interested in music and served as a vice-president of the Musical Arts Association as well as a trustee of both the Northern Ohio Opera Association and the Cleveland Chamber Music Society. He had a particular fondness for Baldwin-Wallace College, where he was a trustee for many years. The first major grant of the Kulas Foundation was $50,000 to Baldwin-Wallace for its Conservatory of Music.

Elroy J. Kulas died in his home in Cleveland on May 12, 1952.

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Cleveland's Cudell neighborhood

Midland Steel, another major manufacturer on Berea Road in Cudell, began as the Parish & Bingham Co. in 1894.

The company produced trolley, wagon, and bicycle parts. The company made automobile frames with the introduction of the car. Today Midland Steel makes heavy duty frames for trucks, busses, and tractors.

In 1923 Parish & Bingham, a Detroit Pressed Steel Co. was merged into the Midland Steel Prods. Co. by Elroy J. Kulas.

Midland Steel had two Cleveland plants that rapidly became the largest manufacturer of automobile frames.

According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, Midland manufactured jeep and truck frames and parts for shells and tanks during World War II.

When Midland Steel Co. merged with J. O. Ross Engineering Co. in 1957, the firm became Midland-Ross Co.

Midland-Ross was a diversified company with holdings ranging from industrial heating and steel to aerospace and electronics.

In 1981, the firm's international headquarters was in Cleveland on Berea Road.

In 1986, the company was bough by Forstmann Little & Co. for about $450 million, and it was announce that the Cleveland offices would close early in 1987.

The Midland Steel Products Berea Road site was purchased in 1992 by Gerald B. Smith and in 1995, the company was transferred to Iochpe-Maxion Ohio, Inc.

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The operation began in 1894 as Parish & Bingham Co., a metal stamper making watch cases, motorman's seats and other products. It later began making car frame rails. The Cleveland plant supplied such rails for Henry Ford's new Model T, according to a company history.

The company operated under various names over the years. During World War II it was pressed into service to make frame rails for jeeps and hulls for the Sherman tank.

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Midland Steel production body/chassis builder

Midland out of time - 05/12/03 - Peter Krouse Cleveland Plain Dealer Reporter   

The Midland Steel plant at West 106th Street and Madison Avenue in Cleveland built frames used in some of America's classic vehicles, from the Model T Ford to the yellow school bus.

But the hulking factory is grinding to a halt as it closes a century of heavy manufacturing and is unlikely to return anytime soon as a maker of truck frames for General Motors Corp., Navistar

The company has been packing the tools and dies of its last remaining customer, General Motors, and shipping them to Laredo, Texas, for ultimate delivery to Midland competitor Metalsa Mexico of Monterrey, Mexico. Midland supplied frames to GM for medium-size trucks, such as those used for short-distance urban delivery.

All other Midland customers left before April 30, when the company closed, Ioschpe said. He believes Navistar business went to a Venezuelan plant owned by Dana Corp. of Toledo. Midland made heavy-duty frames, such as those for 18-wheelers, for Navistar.

The Cleveland plant is a vast array of giant presses, including a blank-and-pierce press that created such a shock wave when it was first tested that it broke windows across the street.

Another machine that rises about 45 feet above the plant floor and exerts 6,000 tons of pressure is the largest forming press in North America, Executive Vice President Bernie Baka said.

Local legacy

The factory leaves a human legacy as well. It employed roughly 1,500 about 30 years ago. That included 1,300 hourly workers represented by United Auto Workers Local 486, which was founded in 1937. Gone are the company's baseball diamond, which is now a parking lot, and the blacksmith who fashioned hand tools on site.

Besides the main plant in Cleveland, Midland has smaller operations in Solon and Garland, Texas. Bank of America has reached an agreement to sell the Texas assembly plant to Dana, Ioschpe said.

He and his management team were the latest in a long list of owners. The operation began in 1894 as Parish & Bingham Co., a metal stamper making watch cases, motorman's seats and other products. It later began making car frame rails. The Cleveland plant supplied such rails for Henry Ford's new Model T, according to a company history.

The company operated under various names over the years. During World War II it was pressed into service to make frame rails for jeeps and hulls for the Sherman tank.

The business switched gears in the 1960s as the car industry moved to a "unitized body" that melded frame and body in one unit. Midland-Ross Corp., then the plant's owner, focused on frames for medium-sized trucks.

Difficult market

In 1989, when Lamson & Sessions Co. owned the business, the UAW began a three-year strike that drove away most customers, although GM remained, Baka said. Lamson & Sessions sold the business in 1994 to the Brazilian firm Iochpe-Maxion, which expanded into the production of heavy-duty frames.

That sale brought Iochpe to Cleveland. He and other managers bought the operations in 1999 for $38.5 million.

The timing could have been better. While lower-cost foreign competition and rising U.S. steel prices have made it hard for Midland to compete, the most bedeviling development has been the crash of the market for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Sales at Midland declined from $98 million in 1999 to $55 million last year. Environmental regulations on diesel engines that kicked in last October created a buying spree in the first seven months of the year, but that only led to a decline that crippled Midland's cash flow, Ioschpe said.

Baka said Midland tried to expand into other markets such as guardrails and vehicle bumpers, but for various reasons they did not pan out.

The depressed market for heavy-duty trucks has hit bottom, Baka said, and the stage is set for a recovery in the later part of this year through 2006. Bank of America spokeswoman Julie Westermann said analysts are predicting a soft market through 2003 with a recovery beginning in 2004.

 

   

For more information please read:

Peter Krouse - Midland out of time - Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 12 2003   

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

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Robert M Roll - American trucking: A seventy-five year odyssey

David Jacobs - American Trucks: A photographic essay of American Trucks and Trucking

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Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

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