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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

GEORGE WORTHINGTON CO. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The GEORGE WORTHINGTON CO., one of the nation's leading hardware wholesalers and industrial distributors, began in 1829 when 16-year-old GEORGE WORTHINGTON† came to Cleveland from New York. Noting the lack of proper tools being used in building the OHIO AND ERIE CANAL, Worthington returned to New York, purchased picks, shovels, and other implements, and shipped them to Cleveland. When the supply sold quickly, Worthington doubled his money and opened his first hardware store at Superior and W. 10th streets. In 1835 he acquired a competitor, McCurdy & Conklin, and relocated the store to Superior and Water (W. 9th) streets. The advent of the railroad and the Civil War stimulated the company's growth, and by 1868 Worthington built a new store and warehouse at 802 W. St. Clair Ave. By 1870 the firm began issuing yearly catalogs as sales reached $1.5 million. After the store burned in 1874, a larger store was erected on the same site, and the company expanded its headquarters there to a complex of 13 structures. Under president JAMES BARNETT† the George Worthington Co. incorporated in 1887. With a sales territory extending through 10 northeastern and midwestern states by 1920, Worthington discontinued its retail business and devoted the firm's resources to the wholesale trade.

After World War II, the introduction of discount department stores adversely affected the small hardware stores that Worthington serviced, and in 1960 the company became a charter member of the Sentry Hardware Corp., a national affiliation of hardware wholesalers. In 1979 Worthington under Sentry had annual sales of $60 million, with 450 employees and 35,000 items in its catalog. After the firm's 1984 move from its downtown Cleveland headquarters to a more modern plant in Mentor, the employee-owned company was supplying 1,500 Sentry hardware retailers. From 1986-88 the company reorganized under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy law, and on 1 Feb. 1991 the company ceased to exist, after 162 years in business.

George Worthington Co. Eighty-seven Years of Progress (1916).

George Worthington Co. Records, 1849-70, WRHS.

Last Modified: 16 Jul 1997 11:44:52 AM

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