WHITE CONSOLIDATED INDUSTRIES, INC. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
WHITE CONSOLIDATED INDUSTRIES, INC., a diversified conglomerate, was originally founded by THOS. H. WHITE as the White Mfg. Co. in 1866. Ten years later it was known as White Sewing Machine Co., with 600 employees producing the White Rotary Bobbin sewing machine in a 5-story factory on Canal St. Sales at the company reached $2.5 million by 1878. Under the control of White's sons, ROLLIN, Windsor, and Walter, the company diversified, making automatic lathes, screw machines, roller skates, bicycles, kerosene lamps, and White cars and trucks by 1903. Although Thos. White discounted the popularity of cars, his sons thought otherwise and organized the White Motor Car Co. in 1906 (see WHITE MOTOR CORP.). White Sewing Machine again concentrated on its original product. In 1924, White contracted with Sears to supply its private label machines, a move which assured a steady business. Over the next two years, White Sewing Machine acquired the Domestic and King Sewing Machine Cos. and the THEODOR KUNDTZ CO., moving into the Kundtz plant at 2120 Elm. The firm remained there until 1949, when it relocated to a new plant and headquarters at 11770 Berea Rd. With sales averaging nearly $20 million a year, White remained a single product company in 1954. At that time the firm came under increased competition with imported sewing machines that begun to flood the U.S. market.
The company was revolutionized in 1956 when three White Motor Co. executives, led by Edward Reddig, joined White Sewing Machine. Rather than attempt to fight the cheaper imports, Reddig's team soon discarded White's domestic sewing machine production and reorganized the company as a sewing-machine importer, arranging to have machines made abroad to its specification. The company embarked on a program of acquisitions in the 1960s, which included Apex Electrical Mfg. Co., Strong, Carlisle & Hammond, HUPP CORP., and the LEES-BRADNER CO., all of Cleveland. During this time, White also acquired the Kelvinator Appliance Div. of American Motors and the Appliance Division of Westinghouse. These purchases created a company that was profitable, diversified, and integrated, in the sense of having complementary product lines. To reflect this shift, the company became White Consolidated Industries in 1964.
The former White Motor Corp. executives, now with White Consolidated, proposed two failed attempts to merge with White Motor in 1970 and in 1976. The 1970 merger was prevented by the Justice Dept. on the grounds that the new corporation would have a monopoly in the farm market. The 1976 proposal was voted down by White Consolidated's board, as White Motor, responding to an ailing domestic automobile and truck market in the U.S., was failing badly at the time. White Motor eventually closed its doors, for good in 1985, and while the fortunes were grim for the automaker, the same could not be said for White Consolidated Industries. Judicious acquisition and streamlined operations in the years 1975-85 increased sales from $1.2 billion to more than $2 billion. White Consolidated merged with AB Electrolux of Sweden in March 1986. In 1995, White operated in 45 states, Canada, and Mexico, and employed 70 people locally. At that time, White had three divisions in commercial appliances, home products, and industrial equipment. Of the three, the home products division was by far the largest. In 1995, White Consolidated Industries acquired the appliance divisions of the Westinghouse Electric Corp. In 1998, White's Viking Sewing Machines opened a new 100,000 sq. ft. facility in WESTLAKE. In 2005, White Consolidated Industries remained a part of AB Electrolux.