Monday, August 22, 2011

Lake County Profiles: Claud(e) Foster

Automotive inventor, industrialist, philantropist, and a notable Willowick citizen are just a few adjectives to describe this Lake County historical figure.  His name is Claud Foster.  Born in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn, he settled in Willowick and his Cleveland based companies made northeastern Ohio a leader in the automotive industry of the early 1900's.

Foster opened his first machine shop in Cleveland in 1891.  For eleven years, he played the trombone at night for the Euclid Avenue Opera House to keep his businesses afloat.  By 1896, Foster expanded his business interests to include an auto dealership.  He sold the Cleveland built 'General'.  In 1900, he acquired both the Peerless and Ajax auto companies.  His invention in 1904, the Gabriel car horn ( a multitone car horn that used the exhaust gases as a power source) revolutionized the auto industry.  Another patent in 1914 for the "Snubber" (a shock absorber) cemented his fame in the automotive industry.  For the next three decades, leading auto executives sought out Claud Foster with their design issues.  Foster's businesses exceeded one million dollars annually in profits.  Foster created a profit sharing partnership with his employees.  He set aside another $600,000 between 1917-1925 to assist his employees in various causes.  Foster sold his Gabriel Car Horn Company to Otis and Company for $4 million in 1925.  He stayed on as CEO, but spent the remainder of his years as an anonymous benefactor to many Cleveland area hospitals and charities.  In 1952, Foster decided to divide his wealth ($4 million plus).  Sixteen educational and charitable groups were selected and his funds donated to their causes.  Foster passed away in June 1965 and was buried in Riverside Cemetery.

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