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Partners Image Reliance Electric was founded in 1904 in Cleveland, Ohio, as a partnership between two cousins: inventor John Lincoln and industrialist Peter Hitchcock. Lincoln had been working on a new type of direct current motor. Direct current was the primary means of electrification at the time because alternating current was considered dangerous and unpredictable. Lincoln invented the first adjustable-speed direct current motor. They shipped their first industrial electric motor in 1905. The two named their new company after the inventor, Lincoln Electric Motor Works.

In 1907, Lincoln sold his interest in the company to Charles and Ruben Hitchcock, Peter's sons. The youngest, Ruben took over the company. But having little business or electrical experience, Ruben sought a new president. He found one in Clarence Collens, a Yale graduate, who stayed with the company in that capacity for the next 40 years. When Collens came on as president, the company was incorporated as Reliance Electric and Engineering Company.

ImageThe variable-speed motor was Reliance's only product until 1913. That year, the company's chief engineer, Alex McCutcheon, designed a new DC motor that soon became Reliance's primary product. It was used in many of Cleveland's booming steel mills and was a mainstay of the DC product line until the early 1950s.

Reliance began to design and manufacture industrial alternating current (AC) motors in the 1920s, but the company was late to join the race to convert to AC.

Image Reliance executives realized that they needed to find a niche for their company to remain competitive and profitable. They decided that the company would concentrate on becoming a flexible, timely supplier of industrial motors and emphasize the applied engineering aspect of the business. To accomplish this conversion, the Reliance sales department was organized with technically knowledgeable people. These representatives would not just sell Reliance products, they would also investigate customers' needs and recommend equipment to get the job done.

One of the salesmen, Jim Corey, proved his technical expertise when he received a patent for an adjustable-voltage, multi-motor control system for use in the paper and textile industries.

Old Logo Reliance made its first inroads into the AC business in 1927 with a modification of the General Electric enclosed fan-cooled motor.

Image The company grew quickly on the basis of these new technologies, and in 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression, Reliance's sales peaked at about $3 million. The Corey motor helped partially insulate the company from the severe economic downturn, since the textile industry was virtually depression-proof. The introduction of the first electrical variable-speed drive package during the 1930s established Reliance's enduring leadership in that facet of the business.

During World War II, Reliance served as a primary supplier of motors to the military, especially the Navy. The company also supplied the motors needed to build hundreds of tanks.

Image During the 1950s, the company expanded its electrically based products to include mechanical power transmission products through the acquisition of Reeves Pulley and the Master Electric Company.

Mergers and acquisitions continued in the 1960s and 1970s. The Mechanical Group was expanded with the purchase of the Dodge Manufacturing Company in 1967.

Image Reliance became the largest industrial motor manufacturer in the United States with the April 1986 purchase of the Medium AC Motor Division from one of its oldest competitors, Westinghouse Electric Co.

In November 1994, industry leaders Reliance and Allen-Bradley joined Rockwell Automation, becoming the number one provider of high-performance automation products in the world.

A new motor plant was opened in Columbus, Nebraska in 1995. Reliance and Allen-Bradley drive systems realigned to form Rockwell Automation Drive Systems.

Reliance employs the newest satellite technology to train and communicate with its sales force.

New innovations included:

  • VTAC 7 drives for the HVAC industry
  • The new line of RPM™ XL DC motors
  • Engineered motors with ratings to 25,000 HP.

In 1996, Reliance, American Superconductor and the U. S. Department of Energy develop the Superconductivity Partnership Initiative.

Installed VPI tank (largest in the United States) at Houston Service Center, allowing for high quality remanufacturing of larger motors.

AutoMax PC3000 introduced to provide tight integration of high-performance controllers via personal computer-based control.

In 1997 IQ Intelligent AC Motors, the world’s first motors with on-line motor-related process diagnostics, win five major industry technology awards.

VSM™ 500 Integrated Drive motor introduced.

Powerful new electronic marketing tools developed

  • Reliance Electric Website launched, June 1996
  • Innovative Reliance WebCD™ makes the Reliance website portable
  • “Five-in-One Launch” introduced five new products simultaneously using electronic marketing tools

Madison, IN plant awarded Demand Flow Technology “1997 Plant of the Year”.

Drives production transferred from Athens, Georgia, allowing for expanded motors production at Athens plant and greater drives’ manufacturing efficiencies in Mequon, WI.

Long-standing support to motor efficiency initiatives continued through commitment to “Motor Challenge” partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.

In 1998, KATO Engineering sold to Caterpillar, its largest customer for generators.

Initiated innovative way to communicate to customers and distributors through WREL 100.1, live radio broadcast at EASA 98 Show.

Reliance Electric Motors joined DODGE Mechanical to form Rockwell Automation’s Power Systems Business in Greenville, SC.