Theme 5: Toledo Businesses and World Markets
While it took time for Toledo to develop a successful industrial base, once it did, it did not take long for the companies to develop international markets.
The Owens Bottle Company, founded in 1904 by Michael Owens to produce the first machine that could produce glass bottles automatically, was one of the earliest Toledo companies to seek global expansion. One year after the company was founded, Owens and his investor Edward Drummond Libbey were selling licensing rights to the machine overseas. Within five years, the machine was in use all over Europe. Another company of Owens and Libbey—the Libbey-Owens Sheet Glass Company—sold its unique machine for making flat glass to the Japanese in 1920. The joint venture created the American-Japan Sheet Glass Company, and today is known as the huge international conglomerate of Nippon Glass.
One company that literally took the name “Toledo” around the world was Toledo Scale. Every one of its scales prominently displayed the company’s name, and the company’s motto of “No Springs, Honest Weight” was universally recognized. Some of the scales are still in use in far-flung countries around the globe today.
Another Toledo company can claim that its products played a key role in winning wars. In 1940, Willlys-Overland produced a prototype for a lightweight yet strong military vehicle that came to be known as the Jeep. During World War II, the Jeep was so key to victory that it was often called the Steel Soldier. It became a symbol to many around the world of American ingenuity.
But globalization of markets has been a double-edged sword for Toledo. Today, Toledo workers find themselves competing with workers in foreign countries were wages and regulations make products cheaper than they can be produced in the U.S.
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