Bearings, Inc. was founded by Joseph M. Bruening in 1928. Orphaned as a toddler, Bruening was raised by an uncle and two aunts in early twentieth-century Cincinnati. He took engineering courses at the University of Cincinnati as a young man, but decided that he needed money more than schooling and dropped out. Bruening took his first job with Standard Parts' Cincinnati division and started a practical education in the area of automotive axles and springs. Dissatisfied with Standard Parts' progress, the young entrepreneur went to work for a customer, Tom Moore, in 1922. Moore's business, called Detroit Ball Bearing Co., had begun selling replacement bearings to auto and truck dealers that year.
Later in 1922, after Detroit Ball Bearing established a Cleveland office, Bruening was assigned to run it. His first few days in the city on the shores of Lake Erie were not pleasant ones. Since he was new in town, Bruening secured a room at the downtown YMCA. While showering that first night, all his clothes and money were stolen. Undaunted, he borrowed some clothes from the "Y" and went to work.
Less than a year after his transfer, Bruening was surprised when Moore offered to sell him the profitable Cleveland office. Aware that Bruening had virtually no capital to invest, Moore proposed to give him half of the profits that the Cleveland branch had brought in up to that point: $2,600. Bruening borrowed thousands of dollars from his uncle and landlady as well, and he was able to pay off the entire purchase price of $26,000 within about eighteen months. The company, renamed Ohio Ball Bearing, made $82,000 in its first year of selling replacement parts for cars and trucks.
Bruening established his first branch outlet in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1927. From that point on, the company's geographic reach grew in an ever-widening circle to include such other major Ohio cities as Akron, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Ohio Ball Bearing established its first out-of-state branch--in Indianapolis, Indiana--in 1937.
From its earliest years, the company positioned itself as a vital link in the distribution chain by cultivating a reputation for unparalleled inventory and service. As Bruening stated in a 1973 company history, "our reason for being is that neither manufacturer nor customer can efficiently stock a full line of replacement bearings or other parts. So we stock hundreds of thousands.... And when needed, we get them to the customer first." In the early days, that emphasis on service sometimes meant hiring a local motorcycle dealer to deliver parts. By the 1990s, it meant chartering jets in the middle of the night, if necessary.
Ohio Ball Bearing began offering its services to industrial customers after World War II. The company grew quickly as a result of a string of acquisitions in the 1950s and 1960s that culminated in 1971. In 1952 Ohio Ball Bearing merged with Pennsylvania Bearings, Inc., Indiana Bearings, Inc., and West Virginia Bearings, Inc. The new entity was known as Bearings Specialists, Inc. The company name was shortened to just Bearings, Inc. after a 1953 merger with the Pennsylvania company of the same name. The 1957 acquisition of Dixie Bearings, Inc., Southern Bearings Co., and Bearings Service Co. expanded the distributor's reach as far south as Florida.Certificate:
Common Stock, specimen, 1980’sPrinter: Security-Columbian / United States Bank Note Company Dimensions:
8” (h) x 12” (w)State: OH-Ohio Subject Matter: Auto Parts and Service
| Specimen Pieces Vignette Topic(s): Allegorical Featured
| Industrial Scene
| Car Featured Condition:
No fold lines, punch hole cancels in the signature areas and body and some toning from age.