Celebrating Ohio Brass

By Holly Williams

Opening April 21st at Kingwood is an exhibit which is of importance not only to Kingwood Center Gardens, but to the Mansfield community and the world.  It is the Ohio Brass Exhibit, which will celebrate the iconic manufacturing company and its connection to Kingwood.


In the late 1800’s, a small group of men, led by Frank B. Black, started Ohio Brass, whose first standard products were brass harnesses used for the horse and buggy.  By 1891, they were producing brass valves.

In 1893, a young man named Charles Kelley King, came to Mansfield representing a struggling company out of Chicago.  Reid Carpenter, a local entrepreneur and on the Board of Ohio Brass, was impressed with the young King. King was soon hired onto the Ohio Brass staff as its first engineer.  That same year, the company entered the transit market making many items, including insulators, for electric trolley lines.

In 1888, the company moved into 207 North Main Street in Mansfield, Ohio and its rise to iconic status for nearly a century was born.  In 1909, they developed a one-piece, cap-and-pin type porcelain suspension insulator and received the bid to outfit the 110kV Niagara Falls to Toronto, Canada transmission line.  In 1915, they built the first high-voltage testing laboratory in Barberton, Ohio.  In 1920, the country’s first full-scale outdoor electrical testing facility was opened.  In 1935, Ohio Brass insulators were installed on the Boulder Dam 287kV line.  In 1946, Ohio Brass began working on extra-high-voltage transmission projects.  In 1969, one of the largest research projects in Ohio Brass history began in order to determine the feasibility of transmission of electric power at 1500kV and above.

An aerial view of the Mansfield operation.

An aerial view of the Mansfield operation.

The list of inventions and improvements on electric transmission products is staggering; from the introduction of non-magnetic aluminum transmission and distribution clamps to the lightweight, high strength HI*LITE Polymer Insulators, Ohio Brass was a true leader in its field.  In 1978, the company was purchased by Hubbell, Incorporated and continues to be a strong brand of theirs today.

Charles Kelley King eventually became Ohio Brass’ President in 1928 and Board Chairman in 1946. King died in 1952, and through his will, he left his estate known as “Kingwood” to a trust with the explicit instruction that it should become a public garden.  Kingwood Center Gardens was established a year later, and is now a true oasis of horticultural excellence.

It is with great pleasure that we are able to celebrate not only the life and history of our founder, Charles Kelley King, but his passion for and commitment to Ohio Brass, which makes Kingwood Center Gardens possible today.

The exhibit will be open April 21- September 30, Monday through Friday from 10am-2pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 11am-3pm.  Guided tours are available for $3 on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm.


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