Celebrating 125 Years of CEI

Technology has come a long way in 125 years, as evidenced by the equipment line workers have at their disposal today.

February 6, 2018

Imagine the excitement people must have felt in 1879 when Cleveland’s Public Square became the first street in the world to be lit with electric lights. The arc lamps used to accomplish this feat were invented by Cleveland native Charles Brush, who formed the Brush Electric Light and Power Company. In 1892, Brush Electric merged with rival Cleveland Electric Light Company to form the Cleveland General Electric Company, which today is known as The Illuminating Company (CEI).

CEI celebrates 125 years of service on Sept. 29, making it our oldest operating company. In many ways, the company’s history coincides with the birth of electricity, as CEI formed and grew along with the product that now touches nearly every aspect of our lives.

In the early years, CEI had to sell the public on electricity and promote its value to potential customers. The company published a monthly magazine and created a silent film that showed how electricity could be used to power irons, toasters, washing machines and other new inventions. As production of these electrical servants increased, more and more people wanted to have electricity in their homes.

CEI employees Virginia Bowman and Shana McCarthy recently researched the history of the company, then shared the story with their coworkers. According to Virginia, CEI employees should be proud of where they work.

In 1905, underground crews dug trenches with shovels, and carried their equipment to job sites in horse-drawn wagons.

Technology has come a long way in 125 years, as evidenced by the equipment line workers have at their disposal today.

“Being in business for 125 years is an impressive milestone for any company to reach,” says Virginia, who is manager of Forestry Services. “Over the years, CEI has been instrumental to our area’s growth and development, and has helped turn Cleveland into the great city that it is today.”

In addition to having the first street illuminated by electric street lights, Cleveland had the first automatic traffic signal created by Garrett Morgan, another inventor who called Cleveland home. The signal was installed in a traffic tower at East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue in 1930.

“It’s fun bringing history to life,” says Shana, a distribution technician. “Through my research of the company at the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland State University and other sources, I gained a deep appreciation for the significant impact our company has had on the electric utility industry.”

CEI, along with Toledo Edison, also brought the first commercial nuclear power station to Ohio. Located in Oak Harbor, the 908-megawatt Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station – now operated by FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) – is situated on the Lake Erie shoreline.

“Throughout its rich history, CEI has been a leader in creating and developing technologies that changed the way we work and improved people’s lives” says John Skory, regional president, CEI. “I’d like to acknowledge the many contributions of our employees through the years, whose pioneering spirit, pursuit of innovation, and dedication to customers established the foundation that our company continues to build on today.”