Biography of Lester E. France
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

LESTER EDWARD FRANCE, a representative inventor and manufacturer in the City of Cleveland. is here president of the France Manufacturing Company, the offices of which are at Berea Road and West One Hundred and Fourth Street, in connection with the manufacturing plant of the company.

Mr. France was born on the West Side of Cleveland, in a home on West Seventy fifth Street, and the date of his nativity was December 4, 1886. He is a son of Charles Edward and Sophia Wilhelmina (Cohen) France.

Charles E. France was born at Cobleskill, Schoharie County, New York, a son of Edward France, whose father, Sabastian France and brother were caught by the Indians, the brother being tomahawked before his mother's eyes, while Sabastian broke away and escaped to the woods. Edward France was not only a successful farmer but also the inventor of farm machinery. Edward France and his son, Charles E., became residents of Cleveland Ohio, when the latter was a young man, and for a time Charles E. was here employed in a hinge factory. He next took a position with the Lampson-Sessions Company, with which concern he continued his connection for the long period of thirty seven years. His wife was born at Port Colborn, Ontario, Canada, whence her parents, of German birth, later came to Cleveland, where she remained at the parental home until the time of her marriage. Her father was a cooper by trade, but when work was scarce constructed fine cabinet work and worked on special machinery for use in the harbor for loading and unloading boats.

In the year 1906 Lester E. France was graduated from the West High School of Cleveland, and in 1910 he was graduated from the Case School of Applied Science as a civil engineer. He soon afterward assumed a position in the engineering department of the Cleveland manufactory of the Peerless Automobile Company, and later he passed eighteen months in the employ of the K. W. Ignition Company. Both he and his younger brother, Merle Cohen France, likewise a graduate of the Case School of Applied Science, inherited much of mechanical and initiative genius from both paternal and maternal ancestors, Lester E. showing special talent as an inventor and Merle C. in production and development enterprise. The two brothers thus constituted a resourceful team when they set themselves to the building of a complete automobile, and they succeeded in this feat; the automobile constructed by them having been the second "horseless carriage" ever constructed and placed in effective commission in Cleveland, its only predecessor having been the machine constructed by Alexander Winton, this having been the first practical automobile ever turned out. In 1913, in a shed on the rear of the France home lot, the two France brothers began manufacturing the Ford Shock Absorber, representing their own inventive and constructive ideas. About that time also they began working on the rectifying of electric alternating currents, a work which at that time was generally regarded as impracticable, it having fallen to Lester E. France to achieve in this connection the supposedly impossible result, that of changing an alternating electric current to a direct current. The business of the two young men rapidly expanded in scope and importance, and the partnership which they formed in 1913 eventually led up to the organization, in 1916, of the France Manufacturing Company, which was incorporated in that year and which initiated operations with very limited capital but with an abundance of enthusiasm and ability on the part of its founders. In advancing their business enterprise the France brothers enlisted the financial cooperation of Professor Elisha Loomis and Lewis A. Corbett, both of whom were engaged in educational work and both are still financially interested in the France Manufacturing Company, Professor Loomis being a director of the corporation and Mr. Corbett being its treasurer.

Early in 1917, prior to the nation's formal entrance into the World war, the France Manufacturing Company began the erection of its factory. Both of the France brothers were eligible for military service under the draft, but both drew numbers calling for later entrance into service. Later the draft board gave permission for one of the brothers to enter the nation's service while the other remained to give attention to the business of the company. Lester E. France prevailed upon his brother to permit him to be the one to enter military service, and he was assigned to duty with the First Division, Twenty sixth Infantry, and later to the Intelligence Group, and in July, 1917, he accompanied his command to France. With rank as corporal and sergeant in turn, he gained his full quota of experience in connection with the great conflict, and he had command of a squad which went "over the top" in the Saint Mihiel drive, to the left of Mount Sech. He fortunately escaped wounds, and later he was transferred to the Argonne sector, where he received his promotion to a sergeancy. He was later assigned to duty as acting second lieutenant in the Intelligence Group, and finally he was detailed on map coordination in "No Man's Land," in which service he was in the German barrage after the unit ahead had been thrown back, it having been in this connection that he was severely gassed and fell on the field of conflict. He lay in a shellhole all that day, and then succeeded in crawling over a nearby hill. In the protection of a large rock he lay among the dead and wounded an entire day, and at night, while he was attempting to make his way to the rear; he encountered a badly wounded comrade. to whom he administered his own "first aid." He then assisted the comrade on the way until they encountered a sergeant in charge of a stretcher borne by two German captives, the wounded comrade having been placed on the stretcher and conveyed to the rear. Mr. France finally was placed in the hospital in a badly gassed condition, one of his lungs being virtually closed. After a time he was sent to Vichey, France, to apply the healing waters at that famed resort as a remedial agent. He was there located at the time the armistice was signed, and three months later he was returned home. as a casual, he having been discharged and mustered out in February, 1919, at Camp Sherman, Ohio. By reason of his records having been blown up and lost, Mr. France was entirely out of communication with his family and business for a year, and his first knowledge of home affairs was gained while he was on the transport returning home. he having looked over a copy of Popular Mechanics and having found in the magazine a two inch advertisement placed by the France Manufacturing Company. When he left Cleveland the foundation of the factory had been laid. and when he returned he found the plant in successful operation, under the supervision of his brother. The brother, Merle C., died January 31. 1923. from an attack of pneumonia, at a time when his future looked the brightest and when his sterling usefulness was at its height. Lester E. France now has his factory in such order that it is not necessary for him to supervise its operations, and he is giving much of his time to exnerimental work. He is a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. the Cleveland Industrial Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Case Club, the Masonic fraternity and the People's Methodist Episcopal Church of Cleveland, in which he is serving as a trustee and steward and as teacher of a boys' class in the Sunday School.

Mr. France wedded Miss Hildred Smith, who was born and reared in Cleveland, a daughter of Henry Smith, and the two children of this union are a daughter, Gloria, and a son, Rollin Charles.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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