The Innovation of Electrical Industry Icon Harold Leviton

By: CableOrganizer®

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A successful company reaches its full potential thanks to its employees, but also oftentimes its principals, who help to trailblaze the path. Such is the story for the Leviton Manufacturing Company and the son of its founder, Harold Leviton. He was known as a brilliant businessman, electrical safety advocate, and philanthropist, who dedicated himself to building the thriving family-run business for 42 years.

It was his father Isidor Leviton who founded Leviton Manufacturing Company in 1906, which had humble beginnings as a gas light mantle tip producer. But with the increase in popularity of the Thomas Edison lightbulb, Leviton began its journey into the electrical arena with the pull-chain lamp holder.

Harold Leviton was born in 1917. Even as a very young child just learning to walk, he would go with his father to their first factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The company had already grown by leaps and bounds, having to relocate from its facility in the Bowery. As neighborhoods throughout Manhattan and the other boroughs began to become more sprawling in the age of electricity, Leviton had more than 550 products to offer. Young Harold Leviton began to naturally learn all phases of the business during his visits as he grew up, where he interacted with employees in different departments.

He joined the family business in 1940, after graduating with a business degree from the University of Miami. Although he was the son of its founder, Harold Leviton began in the company’s stock room, then advanced to the purchasing department; and was eventually the company’s head of personnel. He became known for his initiatives in hiring a diverse workforce, before anti-discrimination laws existed.

After his father Isidor Leviton passed away, he assumed the position of Leviton Manufacturing Company President and CEO in 1965. When brother-in-law Jack Amsterdam died in 1998, he took over as the company’s chairman. He remained in that role until his passing in September 2007. During the time he was leading the company, Harold Leviton brought it through a period of astounding growth, turning Leviton Manufacturing Company into a global force, with a product portfolio of over 25,000 different items.

From the times in his earliest childhood when he began visiting the company with his father, until he died in 2007, Harold Leviton witnessed many milestones within Leviton Manufacturing Company. Among them were:

The construction of the Empire State Building between 1931 and 1932, which featured Leviton products.

The takeover of the American Insulated Wire Company in 1937.

The New York World’s Fair in 1939, which also spotlighted the company’s products.

The company’s assistance in producing items during World War II in the 1940s, shifting production to making machinery parts and chains for military dog tags.

The 1950 acquisition of the Deal Electric Company.

The purchase of Hale Brothers in 1953, which was later called Leviton Canada.

Move of the company headquarters in the 1980s to Little Neck, New York, to a more expansive production environment, with the company introducing Decora Home Controls®, surge protection devices, and products for high-speed communications.

The acquisition in 1997 of the Macro Electronics Corporation and in 1999 of NSI Corporation, which helped to increase the company’s footprint in theatrical and architectural lighting.

The March 2007 acquisition of Fiber Connect, as part of the company’s involvement in the high-tech industries involving smartphone technologies.

Among Harold Leviton’s accolades were:

  • • National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Chairman of its Wiring Device Section and Building and Equipment Division. He was also an honorary member of the NEMA Board of Governors.

  • • National Electrical Safety Foundation (NESF) Vice Chairman Emeritus.

  • • Electrical Manufacturing Council’s honorary Board of Governors member and Chairman.

  • • One of the most memorable and defining moments of his career — a letter from a grateful parent, whose child's life had been saved by a Leviton Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). The mother wrote that she had found a plugged-in hairdryer submerged in her unharmed child's bath water. The Leviton GFCI that the dryer was plugged into had tripped, cutting off the device's power supply; and saving the child from electrocution.

  • • His philanthropy, as founder of Israel's Institute of Technology, Technion.

  • • Becoming a founder of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

  • • Instituting the Leviton Industrial Arts Award, which benefitted New York City high school students in the electrical trades.

  • • Trustee and Deputy Mayor of Hewlett Harbor, his hometown starting in 1947.

  • • Awards including the National Electrical Association Falk Award, the Wire and Cable Club of America's Charles D. Scott Distinguished Career Award, and the Anti-Defamation League's Torch of Liberty.

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