George Martin - President of Sherwin-Williams

12725 Lake Shore Boulevard
George Martin 1938
George Martin 1938

George Martin gained a national reputation as an industrialist, patron of the arts, and baseball fan. He became the third president of Sherwin Williams when Walter Cottingham retired in 1922. During Martin’s tenure as president, Sherwin-Williams developed products that made possible the brilliant finishes for automobiles in the 1920s and also reduced the drying time from twenty-one days to a few hours.

Martin, like Walter Cottingham, believed in aggressive advertising for his company and its products. He sponsored the “Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air,” a successful radio program for years.

Martin’s vision focused on finding ways to expand the company and increase its profits. During his presidency, Sherwin-Williams bought several other high-quality, innovative, and nationally known companies. He believed that Latin America offered a great opportunity. In 1929, Sherwin-Williams bought the Bredell Paint Company of Havana, Cuba. The company expanded manufacturing facilities and established plants in Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. The business tripled during Martin’s administration.

George Abraham Martin was born in Montello, Wisconsin, on November 7, 1865. The family moved to Chicago when he was an infant. After seven years in grade school, he decided he wanted a job and was hired as a messenger by the Chicago Packing Provision Company at the age of twelve.

He continued his education by going to night school. After several other jobs, George went with the Union Brass Manufacturing Co. in Chicago in 1880. He served in many departments in the seven years he was with the company,

In 1887, Mr. Martin engaged in the manufacture of paint specialties in Chicago, selling products solely to the railway and industrial trade and failing to sell his product to one railway purchasing from the Sherwin-Williams Company. Martin decided to investigate that concern and met Henry Sherwin, one of the company’s founders.

George, an ambitious young man, was hired to run the 1888 Sherwin-Williams acquisition of the Calumet Paint Company near Chicago.

In 1891, Mr. Martin became an employee of Sherwin-William Co., becoming a salesman and bookkeeper.   By 1898, the business had developed rapidly, and George was made manager of the western division.

In 1905, he transferred to the company’s headquarters in Cleveland and was placed in charge of the auxiliaries department.

Mr. Martin was named vice-president and general manager of manufacturing in 1916. In June 1921, he became vice-president and general manager of the entire business. In November 1922, he was elected president of the company, and in December 1940, he was made chairman of the board.

Martin was also a director of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, the Erie Railroad, and Wilson & Company of Chicago.

George was an ardent Cleveland Indians baseball fan and was a director of the Cleveland Baseball Company. Sherwin-Williams sponsored radio broadcasts of Cleveland Indians baseball games.

In the fall of 1941, the Indians manager, Roger Peckinpaugh, was promoted to the front office. Shortly after, 24-year-old Lou Boudreau, already an all-star shortstop for the Indians, applied for the manager job in a letter to President Alva Bradley. Boudreau questioned his own audacity, but three days later, Bradley invites him to an interview.

Boudreau was just one of many being interviewed for the job, and after he met with the Indians’ 12 directors, there were 11 votes against making him player-manager. Only George Martin favors him, but Martin is persuasive and powerful enough to gain Boudreau’s unanimous approval in the next half-hour.

In 1948, Boudreau went on to win the Americal League’s Most Valuable Player, and the Indians became world champions. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1970. George Martin’s vision helped lead to the success of Boudreau and the Indians.

Martin was director of the Northern Ohio Opera Association and the Metropolitan Opera Association of New York.

One of George’s hobbies was a 6,000-cattle ranch in New Mexico he owned jointly with Thomas Wilson of Chicago. Every year he spent some time there where he lived the regular life of the cowhands.

After 18 years, Arthur Steudel replaced Martin as Chief Executive Officer in 1940.

George married Emma Regina Rehberg around 1900. Emma was born on December 18, 1876, in St. Louis, Missouri. They had one son, George Abraham Jr., born on August 30, 1901.

George died on November 1, 1944, in Cleveland Clinic Hospital after a three-week illness. Emma lived with her son in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where she died on February 3, 1965. Both George and Emma are buried in Lake View Cemetery.