Walter Cottingham - President Sherwin-Williams

9717 Lake Shore Boulevard
Walter Horace Cottingham
Walter Horace Cottingham

Walter Cottingham succeeded Henry Sherwin as president of Sherwin-Williams upon Sherwin’s retirement in 1909.

In 1887, a 21-year-old Walter Cottingham went from his home in Ontario, Canada, to Montreal and began making gold paint. He organized his business after four years into the Walter H. Cottingham & Company. In a year or two, he secured the Canadian agency of the Sherwin- Williams & Company and then formed his own company to manufacture their products in Canada.

Several years later, he engineered a merger between his own company and the Sherwin-Williams & Company and eventually went Cleveland in 1906 to become general manager of the consolidated company. He rose to vice president and in 1908, was elected president and general manager in 1909, serving in that capacity until he retired in 1922 and became the board chairman until his death.

Cottingham was a director of the Cleveland Box Co., Ozark Smelting Co., and the Cleveland Trust Company. He was chairman of the board of Lewis Berger & Sons, Ltd., London.

Walter Horace Cottingham was born in Ontario, Canada, on January 8, 1866, to William and Lucy Cottingham. His mother died when he was six years old, and his father only lived another two years, leaving no money for his children. Walter lived with relatives, and at the early age of fifteen, he began as a clerk in a hardware store in Peterboro, Ontario.

Walter married Gertrude E. Bennett on May 22, 1888, in Montreal. Gertrude was born in 1867. They had two sons and two daughters: Gladys (Dangler), born in 1890, and Gertrude Joyce (Allen), born on May 17, 1891.

During World War I, when troop trains stopped at the Glenville station, soldiers were invited to walk to his estate to enjoy a canteen operated by him and his neighbors. The soldiers could also take a dip in Lake Erie, a welcome relief from the long hours on the train.

Walter believed there was no way a man could be of higher public service than by running a legitimate and successful business. He was the author of many business books published in America and England sold in every country in the world. He was known for authoring may quotations. His favorite being, “A dead fish can float with the stream, but it takes a live one to swim against it.” Another was, “Intelligence without ambition is like a bird without wings.”

Cottingham was a member of Chagrin Valley Hunt, Country, Mayfield, and Union clubs; Maurice Fish and Game Slug, Canada; and Phyllis Court Club, Henley on Thames, England.

Gertrude died on May 26, 1918, and was buried in Lake View Cemetery. Walter died on March 12, 1930, in London, Queensland, Australia.