Essex Group began in 1930, when businessman Addison Holton formed the Essex Wire Corporation in Detroit. Essex leased 125,000 square feet of a Ford Motor Company plant and 700 Essex employees began making Model A wiring harnesses, battery cables and other insulated wire products. Essex soon expanded by purchasing the RBM Manufacturing Company in Logansport, IN, which made electrical switches and other automotive components.
In 1932, Essex acquired an Indiana rubber insulation plant in Jonesboro that was famous for its Paranite® brand of building wire.
In 1936, Essex entered the magnet wire manufacturing business by acquiring a vacant industrial complex that had formerly been the Dudlo Manufacturing Company in Fort Wayne, IN. Dudlo was the originator of the modern magnet wire enameling process.
By the 1940s, Essex was producing enough magnet wire to build the millions of transformers used by America and its allies during World War II. Essex plants also produced thousands of miles of field telephone wire for the Army Signal Corps, as well as wiring harnesses for B-24 bombers. Later, Essex was awarded the highly prestigious "E" Award by the Secretary of War.
In 1954, the corporate headquarters was moved to Fort Wayne and by 1965 Essex Wire had grown sales to $355 million with 44 plants in North America. That year, Essex Wire Corporation offered its stock on the New York Stock Exchange for the first time.
In 1974, with nearly 100 plants and sales of three-quarters of a billion dollars, Essex merged with a subsidiary of United Aircraft, later to become United Technologies Corporation.
In 1988, an investor group, including Essex management, took Essex into private ownership where the company continued to flourish. In 1992, Bessemer Holdings purchased a majority ownership in Essex and kept it under private ownership for the next five years.
During the 1990s, Essex greatly strengthened its manufacturing operations in terms of productivity and quality. The company also began an aggressive campaign of acquisitions. Its distribution business expanded significantly in 1995 when Essex acquired Brownell, a large distributor of magnet wire and electrical motors. The Brownell acquisition was absorbed into the Company's existing distribution business, which is now called Essex Brownell.
In 1998, Essex acquired Active Industries, a converter/fabricator of electrical insulation products used mainly by OEMs and motor repair shops. And, in 1997, Essex management once again took the company public on the New York Stock Exchange.