Clarence Spicer started the Spicer Company in Plainfield, New Jersey, in 1904. In 1905, the company was incorporated as the Spicer Universal Joint Manufacturing Company. Spicer changed the name of the company in 1909 to the Spicer Manufacturing Company. The Spicer Company manufactured universal joints for automobiles. Spicer had developed innovative designs that changed how automobiles were powered. In spite of these innovations and the growth of the automotive industry, the Spicer Company faced difficult financial times by 1914. Attorney and businessman Charles Dana invested in the company at that time and, with the advent of World War I, the Spicer Company became very successful. During the First World War, the company helped to produce a military vehicle known as the Liberty Truck or, more formally, as the Class B truck.
Dana continued to influence the development of the company after the war was over. The Spicer Company bought other businesses that produced parts for automobile manufacturers, including the Parish Pressed Steel Company, Salisbury Axle Company, and the Brown-Lipe Gear Company. In 1922, Spicer went public for the first time, with its stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
By the late 1920s, Dana had determined that the company was ready for some changes. He moved Spicer's headquarters to Toledo, Ohio, in 1928. Two years later, he moved all the remaining operations from Plainfield, New Jersey, to Toledo, Ohio; completing the company's relocation to Toledo. The Spicer Company also began to expand its operations into Canada at this time.
During World War II, the Spicer Manufacturing Company once again contributed to the war effort. By 1944, more than ten thousand people worked for Spicer. By this time, Clarence Spicer was no longer alive. In 1946, the Spicer Manufacturing Company became the Dana Corporation, renamed after the man who had contributed so much to the company's success during the preceding decades.
The renamed company prospered in the decades following World War II. Company leadership continued to acquire other businesses that produced automotive parts, such as the Perfect Circle Corporation in 1963 and the Victor Gasket Manufacturing Company in 1966. Dana first sold one billion dollars of its products in 1974, and only four years later passed the two billion dollar mark. In 1987, Dana's annual sales exceeded four billion dollars.
The last two decades of the twentieth century, Dana Corporation continued to expand its operations through acquisitions. The WIX Corporation of Gastonia, North Carolina, became part of Dana in 1979. The company purchased German companies Reinz-Dichtungs GmbH and Hugo Reinz GmbH in 1993 and Plumley Companies, Inc., of Tennessee in 1995. In the late 1990s, the acquisitions became even more numerous, including the Sealed Power Division of SPX Corporation, Clark-Hurth Components, the heavy axle and brake divisions of Eaton Corporation, Echlin, Glacier Vandervell Bearings Group, and AE Clevite. Since 2000, Dana Corporation has won numerous quality awards for manufacturing, both in the United States and in other parts of the world where its operations are located.