A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 2 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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  Part III-Chapter 13 : Automobile & Aviation  >  Index and Introduction  :   Previous  1 2 - 3 - 45   Next


Pioneer Ransom Eli Olds merged his Olds Gasoline Engine Works with the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in 1899 and, after a disastrous fire destroyed his factory and ten out of eleven models, started to produce his remaining "Curved Dash" runabout as the first popular car in ever increasing numbers. The fire at Olds Motor Works also brought the Dodge Brothers the opportunity to convert their bicycle factory into Detroit's leading automobile parts manufacturer. In 1901, Olds ordered 2000 engines and in 1902, 3000 transmissions, from the Dodge brothers.

John Francis and Horace Elgin Dodge then joined Henry Ford in his third automotive venture both as parts suppliers and founding shareholders. In time, the alliance with Ford would make both Dodge brothers multi-millionaires. With their Ford dividends, the Dodges established their own car manufacturing plant in 1914, making Dodge a strong contender in the American automobile market almost overnight.

When David Dunbar Buick sold his successful enameling business to devote his time and money to the development of a motor car, William Crapo Durant was already the country's leading manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages and a millionaire. More accurately, the manufacturer was his associate, Josiah Dallas Dort, who took care of production while Durant toured the country to set up sales outlets and acquire additional plants. As his cash resources run out, Buick turned to Benjamin Briscoe, whose Briscoe Manufacturing Company supplied Olds with radiators. Briscoe, like Durant more of a business developer than a manufacturer, did not manage to turn Buick around and sold it to the Flint Wagon Works, who in turn approached Durant.

Using his sales skills and financial persuasion, Billy Durant managed to build up Buick into one of America's foremost automobile producers within a few years after taking over in 1904. In the meantime Ford had succeeded in 1906 to gain control, if not yet absolute, of the Ford Motor Company and thus imposed his vision of a low priced car for the masses. In Lansing, Ransom Eli Olds had left the company that bore his name after a dispute with his financial backers, involving the very same issue as Ford's, as to the market to be targeted by their cars. Oldsmobile consequently dropped the Curved Dash in favor of heavier and more expensive cars. It fell back and lay low in the production race for almost two decades, until the pent-up demand for middle priced cars of the Roaring Twenties enabled it to gain momentum among the various divisions of General Motors. Olds founded his second automobile company, named it Reo and set out to produce a popular line of cars and trucks.

After unloading Buick, Benjamin Briscoe formed an automobile company with Jonathan D. Maxwell, an engineer who had worked for the Olds Motor Works. Their Maxwell-Briscoe Motor Company was an immediate success and Briscoe was the first of the Midwestern automobile tycoons, who tapped the [J.P.] Morgan bank to sell its bonds. Building on his elusive relations to Wall Street, Benjamin Briscoe attempted to merge his companies with Durant's Buick, Ford and Olds' Reo in January 1908, but the merger failed, because of Morgan's excessive requirements towards Durant as well as Ford's and Olds' insistence on receiving cash.

Automobile & Aviation >   Index and Introduction  :   Previous  1 2 - 3 - 45   Next

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