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


But the attempt stimulated Billy Durant's imagination and pushed him to found General Motors, using Buick as a cornerstone and adding in a short time, Oldsmobile, for which he paid in stock and Cadillac, which involved the largest cash transaction in the automotive industry to that date. Together with Cadillac, Durant also acquired the services of Henry Martyn Leland, dean of Michigan machinists and his equally able son Wilfred. The Lelands remained in charge of Cadillac until 1917, when they left and formed the Lincoln Motor Company to manufacture aircraft engines. After the war they started to produce a fine luxury car, but failed in the post-war depression of the early 1920s. Lincoln was taken over by Henry Ford, who may have enjoyed the hour of revenge towards the man [Henry Martyn Leland] whom he held at least partially responsible for an early personal failure.

Besides automobile factories, William C. Durant also assembled a large number of auto parts manufacturers under the umbrella of his General Motors Corporation, most of whose founders became multi-millionaires. The most famous were Albert Champion, Charles Stewart Mott, Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Charles Franklin Kettering and the Fisher Brothers. Ford in turn purchased bodies from Walter O. Briggs and Edward G. Budd and wheels from John Kelsey and Clarence B. Hayes. Other parts suppliers blossomed with the steady expansion of the American automotive industry.

Finally, as a result of the huge demand generated by the automobile industry, three families of rubber manufacturers, who henceforth specialized on automobile tires, each built a fortune of some $20 million (as measured in 1919). These were the Seiberlings (Goodyear), the Goodriches and Harvey Samuel Firestone, who was also a personal friend and fellow wanderer of Henry Ford. One of Ford's grandsons actually married a granddaughter of Harvey Firestone.

Almost from its earliest days, the automobile industry was a fertile playground for engineers and managers, many of whom founded companies of their own or acquired established companies and lead them to new heights. Prominent examples of such manager-turned-entrepreneurs are Durant's disciples at General Motors, Charles W. Nash and Walter P. Chrysler. Nash, after leaving General Motors, purchased the Thomas B. Jeffery Company, renamed it and grew it into a profitable corporation. Walter P. Chrysler saved Maxwell, used it as a corner stone for his own Chrysler Corporation and with the latter took over the Dodge Brothers Company in 1928 to become the number two car producer in the USA during the 1930s and 1940s.

Other examples include a group of Olds managers and engineers who founded Hudson in 1909 (Roy D. Chapin, Howard E. Coffin, Frederick O. Bezner and Roscoe B. Jackson) and Errett Lobbean Cord. A former Moon retailer, Cord joined the Auburn Automobile Company in 1924 as vice-president and general manager, turned it around and built it into a remarkable group of automotive and aviation companies. Although his automobile brands (Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg) disappeared as many others in the 1930s, his Aviation Corporation of Delaware (AVCO) survived and expanded, although it had to divest its air transportation business, including American Airlines.

Go on reading at the members pages of "A Classification of American Wealth" :
                      The Ford Story - Part I : the rise of Henry Ford
                      William Crapo Durant - founder of General Motors

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

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