The Dodge Brothers and Henry Ford, Part 2

The Dodge Brothers had been working almost exclusively for Henry Ford, but Ford’s goal was to begin making the various parts of his automobile himself.  With the future of the relationship uncertain, the Dodge Brothers informed Ford in 1913 that they would only produce his parts for another year.  Then they went to work planning the design, manufacture and marketing of their own automobile. 

The Dodge Brothers had an excellent reputation.  In his book The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars and the Legacy, author Charles K Hyde quotes the Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record as saying, “The Dodge brothers are the two best mechanics in Michigan . . . when the Dodge Bros. new car comes out, there is no question it will be the best thing on the market for the money.”  The Buffalo Times said, “There seems to be a strong undercurrent of feeling that any motor car manufactured by Dodge Brothers should promise something very unusual.  Dodge Brothers have one of the best equipped automobile factories in the world, having been engaged on a large scale in the manufacture of motor car parts since the earliest days of the industry.”

This reputation generated great excitement about their new endeavor among both industry insiders and members of the general public.  Many had speculated that the Dodge Brothers would be competing directly with Henry Ford and his Model T in the low-priced field, but others had pointed out that hurting Ford would also be hurting themselves as stockholders in Ford’s company.  Clarification was provided in November of 1914 when the Dodge Brothers General Sales Manager stated, “In place of building the best car possible at a low price, Dodge Brothers determined to build the best car they knew how to build, and then place a moderate price on it.” 

Dealers across the country were clamoring to be among those selling the new Dodge.  At the auto show at the 1914 Michigan State Fair, the Dodge Brothers were the only manufacturer that did not exhibit a car, yet their reception room was the busiest spot in the building.  During this show alone, 254 dealers filed applications for the sales rights to the new Dodge.  There were many more, according to this ad appearing in October of 1914:

When the first Dodge cars reached the showrooms, huge crowds turned up to see the much-awaited and much-speculated-on new car.  In Detroit, over 6,000 people made the first-day trek to the showroom.  On a rainy day in New York, over 5,000 came to the Colt-Stratton dealership where they offered prizes for the first three sales, and these three prizes were award by 10 o’clock in the morning.  Similar crowds appeared across the country in cities like Omaha and Chicago, and people were not disappointed by what they saw:

Built to compete against automobiles like the Buick, Overland and Studebaker, the Dodge was well-made and classy.  It was built using Vanadium steel and had a wheel base of 110 inches.  It featured a full floating rear axle, self-lubricating springs, and electric lighting and starting devices.  Inside, it had a speedometer, oil and pressure gauges, hand pump for the pressure feed gasoline system and carburetor air adjustment.  Under the hood was a 4-cylinder 35 hp engine.  By the time this ad appeared in February of 1916, the Dodge Brothers had already sold $35,000,000 worth of their cars and were rank fourth in production in the United States:

The Dodge Brothers owned their company and did not issue stock.  They were likely relying on the large dividends from the Ford stock to help finance their new automobile, so when Henry Ford announced that there would be no more large dividends and that all funds would be used for expansion, a fight was probably inevitable.   

To be continued . . . .

The Dodge Brothers and Henry Ford, Part 1

The Dodge Brothers and Henry Ford, Part 3

The Dodge Brothers and Henry Ford

This year marked the 100th anniversary of both the end of World War I and the influenza pandemic that was fueled, in part, by the large troop movements that accompanied that war.  From 1918-19, the deadly flu virus infected approximately a third of the world’s population and was more deadly than the war itself, killing at least 50 million people.   The casualties of the pandemic included two giants of the automobile industry, John and Horace Dodge.  They are better known as the Dodge Brothers, and their deaths were a terrible loss.

John Dodge

Horace Dodge

I am frequently surprised at what is remembered, and what is not remembered, by history.  For instance, when the charge up San Juan Hill is mentioned, most people immediately think of Teddy Roosevelt.  He is certainly worth remembering, but fewer people know that a group of Buffalo Soldiers also fought valiantly there, led by “Black Jack” Pershing.  The press’s fervent desire to mold history, not just report on it, is not a new phenomenon.   In the case of the Dodge Brothers, a quick search on Amazon reveals only two or three books written about them compared to countless tomes written about Henry Ford.   The irony is that Ford’s success is due, in no small part, to the efforts of the Dodge Brothers.

In Charles K. Hyde’s book  titled The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars and the Legacy,  the author describes the relationship between Ford and the Dodge Brothers in great detail.  According to Hyde, Ford launched his third company in late 1902 and asked the Dodge Brothers to become his major parts supplier.  The Dodges spent many thousands of dollars in equipment and materials to begin producing “running gear” for Ford, which consisted of the engine, transmission and axles, all mounted on a frame.   The Dodge Brothers kept the blueprints for these early Fords, and buyers placed orders by visiting the Dodge plant.  In a 1916 lawsuit filed by the Dodges, Henry Ford admitted that the Dodges made the entire Ford except the body, wheels and tires and that they also risked much financially while Ford himself invested no money or property and contributed only his experience and the design.   Hyde also notes that no Ford investors or officials had any mechanical or manufacturing abilities other than Ford himself and the Dodge Brothers.

Henry Ford

Ford had difficulty paying the Dodges for their work at first.  In June of 1903, the Dodge Brothers agreed to write off $7,000 in overdue payments and to extend an additional $3,000 in credit to Ford in exchange for 10% of the Ford stock.  The Dodge Brothers had given up other promising contracts to work exclusively for Ford, and their gamble did pay off handsomely.  The Ford automobile was hugely successful and the money they earned providing parts, combined with the huge dividends paid on their Ford stock, made the Dodge Brothers very wealthy men.  John Dodge was also a VP and director at Ford,  and, by 1913, both Henry Ford and the Dodge Brothers were becoming uncomfortable with their dependence on each other.

To be continued . . . .

The Dodge Brothers and Henry Ford, Part 2

The Dodge Brothers and Henry Ford, Part 3

1910 Ford Advertisement

The Locomobile and General Pershing

According to a 1918 story in the New York Herald, Locomobile developed this model for the use of General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, and his staff, in Europe where Pershing was serving as the commander of the American forces during World War I.

According to the story, after observing British commanders using Rolls Royces and French commanders using Renaults, General Pershing requested a vehicle from Locomobile which would be representative of America and be able to meet the physical challenges of being driven 200-300 miles per day over war-torn roads at high speeds.   Locomobile first shipped two of these automobiles and they were used simultaneously, one following the other, so that the General could change cars without losing any time in the event of a blown tire.

The Locomobiles successfully met the challenges, and then more units were supplied for the use of the General Staff.  The automobile company wasted no time including this information in their advertising:

You can’t blame Locomobile for being proud of its association with General Pershing, a great general as well as a good and decent man.  He still holds the distinction of being the only active-duty six-star general in American history.  For more information on this man, I highly recommend a documentary created by University of Nebraska professor Barney McCoy called “Black Jack Pershing:  Love and War,” which is available on Amazon Prime.  If it doesn’t make you shed a tear, you better check your pulse.