Pic-A-Day (387) Albert Mach Fine Art - Dodge Brothers Logo 1910 - History of Dodge Brothers

Pic-A-Day (387) Albert Mach Fine Art

Dodge Brothers Logo 1910

This was on a gate at their main factory The Hamtramck plant.

History of Dodge Brothers

Like many other pioneers in the automobile industry, the Dodge Brothers were skilled machinists from a modest background. John Francis Dodge (bom October 25, 1864) and Horace Elgin Dodge (bom May 17, 1868) were two of the three children of Daniel Rug and Maria (Casto) Dodge of Niles, Michigan. Delphine Dodge was the third child. They attended public schools, but learned the machinist's trade from their father, who ran a shop specializing in internal combustion engines for marine use. The inseparable brothers built the first bicycle in Niles. They left this sleepy town in southwest Michigan in 1886, stopped briefly in Battle Creek and Port Huron, Michigan, and then worked steadily at the Murphy Boiler Works in Detroit until 1894. They moved across the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario, where they became machinists for the Canadian Typograph Company and soon began their first venture to manufacture precision metal products.

Horace Dodge invented a four-point, dirt proof, adjustable bicycle ball bearing and in 1897 the two brothers established the Evans & Dodge Bicycle Company with Fred S. Evans and leased the Typograph Company plant for two years. In 1900, they sold their interests, returned to Detroit, and established a machine shop in the Boydell Building on Beaubien Street at Lafayette. They began with only twelve employees, but quickly established a reputation for excellent workmanship. Consequently their business grew and forced them to move to larger quarters at Hastings Street and Monroe Avenue. When they left there in 1910 for the spacious Hamtramck site, the Hastings Street plant was the largest and best-equipped machine shop in Detroit. Ransom E. Olds erected the first automobile plant in Detroit in 1899 and by early 1901 the Dodge machine shop supplied him with engines. Olds followed with an order for 3,000 transmissions in 1902, making the Dodge brothers one of the largest parts suppliers for the nascent Detroit automobile industry.

Like many of their contemporaries in this industry, the Dodge brothers were not "gentlemen" manufacturers. Although they were often quick-tempered, even with each other, the two red-haired brothers were astute businessmen, John was the more talkative and aggressive of the two and concentrated on financial and organizational matters, while Horace was the mechanical genius who tended to be quiet and easy-going. John enjoyed drinking and once forced a Detroit bartender to dance on top of a table by threatening him with a revolver. Dodge showed his approval of the dance steps by smashing glasses against the bar mirror. The Dodge brothers were soon to work for and clash with another strong-willed automotive genius.


On February 23, 1903 the Dodge brothers formally agreed to supply Henry Ford with 650 chassis (including engines, transmissions, and axles) for $250 each, thus beginning a profitable, but stormy relationship between the two firms. This contract kept the 150 men at the Hastings Street plant fully occupied and the Dodges began working exclusively for Ford. He built a plant on Mack Avenue to assemble cars from parts made elsewhere, the entire operation dependent upon extensive credit from his parts suppliers. In return for an investment of $10,000 ($7,000 in materials and a $3,000 bank note), the Dodge brothers accepted 100 shares (one-tenth of the total) in the Ford Motor Company, newly-incorporated on June 16, 1903. Dodge delivered the first shipment of chassis to Mack Avenue in July via horse-drawn hayracks and the Ford Motor Company assembled its first cars. During these early years. Ford often complained that the Dodge workers turned out shoddy products because they were paid by the piece. Despite these problems, he ordered another 755 engines for delivery in January through May 1904, and insisted on the right to order 500 more by early April. By the spring of 1905, when Ford had moved into his new Piquette Avenue plant. Dodge Brothers supplied 400 "rigs" (engines and transmissions) a month. Dodge continued as the major supplier, but by late 1905 Ford was already taking steps to produce his own engines and transmissions for the low-priced Model N.


The fates of Ford and the Dodges remained intertwined for fifteen years. The Dodge brothers began erecting a new plant on their thirty acre site in Hamtramck in 1910, the same year Ford opened his Highland Park complex. In 1912 they supplied Ford with 180,000 transmission-axle sets, with future prospects for much larger orders. Fearing their total dependence on one customer, particularly because it was Ford, the Dodges gave Ford the required year's notice that they would terminate their contract effective August 1914. John Dodge simultaneously resigned as director and vice president of the Ford Motor Company, but he and his brother retained the Ford stock they had since 1903. Their connection with Ford was extremely profitable. Through 1914, they collected $3.8 million in dividends from their stock and earned another $1.7 million in profits on the Ford contracts. When Ford sharply reduced dividends to the stockholders in 1916, the Dodges brought a suit which eventually forced him to pay a dividend of slightly over $19 million in early 1918, with ten percent of this going to them. In July 1919, Ford bought out the remaining stockholders in the Ford Motor Company and the Dodge brothers accepted $25 million for their ten percent interest in the firm. When they finally severed their relationship with Ford, they had earned $5,4 million in dividends and $1.7 million in profits, which combined with the sale of the stock produced a return of about $32 million on their 1903. investment of $10,000. Ford provided them with both the reason and the means to build the plant in Hamtramck.

In July 1914, the Dodge brothers incorporated as the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company with a capital stock of $5 million, which they increased to $10 million in 1917. In 1913, they had decided to manufacture and assemble their own automobile, severed relations with Ford, and began an ambitious program of plant expansion.


The Dodge reputation for quality was so widespread that 13,000 dealers asked to become Dodge agents before anyone saw the new car. The Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record declared emphatically, "As a matter of fact, when the Dodge Bros, new car comes out, there is no question that it will be the best thing on the market for the money." The reason was simple "The Dodge brothers are the two best mechanics in Michigan. There is no operation in their own shop from drop forging to machining, from tool-making to micrometric measurement, that they can't do with their own hands."


The Dodge brothers decided to produce a high-quality car that would sell for about $800 and thus not compete directly with the cheaper Model T. The new car had generated considerable interest well before its introduction. Automobile Topics gave its readers an "exclusive" six-page preview of the Dodge in the November 7, 1914 issue. The first Dodge, subsequently named "Old Betsy," came off the assembly line on November 14, 1914. It was a five-passenger touring car with a wheelbase of 110 inches and came equipped with a 25 H.P. four cylinder "L" head engine with a 3 7/8 inch bore and a 4 1/2 inch stroke, a cone clutch, and a pressurized fuel system. All parts for the new car were thoroughly tested prior to acceptance. John Dodge tested tires by dropping various brands off a four-story building and ascertained the crash-worthiness of one prototype by driving it into a wall at 20 M.P.H.


Total production for 1914 was a mere 249 touring cars. The following year. Dodge offered a two-passenger roadster which also sold for $785 and the plant went into full production. They increased the workforce to 7,000 by April 1915 and by the year's end, the firm produced 45,053 cars at the Hamtramck plant. The Dodge developed a reputation for dependability which helped sales greatly. During the 1916 expedition against the Mexican bandit Pancho Villa, war correspondent A.H.E. Beckett published several reports in Motor Age on the use of Dodge cars in the campaign. After the daring Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr., led a successful surprise raid against a bandit headquarters in three Dodges, Brigadier General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing, the commander of the expeditionary force, ordered his staff to use Dodge cars exclusively. Pershing then requested 250 more Dodges for the Mexican campaign and continued to drive them on the battlefields of France,


The years following the Mexican Campaign were prosperous for the Dodge Brothers, Production climbed from 70,000 cars in 1916 to 124,000 the following year and reached 145,000 in 1920. Dodge was the fourth largest producer in the United States by 1917, behind Ford, Chevrolet, and Buick. The workforce also grew from 7,000 in early 1915 to about 20,000 by 1920.


John Dodge died from pneumonia on January 14, 1920 In New York City, where he and his brother had attended an auto show. One newspaper commented, "Headstrong he could be, a fighter with every ounce of his manhood and every resource at his command, but not a vein or a cell of his heart ever hardened." Another paper said of him, He was absolutely straightforward. He told the truth without quibbling. He always meant what he said, and mostly he said what he felt. He believed in fair dealing and practiced it. He also demanded fair dealing in others, and generally he obtained it. He was without fear, consequently he went to his objectives unhampered by many considerations that might have blocked a less forceful man. He was a dynamo energy with a driving power that was tremendous.


Horace Dodge died less than a year later in Palm Beach, Florida on December 10, 1920. An anonymous observer summed up Horace Dodge's personality: His office was literally a museum of parts, past, present and prospective, for Dodge Brothers cars. He was constantly scheming improved details, new processes, new methods and always building new machinery. He never lost the touch of the craftsman, could never leave machinery alone. The atmosphere of the shop, as he entered It, would cause a noticeable change in his bearing. Outside, in the offices, in the places where men gather, even at home, he was quiet, reticent, and could be termed shy. But within the four walls of the shop he was the taciturn yet unquestionable master of the business.


The Dodge children were neither able nor willing to manage the firm after their fathers' deaths, although the two widows made a weak effort to do so. The works manager, Frederick J. Haynes, became the chief executive officer from 1920 until 1925. The firm continued to grow during these years, with output reaching a plateau of about 200,000 cars in 1924-25. However, they were still well short of Ford's production of 1,675,000 cars and Chevrolet's 470,000 units for 1925. On May 1, 1925 the Dodge heirs announced the sale of the firm to the New York investment bankers Dillon, Read & Company for $146 million. Dillon held the property for three years before selling it to Walter P. Chrysler in May 1928 for $170 million.


When Walter P. Chrysler bought Dodge in 1928, he rescued a failing business which was barely meeting its payrolls. Dillon, Read & Company were unfamiliar with the automobile industry and as absentee owners were not able to keep the firm operating efficiently. In 1925, the banking firm also acquired Graham Brothers, a large truck maker, and the three Graham brothers became large Dodge stockholders. During the Dillon, Read era, Raymond Graham served as Dodge general manager, while Edward J. Wllmer, a Wisconsin utility executive, was president of Dodge.

The bankers-turned-automakers made a major marketing mistake during their brief reign. The Dodge car had been a sales success because it had a reputation for quality and durability, but was priced only about $100 above the Model T. When the explorer Roy Chapman Andrews headed the American Museum of Natural History's Central Asiatic Expeditions in 1924-28, traveling thousands of miles over terrain where even camels feared to tread, he insisted on using Dodges exclusively and widely publicized their toughness. Dillon, Read decided to make Dodge a luxury line with appropriate prices. In 1928, when Ford's Model A sold for $495, the lowest-price Dodge had a price tag of $895, while the more expensive versions sold for nearly $2,000. The resulting sales decline made Dillon, Read susceptible to Walter P. Chrysler's overtures.

Chrysler was born in Wamego, Kansas in 1875 and at age seventeen trained as a machinist. He worked for several mid-western railroads and in 1908 became the superintendent of motive power for the Chicago Great Western Railway. In 1910 he took a job with the American Locomotive Company and soon became manager of its Pittsburg manufacturing plant. Chrysler's career in the automobile industry began in 1911 when he became works manager for the Buick Motor Car Company in Flint, Michigan at a salary of $6,000 per year. He took over their manufacturing operations and within five years was president and general manager of Buick, earning over $500,000 a year. Chrysler left Buick in 1919 after disagreements with General Motors' president William C. Durant, Following a brief retirement, Chrysler successfully reorganized the Willys-Overland Company and then did the same for the failing Maxwell Motor Car Company. In 1924, he introduced the Chrysler automobile, featuring the industry's first high compression engine. Production jumped from 80,000 cars in 1924 to 137,000 in 1925, when he established the Chrysler Corporation and absorbed the assets and stock of Maxwell.


Walter Chrysler's purchase of Dodge, described by one observer as "the minnow swallowing the whale," was a key element in his plan to challenge General Motors and Ford. He introduced the low-priced Plymouth and the DeSoto in 1928, so with the addition of Dodge, Chrysler had four major car lines and instantly became the third largest automaker.


Dillon, Read & Company sold the Dodge property to the Chrysler Corporation on May 29, 1928 and on the following day, the new management team headed by K.T. Keller moved into the Dodge offices. Keller, the Buick master mechanic under Chrysler, rejoined him in 1926 as vice president in charge of manufacturing. Keller became a Chrysler director in 1927, president of the Dodge Division in 1929, and succeeded Chrysler as corporation president in 1935, He was so effective in streamlining production at Dodge Main that he freed up enough floor space in his first three months to house the DeSoto Division, Dodge was the largest division within the Chrysler Corporation and produced many of the top executives. L,L. Colbert, named vice president at Dodge in 1935 and president ten years later, succeeded Keller as Chrysler Corporation president in 1950.

The above information is from: http://www.dodgemotorcar.com/

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