A child’s wagon manufactured by Pierce-Arrow. Photo Pierce Arrow Museum

Before launching a company that produced some of the most prestigious and luxurious automobiles in the United States, George N. Pierce Company was the successful manufacturer of an array of household goods including ice boxes, birdcages, and children’s wagons. Herbert and Eugene Adams of Dubuque, Iowa were the successful manufacturer of grave markers and concrete benches before they launched the Adams-Farwell company to produce automobiles. David Buick was a partner in a very successful plumbing supply business, and the man who patented the application of porcelain to cast Iron before launching the automobile company that bore his name.

The dawning of the American auto industry, and the 20th century, are an endless source of fascination for me. It was a period of amazing transition. On September 4, 1886, Geronimo, the fearless Apache warrior surrendered to General Miles. This was the same year that Ransom E. Olds of Oldsmobile fame received his first patent for a gasoline-powered car. Ten years later the Duryea brothers were manufacturing automobiles for sale, and two years after that the first automobile race in America took place in Chicago. In the 1870’s, Studebaker was the largest manufacturer of wheeled vehicles in the world. In 1899 the company took its first steps toward becoming an automobile manufacturer with an electric car designed by Thomas Edison. In the Territory of Arizona, in the remote community of Kingman, a Ford dealerships was established in about 1911. And yet, horse or mule drawn stagecoaches connected Kingman with mining camps until 1916.

In 1890 there were a handful of bicycle manufacturers in the United States. By 1896 there were hundred and hundreds of manufacturers as well as countless shops and stores selling accessories. The Wright brothers of aeronautical fame produced and repaired bicycles. In 1900 there were a scant handful of automobile manufacturers. Within two decades automobiles and automobile related industries accounted for almost eighty percent of all employment in the United States directly or indirectly. In the mid 1890’s the automobile was literally a circus side show curiosity. By 1910 it was a multi million dollar industry.

Ezra Meeker traveled the Oregon Trail with an ox cart in the 1850’s. He traveled America in a National automobile in 1914. Wyatt Earp of OK Corral fame was working as film consultant in Los Angeles during the 1920’s. And then there was the Swiss immigrant named Louis Chevrolet that gave rise to an American legend.

In an exciting new presentation I take the audience on a bit of time travel to the dawning of the American auto industry, and introduce them to what, in my humble opinion, was one of the most fascinating times in history. I will be kicking off the presentation at an event in Jackson, Michigan at the Hackett Auto Museum. This is a rather appropriate place to kick off the fall tour for this Jim Hinckley’s America presentation. After all Jackson came very close to becoming America’s motor city. More than twenty companies were manufacturing vehicles in this city. The largest manufacturer of automobile horns, Spartan, was headquartered in Jackson. Kelsey Hays had a major manufacturing facility in the city.

Stay tuned for more information. And stay tuned for some special live programs with auto enthusiasts and from fascinating auto museums.

 

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