I wonder what it was like in the old days to build cars. I mean the old, old days, like between 1900 and 1930. Apparently, there were hundreds of car manufacturers back then; all trying to get a piece of the pie. It was a pretty big pie back then, too. Millions of Americans were more than willing to get rid of their hoses and buggies and buy the new motorized horseless carriages. And why not? The horseless carriages or cars, got them to places quicker and with less work than if they had to hitch up their horses. The new cars didn’t require any hay or brush downs like the four-legged type of transportation they were used to. It just made sense for people to move into the new century using the newest and most visible invention.
Of the many hundreds of automakers who tried their hand at building cars for the masses, only a few survived. Most went out of business within a year or two. There are some very obvious successes that made it through that century and continue to prosper today. One of the names of the persistent and high achieving carmakers from that era is Dodge.
Once upon a time, there were two brothers named Horace and John Dodge. They started building automobile parts for other car manufacturers around 1900. They even supplied Henry Ford with parts for his mass-produced cars until they got tired of taking orders from other people and started making their own cars in 1915. The brothers built their cars with steel bodies as opposed to wood frame construction with sheet metal covering. They also used a 12-volt electrical system instead of the common 6-volt system. Their engines put out more horsepower than Ford’s and with all these innovations came a reputation for quality production. Their durable cars and trucks became popular and they were making millions of dollars in just a few short years. Now you have brothers starting dealerships up like Deery Brothers in Ames.
All this ended for the brothers when they both died in 1920 in the Flu epidemic that killed millions worldwide. The Dodge brothers’ wives sold the company a few years later for over one hundred and forty million dollars. That was considered the largest business transaction ever, up to that point in history. The company was sold a few years later to Chrysler Corporation and has been under that umbrella to the present day.
It’s just amazing that so many car companies failed at a time when a few lucky and quite persistent manufacturers made huge fortunes building similar products.