We created the Geek History website to give credit to the genius and hard work of the great geeks like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, as well as look for the forgotten geeks. In the world of industrial age technology we also look at the often forgotten geeks such as George Westinghouse and Reginald Fessenden, and study their contributions to the world. As we learned more about automotive technology and innovation, we realized that people like Ransom Eli Olds from the world of the automotive industry needed to be added to our list of forgotten geeks for his invention and innovation in the early twentieth century.
The founding fathers of Detroit Motor City
If you look at the history of the American auto industry, it is interesting to see how the founding fathers of the companies involved were all connected. While access to various resources and railroads played a part in the evolution of an industry, sometimes it as much the work of a few key inventors and innovators that gets it all started, and the industry expands from there.
Ransom Eli Olds founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan in 1897. At the Old Motor Works in Detroit he was the leading American auto producer from 1901 through 1904. Olds had a fight with his investors and left Olds Motor Works in 1904. The Oldsmobile brand would become part of General Motors in 1908. Ransom Olds founded The REO Motor Company, a successful auto manufacturer in his day, the company survived until 1975.
Much like Olds, Henry Ford would also walk away from a manufacturing company that went on to be successful because of a fight with management. The Detroit Automobile Company was Henry Ford's first attempt at automobile manufacturing, lasting from only 1899 to 1901. The Henry Ford Company was the second company for Henry Ford, founded in 1901. Henry Ford believed having his name associated with a race winning automobile was a valuable asset, his partners did not agree, and Ford walked away from The Henry Ford Company.
Henry Leland persuaded Ford's partners to reorganize The Henry Ford Company rather than liquidate it. The reorganized company become Cadillac, named for the founder of the city of Detroit. Leland sold Cadillac to General Motors in 1909, and remained on as an executive until 1917. Henry Leland left General Motors in a dispute with company founder William C. Durant. Shortly after leaving General Motors, Leland would go on to create the Lincoln Motor Company in 1917, which was purchased by Ford in 1922.
Founded by Henry Ford in 1903, The Ford Motor Company has become one of the world's largest and most profitable automotive companies over the past century. Two of the original backers of the Ford Motor Company were Horace Dodge and John Dodge. The Dodge Brothers took stock in the Ford Motor Company as part of the payment for the engine and chassis components they produced for Ford. In 1914 the Dodge Brothers cashed in their Ford stock to create their own automobile company. Dodge Brothers cars became the second highest selling cars behind Ford. Sadly both Dodge Brothers died in 1920. Dodge would become part of Chrysler in 1928
William C. Durant founded the Flint Road Cart Company in 1886, transforming it into a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles. In 1904, Durant purchased a controlling interest in the Buick Motor Company. In 1908 Durant founded founded General Motors by purchasing Buick and Oldsmobile, and added Cadillac in 1909.
Interesting that these famous founding fathers of the automotive industry all started in Michigan. There are also a few automotive pioneers that started in neighboring states, such as Studebaker in Indiana, and Packard in Ohio, that would also become connected to the collective of Detroit Motor City.
Geek History explores auto museums
When we created Geek History, some topics were a natural, such as the history of the internet and modern electronics at silicon valley. As we dug deeper in our studies of famous geeks like Thomas Edison we were also spending more time learning about Henry Ford and the automotive industry. On a road trip to visit the Henry Ford complex in Dearborn, Michigan, we learned just how connected Thomas Edison was to Henry Ford. When we planned a return visit to Michigan in search of more geek history we went back to The Henry Ford Museum complex and looked at some of the things we missed on our first visit, as well as visit many auto museums.
Researching automotive history, and looking over the places we have visited over the years, it seemed a natural extension of the Geek History website to expand our scope into the world of automobiles and transportation. In this section of Altered Automotive we have created an online gallery of Automotive Innovation and Auto Museums. The articles in this section are a brief description of the museums with a hand full of photos.
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Photo by Tom Peracchio taken at Henry Ford Greenfield Village Dearborn Michigan October 2016.