home page 

 

  Home < Chrysler Group < Dodge Vehicles < Dodge History

Bookmark and Share  

 

Dodge Brothers Company (1900-1928)

Founded as the Dodge Brothers Company in 1900 to supply parts and assemblies for Detroit's growing auto industry, Dodge began making its own complete vehicles in 1915. After the founding of the Dodge Brothers Company by Horace and John Dodge, the company quickly found work producing precision engine and chassis components, among these customers were the established Olds Motor Vehicle Company and the Ford Motor Company. Dodge Brothers enjoyed much success in this field, but the brothers' growing wish to build complete vehicles.

By 1914, Horace had found a solution by creating the new four-cylinder Dodge Model 30. Marketed as a slightly more upscale competitor to the Ford Model T, it pioneered or made standard many features, all-steel body construction, 12-volt electrical system, and sliding-gear transmission. As a result of this, and the brothers' well-earned reputation for quality through the parts they made for other successful vehicles, Dodge Brothers cars were ranked at second place for U.S. sales as early as 1916. That same year, Henry Ford decided to stop paying stock dividends to finance the construction of his new River Rouge complex. This led the Dodges to file suit to protect their annual stock earnings of approximately one million dollars, in turn, leading Ford to buy out his shareholders. In 1919, Henry Ford bought out the Dodge brothers' shareholdings in Ford Motor Company for $25 million.


Dodge cars continued to rank second place in American sales in 1920. However, the same year, tragedy struck as John Dodge was felled by pneumonia in January. His brother Horace then died of cirrhosis in December of the same year. With the loss of both founders, the Dodge Brothers Company passed into the hands of the brothers' widows, who promoted long-time employee Frederick Haynes to the company presidency. During this time, the Model 30 was evolved to become the new Series 116. However, throughout the 1920s Dodge gradually lost its ranking as the third best-selling automobile manufacturer, slipping down to 7th in the U.S. market.

Dodge Brothers emerged as a leading builder of light trucks. They also entered into an agreement whereby they marketed trucks built by Graham Brothers of Evansville, Indiana. The three Graham brothers would later produce Graham-Paige and Graham automobiles. Stagnation in development was becoming apparent, however, and the public responded by dropping Dodge Brothers to fifth place in the industry by 1925. That year, the Dodge Brothers company was sold by the widows to the well-known investment group Dillon, Read & Co. for $146 million.

Dillon, Read & Co. offered non-voting stock on the market in the new Dodge Brothers, Inc., firm, and along with the sale of bonds was able to raise $160 million, reaping a $14 million (net) profit. All voting stock was retained by Dillon, Read. Frederick Haynes remained as company head until E.G. Wilmer was named board chairman in November, 1926. Wilmer was a banker with no auto experience and Haynes remained as president. Changes to the car, save for superficial things like trim levels and colors, remained minimal until 1927, when the new Senior six-cylinder line was introduced. The former four-cylinder line was kept on, but renamed the Fast Four line until it was dropped in favor of two lighter six-cylinder models for 1928.

On October 1, 1925, Dodge Brothers, Inc., acquired a 51% interest in Graham Brothers, Inc., for $13 million and the remaining 49% on May 1, 1926. The three Graham brothers, Robert, Joseph and Ray, assumed management positions in Dodge Brothers before departing early in 1927.

Despite all this, Dodge Brothers' sales had already dropped to seventh place in the industry by 1927, and Dillon, Read began looking for someone to take over the company on a more permanent basis. Eventually Dodge was sold to Chrysler Corporation in 1928.

Star Logo: The original Dodge was a circle, with two interlocking triangles forming a six-pointed star in the middle; an interlocked "DB" was at the center of the star, and the words "Dodge Brothers Motor Vehicles" encircled the outside edge. Although similar to the Star of David, the Dodge brothers were not Jewish. Although the "Brothers" was dropped from the name for trucks in 1929 and cars in 1930, the DB star remained in the cars until the 1939 models were introduced.

 

John Francis Dodge
(1864 1920)
Was an American automobile manufacturing pioneer and co-founder of Dodge Brothers Company. He was born in Niles, Michigan. John and his younger brother, Horace, were inseparable as children and as adults. The origins of the Dodge family lie in Stockport, England, where their ancestral home still stands. In 1886 the Dodge family moved to Detroit, where John and Horace took jobs at a boiler maker plant.

In 1894 they went to work as machinists at the Dominion Typograph Company in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. While John was the sales-minded managerial type, his brother Horace was a gifted mechanic and inveterate tinkerer. John arranged a deal for the brothers to join with a third-party investor to manufacture bicycles. Within a few years, they sold the bicycle business and in 1900 used the proceeds of the sale to set up their own machine shop in Detroit.

In their first year of business the Dodge brothers' company began making parts for the automobile industry. In 1902 the Dodge brothers won a contract to build transmissions for the Olds Motor Vehicle Company upon which they built a solid reputation for quality and service. However, the following year they turned down a second contract from Olds to retool their plant to build engines for Henry Ford in a deal that included a share position in the new Ford Motor Company. By 1910, John Dodge and his brother were so successful they built a new plant in Hamtramck, Michigan.

From 1903 1913, the Dodge brothers' business was a Ford Motor Company supplier, and John worked as vice president of the Ford company. He left Ford in 1913, and in 1914 he and Horace formed Dodge Brothers to develop their own line of automobiles. They began building motor trucks for the United States military during the arms buildup for World War I, and in October 1917 they produced their first commercial car. At war's end, their company produced and marketed both cars and trucks.

Because of his temper and often crude behavior, Dodge was seen as socially unacceptable to most of the well-heeled elite of Detroit. Nevertheless, his wealth made him an influential member of the community and he became active in Republican Party politics in Michigan.

In January 1920, Dodge and Horace contracted Spanish flu and pneumonia while in New York City. Dodge died on January 14, 1920 at the Ritz-Carlton, aged 55. He was interred in the Egyptian-style family mausoleum in Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery guarded by two Sphinx statues.

John Dodge's newborn daughter Anna Margaret died of the measles before age five. His son Daniel drowned in the waters off Manitoulin Island after falling overboard while being transported to hospital following an accident involving dynamite. He had just recently married, at age 21.

 

 

Horace Elgin Dodge, Sr.
(1868 1920)
Was an American automobile manufacturing pioneer and co-founder of Dodge Brothers Company. He was born in Niles, Michigan, on May 17, 1868. In 1886, the Dodge brothers moved to Detroit, Michigan, where they took jobs at a boilermaker plant. In 1894 they went to work as machinists at the Canadian Typograph Company across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario. In 1896, Horace Dodge married Anna Thompson. The couple had a son, Horace Jr., and a daughter, Delphine.
 

While brother John Dodge was the sales oriented managerial type, Horace was a gifted mechanic and inveterate tinkerer. Using a dirt-proof ball bearing Horace invented and patented, in 1897 John arranged a deal for them to join with a third party investor to manufacture bicycles. Within a few years, they sold the business and in 1901 used the proceeds of the sale to set up their own machine shop in Detroit. During their first year in business the Dodge brothers' company began making parts for the automobile industry.

In 1902, they won a contract to build transmissions for the Olds Motor Vehicle Company upon which they built a solid reputation for quality and service. However, the following year they turned down a second contract from Olds (Oldsmobile) to retool their plant to build engines for Henry Ford in a deal that included a share position in the new Ford Motor Company. By 1910, Horace Dodge and his brother were so successful they built a new plant in Hamtramck, Michigan.

For ten years, the Dodge brothers' company was supplier to Ford. In 1913 the Dodge brothers terminated their Ford contract and devoted their energies toward producing a Dodge automobile. They began building motor trucks, ambulances and other vehicles for the United States military during the arms buildup for World War I and in October 1917 they produced their first commercial car. At war's end, their company manufactured and marketed both cars and trucks.

Despite their wealth and growing influence in the business community, the Dodge brothers' crude manners and aggressive conduct made them socially unacceptable to most of the wealthy Detroit. Horace and Anna Dodge became major benefactors of the new Detroit Symphony Orchestra and would play a key role in the construction of Orchestra Hall.

Horace Dodge's keen interest in speedboats and yachting, and the vessel's engines led him to establish a marine division as part of their automotive business. He purchased several motor yachts, each larger and more luxurious than the previous. The last, named the Delphine for his daughter, was a 257.8-foot (78.6 m) vessel. Construction commenced in 1920 and was completed in 1921, after his death. Horace contracted the Spanish flu and died from complications resulting in pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver on December 1920, at the age of 52. He was interred with his brother in the same mausoleum. Horace E. Dodge, Jr. died in 1963 at age 63. His widow outlived him by fifty years, her death in 1970.

 

  Home < Chrysler Group < Dodge Vehicles < Dodge History