John and Horace Dodge

Dodge family roots in America can be traced back to 1629. In the 1850s, Ezekiel Dodge ran a successful machine shop repairing the steam engines for fishing boats, something that his descendants will greatly surpass.

Not many people know the story of two brothers who remained inseparable and left a giant mark on the early American automobile industry. John Francis Dodge was born in 1864, and Horace Elgin Dodge four years after. The two became world famous automobile manufacturers and inventors, which later founded the Dodge Brothers Company in 1910.

Coming from poor and industrious background, they studied the mechanical principles their father who owned a small machine shop. Two red-haired prodigies had different characters and skills. Horace was the quiet one with extraordinary machinist knowledge, while John was the leader who provided for all their financial needs.

The Dodge brothers were inseparable team guided by a common goal to succeed. By 1896, Horace had invented and patented bicycles with the new dirt-resistant ball bearings and they partnered with Frederick Evans in a small company. The bicycle was manufactured under the Evans & Dodge name in Windsor, Ontario, where they moved in 1899. In 1900 the brothers sold their interest and used the money to open their own machine shop in 1901. At first brothers produced bicycles, stove parts and car parts.

As business grew a large auto part factory was opened in Hamtramck, Michigan, where brothers made engines, transmissions, chassis and other parts for the Ford Motor Company and for Olds Motor Works. In 1913 they began producing their own automobiles, with Horace Dodge responsible for a number of their manufacturing innovations.

On July 15, 1914, the Dodge Brothers made their last Ford part, venturing in their own business odyssey. On July 17, 1914, Dodge Brothers was formed with $5 million in common stock. The first car rolled off the assembly line and thanks to their impeccable reputation around 22,000 people applied for dealerships before any details about the Dodge automobile had been released.

It was better than the Model T in every way and only $100 more expensive. The Dodge brothers received $25 million from the sale of their Ford stock and about $10 million from dividends Ford paid them from 1903 to 1909. This all came from their initial investment of $10,000 in parts and cash.

In two decades they built a $200 million joint venture. It is considered one of the most profitable investments in the history of American commerce. In just three years Dodge became the fourth largest American car manufacturer. The Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record claimed in August 1914 that the Dodge Brothers are the two best mechanics in Michigan and that record-breaking sales of Ford had their splendid work and quality production to thank for them.

While attending the 1920 New York Auto Show, Horace Dodge contracted pneumonia, a serious condition in those days. John sat by his bed for days, where he caught pneumonia almost immediately and died 10 days later. The vicious disease took both brothers and dealt a heavy blow to the American automotive industry. In 1928, Dodge Brothers Company was taken over by Chrysler Corporation and became a well-known division.

Pictures of John and Horace Dodge

Horace and John Dodge talking   John Dodge profile   Horace Dodge working

 

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