Frederic and August Duesenberg

The first luxury cars were custom built handcrafted marvels. It took a great amount of knowledge and skill, along with substantial sum of money, to produce a single vehicle. In 1904, two brothers Frederick and August Duesenberg founded the company that would become an important part of American automotive history.

Duesenberg family came from Germany to Iowa in 1885. The brothers manufactured and raced bicycles in the 1890s. They were convinced that machines would one day become a superrior form of transportation, which was seen in the early bicycle versuss horse races.

Perfecting their mechanical expertise was just one part of the puzzle. To manufacture cars they needed strong financial support which was granted from an Iowa lawyer named Edward Mason with the establishment of the Mason Motor Car Company in 1905.

Their business career really began going up when washing machine magnate Frederick Maytag bought the majority ownership and renamed the company to Maytag-Mason Motor Company. Because none of the owners had any real experience in the car business, Duesenberg brothers were the only thing that kept it afloat.

After a while, they decided to go to St. Paul, Minnesota to work on racing car engines and build race cars in general. In 1913 Frederic and August Duesenberg founded Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company. During their work on the race track they have managed to develop a special type of engine called the Duesenberg motor. This efficient gasoline motor was patented and served as a basis for the company. The engine proved highly reliable in the Indianapolis 500 race, constantly outperforming the competition.

Landmark moment occurred in 1921 when American racing legend Jimmy Murphy won the French Grand Prix with a Duesenberg for the first time in history. From the business perspective, company was doing well. In time, excellent race results created a reputation for speed, style and class. Duesenberg was a household name, a car that everybody wanted to buy but only a rare few actually bought.

World War I influenced brothers profoundly, since they were granted an American contract to produce the engine for the French government. Using similar technology that can be found in the brilliant Bugatti engine, Frederick and August Duesenberg made a large number of aviation and marine engines. The Duesenberg Motor Corporation was incorporated in 1917 with Frederick as the chief engineer and August as the plant manager.

Duesenberg vehicles were ranking high in popularity ratings, which was attributed in part to movie stars (Gary Cooper, Clark Gable) driving them regularly. The luxury models were priced from $13,500 up to $25,000 thus only the wealthy and successful could actually buy them. Keep in mind that during the 1920s average income revolved around $750 per person per year. Duesenberg brothers advertised their vehicles as the best car in the world.

People used to speak that only a Duesenberg could surpass another Duesenberg with the first owner's permission. There is no doubt that Frederick and August Duesenberg were extraordinary automotive pioneers. When the sales dropped down, company had to be rescued once again. A minor shareholder unsuccessfully attempted to send the company into receivership in 1923. Financial rescue was organized, but the original reputation never fully recovered. The phrase "it's a doozy" has been coined from their family name, meaning a high quality item or something truly remarkable.

Pictures of Duesenberg brothers

Duesenberg Brothers picture   Young August and Frederick Duesenberg older   Frederick Duesenberg profile


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