John Mohler Studebaker

The Mohler Studebaker family from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania had three sons that set the foundations for the development of the modern American automotive industry. It all began back in 1836 when the two brothers Henry and Clement went to help their father run the family business as blacksmiths and carriage builders.

At the time, they had settled in Ashland County, Ohio. John Mohler Studebaker wanted to participate in the California gold rush and traveled there in his own carriage. He soon realized that a good sum of money can be made in manufacturing the equipment, instead of taking his chances in the rough terrain mining for gold.

The 19 year old John decided to build wheelbarrows for miners which were sold for ten dollars per item. Being skilled in this specific craft, John managed to save eight thousand dollars from his adventure.

He returned home after five years and invested the savings in the H&C Studebaker Company, essentially buying out his brother Henry in 1858. The company desperately needed the additional capital to buy equipment and expand the business. Ten years later, they owned the largest horse drawn vehicle manufacturing company in United States due to the government contracts to build wagons for the Union Army.

At the end of 1890s, Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company was the number one producer in the world that built more than 750,000 wagons during their history of operation. As an interesting fact, both President Lincoln and General Grant owned a Studebaker carriage. When the age of the automobile came, John Mohler Studebaker was the only original founder to witness it with more than sixty years on his back.

His wisdom and experience helped the company to make a successful transition to gasoline powered vehicles. John went to see a motor show in Chicago, which only strengthened his belief that cars are the vehicles of the future. From the today's perspective he was partially right because he believed in electricity as the main power source.

In 1902 the company presented their first electric car, officially entering the automotive industry. Still, Studebaker carriages outsold Studebaker automobiles for several years. The company used their huge dealer network to sell 9.5 million dollars worth of automobiles from the Walter Flanders's company named E-M-F. He was a former employee from Henry Ford with great knowledge in car manufacturing. Eventually, John decided to buy the whole company.

In the following years the company sold more than 2000 vehicles. By 1911 Studebaker Corporation owned seven different production facilities all over the country, producing gasoline powered vehicles instead of the electric ones. The first car with a Studebaker name plate was produced in 1912. Automobile business was growing fast and profits were constantly rising. John Studebaker never really gave up on classical horse drawn carriages, despite the new car market success.

He stated that the automobile has come to stay, but 'when a man has no business, it is a rather expensive luxury, and I would advise no man, be he farmer or merchant, to buy one until he has sufficient income to keep it up. A horse and buggy will afford a great deal of enjoyment'. John Mohler Studebaker served in the company as the Honorary President until his death in 1917 at the age of 83. Leading a remarkable life, he influenced the transportation development even before the Civil War up to the modern automotive industry beginnings.

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