Jonathan Maxwell

Born in Indiana, Jonathan Dixon Maxwell was among the first pioneers in the American automotive industry. The son of Joseph and Nancy started his career repairing bicycles in a workshop of Elmer Apperson. He showed great interest in transportation vehicles, always trying to improve the existing technology.

When he was thirty years old in 1894, Apperson brothers and Elwood Haynes designed their own version of a modern car. Jonathan was already a reputable machinist with more than 10 years of experience.

Maxwell assisted them building the original Haynes automobile named the "Pioneer", which set the foundation for the future Haynes Automobile Company in 1905. Their magnificent business was the first car manufacturing company in the United States that was actually profitable.

Elwood Haynes created many important innovations and working with him left a lasting impression on Jonathan Maxwell. His knowledge was further expanded when he began to work with another automobile pioneer Ransom Eli Olds. He was hired to help develop the early Oldsmobile models.

Using his years of experience, Jonathan Maxwell and Benjamin Briscoe established the Maxwell-Briscoe Company in 1903. The main car factory was built in Tarrytown, New York, where the company headquarters were located. Other production facilities were later developed in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and New Castle, Indiana. In 1907 a fire destroyed the Tarrytown factory, making the modern New Castle factory the largest car factory in the world at one point.

The Maxwell automobile was a runabout powered by a solid two cylinder engine. Model was priced at $500 and made an impressive 9,400 sales at the very beginning of production. In 1909 the company became the third largest American brand, but soon their luck changed. Benjamin Briscoe wanted to merge the four largest automobile manufacturers of the era in a single incredibly powerful company.

This was just a wish, because pioneers such as Henry Ford or Walter Chrysler had very different visions of future car development. Still, Briscoe managed to convince other companies to join his project and founded the United States Motor Company. Briscoe took the position of President, while Jonathan Maxwell became the vice president.

The new company had a huge potential with 18 plants with combined workspace of 49 acres. Over 14,000 employees were able to produce around 52,000 different vehicles, since the company offered more than 50 models. Maxwell and Briscoe clashed frequently and finally parted ways when the United States Motor Company went into receivership in 1912.

Walter Flanders purchased the majority share and reorganized the company as the Maxwell Motor Company based in Detroit, Michigan. Two years later, Maxwell managed to sell over 60,000 cars. The recession in 1920 changed the positive trends and the company needed more capital to avoid bankruptcy.

Walter Chrysler embraced the opportunity and bought the majority share in Maxwell Motor Company. Jonathan Maxwell retired in 1913, after the failure of United States Motor Company. He was a highly creative automotive pioneer, with 19 different patents such as thermo-siphon cooling system connected to his name. People considered Maxwell automobiles the top racing cars of their time, a reputation well earned by numerous wins and trophies.

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