Automobile Pioneers of the Boston-Edison Historic District
Clarence W. Avery
Clarence Avery was born in Dansville MI, in 1882. He became in teacher op manual training, working in Battle Creek and Ishpeming before becoming director of manual training at the Detroit University School in 1907. In 1912, one of his students, Edsel Ford, introduced Avery to his father. Henry Ford, seeing potential in Avery, hired him for a summer job. Avery learned quickly, and soon left his teaching job to become Charles E. Sorensen's assistant. Beginning in 1913, Avery and Sorensen focused on developing the moving assembly line. Although the originator of this idea is uncertain, Avery certainly had the biggest hand in developing it. By timing each step to maximize the speed of production, Avery and Sorensen reduced the assembly time of the Model T from 12.5 hours to 2.7.
As the company grew, Avery worked as Ford's chief development. engineer, developing a reputation as a problem-solver. He developed methods to increase the clarity of automotive glass, and ran Ford's operations in northern Michigan for a time. In 1918, Avery moved to 1626 W. Boston Boulevard, living there until the early 1920s.
In 1927, Avery resigned to join Murray Body Corporation, a automobile body manufacturer (and Ford supplier) that was then recovering from bankruptcy. Avery began as an assistant to then-president William R. Wilson, but quickly became president or Murray and eventually Chairman of the Board. He remained with Murray, successfully steering the firm, until his death in 1949.
Andrew Bachle was born in Norwalk, Ohio in 1866. He attended Northwestern University and graduated as a mechanical engineer. After graduation, Bachle worked as a travelling sales representative for a Cleveland manufacturing firm for 14 years. In 1899 he married Mary C. Smith. In 1904, he came to Detroit and took a job as chief engineer for Reliance Motor Truck. In 1909, he moved to the same position at Paige-Detroit, eventually becoming vice-president of the firm. Andrew Bachle had a house built at 1406 W. Boston Boulevard, where he lived from the late 1910s until his death in the late 1920s. The house has been since demolished due to construction of the Lodge Freeway.
William B. Bachman
William Bachman came to Detroit in 1910 to manage a dry goods store. During a motoring excursion in 1912, where he led over 150 Detroiters to the Indianapolis Speedway, Bachman hit on the idea of marking routes by banding telephone poles at intersection. Upon returning to Detroit, Bachman and the Detroit Auto Club put his plan into action, creating the nation's first road marking system. In 1916 Bachman, with other men, founded the Automobile Club of Michigan, which became the largest Auto Club in the world through his 44 years as membership director. In 1923, Bachman lobbied for designation of major throughways in Detroit to be designated "main streets," where cross traffic would be required to stop. The City Council so designated Michigan, Woodward, and Grand River, and Bachman and the Detroit Auto Club installed the then-novel "stop signs" to warn traffic. William Bachman lived at 803 Longfellow in the early 1920s, moving to 1130 W. Boston Boulevard in the late 1920s, where he lived until his death in 1967.
George M. Bacon
George M. Bacon got his start in the automobile manufacturing business at the Columbus Buggy Co of Columbus Ohio, joing the company in 1904 as chief engineer. Columbus Buggy's president and vice-president were Clinton D. and Joseph F. Firestone, Harvey S. Firestone's father and brother (Harvey had worked for the company a decade earlier). Other significant employees of Columbus Buggy included Lee Frayer and Eddie Rickenbacker. The company began producing electric automobiles in 1905.
In 1907, George M. Bacon left Columbus Buggy and teamed up with carriage-maker William C. Anderson to build an electric car, with Bacon as chief engineer and designer. The effort was originally part of Anderson Carriage Company, but as their electric vehicle production grew, the company changed its name to the Anderson Electric Car Co, and, in 1919, to the Detroit Electric Car Company. The Detroit was the best-known of American electric cars, and by the time they folded in 1939 had produced around 30,000 automobiles.
In 1922, while at Detroit Electric, Bacon designed an electric milk truck. Although the truck had several good features, the electric motors of the time weren't sufficient to adequately power the vehicle, and Detroit Electric wasn't interested in producing a gasoline-powered truck. Instead, Bacon resigned from Detroit Electric, gathered several investors, and in 1924 started the Detroit Industrial Vehicle Company (DIVCO), using his electric design as the basis for a more powerful gasoline-powered truck. DIVCO began producing milk trucks in 1926. The company was hit hard by the Depresison, and in 1932 was bought out by Continental Motors, one of its suppliers. Although the company subsequently changed hands multiple times, they continued to produce trucks until 1986.
George M. Bacon lived at 161 Longfellow in the 1910s and 1920s.
Carl Breer was born in Los Angeles in 1883; as a youngster, he wrked in his father's blacksmith and carriage shop. When Frank Duryea exhibited his pioneering automobile on the west coast, it grabbed Breer's attention. By 1901, he had designed and built his own steam-powered automobile. He graduated from Stanford in 1909, and worked with a string of early automotive companies, including Tourist Automobile, Duro Car, Allis-Chalmers, and Moreland Motor Truck, where he was factory superintendant. After leaving Moreland, he established his own company, Acme Electrical Auto Work. In 1916, he joined Studebaker and established their research division. He moved to Willys in 1920, there joining Walter P. Chrysler.
He followed Chrysler to Maxwell Motor Car in 1923, and when Chrysler Corporation was formed in 1925, Breer headed their Engineering and Research department, a post he held until 1949. While there, Breer designed the legendary Chrysler Airflow, the first modern aerodynamic automobile; he also contributed to a number of Chrysler firsts, including aluminum pistons, bronze engine bushings, helical gear transmissions, and sealed-beam headlights. Carl Breer lived at 2435 W. Boston Boulevard in the 1930s.
Walter O. Briggs
Walter O. Briggs was born in Ypsilanti in 1877 and worked for Everitt Carriage Works in the early 1900s, eventually buying the company and changing the name to Briggs Manufacturing in 1909. Briggs specialized in the making of automotive car bodies, supplying bodies to manufacturers such as Ford, Chrysler, Packard, Hudson, and Willys-Overland. After Fisher Body was purchased by General Motors, Briggs was the nation's largest producer of car and truck bodies. During the Depression, Briggs turned to other products, gradually expanding into plumbing products as market for car bodies shrank. Briggs owned the company until his death; the company survived until 1997 when it was purchased by a South American conglomerate.
In 1919, Briggs purchased stock in the Detroit Tigers from Frank Navin, becoming sole owner after Navin's death. Briggs owned the Tigers until his death in 1952. He expanded the Tiger's playing field to increase seating capacity, opening it in 1938 as Briggs Stadium. In 1915, Briggs moved into Boston-Edison at 700 W. Boston Boulevard, where he lived until his death in 1952.
Born in Ontario, James Couzens moved to Detroit in 1890. In 1903, Couzens, was a clerk for coal dealer Alexander Y. Malcomson. Malcomson bankrolled a new company started by Henry Ford, and Couzens invested $2400 in the venture. Couzens became vice president and general manager of Ford Motor Company, and the company prospered in part because of his business acumen. In 1919, he sold his shares back to Ford for 35 million dollars.
Couzens held other important financial positions, as president of the Bank of Detroit and director of the Detroit Trust Company. He built a home at 610 Longfellow in Boston-Edison in 1910, where he lived until the late 1920s. During this time, he went into public service, first as street railway commissioner in 1913 and then police commissioner of Detroit in 1916. He was elected mayor in 1919, and served until appointed to the United States Senate in 1922. Couzens served in the Senate until his death in 1936.
Couzens also was a noted philanthropist, who established the Children's Fund of Michigan with a $10,000,000 grant, and gave $1,000,000 for relief in Detroit during the Depression.
Marvin E. Coyle
Marvin E. Coyle was an accountant, and began working at Chevrolet as a secretary at the birth of the company in 1911. He staayed with the company as it was foled into General Motors, eventually becoming an assistant to Chevrolet president William S. Knudsen. In 1929, he was appointed vice-president, and had a substantial hand in running the division. In 1933, Coyle was named general manager of Chevrolet and in 1937 a corporate vice-president and director of General Motors. Coyle guided Chevrolet through the Depression and the subsequent war years, and relenquished the lead of Chevrolet in 1945. Coyle retained the corporate vice-presidency until his retirement at the beginning of 1951. Marvin E. Coyle lived at 1411 Edison in the mid-1920s.
Harry G. Diefendorf
Harry Goodrich Diefendorf was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1879. He attended Penn; after graduation he worked for a Philedelphia newspaper in 1901-02, dabbled in real estate, and managed the Bay State Machine Company in Erie. In 1908, he became the New York agent for the Gray Motor Company of Detroit, then a manufacturer of marine engines. In 1910, he came to Detroit as general manager and treasurer of the Gray Motor Company, and in 1912 wrote the book. "The Gasoline Engine: Marine and Stationary." In 1918, Diefendorf became general manager of Recording Devices Company, a gearmaker. In 1923 he purchased the automotive steering gear division of Recording Devices and moved it to Detroit, renaming the company CPC Products. Harry G. Diefendorf lived at 874 Edison in the mid-1910s.
John W. Drake
The Hupp Motor Car Co. was organized in 1908 with four partners; three (including Drake) providing funds and the fourth, founder Robert Hupp, providing engineering expertise. Drake was named president. Sales of Hupmobiles were instantly successful, and the company built 5000 cars in 1910.
Drake moved to Boston-Edison in 1911, building a home at 650 W. Boston, where he lived until selling to C. Harols Wills. In the same year, Robert Hupp left the company, but sales climbed, with 24,000 cars sold in 1920 and 65,000 in 1928. However, the Depression hit the company hard, and a corporate takeover that removed Drake from control of the company ensured its downfall. Although Drake regained control of Hupp later, the company never recovered, and finally folded in 1940.
Alfred O. Dunk
Alfred Dunk was born in 1873 in Saginaw, Michigan. He spent some time in the employ of family businesses before striking out on his own. In 1896 he founded the A. O. Dunk Co. in New York; in 1902 he moved to Detroit to found the Puritan Machine Co, which manufactured engines, transmissions, and other mechanical components. In 1908, he set up the Auto Parts Manufacturing Co at the request of Walter Flanders, when the latter had formed E-M-F (with William Metzger). Alfred Dunk went on to own or head numerous automotive-related companies.
In 1929, after the stock market crash, the Detroit Electric Car company filed for bankruptcy. Alfred Dunk, who specialized in reorganizing failing businesses, purchased the company and reorganized it into the Detroit Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Co. The company kept producing electric cars until after Dunk's death in 1936, eventually folding in 1938. Dunk lived at 631 Chicago Boulevard in the 1910s.
Margaret T. Fisher
Margaret Theisen was born in 1857 in Baden, Germany. She emigrated to the United States and settled in Ohio, where, in 1876, she married Lawrence P. Fisher. The couple had eleven children; their seven sons -- Frederick J., Charles T., Lawrence P., William A., Edward F., Alfred J., and Howard A. Fisher -- together built Fisher Body Corporation. Four of the Fisher Brothers lived in Boston-Edison, together with Margaret T. Fisher, who lived at 101 longfellow in the 1920s, after her husband passed away.
Charles T. Fisher
Charles Thomas Fisher was born in 1880 in Norwalk, Ohio. Around the turn of the century, Fisher moved to Detroit and began work at a carriage body manufacturer. In 1908, Fisher, along with his brother Fred and uncle Albert, founded the Fisher Body Company, making bodies for the emerging automobile industry. Charles and Fred soon brought their five younger brothers (including Alfred, Edward and William) into the business. The firm quickly prospered, producing bodies for many different manufacturers, including Cadillac, Ford, and Studebaker. By 1914 they were making 370,000 car bodies a year.
In 1919, Ford, General Motors, and Studebaker competed to buy Fisher Body. GM won out, purchasing 60% of the business to for 27 million dollars. In 1922, Fisher built a home at 670 W. Boston, where he lived until his death in 1963. In 1926, the Fishers sold their remaining shares for 208 million dollars, making Fisher Body wholly owned by GM. Charles became a vice-president of GM, leaving in 1934. The next year, the Fisher brothers began building the magnificent Fisher Building, one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in the country, on Grand Boulevard a mile south of Boston-Edison.
Alfred J. Fisher
Alfred Fisher was born in 1892 in Norwalk, Ohio. Alfred's history is tied to Fisher Body and his brother Charles. In 1913, both Alfred and Edward Fisher graduated from the Andrew F. Johnson Carriage and Automobile Drafting School in New York, and joined their brothers Charles, Fred, and Lawrence at the thriving Fisher Body company. Alfred built and lived in a home at 1556 Chicago in the early 1920s, when both Charles and Edward were also moving into Boston-Edison. Alfred eventually became a vice-president Fisher Body and the director of its aircraft division.
Edward F. Fisher
Edward Fisher was born in 1891 in Norwalk, Ohio. Edward, with his brother Alfred, graduated from the Andrew F. Johnson Carriage and Automobile Drafting School in 1913, and joined their brothers Charles, Fred, and Lawrence at the Fisher Body company. Edward built a home at 892 W. Boston in 1923, just a year after his brother Charles built his home; Edward lived ther until the mid-1950s. Edward eventually became a vice-president and director of GM and general manager of GM's Fisher Body division after Fisher Body was sold to that company.
William A. Fisher
William Fisher was born in 1886 in Norwalk, Ohio. William was the last of the Fisher brothers to join Charles at Fisher Body, arriving in 1915. A year later, he built a house in Boston-Edison at 111 Edison Avenue, where he lived until the late 1920s. He was involved in the operation of Hinkley Motors (founded by Carl C. Hinkley) in the late 1910s and 1920s. William eventually became president of the Fisher Body division after the family company was sold to General Motors.
Henry Ford's story is well-known. In 1903, with the help of a handful of investors (including James Couzens and Horace Rackham), Ford incorporated Ford Motor Company. The company introduced the Model T in 1908, the same year that Henry Ford moved into a new home in Boston-Edison at 140 Edison. Henry lived in the house until moving to Fairlane in Dearborn, his last home. The car was wildly popular, and sales grew to 250,000 by 1914; by 1918, half of all cars in America were Model Ts.
Ford Motor Company developed a number of innovations in car production, most notably the moving assembly line, introduced in 1913. Sales continued to increase, and in 1919, Henry and his son Edsel bought all outstanding stock in the company, giving them sole ownership.
Henry Ford was also a philanthropist, building Henry Ford Hospital (located a mile south of Boston-Edison on Grand Boulevard) in 1915 and leaving a substantial portion of his fortune to the charitable Ford Foundation upon his death in 1947.
Charles A. Grant
Charles Grant was born in 1879 in Canada; his family moved to Detroit in 1887. After completing school, he went into sales and business, including a two-year stint with Ford Motor Company as an assistant to James Couzens. In 1898, Grant and his brother George started a retail automotive business where they sold Buick, Chalmers, and Thomas cars. In 1910, the brothers changed track and started the Grant Brothers Foundry Company, where Charles was the treasurer. In 1913, the brothers founded the Grant Motor Car Company, with a factory in Findlay, Ohio. The company built small, maneuverable roadsters, first in the Findlay plant, and later in Cleveland. The company closed in 1922. In 1916, George and Charles added another business: Grant & Marx Brass Works, where Charles was also treasurer. During World War I, the businesses made airplane parts and artillery shells. Charles A. Grant lived at 2020 Longfellow in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Ira L. Grinnell
Ira Grinnell was born in New York in 1848. In 1866, he moved to Manchester, Michigan, and in 1867 began work in the sewing machine business in Ann Arbor. In 1880, Grinnell and his brother Clayton opened a music firm in Ann Arbor, and two years later moved to Detroit. In 1901, the firm began manufacturing pianos, a move that met with immediate success. In 1908 the firm built a headquarters on Woodward Avenue and in 1913, they opened a manufacturing plant in Holly, touted as "the largest piano factory on the earth."
The Grinnell Electric Auto Co. built electric automobiles in Detroit from 1912 - 1915. Ira L. Grinnell lived at 650 W. Boston Boulevard, the home originally built for John W. Drake, for a short while until his death in the early 1920s.
Carl C. Hinkley
Carl C. Hinkley was born in Lima, Ohio, in 1883. He began working in a foundry in 1901, then at Cleveland's Peerless Motor Car in 1903. From there, Hinkley moved through a number of automotive companies, including Stearns, Oldsmobile, Owen Motor Car, Flanders Manufacturing, and Covert Motor Vehicles. In 1912, Hinkley became chief engineer at Chalmers Motor Co. In 1917, he resigned to become president of the new Titan Motors Company, which had William A. Fisher as one of its officers and Charles and Frederick Fisher as board members. The firm quickly changed its name to Hinkley Motors, and manufactured trucks and truck engines until 1926. Hinkley than became chief engineer of Buda Motor Co. Hinkley married Edith Mann in 1906; they had two children. Hinkley died in 1936. Carl C. Hinkley lived at 882 W. Boston in the 1910s and early 1920s.
Fred E. Holmes
Frederick Elias Holmes was born in Port Huron on November 4, 1872, the first child of Almon and Sarah (Adams) Holmes. In his boyhood he worked for Thomas Edison as a payroll bicycle courier between Port Huron and Detroit. In 1907, he started the Fred E. Holmes Company, an early supplier of materials and parts to the automobile industry, particularly seat cushions. Holmes was also a director of the Detroit Motor Appliance Company and the Federal Discount Corporation of Detroit, and part owner of the Washington Theatre Company and the Orpheum Theatre Company. In October, 1915, Holmes married Mabel Agnes Carroll of Logansport, Indiana. The couple moved into the Boston-Edison neighborhood, at 960 Chicago, and lived there until the early 1930s. They had one child, Jean Carroll, born 1919. Fred Holmes died in 1966.
Benjamin A. Jeffery
In 1906, Benjamin A. Jeffery and his brother Joseph (a dentist) filed for a spark-plug patent, based primarily on Joseph's knowledge of porcelain. With that, they started the Reliance Automobile Co. in San Francisco, and, in 1908, the Jeffery-Dewitt Co. in Newark, NJ to make spark plugs. In 1910, the firm moved to Detroit. There, the business rapidly expanded as orders for porcelain insulators exceeded the brothers' expectations. In 1915, Champion Spark Plug Co. assumed responsibility for manufacturing the Jeffery-Dewitt brand, and in 1921 bought the Jeffery-Dewitt Company outright. Jeffrey continued as a vice president of the firm. Benjamin Jeffery lived at 741 Edison in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Henry B. Joy
Henry Bourne Joy was born in Detroit in 1864; his father was president of the Michigan Central Railroad and a close friend of Abraham Lincoln. Henry graduated from Yale in 1892 and married Helen Newberry, sister of his lifelong friend Truman Newberry. He spent some time in mining in Utah, and then began working in companies associated with his father. He worked for the Peninsular Car Co, becoming assistant treasurer. He was then treasurer of the Fort Street Union Depot, and, upon his father's death in 1898, president of the Detroit Union Depot and Station Co. During the Spanish-American War, Joy served aboard the USS Yosemite with Newberry.
In 1902, Joy bought a car from James Packard. Impressed with the design, he convinced a group of investors, including his brother-in-law Truman Newberry, to invest in the automobile company. The group put up $250,000 and organized the Packard Motor Car company with Packard as president and Joy as general manager. Joy oversaw a steady expansion of Packard, with increasing production and sales. Eventually he became chairman of the board in 1916. In 1918, he stepped down to accept a commission as Colonel in the US Army, but resumed his position at Packard when WWI ended. He served as chairman until 1926.
In 1915, Henry Joy platted out the Joy Farms subdivision, stretching from 14th Street (now Rosa Parks) to Linwood, encompassing the western third of the Boston-Edison neighborhood.
Peter E. Martin
In 1903, C. Harold Wills hired Peter Martin to work at Ford Motor Company; Martin was the fifth Ford employee hired. Martin was plant superintendent first at the Piquette Plant and then at the Rouge facility, and in 1924 was named Vice-President of Manufacturing. Martin was a trusted advisor to Henry Ford; it was reported in 1939 that Martin was one of only three directors of the company, the other two being Henry and Edsel Ford. Martin resigned from Ford in 1940 due to ill health.
Peter E. Martin lived at 1486 Chicago Boulevard during the 1920s.
William E. Metzger
William Metzger was born in Peru, IL, in 1868 and at the age of 10 moved to Detroit with his father. As a young man, Metzger became enamored of bicycle riding, and soon joined Stanley B Huber to open Huber & Metzger, a bicycle shop located in the center of downtown Detroit. The store soon became one of the largest in the country, and dealt directly with suppliers in England. In 1895, Metzger attended the world's first automobile show in London. He returned to Detroit convinced of the automobile's future, and built the first U. S. automobile retail showroom, which opened in 1897. Metzger sold electric, steam, and gasoline brands, including automobiles built by Oldsmobile; in June 1899, Metzger sold the first automobile built by the company. In 1899, Metzger helped organize the Detroit Auto Show, only the second of its kind. He also promoted racing, putting up the $200 prize won by Barney Oldfield driving the Ford 999 -- a win that had a substantial impact on Henry Ford's fortunes.
In 1900, Metzger organized the Northern Motor Car Co. Two years later, Metzger was one of the people who organized the Cadillac Motor Car Co. In 1903, with only three cars produced, Metzger took orders for 2700 Cadillacs at the New York Auto Show, ensuring the company's fortunes. Metzger stayed with Cadillac as sales manager until 1908, when Northern merged with Wayne Automobile Company (controlled by Byron Everitt and Walter Flanders) to form the E-M-F (Everitt-Metzger-Flanders) Company. The company arranged for Studebaker to market their cars. In 1909, EMF-Studebaker produced almost 8000 cars, making it the fifth largest auto maker in the US. However, although E-M-F was growing (it would produce 26,000 automobiles in 1911, second only to Ford), Metzger was unhappy with the partnership with Studebaker. In mid-1909, Metzger left the company, taking Byron Everitt and a $362,500 settlement with him.
With the money, Metzger and Everitt began the Metzger Motor Car Co, producing a car (called the Everitt) that was substantially similar to E-M-F's model. Metzger again used his sales skills, and the first year's production of 2500 Everitts were pre-sold before the first one rolled off the assembly line. Flanders soon bolted E-M-F to join them, but the unsettled finances of the new company proved its downfall. Luckily for Metzger, Flanders financially juggled the company, selling it to the United States Motor Co. Metzger took his profits from the sale and left. After the dissolution of Flanders, Metzger became affiliated with numerous other automotive companies, including Columbia Motor Car, Wills Sainte Claire, Federal Motor Truck Co., Rickenbacker, and the Auto Parts Manufacturing Co. (where he took over as president from Alfred Dunk). He also was appointed to the executive committee of the American Automobile Association, and was elected president of the Detroit Board of Fire Commissioners.
William Ernest Metzger built a house at 56 Longfellow, one of the very first built in Boston-Edison. He lived there until his death in 1933.
William T. Nash
William T. Nash was born in Windsor April 4 1873. In 1903, he joined the newly-formed Cadillac Motor Car Co. as auditor and Comptroller. He remained with the company until 1917, when Henry and Wilfred Leland left Cadillac to form a new company: Lincoln. Nash was elected secretary-treasurer of Lincoln (the Lelands were president and vice-president). Nash remained in that position until 1922, when Lincoln went into receivership (eventually being purchased by Henry Ford). Nash moved on to become secretary and general manager of the Monarch Bumper Manufacturing Company and was also treasurer of the Atlas Foundry Company, unexpectedly passing away in 1924. William T. Nash lived at 1444 Edison in the early 1920s.
Truman Newberry was born in 1864 in Detroit, the son of a wealthy businessman. He worked at a number of business ventures, working his way up to the position of manager of the Detroit, Bay City & Alpena Railway, and becoming president and treasurer of the Detroit Steel & Spring Company, along the way shrewdly investing his fortune to become a multi-millionaire
In the late 1890s, Newberry served with the US Navy, including as a lieutenant on the USS Yosemite (with lifelong friend and brother-in-law Henry Joy) during the Spanish-American War. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1905-1908, and as Secretary of the Navy in 1908 and 1909. In 1919, he was elected to the United States Senate in a fierce contest with Henry Ford. There were some irregularities in the election, and Newberry wasn't seated in the Senate for some time. As a result, Newberry resigned in 1922.
In 1902, Henry Joy, Newberry's brother-in-law, bought a car from James Packard. Impressed with the design, he convinced a group of investors, including Newberry, to invest in the automobile company. The group put up $250,000 and organized the Packard Motor Car company.
In 1913, Truman Newberry and his brother John platted out the Boston Boulevard subdivision, stretching from Hamilton to 14th Street (now Rosa Parks), encompassing the middle third of the Boston-Edison neighborhood.
Meyer L. Prentis
Meyer L. Prentis was born in Kovno, Lithuania in 1886; his family moved to St. Louis when he was two. Prentis studied accounting in St. Louis and moved to Detroit in 1911 at the age of 25 to work for General Motors. He was the chief accountant and auditor for GM, and in 1916 was promoted to comptroller. Three years later, Prentis became treasurer of General Motors, a position he held until 1951. In 1925, he built a home at 664 Chicago Boulevard, where he lived until the early 1930s.
Prentis was also known for his philanthropy. He was a founder and the first secretary-treasurer of the United Foundation of Greater Detroit (now the United Way for Southeastern Michigan). He endowed the Meyer L. Prentis Cancer Center at the Detroit Medical Center. The Meyer and Anna Prentis Building now houses the School of Business Administration on Wayne State University's campus.
Martin L. Pulcher
Martin L. Pulcher was born in Pontiac in 1877. After completing school, he worked in a buggy factory in Pontiac for eight years. In 1907, Pulcher helped organize the Oakland Motor Car Company in Pontiac, Michigan, and served an secretary-treasurer. Sales of the Oakland were immediately successful, and Oakland attracted the attention of William Durant, head of the newly-formed General Motors. By 1909, GM completely acquired Oakland, and Pulcher left the company the next year. (Oakland continued to sell well until it was supplanted by the Pontiac nameplate in the early 1930s.) In 1910, Pulcher founded Bailey Motor Truck, quickly changing the name to Federal Motor Truck. The firm produced around 160,000 heavy trucks during its operation from 1910 to 1959. Martin L. Pulcher lived at 101 Chicago Boulevard in the 1920s and 1930s.
Horace Rackham was a Detroit lawyer who opened his own law office in 1894. In 1903, Henry Ford engaged Rackham to draw up documents incorporating the Ford Motor Company. Sensing an opportunity, Rackham borrowed $5000 and bought 50 shares in the new company. Ford Motor company was, of course, wildly successful, and in 1907 Rackham built a new home at 90 Edison in Boston-Edison, and in 1913 quit his law practice. In 1919, Ford bought back Rackham's shares for 12.5 million dollars.
Horace Rackham and his wife Mary devoted the rest of their lives to philanthropy. In addition to supporting numerous charities, Rackham gave extensively to the University of Michigan, underwriting expeditions and fellowships. He also left the university $100,000 for graduate student loans. The University named its graduate college, as well as the building housing it, after Horace H. Rackham.
The results of Rackham's philanthropy can also be seen in and around the city of Detroit. Most significantly, in 1924, Rackham gave property in Huntington Woods to the city of Detroit. Some of this property was used as parking for the new Zoo (a memorial fountain at the zoo bears Rackham's name); the remainder was used to build a public golf course, now known as the Rackham Golf Course. Within the city, the Horace H. Rackham Education Memorial Building, built in 1941, stands at Farsworth and Woodward in Detroit's cultural district.
Horace Rackham lived at 90 Edison until his death in 1933.
Adam H. Sarver
Adam Sarver lived in Pennsylvania when he went into business handling local sales for the Durant-Dort Buggy Company. When W. C. Durant began manufacturing automobiles, Sarver began selling them. In 1916, Durant's Chevrolet Company took control of Scripps-Booth Motor Company, and in 1917 Sarver was named president of Scripps-Booth. The following year, Chevrolet, along with Scripps-Booth, merged into General Motors, and Sarver moved to Detroit.
In 1919, Sarver moved into a home at 655 Chicago Boulevard, where he lived until the early 1930s. He continued as president of Scripps-Booth until the division was dissolved in 1922. In 1924, Sarver became president and director of the Durant Motor Co. He retired in 1930.
Ernest W. Seaholm
Ernest W. Seaholm was born in Sweden, but came to the United States as an infant in 1889. He grew up in Connecticut, and graduated from a mechanical arts high school in Massachusetts in 1905. After graduation, he worked as a draftsman, then joined Cadillac in 1913 as a transmission engineer. Seaholm was named the chief engineer at Cadillac in 1921, and remained in that position until he retired in 1943. Ernest W. Seaholm lived at 1485 Edison in the 1920s.
John H. Thompson
John H. Thompson was born in 1883 in Detroit. He started as a travelling salesman, then moved to New York City to work as a broker. He pursued a similar line of work in Chicago, then returned to Detroit in 1904 to work as a mechanic in the Cadillac and the Oldsmobile factories. He then brokered automobile parts for three years, and in 1909 organized the Thompson Auto Company, which distributed Federal Trucks (manufactured by Martin L. Pulcher). In 1912 he took two of his brothers into the business, remaining president. In 1918 he began distributing Maxwell and Chalmers automobiles. In the same year, he also organized the Thompson Airplane Company, which distributed Curtiss airplanes. John H. Thompson lived at 1210 W. Boston Boulevard from 1920 through the late 1950s.
Sidney D. Waldon
Sidney Waldon was born in 1873, and was one of the first people involved with Packard Motor Co, serving as vice-president and general manager. During WWI, Waldon was a Colonel involved in preparation of aircraft manufacturing for the war effort, and was instrumental in creating a viable US air force. Waldon was also director of engineering for Cadillac Motor Car Co. In 1924, James Couzens, then mayor, appointed Waldon to the Detroit Rapid Transit Commission. The commission developed a plan for a system of superhighways and rapid transit, which Waldon advocated for the rest of his life. Colonel Waldon lived at 160 Longfellow in the 1910s and 1920s.
Albert M. Wibel
Albert Wibel was born in 1886 in Peru, IN. As an adult, he took up teaching as a career, and completer a course of study on the University of Indiana. However, in 1912, a friend purchased a Model T. Wibel, curious how the car was constructed, traveled to Detroit to tour the factory. John R. Lee, the head of purchasing, was impressed with the young man and offered him a job as a machinist. Wibel worked his way through the ranks, becoming head of engineering in 1919 and, in 1927, head of Ford's purchasing department. In 1941, he was promoted to vice-president in charge of purchasing, and helped negotiate wartime contracts with the US government during WWII. Albert Wibel lived at 1747 Longfellow in the 1920s and early 1930s.
C. Harold Wills
In 1895, Wills, then 17 years old, came to Detroit as an apprentice at the Detroit Lubricator Co. During this time, he took night courses in metallurgy and mechanical engineering. His apprenticeship served, he moved on to the Boyer Machine Co. (later the Burroughs Adding Machine Co.) and became its chief engineer in 1901. In 1902, Wills met Henry Ford, who asked him to work nights on Ford's race cars. When Ford started Ford Motor Company, Wills went along. Wills is credited for first grasping the importance of lightweight, strong, nickel-chrome vanadium steel for use in mass-producing automobiles, allowing Ford to build the Model N in 1907. Wills also played a major part in designing the Model T, designing the planetary transmission and the script "Ford" logo that survives until this day.
In 1919, Wills left Ford. The parting was not entirely amicable, but Wills did have 5.5 million dollars, some from profit sharing but most from his own wise investments in steel factories. Wills used the money to start his own automobile manufacturing firm. C. H. Wills and Co. produced over 1000 vehicles before it shut down in 1922. Wills moved on to found the Wills Sainte Claire Motor Company, which made another 5000 cars in the 1920s before eventually shutting its doors. Wills went to work as a consultant to Chrysler in the 1930s until his death in 1940.
Wills lived in Boston-Edison after purchasing 650 W. Boston, the home originally built for John W. Drake.