By on November 23, 2013

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The Dodge brand’s centennial celebration began this week with the announcement of special 100th Anniversary Editions of the Dodge Challenger and Charger. After more than a year of preparation, John and Horace Dodge went for a ride in public in a car with their own brand for the first time on November 14, 1914. That was after eleven years of supplying Henry Ford and his car company with every major component of Ford cars except for bodies, wheels and tires. The critical role that the Dodge brothers had in the success of Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company is not widely known outside of serious Dodge and early Ford enthusiasts. It has been reliably estimated that from the founding of the Ford Motor Company in 1903 until 1914. when the Dodges ended their contracts with Ford, they supplied about 60% of the total value of the cars that Ford “built”. Without the Dodge brothers, Ford Motor Company would never have gotten off the ground.

Horace and John Dodge in the first Dodge automobile, Nov. 14, 1014. Photo taken in front of John Dodge's Boston Blvd. mansion in Detroit's Boston-Edison district.

Horace and John Dodge in the first Dodge automobile, Nov. 14, 1014. Photo taken in front of John Dodge’s Boston Blvd. mansion in Detroit’s prestigious Boston-Edison district.

It wasn’t a very smooth relationship. Henry Ford changed the world but in many ways he was a megalomaniacal and manipulative crackpot. Having lost the Henry Ford Company to backers who turned it into Cadillac, Henry didn’t want to be beholden to financiers and stockholders, but the realities of business meant that he did have a small number of investors in Ford Motor Co, including his business manager James Couzens, his lawyer Horace Rackham, and the Dodges, who were paid in stock when Ford was short of cash.

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So while supplying Henry had its headaches, it also made Horace and John Dodge very wealthy men, doubly wealthy in fact. They made about $2 million supplying Ford and they made even more money, $5.4 million, from dividends on their Ford stock. Unfortunately, Henry ran the company as though he had no stockholders, sometimes hoarding company cash for his own plans rather than paying out customary dividends. Eventually there were lawsuits, threats by Henry Ford to start an entirely new car company to compete with FoMoCo, and low ball offers before he paid the Dodges $25  million in 1919 dollars (for their original 1903 investment of $10,000)  but in 1913, that was well into the future.

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While they already made two fortunes from their relationship with Ford, by 1913 they were not thrilled about continuing to make parts for the Model T. If you think automotive technology changes rapidly today, imagine how quickly things advanced a century ago. In five years the Model T went from state of the art to technologically lagging its competitors but Henry thought it was the perfect car. Ironically, by the time the T started selling in really huge numbers in the nineteen teens it was obsolete and being technologically surpassed by by more modern cars. The Dodges were good engineers, probably the best machinists in Detroit next to Henry Leland. The term “mechanical genius” could have been coined for Horace Dodge and his brother John was almost as adept with his own management skills. By 1914 the Dodge brothers, who already owned and operated what was probably most advanced automotive plant in the world in the Detroit enclave of Hamtramck, wanted to build modern machines.

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If you look at the historical record, Henry Ford eventually had fallings out with many of his close associates, including his business manager, James Couzens, and his pastor, Samuel Marquis, so the Dodges’ disaffection from Henry Ford was not that unusual. Not only were they tired of dealing with Henry’s eccentricities, and tired of building an old fashioned car, they knew that they were increasingly vulnerable having such a big customer, a customer that had already started making many components himself, on his path to making FoMoCo perhaps the most vertically integrated manufacturing company ever. One reason why people don’t know about the Dodges’ role in Ford history is because Ford was later famous for making every part of their cars, including the raw steel and glass. In the early days, though, Ford, like most automakers then, was an assembler, buying components and subassemblies. The Dodges supplied other automakers like Cadillac and Oldsmobile, but Ford represented the lion’s share of their business. So the Dodges had plenty of reasons in 1913 to jump before they were pushed and in July of that year they gave Henry Ford a year’s notice that they’d no longer be supplying him. Soon, the automotive world was abuzz with the news that Dodge Brothers would be making a Dodge car.

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The thing is, though, you can’t just start a car company, even if you’re one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world, then or now. By 1912, the Dodges had already hired Frederick Haynes, an experienced “motor man” to both run their production facilities and start planning for the production of a Dodge automobile. Haynes and the Dodges planned the new car and the factories to build it in meticulous fashion, literally down to the bolts and nuts. We know just how meticulously they did all that planning because we have a mostly handwritten account of everything they did as they prepared to start building their own car and then put it into production.

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The account is in the form of three hardbound notebooks that are now in the National Automotive History Collection of the Detroit Public Library. Each has a label taped to the cover saying that it’s the property of one Theodore T. Heidloff but there’s little doubt that Haynes wrote and compiled it.

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The first volume, which covers the period from March 1913 to July 1914, contains cost, specifications and quality information for components like frames, wheels, tires, bearings, pistons and piston rings, as well as batteries and ignition systems from more than a hundred potential suppliers. Also included are proposals from machinery suppliers and Dodge Brothers’ evaluation of the proposals and the machinery.

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The notebooks show just how collaborative the process working with vendors was. One section of the first notebook has John Dodge’s detailed suggestions and drawings for improving and speeding up the process of drilling cylinders in engine blocks.

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Dodge engine blocks being machined in 1915. If you searched, you’d find reference to all of those machines in the notebooks.

Once a vendor was chosen, blueprints had to be drawn and the notebook lists hundreds that the compiler had checked and approved.

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Processes are suggested and then revised or alternatives questioned, usually in red pen. The evaluations of the suppliers are frank. In one case regarding a stamped part, a supplier said that it could be made with a single stroke, but just in case, they’d be building up the dies to withstand a second strike. The compiler notes that he doesn’t believe they’d be able to make the part with a single stamping operation.

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The second notebook covers the period, July 1914 to July 1915, when the Dodge Brothers automobile actually went into production. As a result, in addition to materials like in the first volume, the second notebook also contains detailed personnel information. When the Dodges started promoting their new company, even before the car was designed, they were flooded with applications from mechanics, engineers and managers looking for work. Included in some cases were letters of recommendation from previous employers.

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While going through the notebooks, when I showed the NAHC librarian a recommendation letter for one Mr. George McDade, she laughed out loud and said that a former employer today would never send out such an honest letter:

Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company
East Pittsburgh, PA

May 21st, 1914.

Mr. W. J. Alles,
Dodge Brothers,
Detroit, Mich.

My dear Alles:-

I have your letter of the 19th inst.. with reference to Mr. George McDade. Mr. McDade is a very capable mechanic and is very aggressive. I have always felt that with the proper boss and in a small Company he would be a great success. He requires, however, some one to tell him where to get on and off. He was a type of man who could not possibly succeed in our Company on account have having too many bosses, and I certainly think you would make no mistake in trying him.

Yours very truly,

Charles Johnson

General Superintendent

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The second notebook also contains information on how the new factories were outfitted. There are pages of diagrams on the layout of the main plant including materials handling systems, machinery placements and die management. In addition to the manufacturing side of things, the notebook also covered administrative tasks under the heading “Our Office – Things to Do” followed by “How to Do Them” with a list of men appropriate for the tasks.

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The third notebook, from April 1915 to June 1916, shows how conscientious the firm was about continuous improvements. It was in 1915 that Dodge built the first automotive test track in the Detroit area, adjacent to their Hamtramck factory, to test cars after production.

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Dodge test track, Hamtramck, Michigan, 1915

 

Volume #3 has more information on suppliers and alternatives. For example, there are ten pages of detailed comparisons between Exide and Willard batteries. The Exide was available worldwide, had a better reputation and it weighed significantly less, but it was also 30 cents per car more expensive.

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The third volume also includes notes on visits made to seven different rolling mills, comparing plants, equipment and processes before deciding on a sheet steel vendor. Likewise they evaluated body suppliers before settling on the Edward G. Budd Mfg. Co. as a principal vendor. The notebook clearly indicates that the relationship was rocky. Numerous entries talk of “settlements” and “repair” work that needed to be done.

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Besides being an irreplaceable historic artifact, the content in the Dodge Brothers notebooks at the NAHC gives us an incredibly unique and altogether fascinating look at the early days of automotive manufacturing and into the personalities involved as well, like Haynes, Budd and the Dodges. You get an idea of just how monumental a task it was to start a car company 100 years ago and though people use computers these days instead of paper ledgers, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for today’s automotive entrepreneurs to take a look at the Dodge Brothers notebooks. Small wonder that historian Charles Hyde (whose book on the Dodges provided much of the information in this post) describes them as “a primer on launching a new automobile”.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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47 Comments on “Dodge Centennial: How To Build A Car And A Car Company, In Three Notebooks...”


  • avatar
    skor

    Study the history of the early auto industry, and you see the same two dozen (or so) names over and over again. A spider-like web-work connecting all of them in the most unlikely ways. Study the history of the early semiconductor, or personal computer, industry and you notice the same phenomenon. It’s been the history of the world since day one. The conditions of society remain static for long stretches of time, and then a few people turn everything on its head seemingly overnight, then the process repeats itself. The only thing we can be sure of is that the cycle will continue.

    • 0 avatar
      AMC_CJ

      “If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders – What would you tell him?”

      I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?”

      To shrug.”

      Seemed appropriate. Back then, a man could make a car, granted with much hard work, but they didn’t have to worry about the EPA, crony capitalism, and a entire governmental system, or two, standing in his way. The latest tycoons of this recent era have made their fortunes and changed the landscape in the online world. Why? Because they can; there’s not much standing in their way to do so. Although, that’s changing.

      Now sure, you can still start your own car company, if the current regime likes you, if you’re visions fit theirs, and they hand you a few hundred million in grants or “loans”, and then you might make it…..

      There is a reason why great men could chang the world back then, and why it took all those thousands of years for them to be able to;

      Because they could.

      • 0 avatar
        Charliej

        You seem to blame the government for standing in the way of business. I started and ran a small business for twenty seven years, and I never felt that the government was putting obstacles in my way. When I retired, I offered to give the company to the employees. I was turned down, because not one of them wanted to work like I did to keep things going.

        Looking at the auto industry of that time. There were many auto companies, 99% did not survive. They did not fail because government put obstacles in their way. They failed by the usual business methods, under capitalization, bad products, poor management, or just bad luck. Companies being formed today, need good management, adequate capitalization, good products, and a little bit of luck. Don’t believe that the government wants to kill business. Government is run by business.

        By the way, Ann Rand was nuts.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          There would have been absolutely no demand for cars if it was not for the road network that the federal, state and local governments built.

          The same situation with the internet.

          The Dodge family likely would have never gotten into cars, except that the railroad system, heavily subsidized by the government with land grants, put a lot of pressure on their riverboat supply business.

          And I lean pretty libertarian. Hating public sector unions and protectionist economic regulations like three tier liquor distribution.

          But Rand was just a broken Soviet reactionary with no sense of the complexity that actually makes society work. She died relying on Social Security to stay out of poverty.

          • 0 avatar

            The development of American roads came about after the growth of the auto industry. The feds were Johnny come latelies. Automotive pioneers like Henry Leland promoted road building though things like the Lincoln Highway Assoc.

            Now in a country where 90% of the land is owned by some kind of government body, if you want to build roads, you’re going to have to have the cooperation of governments, which can also use the power of eminent domain to acquire privately owned land if needed.

            However, the historical record is that governments at the county and state level had to be convinced of the need for roads beyond the minimum needed for farmers to get their crops to market.

            Until the idea of the Interstate highway system was developed and promoted under the Eisenhower administration, governments took a following, not leading, role in road building.

            Regarding the Dodge bros, I don’t know that the Dodges got into supplying the auto industry because the Great Lakes maritime industry was negatively impacted by railroads. They had a successful bicycle business (Horace had patented a successful, dust-free bicycle hub) in Windsor, Ontario which they sold to a cartel (whose corporate descendant is the CCM company that makes hockey skates and gear). They used that money to set up their machine shop in Detroit in 1900.

            I think that David Buick was more involved with marine and stationary engines than the Dodges were. By 1901, the Dodges were supplying Ransom Olds. Charles Hyde’s book on the Dodges makes no mention of them supplying marine engines, though he does say that their machine shop originally did work for the typography industry, the brothers having worked in that field before starting their bicycle business.

            Soon after they started supplying Olds and other automakers, the Dodges decided to stop working with typography equipment and concentrate on cars.

          • 0 avatar
            jimble

            Ronnie is incorrect. It was bicyclists, not drivers, who first agitated for paving roads.

            There was federal involvement in road building dating back to the National Road in 1811. Whether the feds were leading or just following existing demand is irrelevant; the project stimulated westward expansion just as the New York State-sponsored Erie Canal did later and the B&O Railroad, which was partially funded by the state of Maryland, did after that. Transportation has never been a primarily private concern in this country.

          • 0 avatar
            skor

            Jimble is correct, the League of American Wheelmen, a group of bicycle enthusiasts, petitioned the government for paved roads before anyone had seen a motor car.

            BTW, the auto and aerospace industries both grew out of the bicycle industry of the late 19th century. Few people realize just how “how tech” the “safety” bicycle was back in the day. The same technologies that allowed for the mass production of cheap, high quality bicycles, were used in both the early auto and airplane industries. Henry Ford, the Dodge brothers and the Wright brothers were all involved either in bicycle manufacture or repair before they went on to cars and airplanes.

        • 0 avatar
          racer-esq.

          This is what I saw about the Dodge family being pushed to the Detroit area because of the rise of the government land grand subsidized railroad and fall of the riverboat:

          “Ironically the transportation revolution that swept the United States during the nineteenth century-and which culminated in the development of the automobile-contributed to the Dodge family’s poverty. By 1882, when John graduated from high school, ‘the railroad had developed into a booming new transportation medium in the past few years, and as Niles was emerging as a railroad link of its new industry between Chicago and Detroit,’ explain Pitrone and Elwart, ‘the Dodge business, dependent in great part on the obsolescent river traffic, continually worsened.’ Soon after John’s graduation the family moved to Port Huron in search of better opportunities. Within four years, however, they had moved again. ‘In 1886 when the Dodge family moved to Detroit,’ say Pitrone and Elwart, ‘the Detroit River was rivaling the Suez Canal in the amount of tonnage passing through its channels.’”

          http://www.answers.com/topic/dodge-brothers

          The Dodge brothers ended up in Detroit because the government “picked a winner” with the railroad. I generally oppose subsidizing “winners”, and prefer taxing negative externalities. But if it was not for government interference in the market through the subsidy of railroads the Dodge family likely would not have ended up in Detroit.

          People like to complain about the EPA because that is a talking point that is given to them by talk radio, but I think the letter of recommendation for George McDade is more interesting as an example of regulation interfering with business. Maybe we should look into why employers can now only say “this letter is to confirm that George McDade worked for us”, and fix that.

          The biggest challenge for modern companies is getting good employees, not complying with environmental regulations.

          • 0 avatar

            Hyde says the reason for the move from Niles is unclear. According to Hyde, Daniel Dodge and his family moved first from Niles to Battle Creek, where the Dodges worked for Upton Mfg, which made threshing equipment. When Upton moved to Port Huron, the Dodges moved as well. By then, according to your own source,”the Detroit River was rivaling the Suez Canal in the amount of tonnage passing through its channels.” So there was ample reason for the Dodges to move to the east coast of Michigan with or without government policies that favored the railroads.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            He may have been following, and decided to hitch onto the steam traction engine business. Upton was a builder of steam traction engines; the ones I documented were built in 1890. The Port Huron Engine and Thresher Company was based out of Port Huron as well.

            The period of 1860 to the 1920s was the peak of the steam engine; when steam powered everything from boats and ships to vehicles to traction engines and construction equipment to locomotives. Port Huron would have made sense as several steam manufacturers were located there; the same was true of Battle Creek. Steam power then was like the Internet today; the thing to hitch your star to if you are machinest.

        • 0 avatar

          “By the way, Ann Rand was nuts.”

          Says who?

        • 0 avatar
          cartunez

          What business were you in where you didn’t feel the over grip of government? If you didn’t then I can only assume that you love theft of your labor and or you were not “in compliance” with every aspect of running a business.

          • 0 avatar
            Charliej

            I was an electronic technician. My company did everything from TV repair to keeping up the closed circuit systems at local hospitals. I ran an honest company, that was one reason that we thrived.

            Another reason was that government provided a stable environment in which to work. You government haters are wrong. No government means no work. No government means no police to protect you. No government means no roads to get to work on. No government means the rule of brute force. Government means that there is a chance to get ahead without having to spend all your time guarding what you already have. If you want to live with no central government, I suggest that you try Somalia.

      • 0 avatar
        challenger2012

        How do the fictional writings of a Russian Atheist have anything to do with car making? If you base your entire political ideology upon fairy tales, you’re in trouble. I think your tea bag needs changing.

        • 0 avatar
          TomHend

          now now, there is nothing wrong with the Tea Party, they are for smaller government amd more personal freedom, sounds like the US Constitution to me- and you are 100% correct about the nut job Ayn Rand. She wrote, not unlike L Ron Hubbard, everything on a bet, it is all crap.

          By the way,why is the left so full of hate and anger?

          • 0 avatar
            billfrombuckhead

            Tea Party are astroturf lions against democratic government and lap dogs for corporate power.

            The car manufacturing business has always been “government motors” in one way or another.

            Any Rand was just a sociopathic hypocrite who was in love with a murderer and died on social security. She painted a beautiful dream but it was a self serving dystopia of narcissism. No wonder the immature like her vision so much, it justifies greed and even murder as rightful.

      • 0 avatar
        alwayssmilin

        AMC_CJ You actually summed up the true meaning of our freedoms in the constitution. Gov today with a million regulations,agencies,taxing every little thing make it extremely hard for people to move ahead with ideas or businesses!! Unfortunately many people are suckered into believing all this gov is good. When in reality if this existed back during those days the car may never have gotten off the drawing board!!

      • 0 avatar

        Current regulations make it difficult to start any business and it will get only worse since Government only grows until its final collapse. But new car companies these days are not started for different reasons and reasons are:
        1. It is very difficult to compete against established players unless you have a closed market with no local established players. Asians do exactly that – they do not allow Western companies into internal markets. Japan, China and Korea have closed markets no matter how you spin it.
        2. Start-ups making mature product are not so lucrative for investors.
        3. You cannot start a new car company in a garage or dormitory – enough said.

        Nevertheless there is a great opportunity right now for a new automobile start-ups. Nobody knows how to make an electric car since technology is on its early stages and established companies are too distracted by the current technology. Tesla’s example proves that you can still start a new car company from scratch and be successful doing that and Government is actually helpful in this case.

    • 0 avatar

      Sometimes humanity gets lucky and we get a critical mass of creative people like what happened in the American colonies in the late 18th century or in Detroit in the early 20th. Your point is well taken. Silicon Valley is a lot more like Detroit than they think they are.

      “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

      This is known as “bad luck.” – Robert Heinlein

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Many years ago, I read “The Ancient Engineers” by L. Sprague de Camp; a good but dated tome on the engineering process. He discussed the concept that “when it is time for people to board a ship, someone will invent a ship”, which leads three different people, with no knowledge of the other’s work, to invent the rocket and the jet plane at the same time. I think that is part of the “cycle” you observe.

      Ronnie, I look forward to your writings every Saturday. Thank you very much.

  • avatar
    northshorerealtr

    Absolutely fascinating! I’d love to see more of these “history” type articles.
    And SKOR is correct….the same few names keep popping up in the auto’s development. Interesting to explore how those relationships started.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    I find this record absolutely fascinating as a product developer. The process of engineering a consumer product for cost, availability, manufacturability, and durability has not changed much in the past 100 years, even as the technologies involved become more sophisticated.

    Have these documents been digitized?

    • 0 avatar

      No, most of the NAHC’s collection has not been digitized. I’ve tried to do my part with Andrew Johnson’s correspondence course for auto body designers (http://rokemneedlearts.com/andrewjohnson/) and I’m thinking of going back to the NAHC and doing the same with the Dodge notebooks.

      The problem is that it has to be done photographically, the librarian told me they can’t be reproduced with a traditional photocopier (and I assume the same would apply to a scanner), to preserve the documents. Since the notebooks can’t be checked out of the collection, the work would have to be done like I did with the Johnson portfolio: set up the camera on a tripod looking down and put the documents on a chair below. Because of keystoning, the images then have to be deskewed and cropped.

      As someone interested in history, I have great concerns about all the material from library collections like the NAHC, to private family photos and home movies, that won’t be digitized. Will the Detroit Public Library have the money to digitize the NAHC anytime in the foreseeable future?

      If you have any old photographs, slides, home movies or original documents like birth certificates, wedding licenses, old birthday cards, letters, etc. etc. I strongly urge you, for the sake of future generations in your family, to start scanning and digitizing that stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian E

        How much do you think it would cost to do high quality photographic digitization of these notebooks? Perhaps we should start a collection.

        I also found a grant program that supports digitization of nationally important historical records. I think these records certainly qualify.

        http://www.archives.gov/nhprc/announcement/digitizing-faqs.html

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        So true. My father thought the way to go was slides. He left behind a closet full of carrousels, notes of what and when each slide was taken. They are in a sister’s closet now; unable to be seen and shared by the rest of us.

        The last decade worth of family pictures are digital; just need to work on the previous years, and copy them to memory sticks or computers to enjoy.

        • 0 avatar
          April

          That reminds me. I have several thousand Kodachrome slides I shot from 1989 to 2005 to scan.

          o_O

        • 0 avatar

          Slide scanners are not very expensive at all. You can give your sister one as a gift. I bought one last year for less than $40.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            I think Dad left one along with the slides; it is just a matter of taking the time to digitize them, and a place to store and share the digital images. I used to use Webshots before they changed their business model, and am using Facebook right now.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            I have a Canon 8800F Scanner (succeeded by the 9000 I think) and it handles 4 35mm slides or 12 35mm negatives, or 4 120 negatives at once.

            If you’re looking for online storage, Flickr has 1 Terabyte for free. Also, 3 TB external backup drives are ridiculously cheap.

          • 0 avatar

            Exactly. I also have Cannon and scanned all my slides and negatives long time ago. It makes a pretty good quality scans. And it is still a regular scanner that you need anyway. If you are not into scanning – there are companies that will do it for you (if you can trust them to handle you precious slides).

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Thanks Ronnie! A great story. Detroit was the “Silicon Valley” of 1900. Indianapolis was vying to be “Motor City” , the Motor Speedway built as an automotive test track. Michigan’s pure copper mines in the UP, and large forests Ford still owns, Minnesota’s iron ore, and a natural flow through the great lakes waterways let Detroit emerge as the lowest cost place to build cars or parts for them.
    The Dodge Bros. story is interesting. My next door neighbor’s mom grew up in Meadowbrook Hall, a Dodge mansion, now a museum worth visiting. She was a family friend and was asked to live there as a little girl to be a playmate for the Dodge girl whose name escapes me now.
    This is the first time I’ve seen an estimate of how much money they made. There was no income tax at the time, so documentation of income was private info. They must have made a lot to look at Meadowbrook!

    Growing up in the business, starting at Olds in Lansing two weeks out of HS in ’69, exploring 1/2 square mile of buildings at the main plant, some dating to the teens was fascinating. Some of them were not much different than those the Dodge Bros. built, wooden peg floors, huge columns supporting the upper floors. The detailed hand written logs remind me of engineer’s logs and similar still in use back in the ’60′s.

    Thanks for evoking the memories!

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the kind words. A lot of factors made Detroit the Motor City. The Great Lakes marine industry needed engines, Detroit’s stove makers grew the foundry industry there, just north of Detroit Flint was a major center of the carriage and buggy industry, and Pullman railroad cars were also built in Detroit (there was a relationship between the railroad industry and the early automobile industry in that people like Walter Chrysler and I think Charles Nash too got their starts in the train biz).

      The Dodges were very wealthy before they started the Dodge brand. The mansion of John Dodge that is in the background of the Nov. 1914 photo of the Dodge brothers in “old Betsy”, the prototype Dodge Brothers car, still stands and it’s a very substantial house, built in 1906. You can see it in this Jaguar review:
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2012-jaguar-xj-portfolio/

      People don’t realize that Ford Motor Company was a big success *before* the Model T. Henry Ford, his lawyer Horace Rackham and the Dodge brothers all lived in mansions by 1908, when the T was introduced. It was the early success of FoMoCo, selling thousands of Model N and Model S cars, that made it possible for Henry to develop and sell the T.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Great story. If one runs the numbers through an “inflation” calculator, the 25 million Ford paid the Dodge brothers would be $328,082,937 in current dollars.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      That’s if you use the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation rate, based on a basket of goods that has changed over the years. If you use a change in the value of a silver dollar, multiply by 19.86: $496 million. Use the change in the price of gold and you need to multiply by 60.15: $1.5 billion!

      The median household salary today is about $51,000/year, while it was $750 in 1919, so the gold comparison will give you a better idea what that $25 million could buy in 1919. After all, in the photo, the Dodge Brothers in their first car weren’t driving: they had a chauffeur.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    As Brian E said above, product development hasn’t changed much since then.

    The article hints at this, but I would like to emphasize the value of good personal relationships with suppliers. Today’s companies want to outsource everything to the lowest bidder, with no regard for the priceless camaraderie a customer has with its suppliers. Yes, conflicts of interest must be avoided, but there is great benefit in developing a working harmony between engineering, purchasing, and quality counterparts in each company.

    What are the benefits to this camaraderie? Here’s a short list:
    1. Your supplier might be more willing to work on a small job instead of just taking the big stuff.
    2. Your supplier might be more willing to work a little harder to help you meet a special deadline.
    3. Your supplier won’t nickel and dime you for every design change, or even for consultations they might normally charge for.
    4. Your supplier may provide design tips to streamline the mfg process, rather than just building a lousy design to print, while you eat the scrap charges.
    5. Your supplier might be willing to stockpile excess inventory rather than making you inhale all of it at once, after your volume projections were a little off.
    6. Your supplier might be willing to hold the high volume price even if volumes end up only being medium.
    7. Your supplier knows you, and answers the phone when you call.
    8. Your supplier will actually utilize the raw materials you specify, instead of switching to ‘something similar’.

    In today’s world of e-bidding and e-buying, people mistakenly think they can buy engineered products from just anyone as long as they provide a CAD model, a drawing, and a purchase order. I’m living in this movie, and even seemingly simple stuff can take years to get right from a new supplier, particularly with the extra barriers of language, time, and culture being added to the mix.

    The Dodge brothers and Ford knew all this, and just because their relationship was mutually profitable, it was the personal stuff that soured it.

    Thanks, Ronnie, for another excellent installment in automotive history.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    Sad thing is that the Dodges didn’t live long enough to truly enjoy their success and their heirs have excelled at only wasting it.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t say that. John and Horace knew how to have a good time (though they died of influenza pr pneumonia, their heavy drinking didn’t help) and they spent money lavishly on mansions, yachts and living well. They died six years after launching their own car company and those were six very profitable years. John seemed to have liked the ladies, since he was married a number of times.

      About their heirs, that’s probably true. Their widows certainly knew how to spend money. When Anna and Matilda Dodge sold their interest in Dodge Brothers to a New York banking concern (I think the figure was around $150 million), that probably made them the richest women in the United States.

      Speaking of which, there’s a famous custom prewar Rolls Royce with round doors. It’s the second body the chassis has had. If you read about the car, you’ll find out that the car was originally ordered with a different body by “a Mrs. Hugh Dillman of Detroit”, who didn’t like it and refused delivery. If you search on the phrase “a Mrs. Hugh Dillman of Detroit” you’ll find almost 400 instances of that exact quote, almost all of them on car enthusiast sites. Only one of those sites, though, mention that Mrs. Hugh Dillman was the widow of Horace Dodge.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    As one who adores his e-reader and has participated in the use of computers and electronics from the days of Heathkits and the IMSAI 8080, I love how this article subtly underscores the importance – and permanence – of paper notebooks.

    I keep my modern communication devices close to hand, but I still hold on to my no-power data entry and recording tablet for those cases when I need to quickly record a thought or transaction, or sketch out a simple schematic for later reference or expansion.

    Thank you for reminding us all why paper will never go away.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Great coverage Ronnie. Does the library have any plans to digitize this? This is something that a lot of people should see.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Love stuff like this. The history of how great things were accomplished shows how different the process was, but how similar much of it still is.
    Someone has an idea, puts it on paper then starts to work out details to make it happen. Amazing. Keep these historical pieces coming!

  • avatar
    TomHend

    John Dodge was not accepted by the elite in Detroit, so when he was turned down for a country club membership, he built an even better golf course next store.

    He was a hard ass American-God Bless him.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Thanks Ronnie, I’m a history buff and your posts reminds me of Old Cars Weekly. Thank you sir.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Ronnie; Thanks for sharing your insight into these historical documents. I hope they can be safely digitized soon. A friend once did some design work for a book scanner that didn’t require either a high intensity light or opening the book flat, but the customer lost interest/funding along the way. On the whole Rand, Heinlein, de Camp thing;at least two of them understood history/technology and could write. I’d sooner trust my belief system to Philip Dick, than Ayn Rand, and he was openly full on nuts.

  • avatar

    Mr. Schreiber, thanks emensly for your article. The early 1900′s are one of my favorite times in history. And the automobile industry and things pertaining to Henry Ford is one of my favorite subjects. As one who has studied and been in manufacturing for much of my life, such artifacts as this book are exciting for one like myself to discover and explore. Thanks for your interest in the material, bredth of coverage and overall contribution to this site.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Thanks Ronnie for the article and thanks to all those who have commented, I always find your articles and other TTAC articles informative and I always learn something that I didn’t know before. The book about Steve Jobs and Microsoft is very much like this article. The stories of founders of Sony and Honda are similar to this as well even though they are from a different part of the World (Japan). I remember when one of the Dodge widows died in the early 70s and all the Dodge cars that were in her possession were sold off (many had been stripped of their parts). Thanks again for the great article and the great discussion.


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