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The Dodge Brothers and their creation
November 04, 2019

The Dodge Brothers and their creation

Passenger cars, pickups, SUVs and commercial vehicles are produced under the Dodge brand. Dodge is a well-known American brand of cars produced by Chrysler. And it all began in the early 1860s, when the Dodge brothers came to the world.

John Dodge and Horace Dodge: the beginning of biography

The elder brother was John Francis, born on October 25th, 1864. Horace was born four years later, on May 17th, 1868. The parents of the brothers were English settlers, hereditary railway workers, who were engaged in repair of railway equipment. In addition, the father of the boys, Daniel Dodge, was the owner of a small foundry. Both brothers helped him in his work. But when sons grew up, they went to the father’s work with pleasure, delved into the finer points and wisdom of the father’s craft, and their childhood was saturated with the most various mechanisms. Needless to say that the brothers showed an interest in technology and they developed design abilities? But their talent was manifested not only in the exact sciences. John was well versed in literature, he loved good books, encouraged by his school teacher. Horace adored music and often played the piano of his neighbor. By the age of nine, grazing cows for 50 cents a week, the younger Dodge has saved up to buy a violin. Thus, each of the brothers showed his individuality, and together they were hardworking, initiative, educable. In the town of Niles (Michigan), where the brothers were born and grew up, they were loved for their reliability, goodwill and independence – they did it all themselves.

In 1882, the family had to move to Port Huron, and both brothers began working in the Uptown Manufacturing Company, mastering the basics of the profession of mechanic in the production of agricultural machinery. At the same time, Daniel Dodge worked on the railway – he was a professional mechanic. It was thanks to their father that the brothers met with the then technical miracle – a steam engine.

Five years later, in 1887, the Dodges moved to Detroit. In a few years, it is in this city that the boom of automobile production would begin. John got a job as a mechanic at the factory where they built engines for marine vessels and steam boilers. A year later, Horace also came there to work. Both brothers tried their best, and soon the older became a foreman. But he failed to work in this position for a long time – in the early 1890s, John fell ill with tuberculosis. Financial problems started – they had to pay for housing, buy food for the family and medicines for the treatment of the older brother. The younger brother unquestioningly took these hardships. Horace thoroughly studied precision engineering. He left the Murphy firm and took a job with Henry Leland, who at the time kept a full-range workshop. They made transmission gears, brake systems for locomotives, cast and stamped metals, designed steam engines, created parts for bicycles, etc. The experience that was gained by Horace in this workshop was invaluable.

Experience in Canada

John began to get better, but smoky workshops were no longer for him. The brothers decided to look for less harmful production, and once read the announcement in the canadian Dominion Typograph Company about the vacancy of an assembly line worker. They came to the interview together, and on a reasonable remark that only one employee is required, said that they had always been together, and if they did not work together, they would not work at all. So they were in the production of equipment for bicycles and printing plants. Of course, they worked conscientiously, deftly wielding calipers, micrometers, etc. – production was accurate. As a result, John was again appointed head of the workshop. And Horace invented a bicycle ball bearing and together with his brother patented this invention. This technology made it possible to produce bicycles of improved quality and with new bearings – for a smoother cycling. The brothers together with the Director of Dominion Typograph Company founded the Evans & Dodge Bicycle subsidiary, and the business began to flourish. At first, it was the only Canadian bicycle manufacturer, which employed about a hundred people. But the competition gradually became such that the brothers decided to sell their stake in the business and return to Detroit. They brought the proceeds of $7.5 thousand to America along with invaluable business experience. In addition, they didn’t return alone, but with their families – nine years spent in Canada allowed the brothers to marry, and each became a father of many children.

Own business

John and Horace, back in Detroit, opened their own workshop, hired dozens of workers, and prepared to create everything using innovative solutions and original ideas. They advertised themselves in Detroit newspapers in 1901: “The Dodge Brothers – mechanics and engineers, manufacturers of special equipment and repairmen are at your service.” The workshop was packed with the most modern tools and equipment for repair. Orders began to arrive for the repair of printing equipment, as well as the manufacture of steam engines for yachts. Management functionality was closer to John, and he was engaged in management issues. Horace preferred the development of technical innovations and inventions . But single orders didn’t bring satisfaction. They wanted long-term contracts that promised both financial and reputational benefits (although it was all right with the reputation of the Dodge Brothers company, all orders were executed quickly and efficiently). Finally, certain R. Olds came, who needed a single-cylinder engine for the Curved Dash car. This order was executed flawlessly, and in mid-1901 a contract between the firm of the Dodge Brothers and R. Olds was signed. According to the terms of the contract, the partners had to develop two thousand transmissions for R. Olds. Having received such an order, the brothers almost completely closed any outside activity and immersed themselves in the creation of automotive components. In the early twentieth century, the automobile industry was represented by a collaboration between the independent supplier of parts and components with the owner of the car brand.

The Dodges collaborated with Olds for two years, and thoroughly investigated the design features of the car during this time. At the same time, they had acquired financial opportunities that opened up good prospects for business expansion. In 1903 a new partner came – H. Ford. At that time, it was difficult for him to find a suitable firm, since he had already suffered failures twice. But the Dodge brothers believed him, and their instincts were right. The first order for the Dodge Brothers from Ford was to supply 650 complete sets, consisting of the engine, transmission and axles, which were mounted on the frame. In the future, the Dodge Brothers company began to supply for Ford’s cars two-thirds of all components – almost everything except wheels, body and tires. The destinies of the two companies were intertwined for eleven years, until 1914. By the way, half of the cars produced at that time were Ford’s cars, which made the Dodge Brothers the world’s largest manufacturer of automotive components. Besides, at the very beginning of his cooperation with the brothers, Ford, having gone through two bankruptcies in a row and still not having enough money to pay for the contract, offered the brothers shares of his company, which was at that time quite far from success. The brothers kept those shares and that literally made them rich when the stock rose in connection with the prosperity of the Ford automobile industry. But that’s not all. Senior Dodge took the post of Vice President of Ford Motor Company. However, all proposals to modernize and improve the design of the car offered by John and Horace, were rejected by Henry – he was already too old for any change. Partly this, as well as disagreements about the cost of components, prompted the Dodges to stop cooperation with Ford and his Ford Motor Company.

The Dodges’ car

The brothers were confident that they were able to master the production of the car, which would be better than the one produced by Ford Motor Company. In addition, they had accumulated a lot of unrealized innovations and proposals to improve the design features and technical characteristics of the car. All that motivated the Dodges to start production of the car entirely on the converted production facilities of their own plant. At the same time, even before the start of production of the car, a powerful advertising campaign was launched in the American press, a large dealer network was created, and the society began to wait for a model of a reliable and modern car. John was already 50 years old, and Horace – 46, when the brand new Dodge Model 30 was presented to the public. It happened on the 14th of November, 1914, the high demand gathered more than 70 thousand orders, and this despite the fact that the car was $300 more expensive than the Ford Model A. Meanwhile, the car born of brilliant creativity of the Dodges that were unique in terms of safety (of course, at the time): it had an all-metal body. In addition, Horace had personally developed a 35-horsepower four-cylinder engine. There were a speedo and an electric starter in the car. Interestingly, the Americans dubbed this car “Old Betsy”.

Business of the Dodges that began to flourish. In the next 1915, 45 thousand units of the Dodge Model 30 were sold (against 249 in 1914). By 1919, sales of cars exceeded one hundred thousand vehicles. By 1919, sales of cars exceeded one hundred thousand copies. Horace continued to abound technical idea, developing a variety of enhancements. The most significant of them was the method of industrial firing of the painted body of the car.

The brothers owned the family firm on equal terms, but the senior was the CEO and the junior was the Vice President. During the First World War, they received a large military order for trucks. There were a lot of plans ahead, but John’s poor health and previous tuberculosis did not allow him to realize his plan. In January 1920, infected with the Spanish flu, 56-year-old John died of pneumonia. The best American doctors could not help him. Horace was literally unhinged with the death of his brother. He tried to pull himself together, but depression and cirrhosis of the liver were stronger. It ended very sad, and in December of the same year Dodge Jr. died. He was 52 years old.

The widows could not manage the car factory, and the business began to decline. The remains of the Dodge Brothers Company were bought by the Dylan banking consortium for $148 million, and, in 1928, by W. Chrysler. Since that time, a new rise of the company began, but that’s another story.

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