Sign in to follow this  
Rusty_OToole

Motor City and alternatives to Detroit

Recommended Posts

In the early days of the auto industry Detroit had a number of rivals for the title Motor City. Indianapolis, Cleveland and New York come to mind. Also Buffalo (Pierce Arrow) South Bend (Studebaker) and Kenosha (Nash).

Does anyone know which cities were the biggest producers of cars, either in number of makes represented or sheer number of cars produced, between 1900 and the twenties?

I know Detroit had a good industrial base in 1900 with foundries machine shops etc but so did a lot of other places. Is it possible Detroit became the Motor City because GM and Ford happened to be based there, and it was largely happenstance that put them there?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMO, the biggest reason that GM, Ford, Chrysler and others survived as long as they did was because of all of the money in Michigan and Detroit that came from the lumber business in the 1800's. It has been said that there was more money made in lumber in Michigan than gold mined in Calif in the gold rush. The lumber money was the venture capital of the time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe Larry is correct. My grandfather owned the largest lumber company in the Detroit area (Braun Lumber Company) and supplied most of the wood for the auto companies. Google the company and read about the association between the Braun Lumber Company and Henry Ford. For those of you who are familiar with the north Detroit suburbs, my grandfather's home was on Woodward Avenue just north of Lone Pine Road in Bloomfield Hills. It was the huge white mansion with the columns that faced Woodward Avenue. Too bad they tore it down.

Edited by keiser31 (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There were other places that had big auto industries back then, but eventually lost out to Detroit. My guess would be that Indianapolis was the biggest. Does anyone have any statistics on this?

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No one should discount the importance of Detroit being a Great Lakes city. The Great Lakes provided the transportation route for iron ore from the Missabe Iron Range in Minnesota. Iron ore that would become automobiles among other things whether made into steel in Detroit itself; Gary, Indiana; Cleveland, Ohio; or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The depletion of iron ore in the Missabe Iron Range has proven to be a significant factor in the demise of the auto industry related jobs in Detroit, Gary, and Cleveland. The same thing that made Detroit the center of domestic auto manufacturing has ultimately lead to its demise. Collectively, none of the other cities mentioned ever produced anywhere near the volume produced in Detroit and their dependency on more costly means of supplying their manufacturing plants can be said to be a major reason they couldn't compete with Detroit. I would also point out that vendors to the industry chose to be near Detroit which meant competitors in other cities had to pay a greater cost of transportation for things like axles and frames.

Jim

Edited by Jim_Edwards (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not know of anywhere that holds a candle to the metro Detroit area/ southeastern Michigan if you include Detroit/Pontiac/Flint/Lansing/Jackson,etc. I do not know for sure, but I bet if you looked up all of the cars produced in the 1900-1929 time frame, probably more that 25% of all nameplates would call Michigan home. The venture capitalists in Michigan at the turn of the last century that had money in the bank from lumbering Michigan made and kept the car business located in Michigan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not know of anywhere that holds a candle to the metro Detroit area/ southeastern Michigan if you include Detroit/Pontiac/Flint/Lansing/Jackson,etc

Also Windsor and surrounding areas of Ontario. Some companies like Packard relocated there from other areas. Some companies chose to keep the production facilities there but had their headquarters elsewhere like Chrysler.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the Cleveland area there were 115 different manufacturers of automobiles between 1892 and 1932. But money was a big factor why many moved to Detroit. The Cleveland banks were tight with their money where-as it was easier for them to get a loan in Detroit. This was the main reason Packard moved there and Peerless almost did the same.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Connecticut is a small state, so if we look at the state as a whole, the Connecticut Council of Car Clubs, has just produced a book by Paul Pellerin that documents 200 different manufacturers and there were a few more in nearby Springfield, MA.

The book is for sale for $10.00 and if interested I can get you the information. Contact me at j.scheib@comcast.net. I can provide a list of major ones if anyone wants. Of course this is from the early 1900's and none exist today.

John

Edited by jscheib
errors and spelling (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

During the period between 1900 and 1920 it seems every town was trying to land an automobile manufacturer including Enid, OKlahoma (the Geronimo). However, as noted, the money and resources were centralized in southern Michigan. Take a Look at Jackson as an example.

David Lyon wrote an interesting book entitled the Kalamazoo Automobilist that is a fascinating, well researced study on the rise of the auto industry. It explains the reasons for the industries development in southern Michigan with clarity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In the early days of the auto industry Detroit had a number of rivals for the title Motor City. Indianapolis, Cleveland and New York come to mind. Also Buffalo (Pierce Arrow) South Bend (Studebaker) and Kenosha (Nash).

Does anyone know which cities were the biggest producers of cars, either in number of makes represented or sheer number of cars produced, between 1900 and the twenties?

I know Detroit had a good industrial base in 1900 with foundries machine shops etc but so did a lot of other places. Is it possible Detroit became the Motor City because GM and Ford happened to be based there, and it was largely happenstance that put them there?

For a very short period of time, Hartford, Connecticut was probably on top with Pope Manufacturing. Read "The Making of the Motor City" in the January/February issue of Antique Automobile, page 20.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

By the teens most locally built "assembled" cars were built up from parts sourced from Detroit and surrounding areas. There were, however, many engines produced elsewhere. I'm thinking of Lycoming in PA in particular, assuming Lyco was a PA company in that time period.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There were a few predepression alternatives to detroit but I feel like Indiana was the most viable. Stutz, Marmon, Auburn, Cord, Deusenberg, Studebaker, Erskine, Elcar, and of course Dana rear ends and all their parent companies were from Auburn area and several others. Concours shows all over the country are focusing on Indiana cars this year such as Indy's Centennial of the Automobile and the concours event talked about in the Tours/shows side of the thread. So that's my vote for best alternate to the Motor City.... The State of Indiana (but everyone knows the Indianapolis cars drive Best!!)

Edited by West Peterson
Cleaned thread of non-topic related material (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this