Take a trip back in time with the Dodge Heritage Series, a 10-part exploration of Dodge history. In this post — the first in the series — we meet the Dodge brothers, John and Horace, whose commitment to innovation is still very much a part of how we do things today.
The official history of the Dodge automobile begins in 1914, but the story of the Dodge brothers in the automobile business reaches back even further. John and Horace Dodge were among the pioneers of the Detroit auto industry.
Successful bicycle builders and racers, the Dodges sold their first company in 1900 and started a new business, a machine shop, in what is now the Greektown neighborhood of Detroit. Combining the latest manufacturing equipment with the brothers’ exacting workmanship, the machine shop soon became a leading supplier of engines and components to the city’s major auto producers. When the Dodge brothers introduced their own car in late 1914, they were already among the most experienced automotive manufacturers in the world.
Ruggedly built using only top-quality components, Dodge cars developed a reputation for reliability under the most grueling conditions. U.S. General Black Jack Pershing used Dodge cars in the campaign against guerilla Pancho Villa in the Mexican desert, and the new company quickly became one of the top five makes in America. But tragically, older brother John Dodge, only 54 years old, was taken by an influenza epidemic in January of 1920, and younger brother Horace followed less than a year later.
A banking committee controlled the company for several years while searching for a top automotive manager to take over the reins. In 1928, after many months of intense industry gossip and tough, behind-the-scenes negotiations, legendary auto executive Walter P. Chrysler and the Chrysler Corporation emerged as the new owners of the Dodge Brothers Company. The $170 million deal, said to be the largest private business transaction in history, doubled the production capacity of the Chrysler Corporation and ensured the future of the Dodge brand for decades to come.
For more Dodge history, visit the Heritage Wall section of the Dodge Power Rallye Tour, a traveling Dodge-based experience showcasing the best in performance vehicles. You can find the schedule of Tour events here.