Horace Elgin Dodge

Horace Elgin Dodge

Horace Elgin Dodge (May 17, 1868December 10, 1920) was an American automobile manufacturing pioneer and co-founder of Dodge Brothers Company.

Early years and business

Born in Niles, Michigan, where his father owned a foundry and machine shop, Horace Dodge and his elder brother John were inseparable as children and as adults. In 1886, the Dodge brothers moved to Detroit where they took jobs at a boiler maker plant. In 1894 they went to work as machinists at the Dominion Typograph Company across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario.

In 1896, Horace Dodge married Anna Thompson, a Scottish immigrant born in Dundee. The couple had a son, Horace Jr., and a daughter, Delphine. Thompson would later marry actor Hugh Dillman after the death of Dodge.

While John Dodge was the sales oriented managerial type, brother Horace was a gifted mechanic and inveterate tinkerer. Using a dirt-proof ball bearing Horace invented and patented, in 1897 John arranged a deal for them to join with a third party investor to manufacture bicycles. Within a few years, they sold the business and in 1900 used the proceeds of the sale to set up their own machine shop in Detroit. During their first year in business the Dodge brothers' company began making parts for the automobile industry.


In 1902 they won a contract to build transmissions for the Olds Motor Vehicle Company upon which they built a solid reputation for quality and service. However, the following year they turned down a second contract from Olds (Oldsmobile) to retool their plant to build engines for Henry Ford in a deal that included a share position in the new Ford Motor Company. By 1910, Horace Dodge and his brother were so successful they built a new plant in Hamtramck, Michigan.

For ten years, the Dodge brothers' company were suppliers to Ford and John Dodge worked as vice president of the Ford company. In 1913 he left Ford to devote his energies full time to produce a Dodge automobile. They began building motor trucks, ambulances and other vehicles for the United States military during the arms buildup for World War I and in October of 1917 they produced their first commercial car. At war's end, their company manufactured and marketed both cars and trucks.

Personal life

Regardless of their wealth and growing influence in the business community, because of the brothers' crude manners and aggressive conduct, they were regarded as socially unacceptable by most of the well-heeled elite of Detroit. In 1912, Horace Dodge built a red sandstone mansion in Grosse Pointe. Calling it "Rose Terrace," the huge home with formal gardens and boat dock overlooked Lake St. Clair.

Architectural historian W. Hawkins Ferry has described the mansion as "unquestionably Grosse Pointe's most regal residence." In addition to Rose Terrace, the Dodge's acquired a large winter estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Horace's wife Anna had studied music and through that they would be accepted as part of the upper crust of the city's social order. Horace and Anna Dodge became major benefactors of the new Detroit Symphony Orchestra and would play a key role in the construction of Orchestra Hall.

A speedboat and yachting enthusiast, Horace Dodge's keen interest in the vessel's engines led him to establish a marine division as part of their automotive business. He purchased several motor yachts, each larger and more luxurious than the previous. The last, named the "SS Delphine" for his daughter, was a convert|257.8|ft|m|sing=on vessel commissioned in 1920 that was only completed after his passing. In the ensuing years the yacht experienced a sinking, a run onto rocks, and service as a United States Navy patrol boat during World War II. The "Delphine" passed through the hands of several owners and after major refurbishing it sails the Mediterranean today as a luxury charter.

Sale to Ford

In 1919, Henry Ford bought out the Dodge brothers' shareholdings in Ford Motor Company for $25 million. In January of 1920, Horace's brother, John, died from the Spanish flu. Horace also died from complications resulting in pneumonia at the age of 52, having also contracted the flu that December. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Horace E. Dodge Dies in Florida. Detroit Automobile Manufacturer Succumbs Suddenly at Beach Home. Bother Died This Year. Sole Head of Industry Employing 18,000 Men Began His Career as Machinist With John F. Dodge. |url= |quote=Horace E. Dodge, millionaire automobile manufacturer, died here tonight at his Winter home. |publisher=New York Times |date= |accessdate=2007-07-21 ]

He was interred with his brother in the family mausoleum in Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery. His widow outlived him by fifty years. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Mrs. Horace Dodge Dies at 103; Among World's Richest Women; Conflicts Over $100-Million Estate Predicted--Widow Survived 2 Children |url= |quote=Mrs. Anna Thompson Dodge, widow of Horace E. Dodge, the automotive pioneer, and one of the richest women in the world, died last night at her home, Rose Terrace. She was 103 years old and had been confined to a wheelchair for seven years. |publisher=New York Times |date=June 4, 1970, Thursday |accessdate=2007-07-21 ]

In 1925, Horace and John Dodge's widows sold their automobile business to Dillon Read investment bankers for $146 million.


External links

* [http://www.ssdelphine.com/ Story & photos of the "Delphine II" yacht]

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