The Founder of Oldsmobile: Ransom E. Olds

Ransom Olds was born in Geneva, Ohio to Pliny Fiske Olds and his wife Sarah Whipple Olds. Olds eventually would settle in Lansing, Michigan and marry Metta Ursula Woodward on June 5, 1889. He founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan, on August 21, 1897 with the help of wealthy entrepreneur Edward W. Sparrow . The company was bought by Samuel L. Smith in 1899 and renamed Olds Motor Works. They moved the company from Lansing to Detroit, and Smith became President while Olds became vice president and general manager (Thomas, 1986).

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Ransome E. Olds

In 1901 the factory would burn to the ground and with only one of his 11 prototype models surviving being pulled out by an escaping worker. That car was the Curved Dash Runabout which sold for $650.00, equal to $18,426 today. About 600 were sold in 1901, about 3,000 in 1902, and at least 4,000 in 1904. This car was also the first mass-produced, low-priced American motor vehicle. Olds is also credited with the first modern assembly line and its basic concept and was the first to prove that any profit could be made from mass production of the “horseless carriage” (Thomas, 1986).

Disagreements with model production and management of the company led to Smith cutting ties with Olds. He sold his stock and started a new motor company by the name of REO Motor Car Company, (he had to leave his last name Olds with the first company he started).

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1902 Curved Dash Roundabout

Ransom E. Olds could be considered the father of automotive claiming to have built the first automobile with a steam engine in 1894, then a gas powered one in 1896, this would credit Lansing, not Detroit, as the birth place of automotive.