On this day in auto history - January 15th

Fri 15th Jan 2021

It was on this day in 1918 that the American motoring pioneer John Dodge died suddenly from pneumonia while in New York City during that year’s notoriously deadly flue pandemic. He was 55.

Together with his younger brother Horace, the flame-haired siblings set up Dodge Brothers Inc and became known as the ‘brothers of invention’ after getting their big break when winning a contract to build engines for the new Ford Motor Company which included a significant shareholding.

Notorious for their crude manners and aggressive conduct, the inseparable Dodge brothers were seen as socially unacceptable to much of the wealthy Michigan elite but steered Dodge Brothers Inc to become an early motoring giant, building trucks, ambulances and other vehicles for the United States military alongside commercial cars.

Following John’s sudden death, a grief-stricken Horace began drinking more heavily which culminated in his early death from cirrhosis of the liver just 11 months later.

Five years later, the two Dodge widows profited enormously when Dodge Brothers Inc was sold to a New York banking firm for a reported $146 million - a staggering amount of money at the time and the largest transaction in US history up to that point.