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Bill Watson's Chronological History of Chrysler Corporation
Part I, 1864 - 1911 (The Railroad Days; Dodge)

1940-49 1950-63 1964-19711972-801981-92 • 1993-97
History By Year • Coming: 1998-2007 (Daimler disaster) • 2007-09 (Cerberus) • 2008-2015 (FCA)

Birth of the founders

  • owen-skelton.jpg
    1864: John Francis Dodge, Niles, Michigan
  • 1868: Horace Elgin Dodge, Niles, Michigan
  • 1875 : Walter Percy Chrysler, Wamego, Kansas (April 2)
  • 1883: Carl Breer, Los Angeles, California (November 8)
  • 1886: Fred Morrell Zeder, Bay City, MI; Owen Skelton, Edgerton, Ohio; Kaufman Thuma (K.T.) Keller, Mount Joy, PA
  • 1888: David A. Wallace, Castleton, KS; Herman L. Weckler, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 1893: Byron C. Foy
Early events

The following very early events were added by Allpar.

1769: Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot invents the car, powered by steam; a ratchet converts the piston's up-and-down strokes into rotary motion. His car, like Daimler's much later model, is three-wheeled, and was steered via tiller (and ran on roads, not rails). One of his later cars, from 1771, remains at a Parisian museum.

1784: William Murdoch builds and patents a steam car, first in Britain.

1789: Oliver Evans gets the first patent for an automobile in the United States.

1801: Richard Trevithick makes the first car designed to carry passengers, using connecting rods to convert the boiler's piston motion to rotary wheel movement. He reportedly hit 9 mph on flat roads. Trevithick patents a revised version of this car in 1802; the new one had many innovations, and again ran up to 9 mph with multiple passengers. However, after a road accident (and a fire destroying the first car), Trevithick leaves the car business.

1824: Walter Hancock begins making steam road vehicles; in 1827 he patented a safety boiler that split rather than exploding on failure. He started the first powered bus service in 1831, and the first scheduled bus service in 1833. He cracked the 20 mph barrier in 1836. His later bus had leaf springs and a chain drive.

1861: Britain puts the reigns on road cars with speed limits of 5 mph in urban areas, 10 mph in rural areas; in 1865 they would cut speeds further and demand that vehicles be preceded by men with red flags. In the same year, France endorses the use of road cars.

1861: Alphonse Beau de Rochas sets out the principle of the four stroke engine.

1873: Amédée Bollée launches a series of steam cars to serve as cabs/buses; this is defined by some as the "first real automobile."

1876: Nikolaus Otto invents the "Otto Cycle" engine, building on de Rochas' work, with four strokes: intake, compression, (spark) power, and exhaust.

1879: The infamous Selden Patent is filed; for many years he filed amendments to the original patent on the automobile engine and use of such an engine in a four wheeled car, and it was finally granted in 1895. Armed with this patent, the successor to Maxwell-Briscoe would gain royalties from competitors.

1886: Karl Benz gets his own patent on the car, in Germany. Gottlieb Daimler puts his high-speed internal combustion engine into a stagecoach, hence allowing Mercedes-Benz to claim for over a century later that they had invented the car. He did create the first four-wheeled car to reach 10 mph.

1892: Gottlieb Daimler sells his first car.

1893: Rudolph Diesel invents the engine that bears his name, similar to the Otto engine but replacing spark with compression.

1892: Walter P. Chrysler begins his apprenticeship as a mechanic in a railroad roundhouse in Kansas, making his own tools.

1894: Henry G. Morris and Pedro G. Salom construct and test a battery-operated car in Philadelphia, PA; the following year, they build four "Electrobats."

1895: Pope Manufacturing Co., Hartford, CT, makers of the Columbia bicycle, build an electric car designed by Percy Maxim.

1896: Morris and Salom form the Electric Carriage & Wagon Co., concentrating on electric cabs. Meanwhile, A.L. Riker forms the Riker Electric Motor Co. in Brooklyn, NY.

1897: Isaac L. Rice, president of Electric Storage Battery Co, and the Electric Boat Co., purchases the Electric Carriage & Wagon Co, which becomes part of the Electric Vehicle Co., Elizabethport, NJ.

1897: Pope Manufacturing begins to make the Columbia Electric, selling them in the United Kingdom as City & Suburban Cars and in France as L'Electromotion.


  • Pope Manufacturing's auto division becomes the Columbia Automobile Co..
  • The Riker Electric Motor Company is taken over by the Electric Vehicle Company; Riker car production moves to Elizabethport, NJ, but the Riker Truck continues in Brooklyn, NY.
  • The Dodge brothers work for Canadian Typothetac Company in Windsor, Ontario, then organize the Evans & Dodge Bicycle Co.

  • The Columbia gasoline car goes into production, with the engine in front instead of under the driver's seat - an industry first. Another first was having a steering wheel on the left side of the car, instead of the usual tiller on the right side.
  • Columbia Automobile and the Electric Vehicle Co. merge to form the Columbia & Electric Vehicle Co. of Hartford, CT. The Elizabethport plant closes, ending production of the Riker.
  • A.L.Riker starts up the Riker Electric Vehicle Co., Elizabethport, NJ, but this firm has no connection with Columbia & Electric.
  • Carl Breer builds a steam car, almost entirely by himself.
  • Evans & Dodge Bicycle Co. is taken over by National Cycle & Automobile Company, Hamilton, Ontario, which also takes over E.C. Stearns Company, Toronto, Ontario. The Dodge brothers and Stearns' Frederick J. Haynes work for National Cycle.
  • James Churchill Zeder born, Bay City, MI (youngest brother of Fred M. Zeder).

  • Columbia & Electric Vehicle, renamed the Electric Vehicle Company,

    acquires the Selden patent, essentially a patent on the car as a basic concept and system. Electric Vehicle takes action against other firms for

    patent infringement.
  • The Dodge brothers move to Detroit, MI and open a shop on Beaubien Street

    making bicycles and parts for the auto industry.
  • The Graham brothers, Joseph C., Robert C. and Ray A, start Pluto Glass, using their method of mass-producing glass bottles with a crown strong enough to use a cap instead of a

  • Walter P. Chrysler marries Della Forker and is promoted to foreman at

    Salt Lake City.

  • Jonathon Dixon Maxwell, of Detroit, MI, joins with Charles B. King and

    W.T. Barbour to form the Northern Mfg. Co., Detroit, MI. Maxwell and King

    were engineers at Oldsmobile. The first model produced is called the Silent

  • Dodge brothers get contract to build 3,000 transmissions for Olds Motor

  • Frederick J. Haynes accepts job as manager of the H.H. Franklin Company,

    Syracuse, NY.
  • Walter P. Chrysler accepts job as manager of the Colorado and Southern

    shops in Trinidad, CO.

  • J.D. Maxwell leaves Northern and goes to work for the Briscoe brothers,

    Detroit sheet metal contractors, inventors of the sheet metal garbage can.

    The Briscoes built thermo-syphon colling systems for Oldsmobile and provided

    early backing for David Dunbar Buick.
  • The Electric Vehicle Company joins with nine other car manufacturers to

    form the Licensed Automobile Manfuacturers. The group's main aim is to

    watch over the Selden patent, and all members pay royalties on the patent.
  • Albert A. Pope withdraws from the Electric Vehicle Company, and begins

    production of the Pope-Hartford in Hartford, CT. Late in the year Pope takes

    over the Toledo Steamer Co, of Toledo, Ohio, which becomes the Pope-Toledo.

    Pope then purchased the International Motor Co., Indianapolis, IN, producer

    of the Waverley Electric. The car is renamed Pope-Waverley.
  • The Dodge Brothers equip their plant to build engines for Ford in return for

    a 10% interest in Ford Motor Company, and cancel their contract with Olds Motor Works. (Ransom Olds was the first to apply mass production to cars.)

  • 1904-overland.jpg
    The Pope company sets up the Pope-Tribune car in Hagerstown, MD, and the

    Pope-Robinson in Hyde Park, MA.
  • Three other firms are formed this year, all independent of each other as

    well as the Columbia company and the Pope empire -

    Alden Sampson Mfg Co., Pittsfield, MA; Stoddard Mfg. Co., Dayton, OH and

    Maxwell-Briscoe Motor Co., Tarryown, NY
  • The Alden Sampson company had a contract to build the Moyea chassis and

    running gear for the Consolidated Motor Co., of New York. Bodies were built

    by the Springfield Metal Body Co., in Massachusetts.
  • The Stoddard-Dayton car is built by John Stoddard, son of Henry Stoddard,

    a Dayton paint and varnish manufacturer.

  • Alden Sampson takes over the Consolidated Motor Co. The Moyea becomes the

    Sampson. By year end the car was replaced by the Sampson 5-ton truck.
  • The Maxwell-Briscoe in production with shaft drive instead of the usual

    chain drive.
  • Roy D. Chapin and Howard E. Coffin leave their jobs as engineers with

    Oldsmobile, and, with backing from E.R. Thomas of Buffalo, NY, form the

    E.R. Thomas-Detroit Co. in Detroit, MI
  • Walter P. Chrysler becomes division chief for of the Fort Worth and Denver

    City Railroad.
  • Owen R. Skelton becomes engineer for Pope-Toledo Company.



  • Frank Briscoe (one of the Briscoe brothers) provides financial backing for

    a light car designed by Alanson P. Brush. The company is called the Brush

    Motor Car Co.,
    Detroit, MI; its inexpensive but durable car has a one cylinder engine, chain

    drive, wooden frame, and wooden axles. Another of Brush's designs is built

    by the former Pontiac Buggy: the Oakland.


  • The Columbia Four introduces dual carburetors.
  • The economic recession brings about the downfall of the Pope

    empire. The Overland Motor Company, under the new leadership of John North

    Willys, purchases the Toledo plant and moves his company there. The plant

    would become the nucleus for the Jeep complex.
  • Owen R. Skelton becomes transmission specialist for Packard Motor Car

  • Walter P. Chrysler becomes superintendent of the shops of the Chicago &

    Great Western Railroad at Oelwein, IA
1908 - Walter Chrysler buys a car

  • Talks between the Briscoe brothers and William C. Durant to form one big

    automobile company collapse. The two groups go their separate ways, with

    Durant using his Buick as a nucleus for the General Motors Company and the

    Briscoe brothers using Maxwell-Briscoe and Brush to form the United States

    Motor Company.
  • Columbia introduces Model XLVI, a 4-cylinder gasoline engined vehicle that

    drove an electric generator to provide power to an electric motor on each

    rear wheel. No clutch or transmission was used, or needed. Power to the

    electric motors controlled direction and speed. It was not a success as a

    motor car, but General Motors (and others) succeeded with the design

    principles on their diesel locomotives.


  • With sales sliding at Thomas-Detroit, Hugh Chalmers is brought on board

    from National Cash Register. In mid 1908 the car and firm become

  • Walter P. Chrysler attends the Chicago Auto Show. He is a senior manager with the Chicago Great Western Railway at the young age of 33; his monthly salary is $350 but he spends $5,000 on a white Locomobile with a red interior. Curious, he takes the car apart and puts it together again to learn how it works, and learns to drive.
  • David A. Wallace becomes a machinist at Buick Motor Company.


  • The Electric Vehicle Company becomes the Columbia Motor Car Co.
  • Howard E. Coffin and Roy D. Chapin design a new lighter car and leave

    Chalmers-Detroit to set up a new company.
  • February 24 - Hudson Motor Car Company formed, by Roy D. Chapin and Howard E. Coffin with major backing from J.L. Hudson. Other backers include R.B. Jackson, F.O. Bezner, J.J. Brady, and Hugh Chalmers
  • Stoddard-Dayton forms the Courier Car Co., Dayton, OH, to produce a

    lower-priced car, the Courier.
  • Carl Breer and Fred M. Zeder employed with Allis-Chalmers.
  • Walter P. Chrysler becomes work superintendent of the American Locomotive

    Co. Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Herman L. Weckler joins American Locomotive, where he meets Walter P.


  • The United States Motor Company is formed, taking control of

    Maxwell-Briscoe Motor Co., Brush Motor Co., Dayton Motor Car Co., Courier

    Car Co., Alden Sampson Mfg Co., and Columbia Motor Car Co. Only Brush and Maxwell-Briscoe were profitable and well-run (Alden Sampson was run as a hobby, the owner not caring if profits were produced or not). The group inherits the Selden patent, which continues to earn royalties from competitors.
  • Dodge Brothers builds a new plant in Hamtramck, MI
  • Hugh Chalmers, E.R. Thomas, and Roy D. Chapin groups dispose of their holdings in the others' companies.
    Chalmers-Detroit drops "Detroit" and is known simply as Chalmers; Hudson Motor Car Company builds its new assembly plant in the Pointe Claire area of Detroit, across the street from the Chalmer Motor Company plant.
  • K.T. Keller becomes chief inspector at Maxwell-Briscoe plant in Tarrytown, NY.

  • Alden Sampson production moves to Detroit and the Sampson 35 car is added, but by the end of 1911, both Sampson car and truck are gone, and Maxwell-Briscoe begins using the plant.
  • Ford Motor Company wins a lawsuit and essentially invalidates the Selden patent, ending royalty collection by U.S. Motor Company.

1940-49 1950-63 1964-19711972-801981-92 • 1993-97
History By Year • Coming: 1998-2007 (Daimler disaster) • 2007-09 (Cerberus) • 2008-2015 (FCA)

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