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  • Writer's pictureTim Jackson

Dodge brothers - an unlikely duo

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

The Dodge brothers, John Francis and Horace Elgin, were born in Niles, Michigan, in 1864 and 1868, respectively. They were the sons of a machinist and grew up working in their father’s machine shop. In 1886, they moved to Detroit and began working in various machine shops and factories, honing their skills as machinists and the mechanics.

In 1900, the Dodge brothers founded their own machine shop, which specialized in producing parts and assemblies for the fledging auto industry. Their reputation for quality workmanship and reliability quickly grew and they began supplying parts and services to several major automakers, including Oldsmobile, Ford and Packard.

The Dodge brothers relationship with Henry Ford was particularly important as they became one of Ford‘s largest suppliers of engines, transmissions and other component parts. This partnership proved to be incredibly lucrative for the Dodge brothers as they built a thriving business based on their expertise in manufacturing and production.

However, in 1913 the relationship between Henry Ford and the Dodge brothers began to sour as Ford was planning to build a new state of the art manufacturing facility in Highland Park, Michigan, which would allow Ford to produce cars at a much larger scale than ever before. That caused the Dodge brothers to be concerned that this move would give Ford too much control over their business, and they demanded that he buy them out of their contract. Henry Ford refused.

The Dodge brothers decided to strike out on their own. In 1914, they founded the Dodge Brothers Motor Company, with the goal of producing their own line of cars and trucks. They quickly gained the reputation for building durable, high-quality vehicles and their company grew rapidly.

In the mid-1920s. the Dodge Brothers Motor Company was one of the largest and most successful auto manufacturers in the world. In fact, in 1925 the company was sold to the investment firm Dillon, Reed and Company for the staggering sum of more than $146 million, making it the largest corporate financial transaction in US history at the time. Dodge was sold again just three years later, 1928, to Chrysler Corporation.

Unfortunately, the Dodge brothers did not live to see the full extent of their success. In 1920, John Dodge died of pneumonia, while on a trip to Europe. Horace Dodge took over as president of the company, but his health began to decline soon thereafter. In 1926, Horace died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 52.

Many people have speculated about the cause of Dodge brothers premature deaths. Some have suggested they were heavy drinkers and that this may have contributed to their health problems. Others have pointed to the influenza pandemic of 1918 to 1919 which killed millions of people around the world, including many in the United States.

While it is impossible to say for certain what caused the Dodge brothers’ early deaths, their contributions to the auto industry were very profound. Their expertise in manufacturing and production helped to revolutionize the way that cars are made, and their commitment to quality and reliability set a standard that many other automakers would strive to emulate.

Today the Dodge automotive brand is still one of the most recognizable names in the auto industry. While the company has gone through many changes over the years, it continues to produce some of the most powerful and iconic vehicles on the road, including the Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger, which are still popular muscle cars.


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