The History of the Dodge Brothers
Dodge is celebrating its roots with a new campaign that highlights the Dodge brothers and how their innovation led to the creation of the sophisticated vehicles you see today at Dodge dealers around the country.
The first spot that highlights the company's founding brothers is called "First Dodge," and it shows the Dodge brothers played by Joe Coffery and Tyler Bryan building a bicycle together long before they started tinkering with cars. At the end of the commercial, a 2015 Dodge Dart drives off screen, followed by the words, "Their spirit lives on." The spot is meant to highlight the early innovation that the Dodge brothers showed, even in building a better version of a simple bicycle, and how that creative thinking led to even greater things through over a century of automotive manufacturing.
Three other ads have been created for the Dodge brothers campaign, including one that shows the brothers sitting in old Dodge touring cars parked next to the new Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger; another that shows a new Dodge Durango rattling the walls of a stuffy country club from the turn of the century; and another that shows the Dodge brothers sending messages n Morse code with the head lights of their 2015 Dodge Charger.
The spots, directed by Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, are a fun way to highlight Dodge's early years and the entrepreneurial spirit that made it one of America's most beloved automotive brands. For many, the ads also share a bit of Dodge history that they didn't know about. The campaign creates the perfect opportunity to teach consumers more about the pioneering Dodge brothers and how their adventurous spirit led to the creation of one of history's leading car brands.
The Dodge brothers were John Francis and Horace, born in 1864 and 1868 respectively to Daniel Rugg Dodge and Maria Duval Casto in Michigan. They had one older sister, Della, and their father had two children from a previous marriage.
Daniel Dodge had taken over his father's business of repairing boat engines, and John and Horace grew up working in the Niles, Michigan, shop by his side. The family moved around a bit, with stops in Battle Creek and Port Huron, but they settled in Detroit in 1886. John and Horace took jobs in machine shops like Murphy's Boiler Works and Windsor's Dominion Typography Company.
The Dodge brothers teamed up with Frederick Evans in 1896 to start creating Evans & Dodge bicycles. What made the bikes so special were the ball bearings that Horace Dodge invented and patented. The ball bearings were resistant to dirt, so they did not clog up or stop working.
Before long, the Dodge brothers went back to their machinist roots. They sold their interest in the company only four years later for $3,700 and opened their own machine shop the following year. They started out creating parts for stoves, but they quickly shifted their interest to automotive parts since the new industry was growing quickly.
Even as parts makers, they had a reputation as the best. They picked up huge contracts with the Olds Motor Vehicle Company and the Ford Motor Company to create engines, transmissions, and frames with axles.
Producing the First Dodge Vehicles
The Dodge brothers soon became major stakeholders in the Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford had gifted them stock when he couldn't make a cash payment, and they became 10-percent owners of the company. They were then contracted to produce Model Ts because Ford couldn't keep up with the demand, and they even redesigned some of the car's parts. John Dodge even became Ford's vice president.
However, the Dodge brothers soon decided to cut ties with Ford and start their own company. They used some of the profits from Ford stock to open the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company in 1913. They expanded their plant and built the first on-site test track. No other automaker had such a testing facility.
Dodge produced its first vehicle in 1914, the Dodge Model 30, which was designed as a competitor for Ford's Model T. The car immediately set itself apart with its all-steel construction, 12-volt electrical system, sliding-gear transmission, and a whopping 35 horsepower.
Dodge dealers quickly began springing up around the country. The first was Cumberland Motors in Nashville, Tennessee, which remained in business until the late 1960s. The Dodge brothers actually received 22,000 applications for new Dodge dealers before they had even finished production of the Model 30 -- thanks in large part to their reputation for success with their automotive parts and the work they did with Ford.
Dodge produced a roadster in 1915, and the following year, it introduced winter cars (with hard tops and side windows) and a center-door sedan. Dodge started an advertising campaign with the slogan "It speaks for itself," and the company invented the word "dependability," which was soon added to the dictionary.
Dodge sold 150 cars to the U.S. Army in 1916, and it developed a truck that would be used as a military ambulance the following year. That truck design led to the creation of a commercial truck, as well.
Death of the Dodge Brothers
Dodge continued to expand in the following years, adding new vehicles and spread out in markets such as Canada. The Dodge brothers made millions from the sale of Ford stock and dividends, as well as from sales of their own vehicles.
The brothers died unexpectedly in 1920. Horace Dodge fell ill with pneumonia during the 1920 New York Auto Show in January. John Dodge sat by his bedside and caught pneumonia, as well. He died only 10 days later. He was 55.
Horace Dodge continued to fight his illness for many more months. He died in December of 1920 from cirrhosis of the liver. He was 52.
At the time of their death, Dodge was the second-best-selling automobile in the country. The company was sold to Chrysler in 1928.
Dodge remains one of the best-selling automobiles in the country, and these new ads are a great opportunity to reflect on its history and to have a deeper appreciation for the history that has made it what it is today.