Automobiles were first invented and manufactured by C.R Patterson . C.R Patterson, Born Slave, Built Automobiles Before Henry Ford. Some of the finest buggies made in the late 1800s came out of a small, black-owned company in Ohio. Though its name is little recognized today, there is in fact a very important reason to ensure that it is not lost to history: it was, and remains to this day, the only African American owned and operated automobile company. Charles Richard Patterson was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation in 1833.
*Charles Richard Patterson’s birth in 1833 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black slave who gained his own freedom and became an inventor and carriage company entrepreneur. Born on a Virginia plantation, Charles R. … There, Patterson worked for the Dines and Simpson Carriage and Coach Makers Company.
Frederick Douglas Patterson (1871 – 1932) was an American entrepreneur, known for running the family business, C.R. Patterson and Sons, and he is the creator of the Patterson-Greenfield automobile of 1915.
Built by the first African American-owned automobile manufacturer, The C.R. Patterson and Sons Company, the Patterson-Greenfield automobile (pictured here) debuted in 1915 and had a four-cylinder Continental engine, comparable to that of the Ford Model T.
While in college at Ohio State University, he was the first African American to play on its football team. He returned to Greenfield, Ohio to join his father in his carriage business, which became C.R. Patterson and Sons. The younger man saw opportunity in the new horseless carriages, and converted the company in the early 1900s to manufacture automobiles, making 150 of them. Later he shifted to making buses and trucks, and renamed his company as Greenfield Bus Body Company.
Charles “Rich” Richard Patterson (1833–1910) founded a precursor companies to C.R. Patterson and Sons. Patterson had been born in 1833 as a slave on a Virginiaplantation. There are conflicting stories on how he left the plantation, he ended up living in Greenfield, Ohio, which was also the site of an underground railroad station. He initially worked at Dines and Simpson Carriage and Coach Makers Company, and learned blacksmithing.
Charles Patterson partnered with a local carriage builder, J.P. Lowe, a white man, and they created J.P. Lowe & Company in 1873. By 1888, the business employed 10 people, which was considered successful for its time. The United States was experiencing the Panic of 1893, a financial crisis and business was suffering. As a result, in 1893, the company was renamed as C.R. Patterson, Son, and Company after Patterson bought Lowe’s shares and to mark the inclusion of his son Samuel to the business. Samuel Patterson fell ill in 1897, and died in 1899. His eldest son Frederick Douglas Patterson moved home to help with the business.
By 1900, the company was producing 28 different horse-drawn carriage styles including buggies, backboards, phaetons, surreys, and the popular doctor’s buggy. They had 50 employees, and were able to manufacture approximately 500 horse-drawn carriages a year.
After Charles Patterson’s death in 1910, his son Frederick Douglas Patterson took over the carriage business and decided they needed to get into the “Patterson horseless carriage” business. At first they offered the service of repairing existing automobiles in the local area. On September 23, 1915, the first C.R. Patterson and Sons automobile was assembled, a two-door coupe. The first cars were sold for $685, with additional reports of the car selling for $850 (or $17,741 to $22,014 adjusted for inflation in 2021).
It is estimated they build somewhere between 30 and 150 vehicles, and none are known to have survived to present day.
Bus and truck manufacturing
In 1918, C.R. Patterson & Sons halted their auto production and concentrated once again on the repair side of the business. By the 1920s, they started focusing on building and designing truck and bus bodies, which were fitted to chassis made by other manufactures. The company was renamed Greenfield Bus Body Company. Frederick Douglas Patterson died in 1932, and his son Postell Patterson (1906–1981) took over the business.
Most of the bus bodies were purchased by school boards in Southern Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky, as well as the Ohio Transit Company and used in Cincinnati and Cleveland.
In 1938, the company was reorganized under the name Gallia Body Company and the headquarters moved to Gallia, Ohio. Unable to raise enough money, the company closed in 1939
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