Feb 7, 2020
It all began in 1852 when the two oldest of five Studebaker brothers - Henry and Clement - opened a blacksmith shop, pursuing a trade they had been taught by their father. By the 1880s, Studebaker was the largest maker of vehicles - wagons, carriages and sleds, at that point - in the world.
Then came the heyday of auto production, with models like the Commander, the President, the moderately-priced Erskine and the luxurious Pierce-Arrow during the 1920s; the Land Cruiser in the 1930s; Champion Regal coupes in the 1950s; and the Avanti and the Daytona during the 1960s.
Although the final Studebaker car to be assembled in South Bend rolled off the production line in 1963, thousands of aficionados around the world continue to drive them.
Among the most popular destinations for visitors to South Bend is the three-story Studebaker National Museum, where galleries include exhibits of U.S. presidential carriages. Among the crown jewels displayed at the Studebaker museum: the Barouch carriage that transported the Lincolns to Ford's Theatre on the the night of the president's assassination in 1865.
For a motoring excursion through a broad landscape of Studebaker history, our two guests are:
Family connections have been part of the Studebaker heritage since the beginning. The fortunes of the wagon-making business are said to have been jump-started when John Mohler (J.M.) Studebaker, the third of the five brothers, returned from California to invest in his siblings' company. J.M. (1833-1917) had become wealthy by selling wheelbarrows to miners during the Gold Rush.
At various times, all five Studebaker brothers were involved in the business, although Clement (1831-1901), J.M. and Peter (1836-1897) were most closely associated with it. Clement's mansion, built during the 1880s and christened Tippecanoe Place, is now home to a popular restaurant in South Bend.
During World War II, Studebaker manufactured trucks and other vehicles used by the military. After the war, the company returned to making popular cars for middle-class Americans; our guest Bob Palma notes their 1947 models were touted with the slogan "first by far with a postwar car."
Other history facts: