Wednesday, August 1, 2018

An American Icon

We're currently on a cross country road trip from New Hampshire to Oregon and posting about sites along the way. This post is about a stop in South Bend, IN.

Studebaker was never just a U.S. auto company. The company started in business making wagons. Founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1868 under the name of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company made wagons for farmers, miners, and the military from its South Bend, IN manufacturing facilities.

And that’s where at the Studebaker National Museum, we followed the company's history from wagons to automobiles and other vehicles. The museum is open seven days a week.

The state-of-the-art, 55,000-square-foot facility, which opened in October 2005, has three floors (there’s an elevator).

The main level displays Studebaker history and vehicles from the 1800s to 1934 as well as Studebaker family history. 

The collection includes 120 vehicles and focuses on the century-long history of the Studebaker corporation and the wagons, cars, trucks, and military vehicles it produced.
Most of the museum's collection was part of the iconic company's collection, although vehicles continue to be added, sometimes on loan from collectors. 

In the mid-1800s, the five Studebaker brothers (Henry, Clement, John, Peter, and Jacob) became the world’s largest manufacturer of wagons and buggies. (Those impressive wagons pulled by the Budweiser Clydesdales are Studebaker wagons modified to carry beer.)

The Studebaker brothers built hundreds of wagons for the North during the Civil War. By the the 1870s, the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Co. was the largest producer of horse-drawn vehicles in the world (something we never knew).

Studebaker successfully transitioned from making wagons and carriages to automobiles in the early 1900s. 

The museum has four carriages used by U.S. presidents, including the the carriage which President Lincoln used to go to Ford’s Theater on the night he was assassinated. The Presidential Carriage Collection is part of the original collection of 37 vehicles once owned by the Studebaker Corporation.

David Abbot (Ab) Jenkins set a transcontinental record in a 1927 Commander (top) that he drove from NYC to San Francisco covering 3,302 miles in 77 hours and 40 minutes and beat the existing record by one hour. That record was one he set a year earlier in a 1925 Studebaker Big Six Duplex Phaeton (below).

A 1928 Studebaker Commander Roadster (below) traveled 23,000 miles in less than 23,000 minutes at Atlantic City, averaging over 65 miles per hour.

Here's a few vintage Studebaker car ads from the museum's collection. These appeared in The Saturday Evening Post magazine. Notice the price in this first one.

How about a car for $660 — that's what Studebaker advertised its Champion for in 1939.
In 1952, Studebaker Corp. celebrated its 100th anniversary as a producer of motorized vehicles. That anniversary was short-lived as the South Bend, IN plant ceased production of U.S. cars and trucks in December 1963. 
1966 Studebaker Cruiser

The Hamilton, Ontario, Canada facilities continued until the 1966 Cruiser rolled off the assembly line in March. That's when Studebaker shut its doors for the final time after 114 years in business. 

If you get the chance to visit Indiana and are anywhere near South Bend, do make an effort to visit this auto museum. We don't, like us, that you will be disappointed.

(I have a personal connection with a Studebaker automobile as my first ride was in one owned by my late father and it transported me home from the hospital after my birth.)


Lois Evensen said...

Wow! Just love this post! I remember when we still saw these on the road. Gosh, I'm old! Enjoy your trip and I look forward to your posts along the way.

Ramblings of a Retired Lady said...

Havent thought of a Studebaker in years, so this was a great memory trip. I look forward every day to seeing what you see!

Sandra said...

I showed these to bob and he said he remembers all of these but one, damn fine cars is his comment.... what a fun place to visit

mamasmercantile said...

What an amazing museum, one that both Gerard and I would enjoy.

Anvilcloud said...

I’ve alwat thought that studebaker was a Canadian company, and I guess it was at the end. Production in Hamilton began in 1947.

Connie said...

Those shiny, old cars look so elegant. Neat place to visit!

William Kendall said...

Some real beauties in there! Thanks for featuring the museum.

My name is Erika. said...

Huh! I thought they were just a failed car maker, not a successful wagon and car maker. Thanks for sharing this from your journey. It looks exciting. Hugs-Erika

Emma Springfield said...

Studebakers were the most distinctive cars on the road. To many, it was the ultimate ride.

Valerie said...

Now that's a place I would like to visit, being a lover of cars. I was hooked to this by the first photograph. Wowee!