Thursday, September 10, 2020

Postcards from the Lake: Made In Gaylord?

The little town where I spend the summer -- Gaylord, Michigan -- had early origins in the logging industry. But some are surprised to learn that there used to be an automobile manufacturing company here in the early 1900s -- the Gaylord Motor Car Company (1911-1913). 


In the Chamber of Commerce office on Main Street, one can still see one of the original cars.


Although there were several styles of vehicles -- a convertible four-seat car for private drivers, a two-person roadster and a larger vehicle with storage space for luggage among them -- only one is in the Chamber office. It is fully restored and quite handsome.

Families who have been here at the lake for close to a century will recognize the names of some of the original trustees of the company, including those of Kramer and Shipp. (The Shipp cottage was next door to the original family cottage now owned by my cousins.)


Why a car company in Gaylord? The story is actually one that combines community spirit with a pressing economic needs. The lumber industry, which had been the backbone of the Gaylord economy, was coming to an end and the auto industry was making its early start. Fifty-three town residents raised $50,000 in a month (now about $1.35 million) to build a factory and the parts and equipment to build new cars. (The assembly plant was located near the railroad near a cemetery on Wisconsin Street, which is now the southern edge of downtown Gaylord.) 

The first demonstration car was actually made in Detroit and was driven to Gaylord in 1910. The cost for one of these cars ranged from $1,000 to $1500. (The $1500 price would be equivalent to $40,910.68 in today's dollars.) It arrived in Gaylord from Detroit, on August 15, 1910, driven by the president and general manager of the Gaylord Motor Car Company. Remember -- at this time, the four hour trip from Detroit would take at least two days on the roads of the day.

 1910 Gaylord Touring Car

By 1912, the factory had moved to Gaylord and the car had been featured at the National Auto Show, which brought orders from the national exposure. Hoping to break apart from competitors, the utility wagon had a higher road clearance, which made it useful on the more rugged roads outside cities.

1912 Gaylord Factory - Gaylord, Michigan

But there are challenges to any new business. One big one is keeping it up and running to build your reputation before it fully maximizes its financial potential. As money ran out, it was difficult to find new investors. 

1913 Gaylord In The Snow - Gaylord, MI

Those with capital and the inclination had many investment options in this new industry. Many chose new new Ford Motor Company whose Model T sold for $550. This was less than half the price of the Gaylord vehicle. It led to the company's bankruptcy.

A man named Ivan Polus in Elmira, Michigan was responsible for finding the only known Gaylord car in existence and restoring it. 


The Gaylord Motor Car Company may not have saved the Gaylord economy (which, thanks to tourism is doing quite well) but it did reveal how several forward-thinking members of the community pooled their ideas and resources to take a chance and create something new.


And these days, that thinking outside the box and looking toward new seems to be something many will be doing as we juggle the challenges we face today.

Sharing with:  Let's Keep in Touch      /     Pink Saturday     

45 comments:

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

I've always love those old early touring cars. One of my old bosses had one very much like the Garylord car in your post and he'd let me drive it around the neighborhood. The Gilmore Car Museum has some great old cars similar as well. That place is amazing.

bobbie said...

VERY cool history! TFS!

Iris Flavia said...

Just imagine!!!! Outside in the snow, no seatbelts, boy...
Pooling ideas for the good thing, is that forgotten today?
I hope "we" will resume this, great post, wonderful pics!

Valerie-Jael said...

Very interesting article. We need people with new ad fresh ideas today! Have a great weekend, hugs, Valerie

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

How very sweet to read that one of the Gaylord autos has been found and restored. I loved seeing the photos of the plant when things were running well. That's a strange way to assemble a car, though. No wonder Ford did a better job at assembly and price point. Nice bit of history and a fun look at your area of the country. Don't forget 9/11 today, Jeanie.

Rustic Pumpkin said...

What a lovely piece of social history. As a child, I loved vintage cars, and have a small collection of Matchbox models.

Deb in Wales

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Break the word Gaylord into two and you have an entirely different meaning today! Like most I would imagine, Jeanie, I had no idea about this automobile manufacturing company, and it took an historical sleuth such as yourself to spread the name around the world!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Inspiring, in these difficult times, to see how working together can be a good strategy.

And, wow, what a beautiful car.

DUTA said...

I know very little of cars old or new. I know, of course, they cause pollution and are involved in accidents.
But I do like museums with vintage exhibits.

Pam said...

I love those cars! I just love old vehicles except for the brakes and steering! haha....Nice one you posted here.

Joanne Huffman said...

An interesting bit of history.

Susie said...

Jeanie, I love this post. Back when cars were huge cars, not computers on wheels. LOL. Look at those tires. :) That open car concept looks pretty cold to me. My gosh we are all spoiled now, aren't we? Blessings , xoxo, Susie

Pamela said...

How interesting!

Sandra at Maison De Jardin said...

Jeanie, this is such an interesting story. How wonderful that one of the original cars was found and restored. Goodness people of that era were strong. I can't imagine riding in an open car in all that snow and one can only imagine the temperature. It might just benefit us all to regain a little of that strength.
Have a great day, Jeanie.

anno said...

Interesting to learn this bit of Michigan automotive history -- and I'm kind of glad to know that it wasn't *all* about Detroit.

And, yes, seeing people come together to develop solutions for the problems our communities are currently facing is one of the encouraging signs I've seen during this very troubling year. Have a hunch we're going to need more of this...

Linda said...

Charming automobile and great little story. Happy Friday Jeanie♥

The French Hutch said...

This is such an amazing bit of history. I can't imagine how cold it must have been riding in that car!

Barb said...

I love seeing these old photos, Jeanie. I can't imagine that car was going anyplace in all that snow (though I do see chains on the pic with all the men)! It's a beautifully restored vehicle and an interesting part of Gaylord's history.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Jeanie,

The town of Gaylord Michigan does have an interesting history. It is neat to see this cool roadster on display. I think I like the auto industry over a logging company. During these crazy times, I think we all need to have something to look forward too. Take care, enjoy your day! Wishing you a happy weekend!

William Kendall said...

Quite a car!

Laurie said...

That’s amazing, wonderful photos too!

shoreacres said...

What an interesting history. Did you know that the Maytag Company -- the home of washing machines and such -- manufactured cars, too? It didn't last long for them, either, but it seems that when autos first were coming on the scene, a lot of people recognized a bigger change was coming on than just giving up the horse!

Prims By The Water said...

We had a car company just north of our town too! Will's Car company. Mr. Will's was an engineer for Henry Ford and branched out on his own for a few years. There is a museum of his cars in that town to see. Janice

Karen said...

We were driving near a tiny village just north my daughters town and discovered this old barn like building with a sign in front of it that declared it was the original site of the Maclaughlin Motor Company, forerunner of GM!!

roughterrain crane said...

Thanks a lot. Your post is very informative.

Bill Frysinger said...

What a nice story, Jeanie, and great pics. My brother found an old book titled "How To Drive The Automobile." It listed over 100 car manufacturers around the turn of the century, here and abroad; 1,2,3,4,6,8, and 12 cylinders. Later I learned more about RE Olds, who developed the first auto assembly line. Ford gets credit for making it a moving line. (The Olds line had engine blocks on portable workbenches on wheels.) The RE Olds museum in Lansing today has a great number of interesting cars. Two Olds historians showed our Exchange Club a picture of 5 cars that rolled out of the Olds factory in one day: gasoline, diesel, steam, and electric powered, all produced that day.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Michigan has so many places filled with the history of our country from logging to cars - Gaylord sounds delightful.

Mereknits said...

We used to visit Gaylord every time we went camping. That was long ago but I remember it being very charming. Stay safe.

Pam Richardson said...

What an interesting story, I have never heard of the Gaylord Company. The roadster has been beautifully restored. Thanks for sharing about Gaylord!

BeachGypsy said...

Howdy there Jeannie, girlfriend I HAVE NEVER HEARD of these cars!!!---so I loved this post. You know how I am about the HISTORY, LOL. So I enjoyed it. How are y'all doing up there, are you getting any nice chilly weather? It's still hot here....and so humid. We are hearing we may get a whoosh of cooler air mid week....I am so ready for that, LOL. I did decorate for Fall last weekend, which brightened up our home and added some "cozy". I LOVE sweater weather, I am ready for it!

Stevenson Q said...

Thank you so much dear Jeanie not just for sharing the photos that look so grand and historic but also telling about it. I love old photos and old things (that's why I thought of starting Timeless Thursdays) and i also would like to thank you for joining it :)

Sending you hugs this September Sunday! Work again tomorrow for me haha but hey, I'm grateful :)

Bella Rum said...

How interesting. You're right. We are probably going to see more entrepreneurial ventures in the future. Americans have always had a penchant for thinking outside the box.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

An interesting bit of automobile history, Jeanie. I am always amazed when we have visited museums that feature vintage automobiles. Apparently, there were many companies producing them in the U.S. but Ford became the more widely known and came in any color, as long as you liked black.

Friko said...

That’s a very interesting post. I have actually never heard of a Gaylord vehicle, so you’ve taught me something new.
A beautiful vehicle indeed and all these chaps with their overcoats and hats are a grand example of how things were done in the past.

SingingRiverSoulSpa said...

Looking at long ago sure does make me feel wistful these days.
I'm leaning in to hope big that the best is yet to be, but gosh
don't those images make it seem like life was so much simpler then.
I love my jeep - wouldn't trade it for all the nostalgia:)
Still, those old cars do feel romantic.....
Big joy to you in all of this tricky navigating,
Jennifer

R's Rue said...

I love it.

Sami said...

That Gaylord car is a beauty Jeanie.

Hena Tayeb said...

Wow so fascinating.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

What an interesting story and a stunning looking car for its day...much more handsome than Mr. Ford's. 😊

My name is Erika. said...

I don't know how I missed this post. Glad I found it though as this is fascinating Jeanie. It's amazing they could get enough cash to start this factory and bring work to the area. It must have been tough when they closed when those people lost their jobs. And how great someone could find and restore one for town. They definitely need to have one. Hugs-Erika

Marilyn Miller said...

Fascinating story, which I hadn't heard. Love that they have one restored and on display. Yes, I agree, people will be needing to think outside the box to recover.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Loved hearing the history of this car company! I had never heard of it! I love the look of those touring cars. So cool! Phil is quite the car aficionado so I will have to show him this post. He would never spend money on a fancy car but he had an appreciation for cars and how they have changed over the years.

Lynne said...

This post had me thinking of the oldest car I ever rode in.
I had to go looking,
1939 Ford Coupe . . .
1949 Studebaker
And then, cars from the 40’s . . .and the 50’s . . .
A 1949 Ford Coupe was the most vivid as a family car.
Thanks for the memories Jeanie . . .

Lowcarb team member said...

This was an interesting read, thank you.

All the best Jan

creativeseconds.com said...

Very interesting read ~ I had to go back to where I left off as your latest post said rick thought he had covid!! So here I am. I love the old photos such different times ~

Popular Posts