|Lonnie Bunch, museum director, historian, lecturer, and author, is proud to present A Page from Our American Story, a regular on-line series for Museum supporters. It will showcase individuals and events in the African American experience, placing these stories in the context of a larger story — our American story.|
|A Page From Our American Story|
|At the dawn of the Automobile Age in the early 20th century, hundreds of small auto companies sprouted up across America as entrepreneurs recognized that society was transitioning from horse-drawn carriages to transportation powered by the internal combustion engine. Some of these early companies grew to become giants that are still with us today, such as Ford and Chevrolet. Many others remained small, struggling to compete against the assembly lines of the larger manufacturers.One such company was C.R. Patterson & Sons of Greenfield, Ohio, makers of the Patterson-Greenfield automobile from 1915 to 1918. 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. Not much is known about his life on the plantation, and historians have to sift through conflicting reports about how he came to settle in Greenfield, Ohio, a town with strong abolitionist sympathies. Some say his family arrived in the 1840s, possibly after purchasing their freedom; others suggest Patterson alone escaped in 1861. In any case, he learned the skills of the blacksmith and found work in the carriage-making trade, where he developed a reputation for building a high quality product. In 1873, he formed a business partnership with another carriage maker in town, J.P. Lowe, who was white, and eventually became sole proprietor of the renamed C.R. Patterson & Sons in 1893. It was a successful business employing an integrated workforce of 35-50 by the turn of the century, and Charles Patterson became a prominent and respected citizen in Greenfield. His catalog listed some 28 models, from simple open buggies to larger and more expensive closed carriages for doctors and other professionals.
When Patterson died in 1910, the business passed to his son Frederick, who was already something of a pioneer. He was college-educated and was the first black athlete to play football for Ohio State University. He was also an early member and vice president of the National Negro Business League founded by Booker T. Washington. Now, as owner and operator of the enterprise his father started, Frederick Patterson began to see the handwriting on the wall: the days of carriages and horse-drawn buggies were nearing an end.
At first, the company offered repair and restoration services for the “horseless carriages” that were beginning to proliferate on the streets of Greenfield. No doubt this gave workers the opportunity to gain some hands-on knowledge about these noisy, smoky and often unreliable contraptions. Like his father, Frederick was a strong believer in advertising and placed his first ad for auto repair services in the local paper in 1913. Initially, the work mostly involved repainting bodies and reupholstering interiors, but as the shop gained more experience with engines and drivetrains, they began to offer sophisticated upgrades and improvements to electrical and mechanical systems as well.
This valuable experience allowed C.R. Patterson & Sons to take the next great step in its own story as well as in African American history: in 1915, it announced the availability of the Patterson-Greenfield automobile at a price of $685. From the company’s publicity efforts, it is evident they were bursting with pride:
“Our car is made with three distinct purposes in mind. First — It is not intended for a large car. It is designed to take the place originally held by the family surrey. It is a 5-passenger vehicle, ample and luxurious. Second — It is intended to meet the requirements of that class of users, who, though perfectly able to spend twice the amount, yet feel that a machine should not engross a disproportionate share of expenditure, and especially it should not do so to the exclusion of proper provisions for home and home comfort, and the travel of varied other pleasurable and beneficial entertainment. It is a sensibly priced car. Third — It is intended to carry with it (and it does so to perfection) every conceivable convenience and every luxury known to car manufacture. There is absolutely nothing shoddy about it. Nothing skimp and stingy.”
Orders began to come in, and C.R. Patterson & Sons officially entered the ranks of American auto manufacturers. Over the years, several models of coupes and sedans were offered, including a stylish “Red Devil” speedster. Ads featured the car’s 30hp Continental 4-cylinder engine, full floating rear axle, cantilever springs, electric starting and lighting, and a split windshield for ventilation. The build quality of the Patterson-Greenfield automobile was as highly regarded as it had been with their carriages.
The initial hope and optimism, however, proved to be fairly short-lived. In an age of increased mechanization and production lines, small independent shops featuring hand-built, high quality products weren’t able to scale up production or compete on price against the rapidly growing car companies out of Detroit. In small quantities, parts and supplies were expensive and hard to come by when major manufacturers were buying them by the trainload at greatly reduced costs. Plus, the labor hours per car were much higher than that of assembly line manufacturers. As a result, the profit margin on each Patterson-Greenfield was low.
In 1918, having built by some estimates between 30 and 150 vehicles, C.R. Patterson & Sons halted auto production and concentrated once again on the repair side of the business. But they weren’t done yet. In the 1920s, the company began building truck and bus bodies to be fitted on chassis made by other manufacturers. It was in a sense a return to their original skills in building carriage bodies without engines and drivetrains and, for a period of time, the company was quite profitable. Then in 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression set in. As with many small businesses, sales dried up and loans were hard to obtain. The company, now run by the sons of Frederick Patterson, soldiered on until 1939 when, after 74 years, C.R. Patterson & Sons closed its doors forever.
Sadly, no Patterson-Greenfield automobiles are known to survive today. But we should not let that dim the fact that two great entrepreneurs, Charles Richard Patterson and his son Frederick Patterson built and sustained a business that lasted several generations and earned a place not just in African American history, but in automotive history as well.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest member of the Smithsonian Institution’s family of extraordinary museums. The museum will be far more than a collection of objects. The Museum will be a powerful, positive force in the national discussion about race and the important role African Americans have played in the American story — a museum that will make all Americans proud.
Just another rant…
In 2015, I posted an article by George Heymont “You can’t Fix Stupid” from 2012, and sadly it is still relevant. We have those leaning right in several industries, some voted into office on the local and state level, others have seats in Congress who continue carpetbagging, voting against their own constituents, clearly acting out, doing the best they can to make sure certain types of people never get close to the highest office lest we talk about how our first opportunity for a Woman at the helm in 2016 if folks had turned out.
It’s now 2021 and the stupid continues to spread.
The thing that keeps coming to my mind is what the character of “Forrest Gump,” says, “stupid is as stupid does.” The fact is, voters, have gotten a box of chocolates like the character “Forrest Gump,” says, “We never know what we are going to get” which is not the way a POTUS or a democratic republic should reign. When Republicans are in charge of Congress they get on the airwaves and say whatever their base wants to hear, and then get on the floor of Congress to pass legislation with nasty riders that ultimately hurt our fellow Americans.
My question continues; when will voters decide that while there is nothing wrong with disagreeing, debating, and setting up a schedule for voting last-minute bills; trying to pass legislation knowing it will hurt your constituents is unacceptable. When Congress is led by republicans, the extreme right in both Chambers seems to believe that most if not all legislation should be designed for the rich and not for the good of all Americans who also vote. I find it offensive to think Congress cannot seem to find a fair conclusion that allows Americans an opportunity to prosper instead of pushing and voting for that trickle-down financial system, which no longer works (never worked). We cannot forget what happened during the Bush years and why! That the folks in Congress at the time failed American voters while Banks, folks like AIG, hedge funders decided that best business practices or acting in a good faith effort.
If you’re listening honestly, voters who sat on the sidelines helped guarantee that the old republican attitude or southern strategy is not only close at hand, alive and well but still very active with the new governmental trifecta in charge … this is stupid!
… just another rant
just another rant … Republicans … david perdue
I actually searched his website for information and I found that he is seemingly doing business with folks for folks and by folks overseas a bit scary! I could be wrong, but I can see American jobs being subjected to lower wages and or going overseas where we all know a living wage just does not seem to exist. I am willing to be corrected, but this person seems bad for trade, for jobs and again, do your research. I am no expert nor am i a a one-issue voter, but any candidate that advocates “a right to life” definitely chooses to ignore “a mothers right to exercise choice” from all backgrounds and the need to control their own lives and or engage in family planning. David Perdue, definitely is a Republican that should stay a businessperson, though if you go to his website, jobs, Women and a safer country all seem at risk in his hands in my opinion … anyway, David Perdue on the issues follows below
Defending Our Values
There are principles I share with a majority of Georgians. I believe that we should promote a culture that values life and protects the innocent, especially the unborn. I also believe that we must protect traditional marriage, keeping it clearly defined as between one man and one woman. Being pro-life and believing in the sanctity of marriage are my deeply held personal convictions. I will not waver in defending them if I have the privilege of serving you in the U.S Senate.
See David’s response to National Right to Life
The National Debt
The crushing national debt has surpassed $17 trillion. We must act now to rein it in before it becomes unsustainable. Of course we have to cut wasteful spending and unnecessary bureaucracy. We have to eliminate the billions of dollars in failed government programs and redundant agencies. However, the best way to begin getting the debt under control is to grow the economy without a tax increase.
Comprehensive Tax Reform
In the midst of a terrible economy, this would be the worst possible time to raise taxes on anyone. Too many families and too many businesses are struggling to get by. I will not support a tax increase of any kind. Furthermore, the federal tax code is too complicated and misaligned. It should be completely overhauled as a means to promote growth and encourage more domestic economic investment. My preference is the Fair Tax.
I have never run for public office before, which in my opinion is a good thing. Just look at the results we have gotten from career politicians. They have created a crisis in Washington. We can’t expect them to fix it. That’s why I support term limits: a maximum three terms in the House, two terms in the Senate. I’ll stick to that commitment myself. Until we get term limits in place, we should enforce them at the ballot box by voting the career politicians out of office.
See David’s term limit pledge
Balanced Budget Amendment
Every Georgia family understands that you can’t perpetually spend more than you take in without going bankrupt. The problem is that the professional politicians in Washington won’t make a tough decision. I would absolutely vote for a balanced budget amendment. However, we need immediate tax and regulatory reforms along with appropriate spending cuts so that we have a right-sized, responsible budget sooner rather than later.
ObamaCare is an overreaching federal program that will actually reduce the quality of health care and increase costs. I am one of the millions of Americans that had my personal policy cancelled after being told I could keep it. To make matters worse, Obamacare is discouraging full-time job creation. The consequences of politicians passing a massive bill without reading it continue to emerge. We need to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with more affordable free market solutions.
Revitalizing American Manufacturing
I believe that we are on the verge of revitalizing American manufacturing. The private sector is primed to create quality jobs by manufacturing innovative products that require a skilled workforce and high-tech facilities. These products are needed for domestic consumption and more importantly for exports to foreign markets. But the manufacturing industry’s renewal can be stunted if we don’t correct bad energy policies, the lack of infrastructure, failures in education, and the punitive tax code.
Increasing American Exports
The best opportunity for long-term economic growth is to boost our exports to emerging economies worldwide. In fact, I have started my own exporting business where we ship American-made products overseas. They have an increasing demand for American goods, both quality manufactured products as well as other needs such as agriculture products. Increasing exports requires elected leaders who understand global trends and how to remove barriers to growth. If so, we can create a new age of American prosperity.
Local Control of Education
I grew up the son of two teachers. I married a teacher. I have seen firsthand that parents and local educators make the best decisions on how to meet the unique needs of students. For example, my mother started a program for gifted students that is still a model for schools across Georgia to this day. True innovation starts at the local level, not in Washington. We should dismantle unnecessary federal bureaucracy, including the push for Common Core, and get that funding into the classrooms.
Decades after an oil embargo led to gas rationing and long lines at the pump, we still don’t have a plan for energy independence. Instead, our own government limits our options by being overtly hostile towards domestic energy producers. In the process, they force us to rely on energy resources from countries that wish to do us harm. With the right leadership, we can finally have a domestic energy policy that is environmentally responsible in the long-term while meeting our current needs.
Secure Our Borders
Securing our borders is a matter of national security. The debate in Washington over illegal immigration has become unnecessarily complicated. Out-of-touch politicians have created another massive bill, like ObamaCare. Simply put, we need to strictly enforce current laws and any new laws should be straightforward, focusing on true border security. Until the federal government gets serious about immigration security and enforcement, discussing anything else is pointless.
The Right to Bear Arms
Growing up in Middle Georgia, I have been hunting since I was young, but I understand the 2nd Amendment is not only about hunting. It is hard for me to question the wisdom of the Founders. They crafted a Constitution that has only been amended 27 times in over 225 years. Ten amendments were their own, designed to explicitly protect certain rights. The 2nd Amendment is clear. We have ample gun laws on the books now, and I believe we should focus on enforcing them.
See David’s response to the National Rifle Association
Resource: His website
all or most of my MidTerm category was written in 7/2014
The Supreme Court has gotten it wrong again, and it’s up to us to get Congress to fix their mistake.
In fact, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has specifically asked us to!
In a 5-4 ruling last year, the court created an artificial distinction between types of workplace “supervisors.” This decision creates an extra hurdle for workers suing their employers for workplace harassment, unequal pay, and other forms of discrimination.
Here’s the problem: The court’s ruling doesn’t mesh with the realities of the modern workplace!
Millions of workers are overseen by other employees who don’t have the authority to hire or fire them, yet still shape their day-to-day work experience through actions such as making their schedule, giving them time off, or assigning them projects and tasks. This wrong-headed decision virtually gives a green light to sexual harassment as long as it doesn’t come from “the boss.” Under the 2013 ruling, known as Vance v. Ball State University, this “overseeing” type of employee is now classified as a co-worker, meaning that any harassment from them is subject to a lesser standard – despite the obvious fact that they have power over other workers. This problematic decision is of particular concern to women – a national poll found that 25 percent of women have experienced workplace sexual harassment, as have one in 10 men.
We need the Fair Employment Protection Act, which would restore longstanding workplace protections the Vance ruling took away. We must return to a reasonable definition that reflects the modern workplace.
Think about your own experiences at work. You knew who set your schedule and gave you assignments, but did you know who could make the decision to fire you? Was it your direct boss? Was it the HR manager? Was it the company president that you met only once? Under the court’s standard, if your boss doesn’t have the power to fire you, he/she isn’t considered your “supervisor.” And that’s just silly. The Fair Employment Protection Act was just introduced today, so it’s time to make your voice heard:
The Best Responses To The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision
It has been a week since five men sitting on the Supreme Court decided that bosses should have the right to be able to interfere with a woman’s access to affordable birth control. In the Hobby Lobby case, the majority ruled 5-4 that owners of for-profit, secular businesses who have religious objections to birth control may defy federal rules requiring that they include contraceptive care in their employees’ health plans because it violates the employer’s religious liberty rights.
The time since has seen reactions of all kinds from across the country. We’ve rounded up some of our favorites:
- Federal Judge Blasts Hobby Lobby Decision: Supreme Court Should ‘STFU.’ Judge Richard George Kopf, a George H.W. Bush appointee to the federal bench who maintains his own personal blog, has some harsh words for the Supreme Court in the wake of their birth control decision in the closely watched Hobby Lobby case: “the Court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the Court has the power to avoid. As the kids says, it is time for the Court to stfu.”
- Clergy Protest Supreme Court By Handing Out Condoms At Hobby Lobby. “I’m just hoping that [people who see the demonstration] realize that this opinion [of Hobby Lobby’s owners] is not the opinion of religious people as a broad spectrum, but that religious people have many different opinions,” said Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher, a Unitarian Universalist minister who was at the protest. Rev. Mark Winters, a United Church of Christ minister, added, “Jesus had a lot of issue with powerful people using power over the powerless.”
- The Birth Control That Hobby Lobby Won’t Cover Is Leading To A Drop In Teen Births. Teen births in Colorado have dropped by 40 percent over the past five years, thanks largely in part to a state program that provides affordable contraception to low-income women, the state’s governor announced late last week. The long-lasting birth control that’s being partially credited for the dramatic decline is the same contraceptive method at the center of Hobby Lobby’s recent Supreme Court case.
- Two Reasons It’s Too Soon To Panic Over The Supreme Court’s Latest Birth Control Order. An odd Supreme Court order, handed down just four days after the Court’s bombshell opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby raises serious concerns that Hobby Lobby could be even worse for women seeking birth control that was originally apparent. Yet, while these concerns are very real — real enough that all three of the Court’s women joined a blistering dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticizing the Court’s order — it is too soon to conclude with certainty that the Court will follow Thursday’s order in a case known as Wheaton College v. Burwell with the expansion of Hobby Lobby Sotomayor warns about in her dissent. The Wheaton College order should unnerve anyone who believes that a woman’s reproductive health is none of her boss’s business. But it is also far from the Court’s final word on this matter.
- Ginsburg Got It Right: Poor Women Are Getting Screwed By Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby objects to covering two types of emergency contraception and two forms of intrauterine devices (IUDs), incorrectly asserting that those birth control methods can cause abortions. And even though Hobby Lobby supporters argue that women can just pay for their own birth control, footing the full cost of these particular contraceptives is no small feat for women who are struggling to make ends meet. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her scathing dissent to the 5-4 decision, “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”
BOTTOM LINE: Religious liberty is the right to practice religion as you wish and the freedom to not have religion imposed on you by others, especially corporations. Despite the unfortunate ruling last week, supporters of women’s rights are already starting to fight back in creative ways.