Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Dodge, John

John Francis Dodge was an automotive pioneer who founded the Dodge automobile brand along with his brother Horace Dodge. Dodge was born in Niles, Michigan in 1864. With his younger brother, he learned the trade of machining, working after school on marine engines in their father’s shop.

After working for several companies in Detroit and Windsor, John and Horace opened their own machine shop in 1901, calling it Dodge Brothers. A large order for transmissions from Ransom E. Olds set them on their course. In 1903, Henry Ford hired them to manufacture and supply his parts, breaking with Olds and becoming Ford stockholders in the process. Leaving Ford in 1914 as wealthy men, the Dodge brothers began to produce their own vehicles. The Dodge car was so well liked that its sales almost surpassed those of Ford.

John married his first wife, Ivy Hawkins in 1892 and had three children: Winifred, Isabel Cleves, and John Duval. When Ivy died in 1901 John secretly married his housekeeper, Isabelle Smith in December 1903, but they divorced by 1907. The marriage and divorce were not known outside of the family until 1980 when papers were released after John’s last child died. Following the divorce, John married his secretary, Matilda Rausch in 1907 and had three children: Frances, Daniel, and Anna Margaret.

The Dodges lived on East Boston Boulevard at Woodward in a Tudor style house built in 1906 by Smith, Hinchman and Grylls and owned 320 acres near Rochester, a country retreat called Meadow Brook Farms. John also bought lake front property near his brother in Grosse Pointe Farms, and began building a house that was uncompleted at the time of his death and subsequently demolished.

Dodge served on the Detroit Water Commission and was a member of the Board of Street Railway Commissioners. Like Horace, he had an interest in boating and together they built several yachts including the Hornet II and the Nokomis I and II, both commissioned by the U.S. Navy.

John Dodge died of pneumonia in New York in 1920 where he and Horace were attending an Auto Show. Thousands of mourners, many of them Dodge factory workers, viewed the body at the Dodge home. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1997 and is buried in the Dodge mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.



Dodge Brothers Co. Executives photo

John Dodge seated next to the Mayor

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