The First Dodge Car

Horace Dodge (left rear) and John Dodge (right rear) in “Old Betsy” in front of John Dodge’s Boston Boulevard home, 14 November 1914.

One hundred and three years ago on this date – November 14, 1914 — the very first Dodge car, “Old Betsy”, rolled off the assembly line. On that day, the Dodge Brothers (Horace and John) were photographed riding in the rear seat of the first car to bear their last name. It cost $785, had a 110-inch wheelbase, and was powered by an L-head 4-cylinder engine that proved so reliable it was continued until 1920 with very little modification. Total production for 1914 was a mere 249 touring cars. The following year, Dodge offered a two-passenger roadster which also sold for $785 and the plant went into full production.

According to “The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy” by Charles K. Hyde, here’s the full story:

The widely accepted history of the initial production of early Dodge Brothers automobiles in November 1914 is at odds with much of the evidence about the earliest Dodge Brothers cars. Automotive historians have thought that the first production car, later named “Old Betsy,” came off the assembly line at the Hamtramck factory on 14 November 1914. Guy Ameel, superintendent of final assembly for Dodge Brothers since the start of automobile production, served as John and Horace’s chauffeur that day. With the brothers in the back seat, Ameel stopped the first Dodge Brothers car in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Boston Boulevard in Detroit and a photographer recorded this important moment.

“Old Betsy” was more likely an experimental prototype car assembled several months before 14 November 1914 and not a production car at all…

The Dodge Brothers began an aggressive advertising campaign to promote their new automobiles and to attract potential dealers to sell their cars. Lewis Reed was an enterprising young man who put his future in the fledgling automobile industry. In 1915 he received his franchise to sell Dodge Brothers Motor Cars from John and Horace Dodge; less than one year after “Old Betsy” rolled off the assembly line. Lewis Reed and his brother Edgar, were the first to sell Dodge cars in Montgomery County, Maryland. That made Reed Brothers the oldest Dodge dealership under the same family ownership in Maryland, and one of the oldest in the entire nation.

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

2 responses to “The First Dodge Car”

  1. Paul Ley says :

    I have researched and followed the Dodge Family, their Ferology and manufacturing skills, from helping Olds then deserting him, working for Ford in exchange for a shareholding, splitting from Ford and creating a revolutionary line of automobiles and trucks. From putting in 12 volts, from tilt steering wheels etc. Their history is remarkable from being immigrant farm equipment makers to one of the worlds largest. Please find an employee badge, I had a massive collection. They sold Dodges in areas of the south without the star. The Star continued even after the Brothers Deaths and after the sale of Dodge to Chrysler the Star was used. I purchased their German Sidur Hebrew-English prayer book. Their cemetery is available to see.

    • Reed Brothers says :

      Thank you for stopping by Paul, and taking the time to post your comment. I find the history of the Dodge Brothers endlessly fascinating. I have never seen a Dodge Brothers Employee badge. I imagine, like everything else from that time, they are extremely rare.

      My Best Regards,
      Jeanne

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