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Roy D. Chapin

The Man Behind the Hudson Motor Car Company

J. C. Long With an Introduction by Charles K. Hyde

Publication Year: 2004

"John Cuthbert Long’s Roy D. Chapin is a thorough and detailed biography of a remarkable, but little-known Detroit automobile industry pioneer. Historians should include Roy Dikeman Chapin (February 23, 1880–February 16, 1936) in any listing of significant American auto industry pioneers, along with the Duryea brothers, Ransom E. Olds, Henry Leland, Henry Ford, William C. Durant, and the Dodge brothers. Outside the cloister of automotive historians, Roy Chapin is an unknown. This is in part because no company or car bore his name. Unlike many contemporary auto pioneers, Roy Chapin was a modest man who did not promote himself. Even Long’s superb biography of Chapin is not well-known because it was privately printed in 1945 with a small press run. In reprinting this volume, Wayne State University Press is making an important contribution to automotive history." —From the introduction by Charles K. Hyde, Department of History, Wayne State University

Published by: Wayne State University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page

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p. 3-3


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p. 4-4


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p. 5-5


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

I never knew my grandfather, Roy D. Chapin. He died in 1936, twelve years before I was born. In fact, he never knew any of his grandchildren or great-grandchildren. That is one of the reasons I am pleased this book is being reprinted. Younger members of our family will get to know him better. ...

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pp. xv-xviii

J. C. Long's Roy D. Chapin is a thorough and detailed biography of a remarkable but little-known Detroit automobile industry pioneer. Historians should include Roy D. Chapin (February 23, 1880-February 16, 1936) in any listing of significant American auto industry leaders, ...

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Preface to the 1945 Edition

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pp. xix-17

Roy Dikeman Chapin was a man who might well inspire a host of biographies from various points of view, for he was many-sided and had an intense interest in many phases of life. He was friendly to an exceptional degree, and had the gift of participating in another's outlook as though it were his own. ...

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I. Blazing the Trails of Tomorrow

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pp. 1-8

It was a large audience of men that October afternoon in Constitution Hall, Washington, D. C. There were, in fact, more than a thousand delegates, from sixty-four different countries, the most representative global conference that had ever been held in Washington. ...

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II. A Grass-Roots Boyhood

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pp. 9-18

On February 23, 1880, Roy Dikeman Chapin was born at Lansing, Michigan, under a favorable star. His father, Edward C. Chapin, was a lawyer of prominence in the State. The family had only moderate means, but they were among the leading citizens in a comfortable and vigorous community where great wealth was virtually unknown. ...

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III. University Days

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pp. 19-26

Roy entered the University of Michigan in the winter of 1899 with considerably more seriousness of purpose than the usual college student. Though he liked people, and settled naturally into the social pleasures of college life, he was restive. Many of his high school classmates were already out in the world, ...

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IV. Detroit-to-New York Pioneer Tour

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pp. 27-34

It is probable, however, that neither he nor his associates at that time had the perspective to describe his job in that way. His post with Oldsmobile was similar to that of some bright educated young man of the 1940's in the management group of a small concern equipped to manufacture television instruments or helicopters. ...

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V. Revolt At Oldsmobile

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pp. 35-46

Olsmobile, thanks to the Detroit-New York trip and its sensational results, was now enthusiastically committed to the one-cylinder runabout. It opened up a new and untapped market. Production in 1902 rose to 3,299 cars. The company became at once a leader in the low-priced field, ...

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VI. Launching his First Company

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pp. 47-58

When Chapin and his sister reached San Francisco, in the spring of 1906, they stayed at the St. Francis, which was the leading hotel of the city, and a gathering place for money and fashion. Roy was a stickler for fine foods and fine wines even in the days when his purse was slim, and on his travels he treated himself to the best. ...

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VII. Out of Debt and on their Way

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pp. 59-66

Chapin and his associates felt that they were definitely on their way, with excellent prospects for the summer and fall of 1907. They decided that their existing plant was not good enough and engaged Albert Kahn, then a young architect in the early stages of his reputation, ...

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VIII. Chalmers-Detroit, and Beginnings of Hudson

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pp. 67-76

The change in 1908 from Thomas-Detroit to the Chalmers-Detroit organization, with its high-priced, two-fisted president, was definitely a new era for the Chapin partners. No tricycle races at cotillions, and no firecrackers under the chairs of secretaries. ...

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IX. Forecasting Future Trends

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pp. 77-88

Roy's business letters and reports on the European trip were addressed to Hugh Chalmers, and were circulated to the executive staff of Chalmers-Detroit. There is every indication that they were written to be of help to the company, and there was no suggestion at this stage that Chapin was thinking of severing connections with the concern. ...

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X. On their Own at Last

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pp. 89-96

Hudson had gotten away to a good start in respect to orders, and while the little plant was behind on production, that at least was better than making more cars than the buying public would take. Roy and Howard and Fred in September, 1909, began again to review, ...

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XI. A Millionaire at Thirty

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pp. 97-116

The huge, new Hudson factory was completed in the fall of 1910, and made a striking impression on the automobile world. It was designed by Albert Kahn who had laid out the little Thomas-Detroit plant for the partners. The new Hudson plant helped to establish Kahn as one of America's leading industrial architects. ...

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XII. Wednesday in Georgia

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pp. 117-126

Inez, looking at the new visitor, saw a grave, dignified, rosy-cheeked young man wearing a brown suit. In repose his face was serious and reserved. Then he broke into a dazzling smile, through which shone all of the boyishness of his nature. The contrast was fascinating. ...

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XIII. Hudson's Growing Pains

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pp. 127-138

While marriage is always a drastic change in the pattern of life for anyone, in Roy's case it was unusually sweeping. He and Inez were completely absorbed in each other from the outset, and the highly eligible young man who had been an incessant ...

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XIV. With Pershing On the Border

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pp. 139-144

Whenever affairs at the company were running smoothly so that Roy could address his mind to other subjects, he did so with vigor and enthusiasm. His zeal for business, so characteristic in his early days, had become secondary, now that he had achieved a fortune. ...

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XV. Pioneer in Motor Transport

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pp. 145-154

In the opening months of 1917, the United States was being drawn nearer and nearer to participation in World War I. For a time the nation hoped that a series of protests addressed by President Wilson to the German Government might be effective. ...

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XVI. Running America's Road Traffic

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pp. 155-166

To understand Roy's problem as head of Highway Transport in the United States, it is necessary to keep in mind that even at that relatively late date the modern types of highway were unknown. There were some cement roads, but the engineers had not yet solved the problem of expansion ...

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XVII.Wartime Washington

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pp. 167-172

Whenever Inez was in Washington, the comfortable Chapin home on Connecticut Avenue was a haven for Roy. It was a limestone dwelling in the Rock Creek Park area. Here the dinner hour became a daily ritual of relaxation where officials, friends, and sometimes just he and she, gathered for a cheering relief ...

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XVIII. Birth of the Essex

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pp. 173-182

Roy, son had converted from making automobiles to producing war materials, and now the war contracts were cancelled. Post-war re-conversion was certain to be costly, and the company's financial backlog was small, for it had not profited from the war. ...

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XIX. America Welcomes the Closed Car

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pp. 183-190

Roy, with the new Hudson-Essex success, had reaffirmed his position as one of the chief leaders of the industry, at a time when many of the old names were passing. The Dodge brothers had contracted pneumonia at the time of the 1920 automobile show, the illness resulting in their death. ...

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XX. Financial Climax

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pp. 191-198

The sensational success of the Essex coach, added to the unmortgaged position of the company, had made the Hudson property peculiarly attractive to Wall Street, and in the early part of 1922 the financial house of Hornblower & Weeks, supported by the Bankers Trust Company of New York ...

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XXI. New Homes for Old

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pp. 199-204

Roy was very eager to accomplish various things on the home front, not the least of which was a larger residence. He and Inez had moved into the house on Beverly Road on their return from their wedding trip in 1914, and even at the time had looked upon it as a temporary home. ...

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XXII. Leader of the Automobile Industry

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pp. 205-218

During the years 1924-1928, while Roy was enjoying an increased amount of time with his family, he was also greatly amplifying his contribution to the motor industry and the public. He became the officially recognized leader of the automobile manufacturers in 1927. ...

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XXIII. End of an Era

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pp. 219-228

Herbert Hoover was elected to the presidency on November 6, 1928, in a landslide which reflected a general belief that prosperity could continue forever. Stock market values continued to move forward, and in 1929 Hudson reached a high of 93½. ...

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XXIV. Secretary of Commerce

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pp. 229-244

As the year 1932 went on, however, national conditions grew worse rather than better. The Administration at Washington was trying valiantly to bolster public confidence in the face of a nationwide business depression. President Hoover was convinced that the necessary corrections had been made ...

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XXV. Again at the Hudson Wheel

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pp. 245-254

The problems which Roy Chapin faced on his return to Detroit in March 1933 were appalling. The nation was in the midst of the worst financial debacle in its history. The Hoover administration for three years had made many efforts to reverse the downward spiral of industry which had been precipitated by the stock market crash in October 1929. ...

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XXVI. Building for Tomorrow

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pp. 255-264

At first glance it might seem that a company like Hudson with established manufacturing ability, a modern plant, an experienced management, would have no trouble in getting funds. That would have been true in the 1920's, but obviously conditions were now completely different. ...


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pp. 265-269

E-ISBN-13: 9780814336045
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814331842

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 73
Publication Year: 2004

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Subject Headings

  • Chapin, Roy D. (Roy Dikeman), 1880-1936.
  • Automobile engineers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Industrialists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Hudson Motor Car Company -- History.
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