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REO Motor Car Company records

Identifier: 00036


  • Creation: 1904 - 1976


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Historical Note

Both the beginning and end of the REO company occurred amid controversy. The firm was incorporated on August 16, 1904 by R.E. Olds and other investors as the R.E. Olds Company. It quickly passed through several name changes and permutations. On May 30, 1975 the firm, then known as Diamond REO Trucks, Inc., filed for bankruptcy.

Ransom Eli Olds, founder of the Olds Motor Works (later the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors), was forced out of that firm in 1902. Two years later, Olds and other investors formed the R.E. Olds Co. to manufacture automobiles. Following a legal threat from the Olds Motor Works, the R.E. Olds Company's name was changed to the REO Car Company (which later became the REO Motor Car Company).

On October 8, 1910 the investors also formed the REO Motor Truck Company to manufacture trucks, eventually known as "speedwagons." This firm was combined with the REO Motor Car Company on September 29, 1916. During 1919 the firm sold more trucks than cars for the first time, and continued to do so until 1936. In that year car production was halted due to losses from declining sales which were caused by the Great Depression.

The firm was reorganized in 1938 as REO Motors, Inc. with the aid of a $2 million loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). Military contracts during World War II allowed the new firm to record modest gains. With the end of the war, these contracts ended and the gains became drastic losses. In 1946 lawnmower production was added in an effort to boost sales. Several years later Pal Aluminum Products (makers of swingsets and tricycles) were purchased for the same reason.

A $5.7 million RFC five-year loan was taken out by the company on January 18, 1949, to cover losses as well as the principle of the first RFC loan. This second RFC loan was paid in 1951 with a $9 million Victory-loan (V-loan). The V-loan and government contracts resulting from the Korean War enabled REO Motors to show its first sales level better than the 1944 network was not capable of selling the output without these contracts to the majority stockholders decided to sell the firm.

During May of 1954, C. Russell Feldmann of Henney Motor Co. obtained an assignment to REO Motor Co. for the purpose of combining it with another truck manufacturer, Diamond T. (Diamond T made excellent cabs while the REO Gold Cornet Engine was the best available at the time.) On the 29th of October Feldmann sold the assignment to Bohn Aluminum & Brass Corp. of Detroit, Michigan. At the end of 1954, to expedite this transfer, all the assets of REO Motors, Inc. (except cash and unsecured account receivable) were sold to REO Holding Company. REO Holding Company (having the same shareholders as REO Motors Inc.) completed the transfer by mid-1955, and was in the process of liquidation when it was taken over by a group of minority shareholders, who renamed it the Nuclear Corporation of America. The cash assets and unsecured accounts receivable were transferred to REO of Delaware, a holding company two-thirds owned by Bohn Aluminum. REO of Delaware saw to the resolution of these financial assets and liabilities. Nuclear Corp. then brought an unsuccessful suit against REO of Delaware and Bohn Aluminum to halt dissolution.

During this period, Bohn Aluminum also gained control of Diamond T trucks and combined the assets of the two truck companies into one division. This combination was sold to White Motors in 1957 and became the Diamond REO Truck Division of White Motors.


Chronology from Glenn A. Niemeyer, "The Automotive Career of Ransom E. Olds"

June 3, 1864
Ransom E. Olds was born.
September 1880
Olds family moved to Lansing.
Olds went to work at P. F. Olds & Son.
Olds purchased a half interest in P. F. Olds & Son from his brother Wallace.
Olds built a three-wheeled, steam-powered horseless carriage. P. F. Olds & Son purchased a new site on the east side of River Street, built a new plant, and increased the capital stock to $12,000.
June 5, 1889
Olds married Metta U. Woodard.
Olds completed his second steam-powered horseless carriage. It was sold to the Francis Times Co. of London for their Bombay, India branch.
P. F. Olds & Son developed and began to manufacture internal combustion engines.
P. F. Olds & Son was incorporated and the capital stock increased to $30,000.
Olds with assistance of Frank G. Clark built his third horseless carriage, a gasoline-powered vehicle.
August 21, 1897
Formation of the Olds Motor Vehicle Co.
November 1897
Name of P.F. Olds & Son was changed to the Olds Gasoline Engine Works.
Strike at the Olds Gasoline Engine Works. Olds purchased his brother Wallace's stock in the company and in March replaced him with Richard H. Scott.
October 3, 1898
Capital stock of the Olds Gasoline Engine Works was raised to $150,000.
May 8, 1899
Incorporation of the Olds Motor Works through the financing of Samuel L. Smith.
Plant established in Detroit.
February 29, 1900
The Olds Motor Vehicle Company went out of existence.
Fall 1900
"Curved Dash" developed at the Olds Motor Works.
March 9, 1901
Fire destroyed the plant of the Olds Motor Works with the exception of the foundry.
May 1901
Machinists strike at the Olds Motor Works.
August 12, 1901
Olds Motor Works accepted the offer of the Lansing Business Men's Association and decided to build a factory in Lansing in addition to rebuilding the Detroit plant.
October 27 - November 5 1901
Roy D. Chapin drove a curved dash from Detroit to New York for the opening of the Automobile Show.
November 1901
Ray M. Owen and Roy Rainey became the New York agents for the curved dash.
July 6 - September 7, 1903
Eugene Hammond and L. L. Whitman made a transcontinental trip from California to Detroit in a curved dash.
Olds Motor Works sold 4,000 cars.
January 1904
January. Olds was removed as general manager of the Olds Motor Works.
January - April 1904
Olds and his family went on a vacation to California.
May 1904
Horace T. Thomas went to work for Olds as superintendent of his peat factory.

August 16, 1904

Formation of the R.E. Olds Company. The name was changed on September 27, 1904 to the REO Car Company and on April 17, 1906 to the REO Motor Car Company.
August 30, 1904
Draftsmen and machinists under Richard H. Scott and Horace T. Thomas began working on models for the new company.
September 1904
Ray M. Owen and Roy Rainey became the exclusive agents for the REO cars.
October 15, 1904
The first experimental REO was completed.
September - November 1904
Olds worked with Ford in the formation of an independent association of Automobile Manufacturers in opposition to the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers. On February 5, 1905, the American Motor Car Manufacturers' Association was formed, but REO remained an independent.
Summer 1905
Olds in a REO competed in the Glidden Tour.
July 17, 1906
Olds formed the National Coil Company.
October 2, 1907
Olds organized the Michigan Screw Company.
November 20, 1907
Olds established the Atlas Drop Forge Company.
REO joined the American Motor Car Manufacturer's Association.
Olds entered into negotiations for the merger of REO, Ford, Buick, and Maxwell-Briscoe. The proposal fell through, and REO remained Independent.
December 10, 1908
Olds organized the REO Automobile Company, Limited. The name was changed on January 23, 1909 to REO Motor Car Company of Canada, Limited.
REO left the A.M.C.M.A. and joined the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers.
September 15, 1909
Judge Hough ruled in favor of the A.L.A.M. in the Selden patent case.
Spring 1910
Rumors that REO was to be taken over by the United States Motor Car Company.
June 10, 1910
Olds purchased the E. Bement Sons Company plant for the manufacture of trucks.
October 8, 1910
REO Truck Company was organized.
October 19, 1910
REO Motor Truck Company purchased the Owen Motor Car Company of Detroit.
January 9, 1911
Judge Noyes ruled in favor of Ford in the Selden patent case.
The Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers was dissolved. It was succeeded by the Automobile Board of Trade, ancestor of the Automobile Manufacturers' Association.
Olds retired as general manager and was succeeded in that position by Richard H. Scott.
March 1916
Apprentice course was started at REO.
April 19, 1916
Olds organized the REO Farms Company for the development of Oldsmar, a community in Florida. The name of the firm was changed a short time later to the REOLDS Farms Company.
November 10, 1916
The REO Motor Truck Company was absorbed by the REO Motor Car Company.
Olds financed and brought to Oldsmar the Kardell Tractor and Truck Company.
January 1923
Olds exchanged Oldsmar for the Bellerive Hotel in Kansas City.
December 20, 1923
Olds resigned as president of REO and was given the honorary position, chairman of the board.
December, 1923
REO purchased the Duplex Truck Company.
Olds purchased controlling interest in the Bates and Edmonds Motor Company.
January 1927
REO announced the "Flying Cloud."
May 5, 1927
REO announced the "Wolverine."
Olds reorganized the Bates and Edmonds Motor Company and renamed it the Hill Diesel Engine Co.
April 1, 1929
REO Motors Britain, Limited, was organized.
February 12, 1930
William Robert Wilson replaced Scott as general manager and a voting trust agreement was established.
October 9, 1930
REO announced the "Royable."
March 24, 1931
REO purchased the Dodge Brothers plant in Toronto and began to manufacture cars and trucks in Canada.
April 1931
REO Sales Corporation was formed.
June 30, 1931
Voting trust was terminated.
March 5, 1932
William Robert Wilson resigned as general manager and Richard H. Scott again became general manager.
December 7, 1932
The par value of REO's common stock was halved from $10 per share to $5.
December 18, 1933
Richard H. Scott was deposed as general manager. Olds became chairman of the executive committee.
January 4, 1934
Ray A. DeVlieg replaced Harry C. Teel.
February 1934
Horace T. Thomas was replaced as chief engineer by Ray J. Fitness.
April 1934
Proxy struggle between the Independent Stockholders' Committee and the New Management Committee.
April 16, 1934
Horace T. Thomas and Richard H. Scott withdrew from the proxy struggle.
April 17, 1934
Stockholders meeting in which the Olds faction retained control of the company.
December 17, 1934
Olds resigned as chairman of the executive committee.
Rumors circulated that REO would consolidate with Cord, Pierce-Arrow, Graham, and Hupp.
July 15, 1935
REO agreed to permit Graham-Paige to use their dies.
September 3, 1936
REO suspended the production of automobiles.
December 28, 1936
Olds announced his retirement from the REO Motor Car Company.
December 16, 1938
REO was placed in receivership.
January 1940
REO obtained a $2,000,000 loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and resumed operations under a new name, REO Motors, Inc.
Olds opened Olds Hall in Daytona Beach, Florida to retired ministers and missionaires.
August 26, 1950
Olds died at his home.
REO was purchased by the Bohn Aluminum & Brass Corporation of Detroit.
July 5, 1957
REO was purchased from the Bohn Aluminum & Brass Corporation by the White Motor Company.


170 Cubic Feet (283 volumes)

Language of Materials


Organization of the Records

These records are organized into 18 series.

Missing Title

  1. Series 1: Administration. 1904-1975, undated. 51 cubic feet, 109 volumes
  2. Series 2: Personnel. 1905-1960. 22 cubic feet, 5 volumes
  3. Series 3: Sales. 1933-1966. 38 cubic feet, 27 volumes
  4. Series 4: Foreign Correspondence. 1923-1959. 7 cubic feet
  5. Series 5: Relations With U.S. Government. 1939-1957. 8 cubic feet, 11 volumes
  6. Series 6: Production. 1940-1952. 2 cubic feet, 103 volumes
  7. Series 7: Legal Office. 1867-1958. 20 cubic feet, 18 volumes
  8. Series 8: Technical Information. 1905-1958. 3 cubic feet
  9. Series 9: Miscellaneous. 1936-1959. 3.5 cubic feet, 6 volumes
  10. Series 10: Blueprints. 1909-1976. 6 cubic feet
  11. Series 11: White Motor Co. Division Records. 1911-1974. 2 cubic feet, 14 volumes
  12. Series 12: Films. circa 1928, circa 1950. 16 Reels
  13. Series 13: Oversized Materials
  14. Series 14: Photographs
  15. Series 15: Glass Negatives
  16. Series 16: Oversized Photographs
  17. Series 17: Scrapbooks
  18. Series 18: Postcards

Related Materials

See also Ransom E. Olds papers (00027) See also REO Publications collection (00182)

General Note

Data on other REO firms included in this collection:

REO Holding Co., (Lansing), 1954-1955 - Sold plant to Bohn Aluminum

REO Kull Car Co. (Oklahoma), 1927-(?) - Sales agent, sales financier

REO Motor Car Co. (Lansing), 1905-1938 - Manufacturer

REO Motor Car Co. of Canada, Ltd. 1908-1915(?) - Manufacturer

REO Motor Car Co. of Chicago, 1916-1930 - Sales agent

REO Motor Car Co. of Missouri, Inc., 1924-1930 - Sales agent

REO Motor Truck Co. (Lansing), 1910-1916 - Truck manufacturer, sold to REO Car Co.

REO Motors Ltd. (Britain) - Manufacturer

REO of Delaware (Lansing, incorporated in Delaware), 1954-1955 - Wound up financial affairs of REO Motors, Inc. REO Sales & Service, Inc., (Atlanta), 1926-1931 - Sales agent

REO Truck Leasing, Inc. (Lansing), 1952-1956 - Lessor

REO Truck Leasing, Ltd., (Canada), 1952-1954 - Lessor


REO Motor Company Records
4 Published And Cataloged
R. Harms
February 1985
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US