Jackson’s Auto Industry Gave Detroit A Run For Its Money: 1890s-1920s
Jackson was almost Michigan’s “Detroit #2”. Jackson was right there in the hub of Michigan auto making, as far back as the 1890s.
Jackson resident Byron Carter was enthralled by this new contraption called an ‘automobile’. With a self-educated knowledge, Byron came up with his own gasoline powered vehicle, even though his expertise was with steam engines. In fact, his first vehicle available to the public was the Stanhope, powered by steam, which was manufactured in 1901 by the Michigan Automobile Company in Grand Rapids.
In 1902, with a little more confidence, Byron came up with a three-cylinder, six-horsepower steam engine; and on the strength of this invention, he acquired investors in his new Jackson Automobile Company.
This company made vehicles under two different names. The steam-driven autos were named as “Jaxon” (with the slogan “Steam is Reliable and Easily Understood”) while gas autos were the “Jackson” vehicles.
The Jaxon only lasted in 1903, as investors refused to help fund Byron’s friction drive transmission. Disillusioned and upset, Byron Carter left the company. The company continued and came up with one weird new idea in 1913, a vehicle called “The Duck” that you could drive from the back seat. (But WHY?)
Meantime, Byron Carter founded the Motorcar Company in Jackson, but soon re-named his business the Cartercar Company and moved it to Detroit in 1906.
Other Jackson car companies included a short-lived one started up by David Buick: the Buick Manufacturing Company in 1902.
1905: the Maxwell-Briscoe Motor Company. This morphed into the United States Motor Company, that folded in 1912.
1914: The Briscoe Motor Corporation was launched in Jackson. Its first vehicle featured not two, but one headlight, fixed on top of the radiator.
1916: Briscoe used the advertisement, “Buy the Four. Use it a month. If then you decide you want the Eight, simply pay the difference and a small charge for installation work.”
Finally, in an effort to cut costs, manufacturing simplifications were made, which resulted in many breakdowns and vehicle repairs. The last gasp came with a daring plan to cut costs through product simplification. With that, the Briscoe company folded in 1921.
One last Jackson auto occurred in 1953 with Kaiser’s manufacturing of their “Kaiser Darrin”. And it seems that was it.
This is not a definitive history about Jackson’s amazing automobile boom years – it’s just a brief, nutshell version. You can read many more details about it here.
Jackson's Auto Industry
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