In association with our coverage of the Detroit Auto Show (aka North American International Auto Show) and the upcoming Michigan International Auto Show in Grand Rapids, we are taking rear view mirror look at the REO Motor Car Company.
The R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing is a great place to learn about Olds and about the automotive industry in Lansing. The page on the Reo Motor Car Company Plant from the National Historic Landmark program says that:
By 1907 Reo had gross sales of four million dollars and the company was one of the top four automobile manufacturers in the US. After 1908 however, despite the introduction of improved cars designed by Olds, Reo’s share of the automobile market shrank due in part to the development of giants like Ford and General Motors. Reo’s stagnation must be attributed in large part to Olds himself, who was talented mechanically but not administratively.
The Reo Motor Company did moderately well into the 1920′s, but REO struggled during the Great Depression, ultimately ending car production in 1936. Here is a look at the Image of the Month from January 2007 at the Archives of Michigan featuring a set of blueprints of the R.E. Olds Mansion in Lansing.
Having featured many Michigan Notable Books on Absolute Michigan it seemed appropriate to dig up the 2005 notable book – “The Story of Reo Joe: Work, Kin, and Community in Autotown U.S.A.” by Lisa M. Fine (You can read excerpts from the book by following the link)
“The Reo Motor Car Company operated in Lansing, Michigan, for seventy years, and encouraged its thousands of workers to think of themselves as part of a factory family. Reo workers, most typically white, rural, native-born Protestant men, were dubbed Reo Joes. These ordinary fellows had ordinary aspirations: job security, decent working conditions, and sufficient pay to support a family. They treasured leisure time for family activities (many sponsored by the company), hunting, and their fraternal organizations. Even after joining a union, Reo Joes remained loyal to the company and proud of the community built around it.
Lisa M. Fine tells the Reo story from the workers’ perspective on the vast social, economic, and political changes that took place in the first three quarters of the twentieth century. Lisa Fine explores their understanding of the city where they lived, the industry that employed them, and the ideas about work, manhood, race, and family that shaped their identities.”
R.E. Olds: The Man Behind the Wheel
Matt writes: This is a VERY early cut of a documentary I am producing on R.E. Olds, founder of the Oldsmobile and REO car companies. This was played in 2004 at the REO Car Company Centennial celebration (my first big premiere!) and I am currently recutting it for the R.E. Olds Museum in Lansing, MI. (direct link to video)
Photos of the REO Motor Plant – Library of Congress
Reo Motor Company – Michigan.gov (History, Arts & Libraries)
An exhaustive compilation of Oldsmobile links – Automotive World Magazine
THE REMARKABLE STORY OF A BABY REO; 1905 TO 2008 – The Auto Channel
At 102, Baby Car Goes Home Again – The New York Times
Oldsmobile was America’s oldest nameplate – The Detroit News