John Mohler Studebaker Obituary

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1917 [unknown]
Location: South Bend, St. Joseph, Indiana, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: Studebaker Automobile Manufacturing
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The online version of the obituary was difficult to read so is reproduced here since it provides a contemporary biography of John M. Studebaker one of the founding brothers of the Studebaker wagon and automobile manufacturing company.

Obituary headline.

Link to online obituary:


Page 7


Was Pioneer Wagon Maker and Long Head of a Big Corporation.


Traveled to California in First Vehicle He Made, and Later Became Known as “Old Wheelbarrow."

[Special to The Indianapolis News]

SOUTH BEND. Ind., March 17.-J. M. Studebaker, age eighty-three, honorary president of the Studebaker Corporation and the last of the five brothers who founded the great manufacturing establishment, died of the grip at his home here late last night after several weeks' illness.

Mr. Studebaker’s First Wagon.

John Mohler Studebaker, Sr., the founder, and, almost to the day of his death, the guiding spirit of the vehicle manufacturing concern that bears his name, constructed his first wagon before he was twenty.

Mr. Studebaker was born near Gettysburg, Pa , October 10, 1833, the son of a blacksmith. He was one of thirteen children. In his youth he moved with the family to Ashland county, Ohio, and later to South Bend, Ind., which city later became the seat of the Studebaker Corporation, with Mr. Studebaker as the head.

As part pay for the privilege of accompanying an expedition across the plains to California In 1853, Studebaker gave the first wagon he ever made. This party set out westward from South Bend with young Studebaker driving the wagon. When the train landed him at Hangtown, now Placerville Cal., the young man’s capital consisted of 50 cents. He set about making wheelbarrows for a man named Hines. He made them so well that he came to be called Wheelbarrow Studebaker.

His First Wheelbarrow.

Returning to Placerville in 1912 on a visit, Mr. Studebaker was a guest at a banquet given by the few of his old Hangtown comrades that remained. “It took me two days to make that first wheelbarrow,” Mr. Studebaker is quoted as having said on the occasion of his visit to Placerville. “And why shouldn’t it? Old Hines gave me only an old rickety saw and some pitch-pine planks.”

“I’ll never forget that first wheelbarrow. Old Hines came over, looked at it, spat on the ground and said: ‘What do you call that?’ I humbly answered: ‘Why, that is a wheelbarrow.' ‘That’s a hell of a wheelbarrow,’ was Hines comment."

Mr. Studebaker, however, improved his art of making wheelbarrows, and during the five years he remained in California laid by $3,000, which he used to buy out his oldest brother’s interest in a wagon shop when he returned to South Bend in 1858. He then founded the firm of C. & J. M. Studebaker.

“Old Wheelbarrow” Visits Mike.

At the banquet table there was one vacant chair, placed for Michael Mayers, former employe of the Studebaker wheelbarrow works, who was sick. Mr. Studebaker had the train, on which he was to leave for the east Immediately after the banquet, held for half an hour, while he visited Mr. Mayers, whom he hailed as Mike, and was in turn called “Old Wheelbarrow.”

Mr. Studebaker was educated in a log schoolhouse In Ashland county, Ohio, where his parents, John and Rebecca Studebaker moved from Pennsylvania. After emigrating to Indiana, the future wagon maker was put to work by his father cutting wood, and it is reported that he could turn out his two cords a day with the best of the wood choppers.

The Studebaker Interests filled the life of J. M. Studebaker. He never had any political aspirations, never held a public office and was opposed to secret societies and lodges, although he was a member of some of the social clubs of the city.

He was honorary president of the Studebaker Corporation, having retired from active management of the concern a few years ago. He formerly was at the big plant every workday of the year, arriving there at 7 o’clock in the morning, two hours ahead of his clerks.

A little old electric automobile, one of the first mechanically propelled vehicles turned out by the Studebakers, was Mr. Studebaker’s favorite and he used it almost exclusively to drive back and forth to his work.

Shook Hands With 3,000.

Mr. Studebaker, on his eightieth birthday, October 10, 1913, held a reception at the local Studebaker plant and, against the advice of his physician, shook hands with each of the 3,000 employes as they filed past him. He made a speech, and said the hand-shaking did not tire him in the least.

“It’s the first time I ever felt like I was shaking hands with myself," said Mr. Studebaker, a few years ago, when he was introduced to J. B. Brower, of Kokomo, Ind., a commissioner of Howard county. There was a marked resemblance between the two men, according to friends of Mr. Studebaker. Both had the same style of beard; the upper lip was shaped very much alike, and both had the same humorous cast to the eye. The resemblance, however, was lost as soon as the two removed their hats. Although Mr. Brower was several years younger than Mr. Studebaker, his head was very bald, while the erstwhile wagon maker had a head of hair of which a man of thirty should be proud.

On January 2, 1860, Mr. Studebaker was married to Mary J. Stull, the daughter of a farmer living near South Bend. To this union three children were born, two daughters, and J. M. Studebaker, Jr.

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