The C.R. Patterson and Sons Company: Black Pioneers in the Vehicle Building Industry, 1865-1939
Independently Published (2022)
Reviewed by Lily Andrews for Reader Views (2022)
At the inception of the locomotive Golden Age experienced at the turn of the century, many cottage vehicle enterprises were started in America with many merchants welcoming the dynamism in this field as many people were turning from horse-drawn carriages to vehicles fueled by internal combustion engines. While some of these firms sprouted to become mega-companies that are still in existence today, others remained small scale, grappling to compete with other larger locomotive assemblies.
“The C.R. Patterson and Sons Company: Black Pioneers in the Vehicle Building Industry, 1865-1939” is a compelling, behind-the-scenes account of one such company, C.R. Patterson & Sons of Greenfield based in Ohio and makers of the Patterson-Greenfield automobile. In a field dominated by White manufacturers, this company was the only African American-owned and operated automobile company.
Award-winning author, Christopher Nelson, writes with precision and candor, as he offers a clear-eyed chronicle of this company’s transition from making carriages, automobiles, buses, and trucks in a bid to keep pace with the whirlwind of change that was happening in the motoring field.
The book does not tally in its progress, but progresses with firm details and information on the geographical and family background of the company owners. With a stirring preface and a spirited introduction, Nelson engages readers from the first sentence with his laity-friendly language to the last sentence capturing all the awe and fascination of a truly lionized period in automotive history.
The author further provides visual history through numerous vintage photographs that shine authenticity as they accentuate the topic herein. Throughout, he adds essential details not found anywhere else, including pointing out some of the challenges that the Patterson Company struggled with, including ostracism, fierce competition, the changing demands of the economy, and lack of capital.
“The C.R. Patterson and Sons Company: Black Pioneers in the Vehicle Building Industry, 1865-1939” is a comprehensive and magisterial study that makes an irrefutable addition to Black History. Nelson’s thorough research is evident during the reading and manages to give this five-star work a towering grace. Long-term car enthusiasts and new car owners alike will find an enlightening enchiridion in this award-winning feat.