Historic Structures

Cole Motor Car Company Indianapolis Indiana

Date added: April 27, 2016 Categories: Indiana Auto Companies Industrial

Joseph J. Cole, the man who was to become one of Indiana's leading automobile manufacturers, was born on March 23, 1869, on a farm in Waterloo, Indiana. J. J. Cole disliked farming and upon graduating from high school at the age of 16 enrolled in the Richmond Business College, where he completed a one-year course. From there he embarked upon a career in the carriage and buggy industry, first being employed by the Parry Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis and later working for the Moon Brothers Carriage Company of St. Louis. During his tenure with these two firms, he gained experience in all phases of the carriage manufacturing industry. However, his greatest success came as a salesman, and because of the large sales commissions he was able to earn he had saved $25,000 by the time he was 35 years old. In November, 1904, at the age of 35, he purchased a one-half interest in the up-and-coming Gates-Osborne Carriage Company of Indianapolis.

The Gates-Osborne Carriage Company had been organized in Indianapolis in 1902 and the small carriage factory had prospered during the first two years of operation under the guidance of T. M. Osborne, president of the company. J. J. Cole became the company's second president in November, 1904, and in December of the following year the name of the company was changed to the Cole Carriage Company. Under Cole's leadership, the operations of the company were expanded. By 1907, 49 different models of carriages and driving wagons were being manufactured.

During a business slump in the latter part of 1907, J. J. Cole began to give serious thought to building an automobile. In this, of course, he was not unique; Studebaker, Durant-Dort, Overland, and Moon automobiles all were products of one-time carriage manufacturers.

The first Cole automobile was built in the barn of one of Mr. Coles neighbors, the man being a good mechanic as well as a good neighbor. The first model was shown to the board of directors in October, 1908. It was a high-wheeled, solid-the model designed in a functional manner to accommodate the driving conditions of the day. It was later described in the Cole catalog as being "particularly desirable in sections of the country where necessary to ford creeks in absence of a bridge."

The Automobile Department of the Cole Carriage Company assembled and sold 170 of the 14-horsepower automobiles in the next seven months. Soon after plans for the second model began to be formed.