William Crapo Durant

William Crapo Durant

Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 18 Mar 1947 (aged 85)
Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA
Memorial ID 4151 · View Source
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Industrialist, Financier. He was the founder of the General Motors Corporation. Born in Boston. Massachusetts, he quit school at 16 to work in his grandfather's Flint, Michigan, lumberyard. By 1885 he had partnered with Josiah Dallas Dort to design a two-wheeled carriage and organized the Coldwater Road Cart Company to produce it. Sales took off and Durant and Dort soon became wealthy. By 1890, Durant-Dort Carriage Company was the nation's largest, producing approximately 50,000 horse-drawn vehicles a year. In 1904, Durant was approached by James Whiting of the Buick Company to promote his automobiles and persuaded him to join Buick as General Manager. In three short years Buick led the United States automobile production by manufacturing 8,820 vehicles. Between 1904 and 1908, Durant was made Buick's president and established several essential parts and accessory companies such as Weston-Mott and Champion Ignition Company. By 1908 the top four auto producers in the U.S. were Buick, Reo (headed by Ransom E. Olds), Maxwell -Briscoe, (headed by Benjamin and Frank Briscoe) and Ford (headed by Henry Ford). Benjamin Briscoe wanted all four producers to merge and form one large company. Negotiations began in New York City, New York, and ended when Ford demanded cash instead of stock and pulled out of the deal, along with Reo. Still determined to start this new auto company, Durant continued without Ford and Reo. On September 16, 1908, he incorporated General Motors of New Jersey (GM) with a capital investment of $2,000. Within 12 days the company issued stocks that generated over $12,000,000 in cash. GM then purchased Buick with stock. Six weeks later, GM acquired the Olds Corporation of Lansing, Michigan, followed by the Oakland Company. Oakland was located in Pontiac, Michigan, and would later be renamed Pontiac. Finally, Durant sought to acquire Cadillac Motor Car Company from Henry M. Leland and his son. The Leland's would only settle for cash ($4.5 million). GM could not raise this amount of money, but Buick could. Cadillac was then bought with Buick funds, thereby becoming a subsidiary of Buick. During this same period, Durant also acquired many truck and parts supply companies, including AC-Delco, which he helped form with Albert Champion and still bears his initials today. In an 18 month burst of aggressive buying, William Durant purchased a substantial interest in almost 30 auto makers. However, he eventually became financially overextended and consequently, lost control of GM to banking interests in 1910. Undeterred, Durant partnered with Louis Chevrolet to form Chevrolet Motor Company in 1911 and used the profits from Chevrolet to regain control of GM in 1915. However, Durant's aggressive management style once again proved problematic. He was forced out in 1920 by then GM president Pierre DuPont in exchange for paying off Durant's debts. Determined to regain status in the automotive world, he formed Durant Motors in 1921 and produced a line of cars bearing his name for the next 10 years until a declining market and the Great Depression ended his automotive career in 1933. From 1934 until his death, he dabbled in stocks, politics, and social issues. None of these later ventures reflected his former bold thinking and he faded from public life, dying in 1947. .

Bio by: Edward Parsons

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 12 Dec 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 4151
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Crapo Durant (8 Dec 1861–18 Mar 1947), Find a Grave Memorial no. 4151, citing Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .