Ransom Eli Olds


Ransom Eli Olds Famous memorial

Geneva, Ashtabula County, Ohio, USA
Death 26 Aug 1950 (aged 86)
Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan, USA
Burial Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan, USA
Plot Family Mausoleum
Memorial ID 778 View Source

American inventor and automotive pioneer, best known as the founder of the car company that became Oldsmobile Motor Division of General Motors Corporation (GM). He was born Ransom Eli Olds on June 3, 1864, in Geneva, Ohio, the younger of two sons of Pliny Fisk Olds and Sarah Whipple Olds. His father was a blacksmith and later became a store owner. For the first 22 years of Ransom's life, the family remained in Geneva, Ohio, then moved to Lansing, Michigan, where his father opened a forge and store 'P.F. Olds and Son'. His older brother Wallace was half owner of the family business until Ransom bought him out for $1000.00. In 1886, Ransom began experimenting with a steam-powered engine. By 1887, he had built his first car, a 3-wheeled, steam-powered vehicle that could travel up to 18 miles on level ground. In 1893, P.F. Olds and Son sold a 4-wheeled steam car to a firm in India. This was the first car to be sold abroad in the United States. However, on the way to India, the ship delivering the car sank, and so the customer never received the purchase. In 1886, he received his first patent for a gasoline-powered car, and started considering opening his own business to manufacture it. He founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan on August 21, 1897. Olds sold his company to copper and lumber magnate Samuel Latta Smith in 1899. The company was relocated from Lansing to Detroit and renamed Olds Motor Works. Smith became President while Ransom became Vice President and General Manager. In 1901 Ransom designed the legendary Curved Dash Oldsmobile which was the first commercially successful car mass-produced on an assembly line in the U.S., which sold for $650. Although the factory was destroyed by fire that year, they still sold over 600 models of the Curved Dash. In 1904 sales were up to 5000 units. Ransom and Smith clashed frequently until Smith removed Ransom from the position of Vice President and General Manager in 1904. Ransom E. Olds then left the company he had founded. The Olds Motor Works was purchased, as part of the formation of GM, by William Crapo Durant in 1908 and formed the basis of the Oldsmobile Motor Division of GM. The Oldsmobile brand, after a successful production run of 99 years, was discontinued by GM in 2004, but it is still fondly remembered with a well-deserved reputation for high quality cars noted for their leadership in technology and design. After leaving Olds Motor works, Ransom went on to form the R.E. Olds Motor Car Company which was quickly changed to Reo Motor Company to avoid a lawsuit from the Olds Motor Works. The name Reo came from his initials (R.E.O.) used as an acronym. By 1907 he had built Reo into one of the automotive industry's leaders, but after declining to participate in the formation of GM in 1908, the company steadily lost ground to its competitors. Ransom Olds resigned as general manager of Reo in 1915, but he retained his seat on the board of directors. When Reo went out of the car business in 1936, Olds resigned from the board and sold his remaining stock. The firm was reorganized in 1938 as Reo Motors, Inc. a bus and truck company, with the aid of a $2 million loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). In 1954, Reo merged with Diamond T. (Diamond T made excellent cabs while the Reo Gold Cornet Engine was the best available at the time.) Diamond Reo Trucks, Inc. was always known for high-quality trucks, but steadily lost market share to lower-cost competition, and went bankrupt in 1975. After 1915 Olds turned most of his attention from the automobile business to other activities, including the marketing of the world's first gasoline-powered lawn mower, which he had invented, and land development in Florida. Olds purchased 37,541 acres of land by the northern part of Tampa Bay in Florida and developed the area into what is now the city of Oldsmar, Florida, just West of Tampa. It was originally intended to be a pleasant and affordable place for ministers of all denominations to retire.

Bio by: Edward Parsons

Family Members



In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees



How famous was Ransom Eli Olds?

Current rating:

147 votes

to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 778
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Ransom Eli Olds (3 Jun 1864–26 Aug 1950), Find a Grave Memorial ID 778, citing Mount Hope Cemetery, Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .