Businessman. A corporate executive and philanthropist, he is best known as the longtime chairman of General Motors Corporation (GM). He was born Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr. in New Haven, Connecticut on May 23, 1875, the son of a coffee and tea importer. In 1892, at the age of 17, he graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in electrical engineering as the youngest member of his graduating class. After graduation, he started off as a draftsman in a small machine shop in New Jersey. At his suggestion, the machine shop started making ball bearings. Ball bearing sales boomed, and by age 24, he was made the president of the company. In 1916, his company merged with United Motors Corporation, and he also became the president of that company. In 1918, United Motors Corporation was acquired by GM. Sloan was first made Vice-President of the GM. Later, he became President and then Chairman of the Board. From 1918 until 1924, GM became largest manufacturing company in the entire world, in what is probably the most rapid expansion of any industrial company in world history. In 1934, he established the philanthropic nonprofit Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. During 1995, the Sloan Foundation authorized grants totaling $53 million. The market value of the Foundation's total assets at the end of 1995 was in excess of $900 million. After the Second World War, Sloan masterminded the systematic destruction of the cost-effective and convenient system of urban and interurban trolleys that crisscrossed the entire U.S. One by one GM bought up the trolley lines, dismantled them and destroyed the rolling stock, in the name of “progress” but really in order to stimulate sales of buses and automobiles. By the 1960’s only a handful of cities still retained their trolley lines, and the interurban systems were completely gone. Sloan retired as Chairman of General Motors Corporation in 1956, at age 81. He devoted the remainder of his life to philanthropic pursuits. He died in 1966.
Bio by: Edward Parsons