WHITE Motor Company Cleveland Ohio USA 1900 – 1980 Buses and more

White Motor Company

White Motor Company
Industry Automotive
Fate Acquired
Successors AB Volvo
Founded 1900
Founders Thomas White
Defunct 1980
Headquarters Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Products Vehicles
Automotive parts

The White Motor Company was an American automobile and truck manufacturer from 1900 until 1980. The company also produced bicyclesroller skates, automatic lathes, and sewing machines. Before World War II, the company was based in Cleveland, Ohio.

History

Advertisement for the White Sewing Machine Company’s 1905 model

About 1898, Thomas H. White purchased a Locomobile steam car and found its boiler unreliable. His son, Rollin, set out to improve its design. Rollin White developed a form of water tube steam generator which consisted of a series of stacked coils with two novel features: the first was that the coils were all joined at the top of the unit, which allowed water to flow only when pumped, allowing control of the steam generation; the second was pulling steam from the lowest coil, closest to the fire, which allowed control of steam temperature. This second point was critical because the White steamer operated with superheated steam to take advantage of steam’s properties at higher temperatures. Rollin White patented his steam generator, US patent 659,837 of 1900.[1]

White steamer

1907 White Model G steam touring car

 A 1907 White Model G steam touring car at the Henry Ford Museum.

Rollin H. White patented his new design and offered it to, among others, Locomobile. Finally, he persuaded his father, founder of the White Sewing Machine Company, to allow the use of a corner in one of his buildings to build an automobile.

White’s brother Windsor, who was a management talent, joined the business venture, followed by their brother Walter, who became instrumental in the sales, promotion and distribution of the product. The first group of fifty cars were completed in October 1900, but none were offered to the public until April 1901 so the design could be thoroughly tested. Since the cars were being offered by the automobile department of the sewing machine company, White could not afford to diminish the reputation of the parent company by the introduction of an untested product.

It became necessary in 1905 to separate the automobile department from its parent company to accommodate the growth of the business and to physically separate them, as a fire in one could ruin both operations. On July 4, 1905, a racing steam car named “Whistling Billy” and driven by Webb Jay set a record of 73.75 mph (118.69 km/h) on the Morris Park Racecourse.

1909 The Presidents White 40 Hp TaftMotorCar1909

 Taft’s car
1909 White Touring Car

1909 White touring car at the Petersen Automotive Museum

A 1907 White steamer was one of the early vehicles in the White House when Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, allowed the Secret Service to use the car behind his horse-drawn carriage. In 1909, president William Howard Taft converted the White House stables into a garage and purchased four automobiles: two Pierce-Arrows, a Baker Electric, and a 1911 White. This $4,000 car was one of the last steam cars produced and proved a favorite of the President who used bursts of steam against “pesky” press photographers. The 40 hp (30 kW) White Model M 7-seat tourer generated favorable press for the newly formed White Motor Company.

The last steam car was built in January 1911 as the company made a transition to gasoline-powered vehicles. The company continued to show them in their catalogues as late as 1912. About 10,000 White steam-powered cars were built, more than the better known Stanley.

Gasoline models

White companies’ manufacturing facility expanded. The White steamer used unique technology, and it was vulnerable in a market that was accepting the internal combustion engine as the standard. White canvassed existing gas manufacturers and licensed the rights to the Delahaye design for the “gas car”, showing a chassis at an English auto show in December 1908.

White tractors

Rollin became more interested in agricultural tractors, and developed designs for tractors derived from standard White truck parts. When the White Company was not interested in producing tractors, Rollin set out to develop his own designs and, with brother Clarence, eventually founded Cleveland Motor Plow, which later became Cletrac tractor. In the early 1920s, Rollin briefly produced the Rollin car to diversify the tractor company, but found it could not compete in cost versus price against much larger manufacturers.

White was successful with their heavy machines, which saw service around the world during World War I. White remained in the truck industry for decades.

Truck manufacturing

1930-41 White fire Truck Old_CFD_Squad_10_truck2

White truck in the Chicago Fire Department from 1930 to 1941

White Motor Company ended car production after WWI and began producing trucks. The company soon sold 10 percent of all trucks made in the US. Although White produced all sizes of trucks from light delivery to semi, the decision was made after WWII to produce only large trucks. White acquired several truck companies during this time: Sterling, Autocar, Diamond T, and REO. White also agreed to sell Consolidated Freightways trucks through its own dealers. White produced trucks under the Autocar nameplate following its acquisition. Diamond T and REO Motor Car Company became the Diamond REO division, which was discontinued in the 1970s.

A White semi performed a role in the 1949 James Cagney film, “White Heat“. This era was probably the peak of White Motor market penetration, with the substantial gasoline engined tractors moving a large part of the tractor trailer fleet.

White designed and (with other companies) produced the M3 Scout Car, the standard United States Army reconnaissance vehicle at the start of World War II. White also built the later M2 and M3 half-tracks.

In 1967, White started the Western Star division to sell trucks on the west coast.

White buses

White Red Jammers Canada Alberta Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Waterton Lakes National Park Waterton Prince of Wales Hotel

Two ‘red jammers’ at the Prince of Wales Hotel

In the 1930s, White produced 500 of their small Model 706 buses specifically designed to carry passengers through the major National Parks of the western US. The distinctive vehicles, with roll-back canvas convertible tops, were the product of noted industrial designer Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, and originally operated in seven National Parks. Today, Glacier National Park operates 33 of their original 35 buses, where they are referred to as “Red Jammers“, and 8 (of an original 98) have been restored for renewed service in Yellowstone National Park. Glacier National Park‘s 33 buses were refurbished by Ford Motor Company and TransGlobal in 2000-2002, while Yellowstone National Park‘s eight buses were refurbished by TransGlobal in 2007. Glacier has kept one bus in original condition. Yellowstone has five White buses in original condition, two model 706s and three older units as well. In addition, Gettysburg National Battlefield operates two of Yellowstone’s original buses.

Company culture

1910 White_touring_car

 1910 White touring car
1897 White railcar

White railcar in the collection of the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

During the time brothers Walter and Windsor White ran the company, it offered a library branch, a store which sold necessities at low cost, sports teams, and concerts by orchestras and jazz bands, as well as musical performances by the workers, many of whom were immigrants from Slovenia and Poland. The company also had picnics at Euclid Beach Park.

After Walter White died from a traffic accident, management changed and so did the firm’s culture. Employees started one of the country’s first automobile unions. The Great Depression caused a drop in sales, forcing White to merge with Studebaker. However, White soon became independent again.

In 1935, Robert Fager Black became president, but workers were still unhappy, and they went on strike. Black tried talking to the workers who were striking, and he even got baseball equipment for them and let them play while on strike, so they would have something to do. Black learned people’s names, visited the plant frequently, and asked customers if they were happy with what they purchased. Anyone could visit his office.

Black brought the company back to where it had once been by World War II, during which the company supplied the military with much of its equipment. White ranked 54th among US corporations in the value of WWII military production contracts. When husbands went to serve, wives took their jobs, and the work force totaled over 4000. Black provided the services the company had at one time, and helped employees get to work with carpools.

Black retired in 1956, still beloved by employees.

Demise

1962 White Truck Patchogue New York

1962 tractor

In 1953, White purchased the Autocar Company. From 1951 until 1977, White Motors also distributed Freightliner trucks. This took place under an agreement with Freightliner’s parent, Consolidated Freightways. White manufactured trucks under its own brands—White, Autocar, and Western Star—as well, leading to the company becoming known as the “Big Four” through to the mid-1970s. The Sterling nameplate, unused by White as long as the company owned it, went to Freightliner after the companies’ split; it is was used from 1997 to 2008, by Daimler Trucks.

Sales dropped during the 1960s, and White tried merging with White Consolidated Industries, the company that once made sewing machines; the federal government blocked this deal. The company opened plants in Virginia and Utah, since they did not have unions, but this did not help. Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen, former president of Ford Motor Company, made the company successful for a time, but the decline continued. Later, the federal government approved a merger with White Consolidated, which feared being hurt by White Motor’s troubles. Mergers with Daimler and Renault were also considered. Production was somewhat limited as White did not have a lighter range (13,330 units built in 1978), leading to several attempts at linking up with various European manufacturers.

By 1980, White was insolvent. Volvo AB acquired the US assets of the company in 1981, while two energy-related companies based in CalgaryAlberta, Bow Valley Resource Services, and NovaCorp, an Alberta corporation, purchased the Canadian assets, including the Kelowna, British Columbia, plant, and the Western Star nameplate and product range.

1948 White Road Tractor

1948 White road tractor model WC-22T

Volvo produced trucks as White and Autocar through the 1980s, while Western Star continued independently in Canada and the United States, although Volvo-White–produced high cab over engine models were purchased and rebadged Western Star for sale in the Canadian market through the early 1990s.

Volvo purchased GMC‘s heavy truck business in 1987 and merged it with White, creating the White-GMC brand. Western Star was sold to Australian entrepreneur Terry Peabody in 1990. Subsequently, Western Star was resold by Peabody to DaimlerChrysler AG and merged with its Freightliner subsidiary. Volvo dropped any reference to White, and is now Volvo Trucks North America. Autocar remained a part of Volvo until 2000, when the trademark was withdrawn from the market, and was subsequently sold to Grand Vehicle Works together with the Xpeditor low cab forward heavy duty product, which remains in production under the Autocar badge, the last vestige of what was once America’s leading commercial vehicle producer.

A former White subsidiary, White Farm Equipment, produced farm tractors until 2001. As of 2006, the only products made under the White name is a series of corn planters (made by AGCO) and garden tractors (made by MTD Products).

2007 Kenworth W900 semi in red

2007 Kenworth W900 semi in red

BUSES

Martz 1912 White

1912 White bus

1915 White

1915-white

1922 White Charabanc Tourer

1922-white-charabanc-tourer

1922 White on a California Body Company body Oakland CA

1922 White Touring Bus

1923 White Model 50 - 25 Passenger

1923 White Model 50 – 25 Passenger

1925 White - White A'dam

1925-white-white-adam nl

1927 white-opt

1927-white

1928 White Bender Bus

1928-white-bender-bus

1929 White EB01d059

1929 White EB01d059

1929 White Bender bus

1929 White Bender bus

1929 White Bender

White Bender Bus

1930 White Bender Bus

White Bender Buses

1930 White Bender

1930-white-bender-buses

1930 White bus WHITEFRANKMARTZ 1930 White Model 65 with body by Moore

1930-white-model-65-with-body-by-moore

1930 White Motor Company

1930-white-motor-company

1931 White Bender

1931-white-bender-bus

1931 White Benderbus

1931-white-benderbus

1931 White

1931-white

1928 white coache mod

1933 white-coache-mod

1934 White  Open Bender Bus

1934-white-open-bender-bus

1934 White 702 bus

1934-white-702-bus

1934 White Open Bender

1934-white-open-bender

1934 White yellowstone bus 04

1934-white-yellowstone-bus-04

1934 White yellowstone bus 14

1934-white-yellowstone-bus-14

1934 White-Bender 54-A Sunshine Bus Lines 182 1935 White model 54A, bus 810 SEGL

1935-white-model-54a-bus-810-segl

1936 White Dream Coach of 1950, Great Lakes Exposition

1936 White Dream Coach

1936 White Sightseeing Bus, Great Lakes Exposition

1936 WHITE

1937 White 706

1937 Yellowstone 427 White

1937 White open Bender bus

1937-white-open-bender-bus

1937-48 White Model 798 V12

1937-48-white-model-798-v12

1938 White 7788 Tamiami Trail Tours Inc 913 1938 White Bender

1938-white-bender

1938 White Bendera

1938-white-bender

1946 Hermes White-lks te Doetinchem 090706 1946 Hermes White-rts te Doetinchem 090706

1946-hermes-white-lks-te-doetinchem

1946 White Scoutcar NZH017

1946-white-scoutcar-nzh017

1947 White Scout 8 met Austin 4 daar achter

1947-white-scout-8-met-austin-4-daar-achter

1947 White Smit B-31746

1947-white-smit-b-31746

1949 White carr. Medema appingedam B-31617

1949-white-carr-medema-appingedam-b-31617

1952 White Fleet

1952-white-fleet

1952 White Matser 16 NB-57-01 ECF

1952-ecf-4741-matser-16-white

1972 White CCMC Calabromo 5136 1976 White MBA Edwards MO3619 White 2000 bus file005 sml White-company_1912-06_cleveland

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Author: Jeroen

In Dutch, my homelanguage: Ik ben Jeroen, tot januari 2015 was ik al dik 26 jaar werkzaam in een psychiatrisch ziekenhuis in een stad vlakbij Werelds grootste havenstad Rotterdam. Eerst als verpleegkundige/begeleider op high care, later op afdeling dubbeldiagnose (verslavingen) en ook nog een tijdje als administratief medewerker. Ik heb een spierziekte "Poli Myositis" (alle spieren zijn ontstoken) daardoor weinig energie. Sinds augustus 2015 is daarbij de diagnose Kanker gesteld, en ben ik helemaal arbeidsongeschikt geworden en zit middenin de behandelfase. Gelukkig ben ik daarnaast getrouwd, vader, en opa, en heb de nodige hobby's. Een daarvan is transportmiddelen verzamelen en daarmee een blog schrijven. Dit blog begon met bussen, maar nu komen ook sleepboten, auto's trucks en dergelijke aan bod. Kijk en geniet met me mee, reageer, en vul gerust aan. Fouten zal ik ook graag verbeteren. In English: I'm Jeroen, till januari 2015 I was already 26 years working as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, near Rotterdam, Worlds biggest harbour with more than 98 nationalities living within it's borders. First I worked on closed high care ward and the last years on a ward with mainly addicted people. I liked my work very much. In 2007 I got ill. I got the diagnose Poli Myositis, a musscle dissease. Al my mussles are inflamed. And last august I got another diagnose. Cancer. It's plaveicelcel carcinoma and treated with Chemo and radioation. So I've even less energy than the last years. Still I try to make something of my life and the blog is helping with surviving with some pleasure.

2 thoughts on “WHITE Motor Company Cleveland Ohio USA 1900 – 1980 Buses and more”

  1. Thanks for the interesting site. A minor correction- the Model 798 had a 210 HP horizontally-opposed (boxer) liquid-cooled petrol engine of 681 CID (11.14 l.) mounted amidships beneath the floor. The rear vents shown were simply for the radiators. Bill Schulz, Leesburg, Florida, USA

  2. I must say you have very interesting content here.
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