Coordinates: 41°31′58″N 81°38′06″W / 41.532842°N 81.635034°W / 41.532842; -81.635034

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White Motor Company

Industry Automotive, Defense

Fate Acquired

Successor Volvo

Founded 1900

Founder Thomas White

Defunct 1980

Headquarters Cleveland, Ohio, United States

Products Vehicles Automotive parts

The White Motor Company
White Motor Company
was an American automobile, truck, bus and agricultural tractor manufacturer from 1900 until 1980. The company also produced bicycles, roller skates, automatic lathes, and sewing machines. Before World War II, the company was based in Cleveland, Ohio. White Diesel Engine Division in Springfield, Ohio, manufactured diesel engine generators, which powered U.S. military equipment and infrastructure, namely Army Nike and Air Force Bomarc
launch complexes, and other guided missile installations and proving grounds, sections of SAGE and DEW Line
DEW Line
stations, radars, combat direction centers and other ground facilities of the U.S. aerospace defense ring, such as the Texas Towers.[1] During the Vietnam era, the company retained its position within the Top 100 Defense Contractors list (it ranked 87th in the Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year
1965,[2] 77th in 1967,[3] 73th in 1968,[4] 89th in 1969[5]). Its production facilities, such as the Lansing truck plant in Lansing, Michigan, and the main plant in Cleveland
were engaged in production, inspection, engineering services and maintenance of thousands of military/utility cargo trucks M39,[6] M44,[7] M600,[7] and M602 series trucks,[8] as well as spare parts, such as cylinder heads, diesel and gasoline engines with accessories.[9]


1 History

1.1 White steamer 1.2 Gasoline models 1.3 White tractors 1.4 Truck
manufacturing 1.5 White buses 1.6 Company culture 1.7 Demise

2 Products 3 See also 4 References 5 External links


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.[10] White steamer[edit]

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.[11]

Taft's 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.[12] In 1909, president William Howard Taft
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.[12] 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.[12] The 40 hp (30 kW) White Model M 7-seat tourer generated favorable press for the newly formed White Motor Company.[13][14] Taft's White Model M is currently housed in the collection at the Heritage Museums and Gardens
Heritage Museums and Gardens
in Sandwich, Massachusetts.[15] The last steam car was built in January 1911 as the company made a transition to gasoline-powered vehicles.[11] 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[edit] 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[edit] 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

White truck in the Chicago Fire Department
Chicago Fire Department
from 1930 to 1941

White Motor Company
White Motor Company
ended car production after World War I
World War I
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 (in 1953),[16] Diamond T, and REO. White also agreed to sell Consolidated Freightways, Freightliner trucks through its own dealers.[17] White produced trucks under the Autocar nameplate following its acquisition. Diamond T
Diamond T
and REO Motor Car Company
REO Motor Car Company
became the Diamond REO
Diamond REO
division, which was discontinued in the 1970s. A White semi performed a role in the 1949 James Cagney
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
United States
Army reconnaissance vehicle at the start of World War II. White also built the later M2, M3, M13, and M16 half-tracks. In 1967, White started the Western Star division to sell trucks on the west coast. White buses[edit]

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
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
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
Gettysburg National Battlefield
operates two of Yellowstone's original buses. Company culture[edit]

1910 White touring car

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
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.[18] 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.[17] Demise[edit]

1962 tractor

In 1953, White purchased the Autocar Company. From 1951 until 1977, White Motors also distributed Freightliner trucks.[19] 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 was used from 1997 to 2008, by Daimler Trucks.[20][21] 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.[17] 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.[22] By 1980, White was insolvent. Volvo
AB acquired the US assets of the company in 1981, while two energy-related companies based in Calgary, Alberta, 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 model WC-22T

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. In 1988, Volvo
and General Motors
General Motors
merged their heavy truck divisions in North America, creating Volvo
GM Heavy Truck
Corporation and a new brand of trucks, White-GMC. Western Star was sold to Australian entrepreneur Terry Peabody in 1990. In 1995, Volvo
purchased the stake of General Motors
General Motors
in their joint venture and rebadged White-GMC vehicles under the Volvo
and Autocar nameplates. 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 are a series of corn planters (made by AGCO) and garden tractors (made by MTD Products). Products[edit]

WIA64T WC WX42 pumper/rescue White Horse (1939–1950s) 50A bus 444 T 600 666 700 701 704 706 National Park
National Park
bus 706 707 784 798 800 805 810 820 920 1064 1100 1144 1500 2064 3000 3015 3022 3400 4000 4200 4264 4400 4464 5000 5400 6000 7000 9000 9062 Construcktor M2 M3 M13 M16 PDQ Delivery (1960–1966) Road Boss 1 and 2 Road Commander 1 and 2 Road Xpeditor 1 and 2 (WX) Western Star Trucks Freightliner Trucks Autocar Company Orion Bus

See also[edit]

Oliver Heritage Magazine White armored car White Farm Equipment White Sewing Machine Company White-Westinghouse


^ Superior engines develop KW… for missile KO! // Missiles and Rockets, Mid-May 1959, v. 5, no. 23, p. 30. ^ Top 100 Defense Contractors FY 1965. // Defense Industry Bulletin, December 1965, v. 1, no. 12, p. 6. ^ Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year
1967: Top 100 Defense Contractors Announced. // Defense Industry Bulletin, January 1968, v. 4, no. 1, p. 34. ^ Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year
1968: Top 100 Defense Contractors Announced. // Defense Industry Bulletin, January 1969, v. 5, no. 1, p. 19. ^ Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year
1969: Top 100 Defense Contractors Announced. // Defense Industry Bulletin, December 1969, v. 5, no. 12, p. 16. ^ Defense procurement. // Defense Industry Bulletin, June/July 1967, v. 3, no. 6, p. 34. ^ a b Defense procurement. // Defense Industry Bulletin, June 1969, v. 5, no. 6, p. 38. ^ Defense procurement. // Defense Industry Bulletin, July 1970, v. 6, no. 7, p. 37. ^ Defense procurement. // Defense Industry Bulletin, July 1969, v. 5, no. 7, p. 47. ^ "R.H. White Steam Generator patent No. 659,837 dated October 16, 1900" (PDF). White Steam Car Registry. Retrieved 15 May 2013.  ^ a b "History". White Steam Car Registry. Retrieved 15 May 2013.  ^ a b c Freeman, David W. (January 1993). "Cars of the Presidents". Popular Mechanics. 170 (1): 36–37. Retrieved 15 May 2013.  ^ "White Motor Company". The Washington Post. February 24, 1909.  ^ ^ "1909 White Steamer - Heritage Museums & Gardens". Heritage Museums & Gardens. Retrieved 2017-09-23.  ^ History – Autocar Trucks ^ a b c "Working at White: A History of White Motors". The Western Reserve Historical Society. Archived from the original on 25 October 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2013.  ^ Peck, Merton J.; Scherer, Frederic M. (1962). The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis. Harvard Business School. p. 619.  ^ Schmidt, Achim (ed.). "Zur Geschichte der White Motor Company" [History of the White Motor Company]. White Road Commander
White Road Commander
(in German). Retrieved 2014-05-14.  ^ Reiter, Chris; Creme, Andreas (14 October 2008). "Daimler to Close Sterling Trucks
Sterling Trucks
Unit, Cut 3,500 Jobs". Bloomberg. Retrieved 15 May 2013.  ^ "To our customers". Sterling Trucks. October 2008. Retrieved 15 May 2013. Daimler Trucks North America's (DTNA) decision to discontinue the sale of Sterling branded Heavy, Medium, and Light duty Truck.  ^ Baldwin, Nick (1981), The Observer's Book of Commercial Vehicles (#40), London: Frederick Warne, p. 191, ISBN 0-7232-1619-3 

"American Truck
& Bus
Spotter's Guide: 1920-1985," by Tad Burness "White Trucks of the 1950s At Work" by Barry R. Bertram "White Trucks of the 1960s At Work" by Barry R. Bertram

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to White Motor Company
White Motor Company

On the move Car history - White Truck
Pictures - White Truck
Pictures - Hank's Truck
Pictures 1945 advertisement for White Buses Cletrac and Oliver Tractors

v t e

Trucking industry in the United States

Regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Economy of the United States


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Glossary of the American trucking industry

Popular culture


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