Fisher Body Company

From Ohio History Central

Jump to: navigation, search

Jeffrey Assembly Conveyor.jpg
Assembly line conveyor made by the Jeffrey Manufacturing Company of Columbus, Ohio in use at Fisher Body Plants #21 and #7 in Detroit, Michigan, 1923. The conveyor chain can be seen on the floor

beneath the auto bodies.

On July 23, 1908, Fred J. Fisher, Charles T. Fisher, and Albert Fisher formed the Fisher Body Company. The company intended to manufacture the bodies of automobiles for Ford Motor Company, Buick, and Cadillac, as well as several other companies. All three men were natives of Norwalk, Ohio, but they established their company in Detroit, Michigan, the center of automobile manufacturing in the United States during this period. The Fishers intended to build an entirely enclosed auto body that would protect drivers and passengers from the elements. They believed that such a car would be much more marketable to women and families.

The Fisher Body Company immediately prospered. By 1913, the firm was producing nearly 100,000 auto bodies per year. Five years later, the company was producing three times that number of bodies and earning more than one million dollars in profits. Its first large customer was Cadillac, although Ford, Studebaker, and several other companies also utilized Fisher bodies. By 1913, the company included ten plants scattered across Michigan and Canada, and by 1918, the firm sold auto bodies to most major automobile manufacturers. The company continued to excel during the 1910s. With United States involvement in World War I, the Fisher Body Company began to produce airplanes for the American war effort. By the end of the conflict, the company had provided the United States military with 2,005 planes. Due to the Fisher Company's success, in 1919 General Motors purchased a three-fifths interest in the company, uniting the two firms together. In 1926, General Motors acquired the remaining two-fifths of the Fisher Company, making GM the sole owner of the firm. The 1920s and 1930s also witnessed the Fisher Company expanding its plants into Ohio and several other states.

As it did during World War I, with the outbreak of World War II, the Fisher Company immediately began to produce munitions for the American war effort. During the course of the war, the company manufactured 11,358 Sherman Tanks, 5,368 M-10 Tank Destroyers, and 1,200 General Pershing Tanks. The firm also produced B-29 Superfortress airplanes at a new facility in Cleveland, Ohio.

Following World War II, the Fisher Company continued to profit. It also was responsible for developing numerous items for the auto industry, including manufacturing the first airbag at plants in Detroit and Euclid, Ohio. The firm also developed sunroofs and t-tops for GM automobiles, as well as automatic seatbelts. By the early 1980s, the Fisher Company had opened plants in Ireland, Spain, and Mexico. The firm had seven plants operating in Ohio by this point in time as well.

See Also