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July 20, 1978


PIX #1 - Willis J. Hakes at his dealership in 1949

PIX #2 - Henry Ford II perched on the seat of a 1903 model A

PIX #3 - Henry Ford with his first car--the 1896 Quadracycle

Ford Motor Company is celebrating it's 75th anniversary this year...and Fos- torians will remember many things about Henry Ford, The Ford Motor Company... and the early car models that were produced.

Earlier this year, Ford Motor Company started seeking owners of the first model A cars that were produced in 1903. Only 1,078 cars of that model were built and several weeks ago they reported that 82 were still in existence... many of them still in show quality condition.

Fostorians do have some special reasons to help Ford Motor Company, Reineke Ford, Inc., and Walter Motor Sales, the local Ford dealers, celebrate.


At one time Ford seriously considered setting up a manufacturing plant in Fostoria, but it never materialized. You know the old story about the strong arguments the "bigtown" boys put up in favor of the cities. And the strong public relations programs they launch to beat out the smaller towns.

Readers will remember that Ford did own the spark plug plant in town in recent years, but was finally divested of it by the U.S. government.

Then too, Fostoria did have two other car manufacturers...Allen Motor Car Co., and Seneca Light Car Co. So Fostoria has always been interested in cars and car manufacturers.

Another big reason for Fostoria's interest stems from the fact that Willis J. Hakes started a Ford dealership here in 1908, just 5 years after Henry Ford started producing the famous 1903 model.


Ford had his ups and downs getting into the business of manufacturing cars... just like Hakes had his, getting into the car sales business. In fact Ford started two times and failed before he was successful.

The first time a group of wealthy investors formed a company and called it The Detroit Automobile Company. The company folded after a year and loss of $86,000. Ford had the mechanical talents, but his backers wanted to make a sophisticated car for the rich man. Ford wanted to build a low-priced vehicle for the masses.

In 1901 The Henry Ford Company was formed, but it lasted only three months before Ford pulled out. His idea of a car was one that could be made quickly and cheaply from contracted parts and didn't require a large manufacturing complex.

Henry Ford had a friend, Alexander Malcomson, who put up the money, while he furnished the drawings, patents and experience for the first prototype of the car he wanted to build. To assist them, Malcomson enlisted James Couzens, his bookkeeper, and Ford took on his friend and race car engineering sidekick, Childe Harold Wills. In less than a year, Ford's plans for his new car were complete.


During this period, Couzens was not idle, He had been knocking on doors and trying to sell stock in the new venture. By the time incorporation papers were filed on June 16, 1903, he himself had gathered in cash and notes amounting to $28,000 to help launch the new business...mostly from friends.

Just 12 men, including Ford, made up the original group to start the Ford Motor Company. They were Alexander Y. Malcomson, Charles J. Woodall, John W. Anderson, Horace H. Rockham, James Couzens, Charles H. Bennett, Albert Stretlow, Horace E. Dodge, John F. Dodge, Vernon E. Fry, John S. Gray. None of them ever regretted the investment they made.

The two Dodge brothers later formed Dodge Bros. Motor Co., Charles H. Bennett was president of Daisy Air Rifle Co., and Charles Woodall headed up the well- known company of Woodall Industries.

Hakes, like Henry Ford, was a farm boy. Born in 1885 on a farm south of Fostoria, he went to a 1-room school, located at what is now south U.S. 23 and Center Road.


In 1953, when Hakes was nearing the end of his Ford dealership in Fostoria, he was attending a meeting at FairLane, Ford's country estate, at which time he recounted his recollections of his early business experience and his years as a Ford dealer. One of Ford's public relations men thought it interesting enough to preserve the conversation and made a transcript available and parts of it are included in this story.

Hakes remembered, "My first job was working for Phil Peters, a neighboring farmer...doing threshing, haying and general farming. Later I worked for the Cramer saw mill on the New Riegel road. There I got my leg broke, and after loafing all winter finally came to town and went to work for Fostoria Glass Specialty Co. When they moved to Cleveland I went with them as a millwright, setting up machinery. I didn't like it in Cleveland and came home."

"Judd Asire, the local undertaker told me if I ever wanted a job, come and see him, and I did, and told him I was ready to take care of his horses and be an undertaker. He said, "if I was as young as you are this is what I'd do" and he showed me the new Ford literature. So I went to Toledo to see about it and signed a contract to sell accept one car every three months."

That contract was a relationship that lasted from 1908 to 1967. It saw Hakes build two buildings to house his agency as it grew. He survived the de- pression of 1930, but not without heavy losses. He saw many new Ford models as they were presented through the years.


Many items gleaned from Hakes' memories provide an opportunity for comparison of the past and present as related to cars. Here are a few salient facts... and laughs, for readers:

"My mother didn't ride with me for six months. She said, "you're going to get killed son, I won't get in it." It was 1910 before she began to ride with me."

"You would have to attend all the ice cream socials and farm sales. Then of course you could get the kids to ride with you. If you got the kids to ride with you and gave them the literature, that way you'd get it in the house. Sometimes the kids would say, "come on out and see pop, I believe he will buy"."

"I sold my first car to a fellow by the name of Casper Gessner. He ran a ho- tel (just south of B and O tracks on South Main Street). He would drive the traveling men around to their customers. He had been using a horse and buggy, but he bought my first car to do it." (continued next week).

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