Not many companies transitioned successfully from manufacturing wagons and carriages to automobiles. Studebaker was one of the exceptions, moving in the early 1900s from carriages to battery-powered cars and then to gasoline engines a few years later. At the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana, you can trace the history of the company from wagon to the last cars made by Studebaker in the mid-1960s.
In the mid-1800s the Studebaker brothers (there were five of them, all part of the business at one time or another) were making wagons. They became the world’s largest manufacturer of wagons and buggies.
Don’t miss a Midwest Wanderer post. For a FREE subscription, enter your e-mail address in the Subscribe2 box to the left and click Subscribe.
The museum has four carriages that were used by U.S. presidents, including the Lincoln Barouche, the carriage in which President Lincoln rode to Ford’s Theater on the fateful night on which he was assassinated.
The Presidential Carriage Collection is part of the original collection of 37 vehicles once owned by the Studebaker Corporation. The original collection also included the first and last automobiles built in South Bend and the last Studebaker ever made. Today the museum has 120 vehicle in its collection.
In 1909 the U.S. Government commissioned Studebaker to build two transport vehicles to ferry people through an underground tunnel between the Senate Office Building and the U.S. Capitol. The tunnel was too narrow to turn around, so they built a vehicle that could run in either direction. The one on display in in the museum was nicknamed “Peg.”
Judging by the cars in the museum, the automobiles got fancier as time went on. This 1924 Light Six, with a body constructed completely of aluminum, was customized by a Chinese company. It features a fold-out windshield, and the interior, trimmed in teak, has mohair upholstery.
Several other custom-built or specialized vehicles are also on display in the museum, some of which Studebaker partnered with other companies to manufacture, including an old South Bend police car, a 1928 fire truck and a 1963 Zip Van used by the U.S. Postal Service.
It’s been almost fifty years since Studebaker stopped manufacturing automobiles. However, the Studebaker National Museum ensures that the company that was such a large part of South Bend’s history and their contribution to the automotive industry are not forgotten.
The Studebaker National Museum, located at 201 South Chapin Street in South Bend, Indiana, is open seven days a week. Check the web site for hours and admission fees.
Disclosure: My visit to the Studebaker National Museum was hosted by Visit South Bend Mishawaka and the Studebaker National Museum, but any opinions expressed in this post are my own.
Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm. – Connie
Other posts you may enjoy: