MotorCities National Heritage Area
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Story of the Week

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian/Researcher
Images Courtesy of the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Detroit News
Published 11/20/2019 

C.S. Mott with an early model Buick 1 RESIZEDC.S. Mott with an early model Buick

Charles Stewart Mott was a great automotive pioneer that helped put America on wheels. He was born in Newark, New Jersey on June 2, 1875. In 1897, he received his degree in engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. 

At the beginning of his career, Mott worked as a talented engineer with a bicycle wheel and hub manufacturing company. Later, he and his father purchased the company and renamed it the Weston-Mott Company of Utica New York. Upon his father’s death in 1900, Mott became plant superintendent and corporate secretary of the company. 

C.S. Mott in a Buick during the 1939 Parade of Progress Mott Foundation 2 RESIZEDC.S. Mott in a Buick during the 1939 Parade of Progress Mott Foundation

As the horse and buggy days began to wind down, Weston-Mott began making complete wire wheel and axle assemblies for the fledgling automobile industry. The first order of 500 wire wheel sets was from Olds Motor Works for their curved dash Olds, which was becoming very popular. 

Wire wheels proved to be short-lived, as the automobile manufacturers shifted to wooden wheels because of their superior strength. It was said by some automotive historians that “they required their suppliers to also provide rear chain drive and front axles for assembly. This change would entail an extensive addition to Weston-Mott’s product line. 

C.S. Mott 1965 Detroit News 3 RESIZEDC.S. Mott 1965 Detroit News

Mott had a strong belief in the automobile manufacturing world, and he wanted to make a major investment to continue to supply the automotive market. After many hours of hard work and visiting many other automotive manufacturers, the company turned out its first wooden wheel products with a chain drive axle assembly.  As more manufacturing automotive parts were needed the Weston-Mott Co. subcontracted the production of bearings and gears to the Hyatt Roller Bearing and Brown-Lipe Companies. As the demand would continue to grow for more automotive parts the company would invest more productivity in other manufacturing business for assembly. 

Mott with his portrait 4 RESIZEDMott with his portrait

In 1905, William Durant who had gained control of Buick Motors would later along with his partner J. Dallas Dort approach Mr. Mott about building a Weston-Mott plant in Flint Michigan next to the Buick plant. At the time, Mr. Mott needed the production and additional space to manufacture more automotive parts. By 1906, the factory was in production supplying Buick and other automotive car companies with wheels and front axles. The automotive community was moving ahead, and the late Charles Stewart Mott was a big part of the contribution and development. It should also be noted that during 1908, Buick sales were increasing so much that both Buick and the Weston-Mott company had to expand their factories. Buick production had reached 10,000 automobiles which was operating at full capacity. 

In 1912, Mott was elected mayor of Flint, and, four years later, he became a member of General Motors’ board of directors, serving for almost 60 years. From 1924 to 1934, he was appointed civilian aide for Michigan to the Secretary of War.

Mott with a globe 5Mott with a globe

Some automotive historians have said Mott had a passion for saving and simply could not tolerate waste in any form. He admired one automobile, the Corvair, because it was easy on gas and simple to drive. In his eyes, it was better than a Cadillac. 

In conclusion, Charles Stewart Mott’s legacy was an example of how, through hard work, a strong business plain and a great vision, to create a great company that makes a great product. Mott will always be one of the pioneers of the automotive history.

charlesstewartmottfoundationlogo 6Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Logo

 

 

Bibliography 

Ruth Mott Foundation 111 E. Court Street Suite 3C Flint Michigan. “Charles Stewart Mott Automotive Pioneer Builder of Community.”  

Rothenberg, Al. “Memories of Mott.” Ward’s Auto World, April, 1973 pgs. 54-55. 

 

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