MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By: Robert Tate, Automotive Historian/Researcher
Images: Courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection
Posted: 06.24.2015

The Jordan Motor Car Company was founded in 1916 in Cleveland, Ohio. The factory plant was located at 1070 East 152nd Street near downtown Cleveland.

The company was founded by the late Edward (Ned) S. Jordan (1882-1958). During the early parts of his career, Mr. Jordan worked his way through the University of Wisconsin as a newspaper reporter. Later, his career placed him at the National Cash Register Company in Dayton, Ohio. In 1906, he became advertising manager for the Thomas Jeffery Co., maker of the Rambler automobile. He later would become the company secretary, remaining with the Jeffery Company until 1916, the year his own company was founded.
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Within just one day, Jordan managed to raise $200,000 to launch his manufacturing company. His journey would continue with the announcement of the Jordan automobile in the Saturday Evening Post magazine on Sept. 2, 1916. In an advertisement which was called “Smart Design for Smart Folks," Jordan’s designs had the spotlight.

The advertisement introduced a new six model with a custom-style body. The model also offered the consumers a great attractive price. The slogan “Smart design for smart Folks” represents Jordan’s design philosophy.

Mr. Jordan's company manufactured and offered great line of stylish products from 1916 to 1931. One of the most famous vehicles produced was the “Jordan Playboy." This model was a popular sports roadster. The Jordan automobile was known in the automotive industry as an assembled car. Mr. Jordan believed that a small volume of sales would net a high annual profit, the Jordan automobiles became a huge success.

By year-end, the company’s total production of 2,000 units had all been sold and the next year production was nearly doubling. The “Jordan Playboy” model became a huge sales leader for the company. However, it was due to a great advertising campaign that made the vehicle such a success.
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One of the most successful automotive advertisements ever written was by Mr. Jordan himself titled “Somewhere West of Laramie." This advertisement appeared first in the June 23, 1923 issue of the Saturday Evening Post magazine. It was also included in almost every advertising textbook within the sales and marketing programs for young adults. It was listed as one of the most admired and successful 100 best advertising themes in the United States.

The successful campaign idea started one day when, while traveling by private railroad car to San Francisco, Mr. Jordan happened to notice a young beautiful girl on a magnificent horse outside the window. He asked a lawyer friend accompanying him where they were, “On somewhere west of Laramie” was the reply. Within minutes, Mr. Jordan developed the popular advertisement and automotive history was made.

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Another individual who helped create Jordan automobile advertisements is Mr. Joseph Fewsmith. Fewsmith began his advertising career in 1914 with the Martin B. Kelly Company in Toledo, Ohio, eventually joing Jordan motors where he wrote ad copy.

In 1919, the Sweeney and James agency was established in Cleveland and one of their primary accounts was the Jordan automobile. According to Automobile Quarterly in a 1975 article on the Jordan automobile, although the Jordan was a great automobile, most of its success is due to the imaginative Jordan advertising campaign. It changed the whole concept of automobile advertising from nuts and bolts to romance.
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It was Mr. Jordan who used four-color art in automobile advertising and who placed it extensively in women's magazines. By the late 1920s, the company was beginning to struggle and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Jordan stock had slumped and his marriage had collapsed. By May of 1931, the firm went into receivership. During the 1930's, Jordan worked for advertising agencies in New York, Young & Rubicam and Campbell-Ewald. Later, during the war, he worked for MacArthur Aircraft Corporation.

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Mr. Edward Jordan died Dec. 29, 1958. On a historical note, he helped define automotive advertising which shaped and created the standards for the automobile. He was a great leader in the world of advertising and his designs will be admired for many generations to come.

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection. (Bibliography: Kimes Rae Beverly Jr. Clark Austin Henry. “Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942” 1989. Antique Automobile. “When the Jordan's Rolled” March 1966. Howley Tim. “Ned Jordan The Spell He Wove” Automobile Quarterly, Volume XIII, number 2 )

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