Years In Operation: 1912-1913 Models Built: Autoette/Wolverine Approximate Number of Cars Built: 3 to 35 Factory Address: 284-286 River Street, Manistee MI(presumed) Officers of the Company:
Charles Elmendorf: President and General Manager
George M. Burr: Secretary and Treasurer
Patrick Noud: Original Investor
R.W. Smith: Original Investor
W.F. Baker: Original Investor
William Wente: Original Investor
E.G. Filer: Original Investor
Gus Kitzinger: Original Investor
What can i see today?
There are no known Wolverine vehicles known to exist. There is one radiator and other various parts on display at the Manistee County Historical Museum Address: 425 River St., Manistee MI 49660 Phone: (231) 723-5531 Website: https://www.manisteemuseum.org/
The factory location is not exactly clear and is still being researched. The records indicate it may have been a rented space inside the old Manistee Iron works building at 284-286 River Street which is also the site of the Auto Garage Company run by the Brugman Brothers. The building is mo longer standing. Address: 284-286 River Street, Manistee MI
Charles Elmendorf started out in the furniture business and took over the Manistee Manufacturing Company in 1903...
Elmendorf had been successful in the furniture business and decided to try his hand at the auto business after visiting and investigating the Anderson Electric & Manufacturing Company in Chicago in early 1912. The company had developed 3 low priced automobiles and felt they were poised to take over the low end of the automobile market. Elmendorf decided that he could bring auto manufacturing to Manistee and with it many jobs. He purchased all of equipment, dies, blueprints, the 3 prototype vehicles, and 20 vehicles that were near completion for the price of $13,312.00 and had all of it shipped to Manistee. Needless to say the town was excited to possibly be the next Detroit or Flint.
George M. Burr was a prominent banker and businessman in Manistee. His career included jobs as the secretary of the Manistee Manufaturing Company and in the banking and railroad industries..
The Manistee Motor Company was incorporated on March 2nd, 1912.
$50,000 in stock was the initial investment in the company. At least $10,000 went to the Anderson Electric stockholders for the investment made to develop the 3 prototypes.
The old Manistee Iron Works building was leased to build the vehicles. The original factory building is no longer standing.
The cars that were to be built were in fact 3 different models....
An "A" model to sell for $200
A "B" model to sell for $300
A "C" model later called the "Wolverine" or "Road Light" to sell for $400. This was advertised to be an excellent chassis for a delivery or a truck
The company was ready to go and the checks started to be written. A number of interesting check stubs are listed below. This is the stub for the first check ever written by the company. It was a purchase from the Twain Manufacturing Company on March 26th, 1912...
This check stub shows the company buying the manufacturer plate. This enabled any vehicle to go out from the plant to be test driven. The practice still goes on today by every manufacturer...
This stub is written to the A.H. Lyman Company for office supplies. The museum is housed inside this original building...
This appears to be the first rent payment made and was $40 which translates to around $1100 today...
This check is made out to Charles Elmendorf himself for expenses...
More machinery was bought and installed...
In 1912 you could order parts to build your own car which is most likely why companies popped up all over the country hoping they could compete with Ford or General Motors.
Many parts cane from the Ideal Sheet Metal Works of Chicago including:
Fender and Running Board Sets for $7.50
Gas tanks for $2.50
Hoods for $2.75
Radiators for $15.00(for the Wolverine)
This ad is listed in the Chilton Automobile Directory in 1916. The company showed up under almost every heading for manufacturers at the time including hoods, metal panels, radiators, and dash boards. There was even a radiator patent in the same year...
Motor: 10 horsepower, four cycle, upright cast in block. The motor on display at the museum is believed to be from one of the vehicles...
Cooling: Thermo-Siphon System
The Duplex Coil Company also provided parts...
Transmission: Friction Type Speed: Up to 30 miles per hour Weight: 900 pounds fully equipped Wheel Base: 85 inches Tires: Pneumatic, 28 x 2 3/4 inches, checkered tread Gasoline Capacity: 5 gallon oval tank Body: 2 passenger in standard blue Price: $400 Extras: Top-$18 Windshield-$14 Speedometer-$15 To order: Customer needs to have $200 down and balance on delivery
This stub shows the company doing business with the Auto Garage Company which was run by the Brugman Brothers. They were also builders and inventors of vehicles in Manistee...
Other companies that parts and supplies were bought from included:
Motor Car Supply Company
The Badger Brass Manufacturing Company
Empire Tire Company
Chicago Steel Foundry Company
Gray Iron Foundry Company
Manistee Emery Wheel Company
Kelsey Wheel Company
The Diamond Rubber Company
Rowe-Turney Radiator Company
The first car was said to be ordered by Dr. L.S. Ramsdell...
Three weeks later a total of 15 model "C" cars were to be completed. It is not clear whether 14 of those were ever produced but one was completed and shipped to Chicago sometime in mid to late September. By the end of the year production had ceased. Twenty cars were possibly produced(or finished) from the initial purchase from Anderson Electric and 15 more could have been made in Manistee. The company books that were found showed income from 3 vehicles sold:
One to a person in Ishpeming
One to a stockholder in Chicago
One to a man in Texas
One of the vehicles sat under the South Street Bridge in Manistee abandoned for years...which one it was nobody currently knows. According to the records 15% of the original investment was returned to the stockholders. After the liquidation of the machinery, office equipment, and spare parts, the company ended up with a $400 loss. It was several years before the books were finally closed. The official end to the Manistee Motor Car Company came at a meeting at the Manistee Board of Trade on March 27th, 1913. What seemed like a sure thing turned out to be short lived. The bottom line was the cars wouldn't sell and the factory closed. An interesting note is the car was considered an early cycle car(at least models "A" and "B"/Autoettes were). The real window for interest in cycle cars took off in 1912 and ended in 1915-1916. Perhaps the company saved itself from an even bigger loss as the cyclecar turned out to be mostly a fad. Charles Elmendorf continued on with his furniture business in Manistee.
Standard Catalog of American Cars-Clark/Kimes
Manistee County Historical Museum
The Automobile-Volume 22
Motor World Wholesale-Volume 31
Motor World-Volume 34
Automotive Industries-Volume 26
Automobile Trade Journal-Volume 16
Thomas Register of American Manufacturers and Thomas Register-Volume 1
R.L. Polk & Company-Manistee-1902/1903
The Journal of the Michigan State Medical Society-Volume 17
Manistee News Advocate/ManisteeNews.com-100 Years Ago Features