Ransom Olds

  • Fascinating facts about Ransom Olds inventor of the assembly line in 1901.


    In order to keep up with the increasing demand for those newfangled contraptions, horseless carriages, Ransom E. Olds created the assembly line in 1901. The new approach to putting together automobiles enabled him to more than quadruple his factory’s output, from 425 cars in 1901 to 2,500 in 1902. Both the Oldsmobile and Reo automobile brands were named after him.
    Inventor: Ransom Eli Olds
    Ransom Olds photo courtesy R.E. Olds Transporation Museum
    Criteria: Early innovator. Entrepreneur.
    Birth: June 3, 1864 in Geneva, Ohio
    Death: August 26, 1950 in Lansing, Michigan
    Nationality: American

    In 1895 Ransom's father opened a machine shop in Lansing, Mich., in which Ranson became a partner. There he developed an internal combustion engine that he incorporated into a car. In 1897 he opened the Olds Motor Vehicle Company, replacing his father’s shop, and the Olds Gasoline Engine Works. The vehicle company sputtered, but the engine company succeeded. In 1899 Olds moved to Detroit, formed the Olds Motor Works, and designed and produced the popular Oldsmobile. With its low price, easy assembly, and stylish curved dashboard, this was the first car to be produced in quantity. When his backer wanted a more expensive car, Olds quit to form Reo Motor Car Company and organized subsidiary companies to supply him with parts. In 1915, after a softening in the auto market, Olds formed the Ideal Power Lawn Mower Company to manufacture his newest invention.


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