Fredrick Douglas Patterson: First African American Automotive Manufacturer

Frederick Douglas Patterson, born in 1871, was a prominent figure in African American history, known for his significant contributions in the field of transportation. He holds the distinction of being the first African American to own and operate a car manufacturing company.

Fredrick Douglas Patterson was born on September 17, 1891. Forth child of five to parents Josephine and Charles Patterson. Patterson attended Ohio State University, then became a teacher in Louisville, Kentucky.

His farther C.R. Patterson, a former enslaved person began C.R. Patterson and Sons Company in Greenfield, Ohio, producing fashionable carriages. Upon his fathers death in 1910, Fredrick Douglas inherited leadership of his farther’s business. This is the moment that Fredrick Douglas would take this family business into a different direction and his place in history.

Patterson switched from the production of carriages to automobiles. And, on September 23, 1915 the Patterson-Greenfield rolled off the production line. Selling for $850 it was a 4 cylinder forty horsepower Continental engine. With a top speed of 50 mph.

C.R. Patterson and Sons Company in Ohio was the first and only African American-owned automobile manufacturer in the United States. Standing by slogan their “If it’s a Patterson, it’s a good one”. Patterson’s company aimed to provide high-quality transportation options for African Americans during an era marked by racial discrimination and limited access to such resources.

Under Patterson’s leadership, the C.R. Patterson and Sons Company gained recognition for its craftsmanship and innovative designs. Their automobiles were celebrated for their durability and elegance, serving as a symbol of progress and success within the African American community.

However, despite the company’s accomplishments, it faced numerous challenges, including discriminatory practices and financial obstacles. Patterson’s unwavering determination and perseverance enabled the business to weather these storms for nearly two decades. After 74 years C.R. Patterson and Sons closed it doors.

Fredrick Douglas Patterson died January 18, 1932. Frederick Douglas Patterson’s life and work exemplified the resilience and ambition of African Americans during a time of immense adversity. His commitment to entrepreneurship, innovation, and community upliftment left an indelible mark on American history.


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