July 23, 2024

Black Entrepreneur History

#1 Source for Black Entrepreneur History

The CR Patterson & Sons Car

Frederick Douglass Patterson – 1st African American Car Manufacturer & Automobile Company

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History was an African American man who founded the 1st black-owned car manufacturing company, His name was Frederick Douglass Patterson, son black-owned business owner of a carriage business Charles Richard Patterson.

The story of Fredrick Douglass Patterson is one that starts off at his birth on September 17, 1871 into a loving family with a mindset of success. His father owned and operated a carriage business after moving from Virginia to Ohio and taking over the company J.P. Lowe, changing it’s name to C. R. Patterson & Sons.

His mother was a housewife and her name was Josephine Utz(Outs), listed as mulatto (biracial) on the 1900s census. The couple had two sons, Samuel and Frederick and possibly other children who were daughters. Frederick was the oldest son. Although he had many employees, is father made certain that they knew the business very well, which is how mechanics became second nature to them both.

Frederick Douglass Patterson, although he worked with his father growing up, he graduated from Greenfield High School in 1888 and enrolled in Ohio State University, deciding not to finish in his last year but going down into the southern state of Kentucky in order to teach.

It is there where he met and fell in love with a woman named Bettie Estelline Patterson to whom he married on September, 11 1901 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

During this time, C.R. Patterson and Sons was being run by his father and brother, but when his brother passed away and his father was sick, he moved from Kentucky with his family (wife and two sons Frederick and youngest son Postelle Patterson) in order to manage the business. When his father passed away in 1910, he took over.

When he took over the family run C.R. Patterson & Sons carriage business, he wanted to adjust with the times to keep up with what was going on with technological advances. People were more interested in mechanical carriages, or basically cars. Forget the horse!

Therefore, because of his lifetime background in mechanics and creating and since he was now the owner of the business, he put his entrepreneurial talents to use and in five years created and founded the 1st car under C.R. Patterson & Sons called the Patterson-Greenfield car.

The car was named for the city (Greenfield) and the family name (Patterson). This made him the 1st African American car manufacturer and automobile company!He had made history and build 150 of his black-owned and created automobiles. It was a great time, launching competition with Ford.

The only problem that occurred would end up being a huge problem. Frederick wasn’t able to get venture capital. There was no one able to provide him with the capital he needed to expand, and in order to grow and compete, this was what he needed.

Venture Capital - when investors give their money as an investment to start up companies they believe have a future.

Because of this, he again made the business decision to adapt to the circumstance he was put it. He would convert the business into one which would provide parts for trucks and buses. Frederick changed the name to the Greenfield Bus Body Company, and his sons also worked with him in this business as he used to work with his own father.

Frederick Douglass Patterson passed away on January 18, 1932 and was buried in Greenfield Cemetery in Greenville, Ohio, leaving his business to his sons.

However, the United States went through a financial crisis, and this is what pulled all of the potential financial gain from the business to come to ruin, leaving his sons to close the business about seven years after his passing.

This was the life and legacy of the brilliant Pattersons who were two generations of entrepreneurship in the transportation and automobile industry.


Year: 1900; Census Place: Greenfield, Highland, Ohio; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0122; FHL microfilm: 1241286

Year: 1910; Census Place: Madison, Highland, Ohio; Roll: T624_1197; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 0126; FHL microfilm: 1375210

Ancestry.com. Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1774-1973 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Ancestry.com. Kentucky, County Marriage Records, 1783-1965 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.


Photo By Public Domain – http://www.blackpast.org/aah/c-r-patterson-sons-company-1893-1939, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link