Although the Studebaker Corporation went out of business in 1966 after years of financial difficulties, the company enjoyed a long and proud 114-year history as a manufacturer of vehicles. Brothers Henry and Clement Studebaker opened their blacksmith shop in South Bend, Indiana, in 1852. In 1868, with the help of brother John Mohler Studebaker, the company became the Studebaker Manufacturing Company.
The company produced wagons through the late 1800s, filling orders for the US Army during the American Civil War and going on to become the world's largest wagon manufacturer by the mid 1880s.
When the 'horseless carriage' was introduced Studebaker became the only manufacturer to successfully switch from horse-drawn to gasoline-powered vehicles. They introduced an electric car in 1902, of which the second one made was purchased by inventor Thomas Edison. In 1904 they produced their first gasoline-powered car. After creating a presence in the automotive market Studebaker continued to make wagons until 1920.
A merger with Detroit firm Everitt-Metzker-Flanders in 1911 created the Studebaker Corporation which produced cars branded EMF or Flanders before changing the brand to Studebaker for the 1914 model year. In the 1930s design was given over to Raymond Loewy Associates who were responsible for many of Studebaker's innovative styles through the 50s. During World War II the company was contracted by the government to manufacture B-17 Flying Fortress engines as well as engines for other vehicles including the M29C 'Weasel'1 and military trucks.
After the war came Studebaker's golden age. When many automotive companies went back to producing new versions of the same models they sold before the war, Studebaker introduced entirely new models with major styling changes. A wrap-around rear window was a feature of the 1949 Starlight Coupe. The distinctive 'bullet-nose' front-end styling was an innovation for several 1950 models. 1951 saw the first Studebaker V8 engine.
In the midst of financial difficulties Studebaker Corporation merged with also ailing Packard in 1954, but the partnership couldn't save Packard which went out of business in 1958. Studebaker struggled on, but finally had to close it's South Bend, Indiana, manufacturing facility in 1963. The last Studebaker ever made came off the Ontario, Canada, production line in 1966.
After closing its doors for good the Studebaker Corporation donated its entire private collection to the city of South Bend. The brothers had started their collection shortly after they started their business. By the time it was donated it contained several choice items including the final cars off the Indiana and Ontario production lines as well as Abraham Lincoln's Presidential wagon among others. The collection is the basis of the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend which, fittingly, is housed in an old Studebaker dealership.