This is the Only Black-Owned Car Company to Ever Exist in America

The C.R. Patterson & Sons Company Patterson-Greenfield Automobile
Cydney Smith
October 14, 2020

Before the turn of the 20th century, the horse-drawn carriages we romanticize today were simply regular means of travel.

But this all changed during the Age of the Automobile, when big companies like Ford and Chevrolet introduced big-bodied “horseless carriages” in the early 1900s, changing the business of travel forever.

Despite the dominance of these big businesses, one Black company rose to the occasion. That company was C.R. Patterson & Sons.

Charles Patterson, a man born enslaved, trained to be a Blacksmith after the Civil War. Little did he know, his talent was elsewhere - he started C.R. Patterson & Sons to produce carriages.

After Patterson’s death, his son Frederick - a man who made a name for himself as Ohio’s first Black football player - took over the business. And seeing the changing landscape, he adapted the family business to suit the era. 

Instead of making carriages, they began repairing cars.

But Frederick had high ambitions. Instead of just sitting on the sidelines and watching big companies make vehicles, he wanted in on the action. So in 1915, C.R. Patterson & Sons made history: they created their own vehicle. 

For $685, the Patterson-Greenfield Automobile became available.

The company trudged on for three years. But mechanization was at an all-time high, and this small Black company no longer could compete with big names. In 1918, production stopped. 

C.R. Patterson & Sons remains the only Black car company that ever existed in America.

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