Recently someone posted a YouTube video on Facebook of a 1909 Patterson automobile being taken for a test drive. The video was posted by the Saratoga (NY) Automobile Museum and many wondered if it was a long-sought survivor of the C.R. Patterson Company of Greenfield, OH.
C.R. Patterson was the first, and only, African American manufacturer of automobiles in America and there are no known survivors of their motorized vehicles. The Greenfield Historical Association does own a couple of examples of the horsedrawn wagons the company made before going into the automobile, and later bus, business.
For some time it was rumored that a Patterson existed in South Dakota but according to local Patterson expert, Tom Smith, that was a car manufactured in Michigan and the name contained only one T. At one time Smith tracked down the owner of the South Dakota vehicle, learned its history, and turned down an offer to purchase it.
After seeing the 1909 car in the video I contacted the New York museum asking if it was made in Greenfield. Here is the text of my exchange of emails:
- I am a retired history teacher and live near Greenfield, OH. I found a YouTube video posted by your museum regarding a 1909 Patterson automobile. I’m wondering it if was made by the Patterson Company of Greenfield which was the only African American owned automaker in American history. To date, no examples of Patterson’s autos have been found. Maybe this is the holy grail. Any information would be both appreciated and passed on to the local historical society.
- Dear Larry, Thank you for your interest in our Patterson. How I wish it was the holy grail! Our Patterson was built in Flint, Michigan. Sincerely, Carly T. Connors
Our local Patterson expert, Tom Smith, was aware of a Michigan built Patterson that was at a time located in South Dakota. However, it was a Paterson (with just one T) and not a Patterson. The owner offered it for sale to Tom and possibly that is the car you now own. I’ll pass this information along to Tom and I appreciate the quick response. If you’re interested in the history of the Greenfield Patterson family and business obtain a copy of Chris Nelson’s definitive book on the subject. Again, thanks and best regards.
So, the search for the very elusive Greenfield Patterson goes on and the odds of every locating one grow less favorable.
Video of Saratoga’s 1909 Patterson