The Birth of a School Bus Pioneer

January 19, 1881

School bus pioneer Franklin A. “Patch” Patchett was born in San Miguel in San Luis Obispo County, California. In 1911, he went into business with his two of his brothers and a brother-in-law to run a Ford Motor Company distributorship for the western half of California’s Stanislaus County. A milestone for their distributorship took place in 1913 when it received a commission to build a motor vehicle to carry students to and from an elementary school in the city of Newman, California.

Patchett recalled nearly six decades later in an Associated Press interview, “That started me in the bus business.” Patchett and his business partners ended up taking a wooden passenger compartment with benches and fitting that onto a standard ¼-ton Ford Model T chassis to create a bus capable of transporting schoolchildren. If the vehicle wasn’t the first motorized school bus, as Patchett and others later claimed, it was certainly among the earliest to be introduced.  The bus was operated by Hans C. Carstensen, who helped build it. (The above photo depicts that 1913 bus.)

In 1914, Patchett went into business with Carstensen. The two of them formed Patchetts & Carstensen, and they continued the high-demand production of buses for a number of school districts in central California. Patchett estimated that they built approximately 700 to 800 school buses by the time the firm’s manufacturing operations were sold to Gillig Brothers of San Francisco in 1937. (Carstensen had died three years earlier.) 

That sale to Gillig Brothers did not remove Patchett from the transit business altogether. He reorganized his firm as Patchett’s Bus &Transportation Company and – instead of building buses — focused on working with various school districts to acquire those vehicles from other manufacturers. By the time Patchett’s company was sold off to a larger operator in 1968, it was supplying a total of 221 buses to 42 school districts. Patchett died in 1975 at the age of 94.

Photo Credit:, Inc.

For more information on Franklin A. “Patch” Patchett, please check out

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