1913: The End of the Road for a Pivotal but Mostly Overlooked Automotive Executive

September 17, 1913

Automotive executive George W. Bennett died in Toledo, Ohio, at the age of 48 from complications due to appendicitis. While anything but a household name today like Henry Ford, Bennett was very much well-known in his lifetime and held in high regard.  The Horseless Age: The Automobile Trade Magazine noted at the time of his death, “In the death of George W. Bennett the automobile industry loses an executive general who stood out boldly in his field of endeavor, and a man who was beloved and respected by all those with whom he came into contact.” 

Bennett was born in the seaside town of Worthing in southeastern England in 1864 and came to the United States at an early age. As with many others who gained prominence in the nascent years of the automobile industry, Bennett started out working with bicycles. He began his career in the bicycle business in the early 1880s as a traveling salesman for Chicago’s Gormully & Jeffery Manufacturing Company (G&J), which produced the Rambler bicycle. Rising up through that company’s ranks, Bennett became sales manager at the G&J plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

G&J eventually began manufacturing automobiles at its Kenosha plant, and Bennett assumed a pivotal role in building up that new business for the company. He left G&J in 1906, subsequently serving in management positions for a couple of other automobile manufacturers. 

Ultimately, in 1910, Bennett accepted an offer from John N. Willys (who had likewise started his career selling bicycles) to work for that automotive pioneer’s company. Bennett’s death would “be most seriously felt by John N. Willys, who . . . had practically placed the entire management of his enormous interests in the hands of Bennett,” noted The Horseless Age.   

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on George W. Bennett, please check out The Horseless Age – 24 September 1913

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