1961: The End of the Road for an Automotive Trailblazer

May 16, 1961

Automotive manufacturer Richard J. Corbitt died in Henderson, North Carolina, at the age of 88. Corbitt had first established residence in that community in 1894, and he entered the transportation business five years later with the launch of the Corbitt Buggy Company. For several years, this company built horse-drawn buggies for hauling agricultural products. 

In 1907, however, Corbitt began focusing instead on motorized vehicles with the construction of his company’s first automobile (a high-wheeled, chain-driven buggy with an engine). The “Corbitt Motor Buggy” was also the first commercially produced automobile in North Carolina.

The newly renamed Corbitt Automobile Company soon became a formidable stakeholder in the state’s nascent automotive industry. Corbitt’s success was due in large part to his effective adoption of assembly line practices, new designs, and marketing strategies.

Corbitt Automobile Company built its first truck in 1910. These trucks proved to be so much in demand that, in 1913, Corbitt stopped manufacturing automobiles altogether in order to concentrate more fully on larger vehicles. These vehicles included North Carolina’s first motorized school buses, which were initially delivered to the Pamlico County school system in 1917. 

At around the same time, the renamed Corbitt Motor Truck Company was providing trucks for military use during World War I. The company, thanks in large part to its role as a leading supplier of vehicles not only to the U.S. Army but also such other entities as the North Carolina State Highway Commission (now part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation), became the largest truck manufacturer in the South by the 1920s. (The above image of a Corbitt truck appeared in the December 1922 issue of Motor Record magazine.)

During World War II, the company’s trucks were used in every theater of operation. Corbitt retired in 1952, and his company — increasingly unable to compete with larger-scale automotive operations in Detroit — ceased production soon thereafter.

Image Credit: Public Domain

Additional information on Richard J. Corbitt is available at http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/c/corbitt/corbitt.htm 

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