J.D. Artz is mainly remembered today as the inventor/manufacturer of the
Artz Press, a portable sheet metal press that was utilized by many body
builders for forming intricate cowl and body panels. Artz had previously
introduced a transformable automobile body that incorporated a removable
rear seat enabling an auto owner to easily convert a four-passenger touring
into a two-seat roadster in less than a minute.
John Dudley Artz was born on October 3, 1858 in Germantown, Montgomery
County, Ohio to Joseph S. and Elizabeth (Negley) Artz. His father, Joseph S.
Artz (b. 1824-d. Dec 26, 1899) was born on a farm in Greene County, Ohio, in
1824, where he was reared to the work of the fields, after which he became
engaged in the lumber and undertaking business in Germantown.
On account of deafness Joseph was rejected when he offered his services
to the government in defense of the Union at the time of the Civil war. At
the end of hostilities the Artz family relocated 15 miles northeast to
Dayton, Ohio where he established another lumber business, commencing
operations in 1866. In 1877 Joseph S. Artz bought out the furniture firm of
Chadwick & Beaver, continuing in that line of business for the a number of
On the removal of the family to Dayton, John Dudley Artz, the subject of
this biography, entered the city's public schools, and continued his
education until he entered the business world as a junior member of his
father's furniture business which was now going by the name of Artz & Ozias.
By this time the senior Artz had abandoned the lumber business in order to
concentrate on Dayton's booming wholesale and retail furniture trade.
John Dudley's younger brother William Negley Artz (b.1859-d., joined the
business after a decade-long career in railroading, and following their
father's retirement in 1889, the firm was reorganized as Artz Bros.
Four years after their father's 1899 passing the two brothers decided to
part ways and William N. bough out John D.'s share in their furniture
business. John had become interested in the automobile business and used the
proceeds to establish the Dayton Folding Tonneau Co. on November 1, 1904.
The new firm was named after its sole offering, a clever transformable
automobile body for which Artz was awarded US Patent ##769,455.
The Dayton Folding Tonneau Co. worked out of a small carriagehouse
located at the rear of the family's 1141 N. Main St. home in Dayton. The
house and storefront remain standing today located across the street from
Dayton's N. Main St. Family Dollar.
Artz' novel folding rear seat received great attention from a number of
early automobile trades as follows:
Electrical World and Engineer, June 27,1903:
"Dayton, Ohio - The Montgomery County Telephone Company has been
incorporated with $200000, by L. Rauh, HC Kiefaber, JT Barlow, Edward C.
Canby and JD Artz."
Horseless Age, Sept. 14, 1904:
"US Patent #769,455- Vehicle Body - John D. Artz, of Dayton, O- September
6, 1904. Filed April 15, 1904. This patent relates to a convertible vehicle
body for automobiles, with a folding rear seat. The body comprises a back
panel hinged to its rear portion, and side panel extensions rigidly
projecting from the back panel. To these extension panels are hinged folding
panels and a seat panel which folds against it. The drawings clearly
illustrate the idea."
Horseless Age, October 5, 1904 Vol.14 No. 14,
"Artz Folding Rear Seat.
"We show herewith some photos of a folding rear seat for vehicle bodies,
more especially for automobile bodies, invented and patented by J.D. Artz of
Dayton, Ohio. The following claims are made for this seat by its inventor:
It is simple in construction, is strong and rigid when up, and can be closed
in two seconds; the vehicle then has the appearance of a two-passenger
runabout, and the cushions and robes are protected from dust and moisture.
The illustrations show the seat applied to a Ford runabout, but it is
equally well adapted to be fitted to Cadillacs, Oldsmobile Tonneaus and
other cars that do not have the rear portion otherwise occupied. We are told
that Mr. Artz intends to manufacture these seats."
The Motor Way: Feb. 11, 1905
"DAYTON FOLDING TONNEAU CO.
"The folding tonneau seat shown by the Dayton Folding Tonneau Co. is a
neat and easily attachable device. It can be attached to the platform of any
runabout car and when folded has a slightly rounded and sloping appearance,
and when open gives the car a surrey effect. They can be opened in half a
minute and are self-locking in position. The seats are amply wide for two
persons. They can be furnished to any make of automobiles, except those
having the engine in the rear portion of the body behind the front seat."
The Motor Way: Feb 25, 1905:
"The Dayton Folding Tonneau Co. Dayton, Ohio, whose folding tonneau seat
was recently illustrated in these pages, are now enjoying a good trade.
These seats being readily attachable to runabout cars, are very popular, and
when folded do not Interfere in the least with the general appearance of the
Automobile Trade Journal 1905:
"catalog of the Dayton Folding Tonneau Co. of Dayton, Ohio. Above this
curious statement there is a cut of the Artz Tonneau, folded, and it does
suggest a claim to this form. The interior of the booklet, however, very
cleverly shows the usefulness of the Artz Folding Tonneau by series of
reproduced photographs in which the fair sex take an interesting part. The
booklet was prepared by J.D. Artz, who has shown as much ingenuity in it as
designing his famous folding tonneau."
Horseless Age, January 3, 1906:
"New Artz Folding Tonneau.
"We are in receipt of particulars of the Artz folding tonneau made by the
Dayton Folding Tonneau Company, of Dayton, Ohio, which has recently been
improved in detail. When folded up the seat lies entirely within the curve
of the back, and in order to make room for a seat of full thickness and at
the same time to preserve the beauty of outline it was found necessary to
make the upper half of the back a swell and the lower half of the back a
dip, which proved a stumbling block at first. After two or three failures
they found it was only a question of power, and they now make the backs of
five layers of veneer with the grain in the alternate layer crossing, and so
glued under a pressure of 162 tons that it has been, found impossible to
split them or to tear the layers apart.
"It will be seen by the illustrations that the inner edge of the back is
reinforced by an ash strip three-quarters of an inch thick, 2 inches wide
where the hinges are screwed to it and 1 inch wide where it forms the gimp
ledge for the upholstery to be fastened to. This gimp strip, as it is
called, is steamed and then bent on hot cast iron forms, rights and lefts,
and as it cannot be strapped around the twist curves, is bent by means of V
head clamps placed one beside the other and tightened down as the bending
progresses; in fact the pressure of the clamps must do the bending,
otherwise the wood would sliver off.
"The sill of the back is a cast iron piece membered up outside of the
back where it forms a moulding and inside of the back to the height of 1˝
inches, screws being put through this inside member into the back so that
there are no screw hole plugs in the outside of the back. This makes the
back when painted impervious to the weather. The locks and fittings are all
hard bronze, except the hinges which are steel. All metal to wood joints are
filled with white lead.
"This tonneau weighs only 70 pounds, painted and upholstered, but it is
claimed to be as rigid when open as a standing tonneau, and to have proven
unbreakable in use. We understand that it has been used largely for Cadillac
and Wayne runabouts, and that recently a well-known manufacturer has made
arrangements to furnish it as a regular equipment."
July 4, 1912 issue of The Automobile:
"Dayton Body Factory Building—The Dayton Body Company, Dayton, O., has
acquired a site upon which it will erect a new factory building in which to
carry on its manufacturing operations."
July 1, 1912 Power Wagon:
"The Dayton Body Company will erect a new (96 by 428 ft.) factory on a
site at the corner of Miami Chapel road and the Big Four RR."
A 1913 State of Ohio inspection report listed the firm as a manufacturer
of Brass & Aluminum Castings.
The Dayton Body Co. was incorporated on March 29, 1916 for $100,000 in
order to manufacture Vehicle Bodies.
April 20, 1916 The Automobile:
"Dayton Body Co. Formed— The Dayton Body Co., Dayton, Ohio, has been
formed with $100,000 capital to manufacture automobile bodies. A factory
will be constructed, 64 by 384 ft., four stories, of brick. J. D. Artz is
March 30, 1916 Lima News:
"Dayton Body Company, Dayton. $100,000; J. Dudley Artz, C. Feldman.
William O. Mellee."
Concurrent with the organization of the Dayton Body Company, Artz
designed a press that permitted the use of steel (instead of wood) is some
panels such as cowls, provided the shape was not too intricate. Patent
information for the novel device follows:
J.D. Artz – Apparatus For Forming Sheet Metal Articles
Patent number: 1164698
Filing date: May 17, 1915
Issue date: Dec. 21, 1915
The Artz press was really two sets of clamps, which gripped opposite ends
of the panel, and a hydraulic press to push up a wooden form and stretch the
panel into something approximating its eventual shape. Under this stress,
the metal could be more easily hammered into the desired contour.
The Artz press was being used mainly for cowl panels on custom bodies.
The cowl framework would be filled in with blocks of hardwood (usually body
sill scraps) which had been shaped to the contour wanted. A sheet of steel
or aluminum was bent over this framework and gripped by the clamps at the
bottom of each side. It still took a fair amount of work with hammers on the
metal blocks called dollies to get the sheet of metal properly shaped. Those
dollies came in various shapes, and are still used by body repair men.
On a series of bodies, a wooden form was built for the cowl on which the
same procedure was followed, but one form would serve for all bodies of the
series. Often it would be used for different body styles being built
simultaneously, if the changes were all from the windshield back.
The Artz press introduced "cowl stretching," one of his more interesting
advances. The company used an 18-inch-diameter Artz hydraulic ram and
designed "impossible" (according to Artz) attachments to transform a flat
shirt-collar-shaped piece of aluminum into an upright, beaded cowl with all
the vents and necessary holes. They also worked closely with Alcoa, who
would eventually supply metal which could be routinely stretched 35 to 50
When hand forming over hammer forms became too slow and costly, there
came the Artz press to stretch form parts over hammer forms.
Unlike firms like Pettingell, who simply sold their machine tools direct
to the nation's body builders, Artz operated on an entirely different
business model. Due to the fact that great skill was required to operate the
Artz metal-stretching press, he initially made the machine available via
long term lease, fully equipped with an Artz-trained operator, thereby
insuring the quality of the product.
The novel press was slow to take hold, however by the mid-Twenties close
to a hundred Artz Presses had been purchased by the nation's leading body
builders. Unfortunately none are known to survive today.
In 1918 Artz introduced a greatly improved press whose patent information
John Dudley Artz, Forming Press
Patent number: 1315937
Filing date: Mar 25, 1918
Issue date: Sep 16, 1919
March 1920 Metal Industry:
"US patent #1,315,937, issued September 16, 1919. Forming Press. John
Dudley Artz, of Dayton, Ohio.
"This invention relates to improvements in apparatus for forming sheet
metal articles, and more particularly to an improvement upon and an
amplification of the apparatus set forth and described in Letters Patent of
the United States, 1,164,698, issued under date of December 21, 1915.
"The object of the invention is to simplify the structure as well as the
means and mode of operation of such apparatus whereby it will not only be
cheapened in construction, but will be more efficient in use, capable of
being easily and quickly operated, economical in operation, and unlikely to
get out of order.
"A further object of the invention is to produce an improved means for
forming sheet metal articles or giving- to bodies of sheet metal or similar
material a predetermined contour without the use of a die."
Soon afterwards Artz introduced a line of attractive touring car bodies
for the Model T Ford which were marketed as the Dayton Classi Body. The
firm's bodies are known to have been sold by a handful of Ford Motor Co.
dealers throughout the Northeast as evidenced by the following display ad
which appeared in the April 17th & 24th Boston Globe:
"Ford Model T Chassis WITH DAYTON CLASSI BODY
"Note the door on the left, the large roomy tonneau, one-man top, the
perfectly designed hood, full crowned fenders, the 15-gallon gas tank in the
rear which can be seen between the spokes of the rear wheel. Stewart Vacuum
system, tire carrier and tail light bracket, the radiator shell and cap and
the double ventilating windshield.
"Everything to be found on high-class cars is embodied in the equipment
of these long-line graceful bodies which are made to fit any Ford pleasure
car chassis and can be mounted by anyone.
"Lucky are the fortunate ones who buy a Dayton Body for their Ford. The
number available is small, no more will be manufactured for at least a year.
To those who want a Ford that has the distinctive appearance of a $2,500.00
car, buy a Dayton, and buy it NOW.
"N. W. THOMPSON, 10 Scotia Street, Boston Sole Distributor."
A 1921 classified ad for the Lima Nash Co., Lima, Ohio lists a used Ford
Touring with "Dayton Body" for sale. In most markets the bodies were also
sold through classified ads, a number of which follow:
March 20, 1921 Washington Post classified:
"Ford new tires, Dayton body, fine condition. Motor Company of
Washington, 24th & M. Sts. SW, West 710"
Oct. 4, 1921 Boston Globe classified ad:
"1921 FORD WITH DAYTON BODY
"Stream-line Job. with one-man top. Equipped with Speedometer, Fox block
wheel, shock absorbers, Stewart vacuum system, electric horn, windshield
wiper, dash light and several other accessories. The car is in perfect
condition, has excellent tires and cost nearly $900 six months ago. Price
$600. COOMBS & McBEATH. Inc., Used Car Dept., 65 Lansdown St., Phone Back
During the late teens and twenties the Dayton Body Co. manufactured a
line of commercial bodies for the Ford Model T and TT chassis. A used
example is offered in the following classified ad from the November 10, 1927
Frederick (Md.) News Post:
"We Are Noted For Selling The Cheapest Used Cars In Frederick.
$25 down and $5 per week. No security necessary. We have the following
cars on hand:
One 1923 Packard Sedan, $250.
One 1922 Buick Roadster. $75.
Two 1922 Hupmobile Sedans, $100 each.
Three Hudson Super Six Tourings, $73 each.
One Haynes Brougham, $225.
One Hudson Super Six Coupe. $150.
One 1922 Oakland Sedan, $85.
One 1921 Nash Touring, $50.
One Essex Four Roadster, new Duco paint job, $200.
One Essex Four Touring Car, $100.
One Essex Six Touring Car, $100.
One 1923 five-ton White Dump Hydraulic Hoist Truck, $800 cash.
One 1-ton Commerce Truck, $150.
One 1924 Ford Truck, Dayton body, $100.
One 1922 Hudson Super-Six Speedster, very good condition, $125.
These cars are all in good running condition and have good rubber.
BERNIE'S ADTO EXCHANGE, 473 West Patrick Street, Telephone 196.
LOOK FOR AUTO ON ROOF"
The firm is also known to have built a few custom bodies during the
mid-twenties, one on a 1925 Cadillac chassis.
By 1926 Ford's new line of standard body offerings and stiff competition
from third-party builders caused Dayton Body's sales to spiral downward and
in 1927 the 69-year-old Artz closed up shop. However occasional
advertisements indicate he continued to produce the Artz Press into the
early 1930s under his own name.
It's interesting to note that the circa 1929 Artz Press pictured at the
left is notably more streamlined than earlier iterations of the device as
pictured in the 1915 and 1919 patents.
In addition to cowls, a skilled Artz-operator could produce all kinds of
products using the Artz Press including radiator grill surrounds, hoods,
tonneau sections, decklids, roofs and complicated multi-part body sections.
By the mid-twenties Artz offered to lease the machines without an
operator, hence the following tutorial which was included in the May 1929
issue of Auto Body (corresponds with numbered pictures at left):
"Making a Cowl, With Raised Panel, on the Artz Press
"At the plant of the Union City Body Co. at Union City, Ind., the Artz
metal-stretching press has been used for the production of a variety of
panels. Some of the panels it has been claimed could not be produced on a
press of this type, but the Union City Body Co., with Roy Fullerton,
superintendent of its metal shop as ring master, has been able to make the
Artz press "perform," and practically every type of panel that was required
in quantity has been made on this press.
"The accompanying engravings show the production on the Artz press of a
raised-panel cowl with two ventilator openings on top, hood ledge and side
molding. This cowl is made of 20-gage steel on a wood-and-iron form
illustrated in Fig. 1. Fig. 2 shows the steel sheet in position ready for
stretching. In Fig. 3 the sheet has been stretched and the rise of the
hydraulic ram has been stopped. While the sheet is in tension, the overlay
and other irregular features are completed; with hammer and a wedge of wood
the metal is set down around the hood ledge, ventilator holes, molding and
overlay. Fig. 4 shows these operations completed and the panel ready for
removal from the press. After removal, the panels are trimmed and the
ventilator openings cut out.
"This cowl of 20-gage steel is stretched and peened in less than 10 min.
by the Union City Body Co. which has originated methods of making a number
of difficult panels with the Artz press, under Fullerton's superintendence.
"Fig. 1. Composite wood-and-iron form for making a cowl with overlay
panels, ventilators and hood ledge on Artz press.
"Fig. 2. The ends of a 20-gage steel sheet are secured in the grippers
and all is in readiness for the upward thrust of the hydraulic ram.
"Fig. 3. Cowl panel stretched, and ready for setting down the metal, with
hammer and wooden wedge, around the overlays, ventilator openings, et cetera.
"Fig. 4. The cowl panel, with overlay, ventilator openings and hood ledge
completed. It is now ready for removal and trimming."
The following text accompanies an Artz ad/article that was included in a
1930 issue of Power Wagon:
"Artz Press makes all body panels of 19 to 22 gauge steel or No. 14
aluminum. It makes gravel truck cab roofs of 14 gauge steel. By means of
stretch and squeeze it makes cowls with mouldings, raised and sunken.
"JD ARTZ, Patentee and Builder, Dayton, Ohio, USA for Speed and Accuracy"e;
A very similar ad/article appeared in a 1930 issue of Autobody:
"ARTZ METAL SHAPING PRESS
"JD ARTZ, Patentee and Builder, Dayton, Ohio, USA for Speed and Accuracy.
"Body panels of 19-22 gauge steel or No. 14 aluminum are being furnished
to truck operators and body builders by JD Artz, Dayton, Ohio. This weight
panel makes gravel truck cab roofs of 14 gauge steel. By means of stretch
and squeeze It makes cowls with moulding, raised and sunken panels and and
ventilators at one movement. Operators interested in the material should
drop a line to Mr. Artz at the above address."
An SAE paper, "How To Relate Body Tooling Budgets To Quantity
Requirements" delivered on October 24, 1933 by Brigg Mfg. Co.'s N.H. Manning
reveals that the Artz Press was still in common use at that time:
"Artz press forms or the equivalent would be used for producing cowls and
similar metal parts. Hand hammer forms and a few simple dies would be made
for producing the balance of the metal parts. The expense of the above
should not exceed $9500 and should produce economically up to 100 units.
With a few additions to metal forms and dies, and with an increase in
expenditure up to, say, $12000 or $15000 we could economically produce up to
200 units. Assuming now that the quantity be increased from 200 to 500 units
we reach a certain high-grade car market, which is common to many
manufacturers and which for competitive reasons demands that labor costs be
reduced very considerably. To accomplish this we would probably modify our
engineering and tools as follows:
"1. Draft and details would be enlarged and completed so that parts could
be lined up for production at more nearly production prices.
"2. Layouts and shaper forms would be improved so that all shapes could
be produced without further hand labor and otherwise manufactured in the
most economical manner.
"3. Artz press forms could still be used for cowls and other similar
shapes. Hand hammer forms would give place to inexpensive forming dies, the
reflanging and trimming operation still remaining to be done by hand."
John Dudley Artz passed away on January 13, 1940. He was survived by
three children, Warner Artz, of New York City, Louise Artz, (Mrs. William
Lawson McGowan), of Philadelphia, Penna., and Robert Artz, of Dayton, Ohio.
© 2004 Mark Theobald