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Dayton Body Co.
Dayton Folding Tonneau Co. 1904-1916; Dayton Body Co. 1916-1927; Dayton, Ohio
Associated Firms
Artz Press, J.D. Artz

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 years.

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


"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 car."

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 general manager."

March 30, 1916 Lima News:

"New Incorporations

"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 percent.

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 follows:

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:


"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:


"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 Bay 8510."

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.

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:

"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&quote;

A very similar ad/article appeared in a 1930 issue of Autobody:


"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,







D.B. Shuey - History of the Shuey family in America, from 1732 to 1919, pub 1919

Augustus Waldo Drury - History of the city of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, Volume 1&2, pub 1909

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

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