The Fisher Body Company, later the Fisher Division of GM, had strong
family roots. It was founded by seven brothers whose grandfather, Andrew Fisher, emigrated from Northern Germany
around 1835 and set up a blacksmith shop in Ohio. His son Lawrence Fisher worked in the blacksmith shop. Later, with
his brother Andrew and his brother-in-law, he set up a carriage works, himself directing the woodworking facilities.
Ironworking, woodworking, carriage-building, and brothers working closely together all reappeared in the remarkable
success of the Fisher Body Company.
Lawrence Fisher stressed craftsmanship above all else. All of his sons worked in the family business before leaving
home. His brother Albert Fisher, who also learned carriage making from Lawrence, established Standard Wagon Works in
Detroit in the late 1880s. At Uncle Albert's suggestion Fred Fisher, eldest of Lawrence Fisher's seven sons, decided
to seek his fortune in Detroit.
In 1902, Fred found work as a draftsman at C. R. Wilson Company, joined by his brother Charles in 1904. Wilson, the
largest maker of horse-drawn carriage bodies in the world, also built auto bodies for a handful of pioneer
automakers, including Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Ford, Peerless and Elmore. The brothers worked there until 1908, when
they quit over salaries. Uncle Albert offered Fred and Charles jobs in his carriage shop and the brothers gratefully
Uncle Albert's Standard Wagon Works had supplied some 50 bodies for the fledgling Ford Motor Co. Fred and Charles
recognized that bodies for horse-drawn carriages would not do for motorcars. Automobile bodies needed an entirely
different technology. For example, driving a car via its rear wheels put a different set of stresses on the body
than pulling a carriage by its front axle; also the higher speeds and greater vibration of motorcars demanded
suitable engineering advances.
At this point, the two brothers invited Uncle Albert to join them in their own auto-body business. Between the three
of them, they had connections, expertise, good ideas -- and Uncle Albert agreed to supply capital. On July 22, 1908,
Albert, Fred and Charles Fisher formed the Fisher Body Co., capitalized at $50,000, with $30,000 cash paid in by
Early customers included Ford, Herreshoff, EMF and Oldsmobile. Walter Flanders, a partner in EMF, suggested that the
new company build an inexpensive closed car body. Closed cars at that time were not only expensive but were
considered undesirable by Ford. As Fred and Charles began to experiment with closed sedan bodies, Uncle Albert not
only protested but soon wanted out of the new venture altogether.
At this point the Mendelssohn name entered the Fisher story. The younger Fishers didn't have enough money to buy
Albert out, but mentioned their plight to Louis Mendelssohn, an architect and civil engineer who, with his brother
Aaron, was a major stockholder in the Herreshoff Motor Co. Asked how much Albert wanted for his share, Fred
answered, "$30,000 by noon." Louis supplied it. As chairman of the board, Louis Mendelssohn oversaw the financial
side of the operation. He supervised the purchase, design and construction of new buildings and eventually
negotiated the sale of Fisher Body to General Motors. His brother Aaron joined in 1910 as supervisor of the general
office. Aaron's son Herbert entered the business in 1911 and Louis's son Paxton was put in charge of Plant #1.