The history of the Fisher Body Ohio Company begins in Norwalk, Ohio. The Fisher family operated a factory there for the building, painting, and repairing of carriages. The oldest of the six sons, Fred Fisher, left Norwalk in 1901 to work for the Detroit-based C. R. Wilson Body Company, eventually becoming a superintendent for the firm. On July 22, 1908, Fred and his brother Charles Fisher founded the Fisher Body Company in Detroit. One of the first companies to build closed body cars, Fisher received its first order for 150 closed bodies from Cadillac in 1910. The two Fisher brothers organized the Fisher Closed Body Company in December of that year. In 1916, the Fisher Body and the Fisher Closed Body companies merged, forming the Fisher Body Corporation. Three years later, the newly formed General Motors Corporation bought a 3/5 interest in Fisher Body.
The year 1919 also brought the formation of the Fisher Body Ohio Company, a subsidiary of the parent corporation with an authorized capitalization of $10,000,000. The subsidiary was first directed from Detroit, with Fred Fisher as president and Charles Fisher as vice-president. In the 1920's their younger brother, Edward Fisher, became plant manager of the Ohio Company, giving a management autonomy that is still in effect.
In November, 1921, the Fisher Body Ohio Company received a contract for Chevrolet's closed bodied automobiles, allowing the plant to reach a first year production rate of 150 bodies per day. By 1924, that rate had increased to 600 per day with the company supplying Chandler, Cleveland, Chrysler, Oakland, and Chevrolet with bodies.
Under the direction of Edward Fisher, The Fisher Body Ohio Company introduced several innovations in automobile body manufacturing. In 1923, the company "initiated the knock-down system of shipping bodies," and pioneered the use of lacquer for body finish, thus reducing cost and making color styles possible. In 1925, it became the first auto body manufacturer to use a moving conveyor line in its assembly process.
On June 30, 1926, the General Motors Corporation purchased the outstanding majority of Fisher Body's stock, making the company its sole body building division.
By 1936, the Depression had significantly lowered the demand for automobiles and thus the need for plant expansion. General Motors ended body assembly operations at Fisher's Coit Road plant that year, retooling it for metal and trim fabrication, and bringing on one of the worst strikes of the Depression as a result of its lay-offs. The subsequent union activity at the Coit Road plant marked the end of Fisher Body as a pateralistic, family-run business and its initiation into the world of corporate giants.
During World War II, the plant made marine diesel engine crankcases, engine nacelles, and various aircraft and tank parts. The factory, a leader in its installation of safety devices on machinery, had some of the largest metal presses then in operation. In 1946, automobile sub-assembly production resumed, with a staff of 4,000 and an output of 5,000 bodies per day.
Though GM continued to use the Fisher Body name on their cars into the 1990’s, the company was dissolved into other GM divisions in 1984.
Frederick J. Fisher
Frederic John Fisher, (born January 2, 1878, Sandusky, Ohio - died July 14, 1941, Detroit) was the eldest of 11 children and worked for his father, a carriage maker, before moving to Detroit in 1902. From 1908 to 1916 he and five of his brothers formed several companies that built bodies for cars. When merged in 1916 as Fisher Body Corp., it was producing almost 400,000 car bodies a year. In 1919 General Motors (GM) bought a majority interest in the company, and in 1926 it became a division of GM, though all the brothers retained management posts. Fred Fisher became a vice president of GM and retired in 1934.