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Iowa History Daily: December 6 - Duesenberg Auto

Iowa History Daily: On December 6, 1876 the elder of Iowa’s automotive innovating Duesenberg brothers was born. Friedrich (Fred), with his young brother August (Augie), got their start building automobiles in Des Moines before going on to found an important American racing and luxury car manufacturer.

Born in Germany, the boys immigrated to Rockford in North Iowa with their mother following the death of their father. As the bicycle craze took America by storm in the 1890s, Fred opened up a bike shop in Rockford. A few years later Augie opened a shop of his own in Garner. After experiments attaching gasoline engines to bicycles made them creators of some of the first motorcycles, the boys moved to Des Moines in 1905.

With funding secured from a local lawyer, the Duesenberg brothers started work on their first car. By February of 1906 the Mason “Old Number One” rolled out of their shop 24-horsepower, 5 cylinder engine. The cars came to be known as “Mason Hill Climbers” after awing crowds with spectacular exhibitions including driving one up the west steps of the Des Moines Capitol grounds. Newton’s Fred L. Maytag purchased 60% of the company in 1910 to form the Mason-Maytag Motor Company. After relocating the operations to Waterloo, the brothers designed four-cylinder engines until Maytag decided to divest in order to try a new venture in the manufacture of washing machines.

Ready to strike out on their own, the Duesenberg brothers moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, and started the Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company. The company went on to incredible success under the visionary direction of Fred and Augie. Credited with popularizing innovations including the straight-eight engine and hydraulic brakes, a Duesenberg became the first American car to win the French Grand Prix in 1921 before taking home the Indianapolis 500 three times in the 1920s. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD



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