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Saturday, August 23, 2014

August 21: Olds Motor Co. was founded on this date in 1897



How quickly we forget that for much of the 20th century, the company founded by Eli Ransom Olds on this date in 1897 was the definition of middle-class transport. With his curved-dash car, Olds beat Henry Ford to mass production of an affordable automobile by several years, and in many ways suffered from bad luck where Ford did not; had a factory fire not destroyed several prototypes, Olds might have been an even bigger seller. Oldsmobile also won immortality of sorts in song, twice: "In My Merry Oldsmobile" was a turn-of-the-century hit, while "Rocket 88" stands as the prototype of rock 'n' roll. Olds thrived until the early 1980s, when imports began to offer better quality at lower prices and often in a style more people preferred; General Motors made several attempts to keep it alive, but gave up in 2004. Here's a view of the world as Olds himself saw it, from a rare film shot by Thomas Edison of a 1900 parade through New York City by the booming new auto industry.