American automaker Studebaker, heavily in debt after the start of the Great Depression in October 1929, goes into receivership on March 18, 1933. The company's president, Albert Erskine, already suffering from health problems, resigned and later that year took his own life. Studebaker eventually rebounded from financial trouble but was shuttered for good in 1966.
Studebaker Corp. dates to 1852, when brothers Henry and Clement Studebaker opened a blacksmith shop in South Bend, Ind. The company eventually became a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn wagons and supplied wagons to the U.S. Army during the Civil War. The company entered America's fledgling auto industry by launching an electric car in 1902 and a gasoline-powered vehicle two years later that was marketed under the name Studebaker-Garford.
Studebaker partnered with other automakers and began selling gasoline-powered cars under its own name in 1913, while continuing to make wagons until 1920.
Erskine took over the top post at Studebaker in 1915. Under Erskine, the company acquired luxury automaker Pierce-Arrow in the late 1920s and launched the value-priced but short-lived Erskine and Rockne lines. The Rockne line was named for famed University of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. Before Rockne's death in a 1931 plane crash, Studebaker paid the coach to give talks at auto conventions and dealer gatherings.
Studebaker entered a five-car team for the Indianapolis 500 in 1932.
In 1933, Studebaker, under new management, discontinued the Rockne brand and sold Pierce-Arrow. The new Studebaker Corp. was incorporated in January 1935. Raymond Loewy, a French-born industrial designer, began working for Studebaker in the late 1930s. He crafted publicly and critically acclaimed models such as the bullet-nosed 1953 Starliner and Starlight coupes and the 1963 Avanti sports coupe.
The Commander Starliner was featured in the Museum of Modern Art's landmark 1953 show, "Ten Automobiles." It is considered one of the first American mass-produced cars to adapt European design characteristics.
But by the mid-1950s, Studebaker, which lacked the scale and financial resources of Detroit's biggest automakers, had been forced to merge with automaker Packard and was again faced financial woes. The Packard brand was scrapped by the late 1950s. In December 1963, Studebaker shuttered its South Bend plant, ending car and truck output in America. The company's Hamilton, Ontario, operations continued until March 1966, when Studebaker shut its doors for the final time after 114 years in business.