Charles Richard (C.R.) Patterson was an American entrepreneur who started the C.R. Patterson & Sons carriage company in 1893 in Greenfield, Ohio. Patterson & Sons grew to be the first and only black-owned and operated automobile company on the continent.
Patterson’s parents moved from Virginia to Greenfield, Ohio in the early 1840s. There, C.R.’s father worked as a banker for black people in the area who were not allowed to save their money in “white banks.” C.R. was the oldest of 13 children.
Patterson’s father was a firm believer in the power of education and encouraged his children to absorb as much as they could. The local preacher in Greenfield was an abolitionist who preached equal rights and opportunities for black Americans. Patterson was also influenced by the American abolitionist and social reformer, Frederick Douglass. He named his oldest son in honor of Douglass.
In 1873, Patterson partnered up with local businessman, J.P. Lowe, to run a carriage design firm in Greenfield. In 1893, Patterson purchased Lowe’s share of the company and renamed it C.R. Patterson & Sons, which he intended to be inherited by his youngest son Samuel, who unfortunately passed away at age 23. C.R.’s oldest son, Frederick, who was college educated, left his teaching position in Louisville, KY to help his father run the company. Frederick took the reins of the company in 1910 after C.R. passed away. By the time he took over, the company had already added automotive repair and service, as he had convinced his father that automobiles were the future.
C.R. Patterson, the son of a banker, was financially savvy, buying and selling real estate in the local area. He died one of the richest people in Greenfield, Ohio, leaving the company he built to his son, Frederick Douglass Patterson. C.R. Patterson & Sons sold their first automobile in 1915, five years after he passed away.