"Producing a product that “somebody else wants, whether it be a shoestring or a savings bank, the purchaser or patron will not trouble himself to ask who the seller is. Recognize this fundamental law of trade; add to it tact, good manners, a resolute will, a tireless capacity for work, and you will succeed in business."
Charles Richard (C.R.) Patterson was an American entrepreneur who, in 1893, started the C.R. Patterson & Sons carriage company. C.R. Patterson & Sons grew to be the first and only black-owned and operated automobile company on the continent.
CR Patterson was born free, in the state of Virginia in 1833. He was the youngest of 13 children. While Patterson’s parents were lighter-skinned, CR Patterson was very dark-skinned. At that time, prior to the abolition of slavery, it was common for African Americans – even free people – to be abducted and pressed into slavery. Worried about this fate for their son, in 1840, Patterson’s parents moved the family from Virginia to the abolition-sympathetic city of Greenfield in Ohio, a free state. Greenfield’s local preacher was an abolitionist who preached equal rights and opportunities for black Americans, which greatly influenced Patterson. He also admired American abolitionist and social reformer, Frederick Douglass. In fact, he named his oldest son in honor of Douglass.
In 1873, Patterson partnered up with local white businessman, J.P. Lowe, to run a carriage design firm in Greenfield. Despite being a prominent business owner in an abolitionist state, Patterson still encountered discrimination. His son, Frederick, was denied the right to attend an all-white high school. So, Patterson filed suit against the school district. The Board of Education’s primary argument was that as a Black person, Patterson didn’t have the legal right to file a lawsuit. The court sided with Patterson and Frederick was immediately admitted to the school.
In 1893, Patterson purchased Lowe’s share of the company and renamed it C.R. Patterson & Sons. He intended his youngest son, Samuel, to inherit the company, but he passed away in his twenties. Patterson’s oldest son, Frederick, left a teaching position in Louisville, Kentucky, to help his father run the company. In 1910, after C.R. Patterson passed away, Frederick Patterson completely took over running the company. By that time, the company had had added automotive repair and service.
C.R. Patterson died one of the richest people in Greenfield, Ohio, leaving the company he built to his son, Frederick Douglass Patterson. Five years after his death, C.R. Patterson & Sons sold its first automobile cementing the transition from a carriage to an automotive company.
Born in Virginia
Patterson’s parents move the family to Ohio
Patterson purchases his first property in Greenfield, OH
CR Patterson marries Josephine Outz
CR Patterson is one of the charter members of Cedar Grove Lodge No. 17, Free and Accepted Masons, in Greenfield, OH
Starts a carriage building company with J.P. Lowe
Lowe & Patterson take on additional partners; change company name to J.P. Lowe & Co.
Patterson sues for the right to have Frederick attend the all-white high school; at a time when a Black man didn’t have the right to sue
Patterson wins the law suit & Frederick attends the all-white high school
Purchases Lowe’s shares of the company and renamed it C.R. Patterson & Son
Patterson addresses the 1st National Negro Business League
Passes away at the age of 77