This Day In History: March 5

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On March 5, 1929, David Dunbar Buick, the founder of the Buick Motor Company, dies in relative obscurity and meager circumstances at the age of 74. In 1908, Buick’s company became the foundation for the General Motors Corporation; however, by that time David Buick had sold his interest in the company.

Buick was born in Arbroath, Scotland, on September 17, 1854, and moved with his family to Detroit, Michigan, as a child. As a young man, he worked in the plumbing industry and developed, among other inventions, a successful process for bonding porcelain enamel to cast-iron bathtubs. During the 1890s, Buick became interested in automobiles and the gasoline internal combustion engine. In 1903, he founded the Buick Motor Company. The following year, William Durant, a titan of the horse-drawn carriage industry, invested in Buick’s company, which was by then based in Flint, Michigan. 

That same year, the company made a total of 37 autos, known as the Model B. By 1906, Buick had lost control of the business and sold his stock, which would later be worth millions of dollars. Two years later, in 1908, William Durant made the Buick firm the cornerstone of his newly formed holding company, General Motors. Durant soon acquired Cadillac and Oldsmobile, among other car companies. In 1923, Buick built its 1 millionth vehicle. The Buick brand would play a key role in General Motors’ rise to become the world’s largest automaker by the early 1930s (a title it held until 2008, when it was surpassed by Japan-based Toyota). Today, Buick is GM’s entry-level luxury brand and one of the auto industry’s oldest nameplates.

After selling his interest in his company, David Buick became involved in a series of unsuccessful oil, real-estate and automotive ventures. He eventually returned to Detroit, where he worked menial jobs before his death in 1929.