The origins of the Hummer - HISTORY
Year
1983

The origins of the Hummer

On this day in 1983, the Pentagon awards a production contract worth more than $1 billion to AM General Corporation to develop 55,000 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV). Nicknamed the Humvee and designed to transport troops and cargo, the wide, rugged vehicles entered the spotlight when they were used by the American military during the 1989 invasion of Panama and the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s.

In 1992, a civilian version of the Humvee, known as the Hummer, went on sale. The hulking, attention-grabbing road warrior tipped the scales at some 10,000 pounds and got less than 10 miles per gallon. It was an early hit with Hollywood celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who went on to own a fleet of Hummers. In December 1999, when the economy was strong and gas prices were relatively low, General Motors purchased the rights from AM General to market and distribute the Hummer. In 2002, the Hummer H2, a smaller (some 8,600 pounds), less expensive version of the original model, debuted.

The Hummer became a symbol of America’s super-sized lifestyle; however, the gas-guzzling vehicle was also a target of heavy criticism from environmentalists. According to a 2008 report on Salon.com, in August 2003, “Hummer-hating eco-vandals [struck] four car dealerships in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley, destroying, defacing and burning dozens of Hummers and other SUVs, while scrawling love notes like ‘Fat, Lazy Americans’ about the premises.”

In 2005, the Hummer H3, an even smaller (5,800 pounds), more fuel-efficient (16 to 20 miles per gallon) vehicle, was released. The following year, GM ended production of the original Hummer, due to low sales. In 2008, as Americans faced a growing economic crisis and rising gas prices, along with increasing environmental concerns, Hummer sales shrunk by more than 50 percent. In December 2008, GM, which was hard hit by the global recession and slumping auto sales, received a multi-billion-dollar federal bailout loan in order to stay afloat. On June 1, 2009, the auto giant, which until 2008 had been the world’s top-selling maker of cars and trucks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The following day, GM announced that as part of its reorganization plans it would sell the Hummer brand to a Chinese machinery company.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Naval hero killed in duel

U.S. Navy officer Stephen Decatur, hero of the Barbary Wars, is mortally wounded in a duel with disgraced Navy Commodore James Barron at Bladensburg, Maryland. Although once friends, Decatur sat on the court-martial that suspended Barron from the Navy for five years in 1808 and ...read more

Arab League formed

Representatives from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen meet in Cairo to establish the Arab League, a regional organization of Arab states. Formed to foster economic growth in the region, resolve disputes between its members, and coordinate ...read more

Stamp Act imposed on American colonies

In an effort to raise funds to pay off debts and defend the vast new American territories won from the French in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), the British government passes the Stamp Act on this day in 1765. The legislation levied a direct tax on all materials printed for ...read more

Westmoreland to depart South Vietnam

President Lyndon B. Johnson announces the appointment of Gen. William Westmoreland as Army Chief of Staff; Gen. Creighton Abrams replaced him as commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam. Westmoreland had first assumed command of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam in June 1964, ...read more

First Stanley Cup championship played

On this day in 1894, the first championship series for Lord Stanley’s Cup is played in Montreal, Canada. The Stanley Cup has since become one of the most cherished and recognized trophies in sport.The Stanley Cup was the creation of Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, lord of Preston ...read more

FDR legalizes sale of beer and wine

On this day in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Beer and Wine Revenue Act. This law levies a federal tax on all alcoholic beverages to raise revenue for the federal government and gives individual states the option to further regulate the sale and distribution of ...read more

Louis L’Amour born

Louis L’Amour, the prolific author of scores of bestselling western novels, is born in Jamestown, North Dakota.An indifferent student, L’Amour dropped out of high school at age 15. Over the next two decades, he traveled around the world working in an amazing variety of jobs. At ...read more

Stephen Sondheim is born

Stephen Sondheim, one of the last giants of the American musical theater to work in a style not influenced by rock and roll, was born in New York City on March 22, 1930. Sondheim and the work he created helped revolutionize the Broadway musical in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.When ...read more

Teachers are indicted at the McMartin Preschool

Seven teachers at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California are indicted by the Los Angeles County grand jury after hearing testimony from 18 children. Included among the charged are Peggy McMartin Buckey, the head of the school and her son Ray Buckey. Seven years and ...read more

Braxton Bragg born

On this day in 1817, Confederate General Braxton Bragg is born in Warrenton, North Carolina. Bragg commanded the Army of Tennessee for 17 months, leading them to several defeats and losing most of the state of Tennessee to the Yankees.Bragg graduated from the U.S. Military ...read more