Frederick S. Duesenberg (1876-1932)

The founders of Duesenberg Automobiles and Motors Company, Frederick S. and August S. Duesenberg immigrated to the United States at a young age and settled in Iowa with their parents and siblings. Drawn to racing, they would eventually relocate to Indianapolis, where they would become known in the 1920s and 1930s for producing cars with luxurious interiors, powerful engines, and impressive speeds on the race-track.

Updated: September 10, 2014


Duesenberg autos were well-known in the 1920s and 1930s for their luxurious interiors, powerful engines, and their speed on the race-track. The men behind the famous Duesenberg cars, brothers Frederick S. (born December 12, 1876 in Lippe, Lippe-Detmold; died July 26, 1932 in Pennsylvania) and August S. (born December 16, 1879 in Kirchheide, Lippe-Detmold; died January 18, 1955 in Indiana), however, were not as well-known—the focus of contemporary writers and subsequent historians tends to be on their opulent and technologically advanced creations. What is known is that both men pushed themselves and their employees in their pursuit of greater efficiency and speed, sixteen-hour workdays were not uncommon for them. Their love of racing and building automobiles overshadowed many other things in their lives, most notably any of the types of ethnic affiliations commonly seen among first-generation immigrants regardless of whether they were living in a small town or a large city. But, during World War I, a time when nativist sentiment against immigrants, and Germans in particular, was high, they were able to create the foundation that would make their later success in the 1920s and 1930s possible.

Family background

Born in the village of Kirchheide, in the principality of Lippe, Germany, brothers Frederick Samuel and August S. Duesenberg were the youngest two in a family of seven children. Their parents were Conrad and Luise (Kora) Duesenberg. Their oldest brother was named after their father. The second son was named Henry. Three girls, Minnie, Lena, and Mollie (Amelia), followed. Fred was born in 1876, and Augie (as he was known by friends and family) was born three years later in 1879. Their father Conrad died in 1881, and in 1884, Henry traveled to the United States and eventually settled in Iowa, where he found work as a salesman for a local nursery. To reunite the family, Luise sold their farm in Lippe and, with the rest of her children, traveled to Iowa to join Henry. Once in the United States, the oldest son, Conrad, purchased 200 acres in Floyd County, near the city of Rockford, Iowa, likely from the proceeds from the sale of their farm in Lippe. Of the Duesenberg children, the three youngest were the only ones who left the area. Fred and Augie traveled considerably before settling in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the youngest daughter, Mollie, lived in Los Angeles, California. Conrad, Henry, Minnie, and Lena all remained in Iowa. And though their pursuit of engineering excellence would take them to Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, and Indianapolis, both the brothers maintained their ties with Iowa and their family.[1]

Those ties were strengthened through their respective marriages. In 1906, Augie married Gertrude Pike, a young woman from Garner, Iowa, whom he met when he operated a bicycle shop in that town. Together they had two children, a son whom they named Frederick, and a daughter, Dorothy. And on April 27, 1913, Fred married Isle Denny from the town of Runnells, near Des Moines, Iowa. They also had one son, whom they named Denny. Denny became involved with racing after Fred retired from it in 1931. But it was not until the 1960s, that Augie’s son Fred became involved in the automotive business when he tried to revitalize the Duesenberg automobile brand. In addition to their sons, one of their nephews also worked with Fred and Augie. He came to Indianapolis to help prepare the cars going to France to race in the French Grand Prix in Le Mans in 1921. He remembers long hours spent in the shop as they tried to meet deadlines for shipping vehicles to their destination. He stayed until the project was completed but refused to work any longer for his driven uncles.[2]

The Duesenberg family entered the United States in 1885 when Fred was nine and Augie was six, during a large wave of immigration from Germany. In 1882 alone, approximately 600,000 immigrants from Germany arrived.  The period of immigration that began in the 1880s is commonly referred to as the “new” immigration. The new immigration is typified by immigrants from southern and eastern Europe who were predominately Catholic and Jewish and who tended to come over singly and settle in urban centers to take advantage of the labor needs there. Once they had saved enough money, they would then send for additional family members. In contrast, the Duesenbergs had much more in common with earlier German immigrants to the United States during the 1900s in that they had sufficient resources available to them so that the entire family came over at the same time, rather than following a “chain” migration. During this period of “new” immigration, over 2.9 million Germans entered the United States, with the bulk of them entering during the 1880s. While not all migrants went to the United States, during the 1880s nearly 1.5 million people left Germany. Entrance numbers for Germans dropped dramatically after 1893 as the economic and political situation in Germany stabilized and more laborers were needed for Germany’s burgeoning industries.[3]

Business Development

Both boys attended public school in Iowa through the eighth grade and learned English quickly after their arrival, which was fairly common for immigrants who arrived as children and subsequently attended public schools. Fred (the elder of the two by three years) demonstrated mechanical aptitude early on. After leaving school, his first job off the family farm was working as a mechanic for a farm implement dealer at the age of 17. He quickly moved from repairing broken farm equipment to opening his own shop in Rockford, where he sold, built, and repaired bicycles. It was at this point that he discovered his love of racing—he set two world records for speed—and where he developed a marketing plan for selling bicycles that would also serve him well when he began to work with automobiles. Fred believed that entering bicycle races (and winning them) would generate interest in their shop and sales. As noted by the historian Don Butler in his work on the history of the Duesenberg, “by the end of the century, the Duesenberg name was probably known to most Iowans and to others in neighboring states. The bicycle racing was mostly responsible for that, but many people personally knew the brothers for the services they rendered in curing mechanical ills.”[4]

After public school, Fred completed at least one correspondence course in engineering, which, as noted by the foremost Duesenberg expert, Randy Ema, “was a highly respectable form of education for rural students.” He further developed his skills through practical experience and apprenticeships with men who were doing the type of mechanical work he would eventually be doing. Transportation was undergoing rapid change during the Gilded Age. Bicycles and automobiles were sharing the road with horses pulling buggies and wagons. Innovations in technology happened quickly as people built and repaired bicycles and then began to experiment with the idea of using engines to power transportation rather than one’s own leg power or horse power.  To pursue Fred’s passion for things mechanical, the brothers sold their shop in Des Moines and in 1903 Fred traveled to Wisconsin to work in a small company, Thomas B. Jeffery & Co., which was producing the “Rambler” in Kenosha, Wisconsin. After working with Jeffery for approximately a year, he returned to Iowa and went to work in as machinist in the first auto repair garage in Des Moines where he gained practical, hands-on experience working on engines and the other mechanical systems of cars. A year later Fred and Cheney R. Prouty of W.J. Prouty Grocery Co., opened their own garage. They were also agents for both Rambler and Marion cars. Fred did well with the garage, but he had bigger dreams. Likely inspired by his speed records set with a bike, Fred wanted to create a racing automobile. But in order to accomplish that dream, he would need to find someone to help him with the financing.[5]

That someone ended up being a local lawyer named Edward R. Mason. Fred came to know Mason through Mason’s sons who brought their automobiles to his garage for repairs. They had invited him to have dinner with their family while he was recovering from an illness. Mason was so impressed with Fred’s ideas concerning automobile design that he asked him to draw up a set of plans. In order to do so, Fred “enrolled in a mechanical drawing course with the International Correspondence Schools of Scranton, Pa.” Butler believes that this is the only education Fred received after he left school in the eighth grade. Mason must have liked what Fred prepared, because he provided the capital necessary for the brothers to produce their first car, which they finished in 1905. They were getting their start in the automobile business at the same time the field was rapidly expanding as hundreds of small firms attempting to develop and refine this new technology came and went across the American industrial landscape. It was not until the 1920s that the big three, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, would begin to dominate, with smaller independent producers slowly dying off because they were unable to compete against the big three’s cheaper, mass-produced vehicles.[6]

Augie does not appear to have pursued any further schooling or apprenticeships. Instead, he appears to have focused on teaching himself the ins and outs of repairing and building while continuing to work on bicycles. While Fred was in Wisconsin and later Des Moines, Augie opened his own shop in Garner, Iowa. And “the 1908 Automobile Trade Directory listed ‘A.S. Duesenberg, Garner, Ia.’ as a motorcycle manufacturer.” In this early stage of their careers, the fact that Augie continued to operate his bicycle business even after the brothers went into a partnership with Mason likely enabled them to help meet their day-to-day living expenses and provide them with the funds necessary to race their autos at the various events in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest. Pragmatism tempered their enthusiasm for the emerging automotive technology, especially considering Augie had a family to support by this time, having married his wife Gertrude three years previous.[7]

In 1904, together with Mason the Duesenberg brothers founded the Mason Motor Company. The automobile that they designed as partners of the Mason Motor Company in 1905 was only 2 cylinders and bore little resemblance to the Duesenbergs of the 1920s, but it was fast, winning local dirt-track races, and it whetted both Fred’s and August’s appetites to create better, faster cars. For $1250 a customer could purchase “The fastest and strongest 2-cylinder car in America.” The Duesenbergs were only one small car maker among many during this period, and there likely was quite a bit of exchange among the men who built and worked in this new industry. Even before the car went into production, Fred generated interest in it with his favorite kind of advertising, “public demonstrations of what the car could do.” In order to demonstrate both its strength and durability, Fred chose climbing as his method of testing, a popular way for automobile manufacturers at the time to showcase their machines’ strength.

First was a dramatic performance in June at the state capitol building, where he drove the prototype car up the several flights of steps twice, first heading up and next backing up. Next was the July 4th hill-climbing contest sponsored by the Iowa Automobile Club at Des Moines. There Fred and the prototype not only won the Class 2 event but also the Winner’s Class Climb, doing so on a hill of more than 10% grade.[8]

Between 1906 and 1910, public interest and sales drove increases in production, plant expansions, and capital stock. In 1909 the company was reorganized as the Maytag-Mason Motor Co. The principal stockholder of the new company was Senator Frederick. L. Maytag, himself a second generation German immigrant entrepreneur. At this point he was well known as a manufacturer of farm machinery; he would later become known for washing machines. Maytag had little interest in producing automobiles known for their speed and at some point in 1910, Fred parted ways with the Maytag Mason Motor Co. Augie continued to work at Maytag-Mason as a pattern maker while Fred boarded with him and his wife. Fred continued to race and design engines.[9]

In 1912, the Maytag-Mason partnership dissolved. Maytag turned to washing machines and Edward Mason resumed control of Mason Motor Co. Fred returned to Mason, but it is unclear what role he played. Butler notes that he and Augie used a section of the plant in Waterloo where they focused on building racing cars with four cylinder engines—unlike the two cylinder engines they had worked on previously with Mason—likely to increase the speed and power of their automobile. 1912 also marks the first year that the Duesenbergs participated in the Indianapolis 500, which had its first running only one year before in 1911. (Rather than running many small races as they did in the Speedway’s first few years [1909-1911], the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway decided that hosting one large [both in length and size of purse] event would generate more income. And it did with 80,000 spectators in attendance for the first race.) Their first running ended with a mechanical failure but subsequent events that year brought the Duesenbergs and the engines into the spotlight. 1913 marked the end of the Mason-Duesenberg partnership. Plagued by financial difficulties, the Mason Motor Co. was ending production by late 1913.[10]

So in 1913 the Duesenberg brothers moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, to work on both automobile engines and marine engines. Though the brothers had little experience with marine engines, they nevertheless bid on and won a contract with J.A. Pugh from Chicago who wanted a new engine for a hydroplane, which he planned to run in the British International Trophy Race of 1914. The brothers made the June deadline, and Augie traveled with the boat. However, the outbreak of World War I canceled the race and neither Augie nor the hydroplane disembarked. Despite the fact the race was not run, the brothers received $50,000 (approximately $860,000 in today’s dollars) for their completion of the contract. This provided them with the much needed capital to continue to develop their racing autos. In late 1914 the brothers moved to the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis, to be near the soon-to-be completed Minneapolis speedway. Unlike their work in Iowa, with the capital they received from building the boat engine, the brothers were able to maintain their independence and concentrate solely on their own projects. Between 1914 and 1920, Fred and Augie worked on several different types of engines. In May 1916, they moved to Chicago to work again on marine engines, this time for the Loew-Victor Mfg. Co. The engines they worked on there were later essential for the war effort. They were used in patrol boats whose purpose was to spot the German submarines wreaking havoc in the Atlantic. Duesenberg Motor Company remained independent and continued to focus on racing. Not only were the brothers racing their own creations, their engines were powering over 60 percent of all cars on American race tracks.[11]

In 1917, the president of Loew-Victor Mfg. proposed a merger to Augie and Fred. Though it would mean more money for their projects, the brothers were loath to give up their independence. Eventually, however, J. R. Harbeck, president of Lowe-Victor Mfg.,  was successful in convincing them that the merger would be in their best interest, and in March of that year, Duesenberg Motor Co. and Loew-Victor Mfg. merged into Duesenberg Motor Corp. Fred was named chief engineer, and Augie was assistant chief engineer. Marine engine production remained in Chicago, while Fred and Augie were moved to New York to oversee the development of automobile and aircraft engines. The top priority for the new plant and the brothers was war contract work for airplane engines. In the summer of 1918, they received a defense contract for 2,000 airplane engines, but they had only just begun production, with forty completed, when the Armistice occurred.[12]

The brothers moved from place to place and partnered with many different engine and automobile manufacturers, likely a result of their needing to find partners to provide capital and their desire to work with engineers and companies that would be advantageous to them in terms of expanding their knowledge and skills. These partnerships provided many advantages that they would likely not have had otherwise, both in terms of financial backing so they could pursue their passion of building race cars and in terms of furthering their knowledge of engine and automotive design by getting to work with some exceptionally talented engineers, such as Ettore Bugatti, who had been educated in Germany. Their partnerships began with Mason in Iowa and continued with others in Minneapolis, Chicago, Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and Indianapolis.

World War I and the resulting anti-German hysteria does not seem to have adversely affected the brothers or their careers. During the war, they worked under government contract, first producing automobiles for the army and later working on airplane engines. Their work on airplane engines with Ettore Bugatti provided them with the basis for the new engine type that they focused on after the war, the “straight eight”.[13]

The Duesenbergs relocated to Indianapolis, the “heartland of the American auto industry,” in 1920, and rather than partnering with another automotive or engine company, ventured out on their own.  Duesenberg Automobiles and Motors Company was now located in a plant at the corner of Washington and Harding Streets. They were one of the many independent automakers in Indianapolis during the 1920s and 1930s. Given the presence and popularity of the Indy 500, they likely had a large pool of skilled workers to pull from in automobile production and testing. In order to establish their own shop in Indianapolis, and there they obtained permission from previous partners who held patents on some of Fred’s designs.[14]

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a large factor in what drew them to Indiana. They tested their creations there and, in later years, after they partnered with transportation tycoon Errett Lobban Cord, each Duesenberg auto was tested there prior to its delivery to its owner. In the early years of Duesenberg Motors, the brothers built on their work done on airplane engines during the war and the Duesenberg “straight eight” (8 cylinders in a line, rather than two rows of four side-by-side—this produced significantly more power and speed that side-by-side engines) was born. (As a comparison, Ford’s Model T, built in the 1910s, was a straight-four, or 4 cylinders in a line.) Despite its power and the quality of its engine, the early Duesenberg Model A (manufactured between 1921 and 1927) was not terribly popular. Their stodgy and boxy exteriors were in stark contrast to the power and performance found within the engine. And at $8,500 (approximately $97,400 in 2012 dollars) for the chassis alone, it was the second most expensive car on the market during this time. Those who could afford such automobiles went with manufacturers who offered more in the way of styling and amenities, while those who could not went with one of the mass produced and cheaper cars from the larger auto makers such as Ford and General Motor Company.[15]

Duesenberg Automobiles and Motors Company was not a financial success for Fred and Augie. They were both more interested in, and adept at, the mechanical and design portions of their business. In 1923, one of their investors tried to push them into receivership, however, when the matter went to court, records showed that the brothers had $1.5 million in assets and only $105,000 in unpaid bills, $70,000 of which was not immediately due. (It is likely that most of their assets were in the form of specialized tools and production machinery.) In light of this information, the judge denied the claim for receivership. While their cars were winning races and setting speed records, however, their cars were not selling well, and slack sales did eventually push the Duesenberg brothers into receivership in 1924. They emerged from receivership in 1925 but still were not doing well financially, as only the very rich could afford one of their cars and they were one of several luxury automobile manufacturers.[16]

The Duesenberg might have remained one of the many small automobile manufacturers of the early twentieth century had it not been for the vision of Cord. Cord had created a holding company, which he then used to buy over 100 smaller firms, mostly in the transportation industry. He had already acquired the Auburn brand in 1924, and he wanted to expand to include the Duesenberg brand as well in order to capture the high-end automotive market. He believed that the exceptional engineering, design, and construction of the Duesenberg engine and chassis could be the basis for something brilliant. Rather than put it in just any car, he wanted to create lavish, over-the-top coaches to complement Duesenberg’s superb mechanical systems. Fred and Augie finished production of their model A, which they had begun before the merger in 1926. Next came model X (of which only 13 were produced). The models that followed, S and J, embodied Cord’s dream of lavish styling with first-rate mechanical engineering.[17]

Automobiles were emerging as a new technology at the same time the brothers were seeking employment and direction in their lives. Unlike today, where the automotive landscape is dominated by large manufacturers such as Ford, Chevy, Toyota, etc., who mass produce their vehicles, in the early twentieth century, small manufacturers were the norm. In Indianapolis, during the 1920s and 1930s, there were twenty-six other companies also producing vehicles. As evidenced by the list compiled by the automotive buff Wallace Spencer Huffman, the vehicle manufacturers came and went with great frequency. Mergers and partnerships changed names making it difficult to follow all the lines, however, it can be clearly seen that the automotive landscape during the time the Duesenbergs were in Indianapolis was large and vibrant.[18]

At a time when automobiles were being mass produced cheaply for both the working and middle classes, Cord and Fred Duesenberg were producing state-of-the-art luxury vehicles tailored to each customer’s specifications. Customers could choose from several options for their chassis (the mechanical systems and frame of the car), which the Duesenbergs and their team built in Indianapolis. Once completed, the customer then chose from a list of approved coach builders to finish the passenger portion and exterior styling of the vehicle. Such customization did not come cheap: Duesenbergs ranged from $14,000 to $20,000 (approximately $192,000 to $275,000 in 2012 dollars). The cost of the chassis remained fairly constant ($8,500, rising to $9,500 in 1932); it was the custom coach work that could (and did) significantly increase the price of the finished product. Customers during the 1920s and 1930s included Clark Gable and Cary Grant. Despite the financial turmoil wrought by the Great Depression, customers continued to order Duesenbergs through the early 1930s. But production was never large.[19]

After the merger, Fred was named Vice President of Engineering of Duesenberg Inc. There is some doubt as to Augie’s role in the new partnership. Some sources place him working with Fred, while others claim he did not go to work for Cord at all at this point. Rather he continued to work on the brothers’ racing venture Duesenberg Brothers, while Fred concentrated the majority of time and efforts on passenger vehicles. (Augie became chief engineer of Duesenberg, Inc., in 1932 after Fred’s death.) In 1921, theirs was the first American car invited to participate in the French Grand Prix. Much to the chagrin of the European drivers and owners, the Duesenbergs took first place. And in 1924, 1925, and 1927, Duesenberg Brothers won the Indy 500. While Augie found success on the racetrack, it did not pay the bills. When not working on his race cars, Augie worked in a small shop separate from the Duesenberg factory. Fred officially retired from racing after the 1931 Indy 500 but Augie and Fred’s son, Denny, continued to race.[20]

Tragedy struck in 1932. Fred was returning from the East Coast when his car went off the road in Pennsylvania. He was taken to a nearby hospital with broken ribs. His injuries were not serious, and he hastened to let his family know that the doctors expected him to be released in just a few days. While his initial injuries were not life threatening, pneumonia set in and the doctors placed him on oxygen. By then, his wife, Ilse, and son, Denny, had traveled to Pennsylvania to be with him. He again appeared to be recovering and was removed from oxygen, only to have a heart attack and die on July 26, 1932, at the age of 55.[21]

After Fred’s death, Cord and Augie attempted to maintain the Duesenberg line, however, the blow of losing Fred, combined with the weight of the depression bringing down sales, could not be overcome and Duesenbergs stopped production in 1937. (Prior to their merger with Cord, Fred and Augie sold roughly 650 of their Model As. After the merger, they sold 501 cars total, 481 of which were the popular Model J.) Augie already liquidated Duesenberg Brothers Racing in 1934. Augie opened a shop near the brothers’ factory and bid on war work after Duesenberg, Incorporated went bankrupt. After the war he retired temporarily to a small farm outside of Indianapolis.[22]

Even though Augie no longer had Duesenberg Brothers, he continued to work on cars and was active in the automotive industry. He built the Mormon Meteor and tested it at the Salt Flats Testing Ground in Utah. He set a world speed record, which unfortunately only stood for a few years. And, in 1947, when Marshal Merkes tried to resurrect the Duesenberg line, he brought Augie in on the project. However, the projected price tag of $25,000 (approximately $262,000 in 2012 dollars) was too high and the project never got out of development.[23]

Augie died of a heart attack at the age of seventy-five in 1955. But his death did not signal the end of the Duesenberg brand. His son, Fred, attempted to revive the Duesenberg line in the 1960s. Despite a fair amount of interest and selling several cars even before production began, the project never got out of the production stage.[24]

Social Status

Indianapolis had a modest German-American community with over 5,000 residents who were first generation immigrants in 1920. The number of first-generation immigrants dropped to 3,888 by 1930, but the number of second generation immigrants in 1930 was over 18,000 (combined, the two groups accounted for about six percent of the population in Indianapolis in 1930). There were twenty-six German churches, and at least thirteen German ethnic organizations in Indianapolis during the 1920s and 1930s, including six German language newspapers. Neither Fred nor Augie appear to have had much contact or participation with any of the various German groups and societies found in Indianapolis, but rather, they participated in groups and societies with colleagues from the many automobile manufacturers in Indianapolis during this period. Fred was a member of the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers. Augie was also a member of the Indianapolis chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers. Socially, Fred was a member of the Indianapolis Athletic Club and the Indianapolis Optimist Club; neither of which had any ethnic affiliations. It may have been that both Augie and Fred had enough contact and support from fellow German immigrants in the automotive industry that they did not feel the need to seek out other avenues of support from their fellow countymen and women. The brothers’ love and dedication to all things racing seems to have trumped the types of ethnic ties seen within immigrant communities.[25]

It was not uncommon for middle class immigrants to Americanize faster than their working class counterparts. Their ties to others within their community were such that often economic ties trumped ethnic ones. But it was frequently middle-class immigrants who organized the creation of ethnic organizations as they were seeking ways to positively portray their heritage and backgrounds to their peers, as well as to show their ethnic pride. Fred and Augie, by contrast, devoted all their time and energy to producing and racing automobiles.[26]

Of the two brothers, Fred was the more outgoing of the two and was frequently the one who dealt with both customers and partners. Augie seemed to have no problem living somewhat in Fred’s shadow—by all accounts their relationship was an incredibly strong one. Despite Fred’s exceptional engineering and mechanical abilities, he always consulted with Augie prior to making decisions or finalizing designs. And Augie did the same with Fred. As the historian Don Butler noted in his history of Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg, “[Augie] would be invaluable in their teamwork, conceive many ideas, help Fred work out his own, and share in many decisions. And he would be adept at fabricating their thoughts in metal and making them work.” They pushed themselves and their crews. It was not uncommon for the brothers to work sixteen hour days and expect the same from their workers.[27]


Through their hard work and determination, brothers Fred and Augie Duesenberg created automobiles renowned for their style, opulence, and power. Though never what one would call a huge financial success, the brothers, who had immigrated to the United States as small children, achieved great acclaim for their innovative designs, which continues to this day. The brothers worked hard and achieved the American dream of finding success and laurels for doing what they loved, unlike many other immigrants who came to the United States during this period. Also unlike other immigrants during this period, they did not remain socially involved within the ethnic German community: perhaps because they had such strong ties to their families in Iowa; or because they moved so much; or perhaps because they devoted so much of their time and energy to building and racing cars and had significant contact with other German immigrants through the design and manufacturing of automobiles.


[1] History of Floyd County, Iowa, 1917, 653-54; The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa; Louis William Stenwedel and J. Herbert Newport, The Duesenberg (Philadelphia: W.W. Norton & Company, 1970), 2; Don Butler, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg (St. Paul: Crestline Pub Co, 1992), 5; “Fred Duesenberg Dies of Auto Crash,” Indianapolis News, July 26, 1932, p. 1; Raul Donald Brown, ed., Indianapolis Men of Affairs (Indianapolis: American Biographical Society, 1923), 165.    

[2] “Dad Had Doubts About Duesenberg,” Indianapolis News, Feb. 3, 1966; Butler,Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, 46; Biographical Dictionary of Iowa; George Moore, They Always Called Him Augie: August S. Duesenberg,” Automobile Quarterly, 30 (Summer 1992), 18.

[3] On immigration to the United States during the period of “new” immigration, see Alan M Kraut, The Huddled Masses, The Immigrant in American Society, 1880-1921 (Chicago: Wiley-Blackwell, 2001) and Leonard Dinnerstein and David M. Reimers, Ethnic Americans: A History of Immigration (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). See also, Robert M. Taylor Jr. and Connie A. McBirney, eds., Peopling Indiana: The Ethnic Experience (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press, 1996). U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970 (Washington, D. C., 1975), 15.

[4] Randy Ema, ”The Man Behind the Machines: Frederich S. Duesenberg,” Automobile Quarterly, 30 (Summer 1992), 7; Butler, 3, 5, 6; Stenwedel and Newport, The Duesenberg, 2-3.

[5]Ema, “The Man Behind the Machines,” 7; Butler, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, 9, 10.

[6] Butler, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, 10.

[7] Ibid.; Moore, “They Always Called Him Augie,” 16.

[8] Butler, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, 15; Biographical Dictionary of Iowa; Stenwedel and Newport, The Duesenberg, 4.

[9] Butler, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, 23, 27; Stenwedel and Newport, The Duesenberg, 5.

[10] Ibid., 38-39, 54.

[11] Moore, “They Always Called Him Augie,” 17; Butler, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, 54-55, 69.

[12] Butler, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, 76.

[13] Stenwedel and Newport, The Duesenberg, 10.

[14] Brown, ed., Indianapolis Men of Affairs, 165.

[15] Stenwedel and Newport, The Duesenberg, 19; Measuring Worth

[16] Butler, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, 122, 132, 151-2; Stenwedel and Newport, The Duesenberg, 26.

[17] Stenwedel and Newport, The Duesenberg, 42-43; Lee P. Sauer, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg Museum: It’s a Duesy! (Auburn, 1999), 30.

[18] Wallace Spencer Huffman, comp., Indiana Built Automobiles, David A. Huffman and Harry V. Huffman, eds. (Indianapolis, 1994).

[19] David J. Bodenhamer and Robert Graham Barrows, eds., Encyclopedia of Indianapolis (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994), 513. Gordon M. Buehrig interview.

[20] Ema, “The Man Behind the Machines,” 12; Moore, “They Always Called Him Augie,” 18; Gordon M. Buehrig, “I Remember the Duesenbergs,” Automobile Quarterly, 4 (Spring 1966), 370; Butler, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, 151, 243; Stenwedel and Newport, The Duesenberg, 140; J. L. Elbert, Duesenberg: The Mightiest American Motor Car (Arcadia: Post Era Pubns, 1951).

[21] “F. S. Duesenberg Dies of Auto Injury,” New York Times, July 27, 1932, 17.

[22] Stenwedel and Newport, The Duesenberg, 69; “Duesenberg Brothers’ Dream Left Mark in Auto History,” Indianapolis Star, March 16, 1980, 8.

[23] Ibid., 146-49; Bodenhamer and Barrows, eds., Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, 513.

[24] “A.S. Duesenberg Dies,” New York Times, Jan. 19, 1955, p. 27.

[25] James J. Divita, Ethnic Settlement Patterns in Indianapolis (Indianapolis, 1988), 40-42, 49, 62; Taylor and McBirney, Peopling Indiana, 164; “F.S. Duesenberg Dies of Auto Injury,” New York Times, July 27, 1932, p. 17. For example, the active pallbearers at his funeral were all men who had been associated with him at Duesenberg Inc. “Duesenberg Receives Final Checkered Flag as Airplanes Circle in Tribute,” Indianapolis Star, July 30, 1932, p. 1; “A. S. Duesenberg Dies.”

[26] On the assimilation of immigrants, see Milton Gordon, Assimilation in American Life: The Role of Race, Religion, and National Origins (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964); Peter D. Salins, Assimilation American Style (New York: Basic Books, 1997); and Thomas J. Archdeacon, Becoming American: An Ethnic History (New York: Free Press, 1984).

[27] Buehrig, “I Remember the Duesenbergs,” 367; Butler, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, 5.


Cite this Entry

APA Style

"Frederick S. Duesenberg." (2018) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved February 20, 2018, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship:

Chicago Style

Marsh, Elisabeth. "Frederick S. Duesenberg." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 3, edited by Giles R. Hoyt. German Historical Institute. Last modified September 10, 2014.

MLA Style

"Frederick S. Duesenberg," Immigrant Entrepreneurship, 2018, Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 20 Feb 2018 <>

Brothers August and Fred Duesenberg in 1925

  • A Duesenberg J Murphy Convertible Coupe in front of Fred and August Duesenberg’s house of birth
  • Fred and August Duesenberg with their mother and five siblings, ca. 1886
  • The Duesenberg brothers on bicycles
  • Billy Chandler in his Duesenberg, August 30, 1915

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