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Michigan State University

REO and the Automobile Industry at MSU Archives & Historical Collections: REO at the MSU Archives

REO at the MSU Archives

REO Motors Inc. was incorporated in 1904 by R. E. Olds and other investors as the R. E. Olds Company. It passed through several name changes and permutations until May 30, 1975, when Diamond REO Trucks, Inc., filed for bankruptcy. In its lifetime, the company built passenger cars and trucks, but it was best known for the latter. The company became dependent on government contracts in the 1940s and 1950s, but by 1954 continuing losses led to a takeover by a group of majority stockholders. From 1954 to 1957 the company went through a series of business crises ultimately leading to its purchase by White Motors and the formation of the Diamond REO Truck Division of White Motors in 1957.

REO Motor Company records (00036), 1904 – 1976

  • 283 Volumes, 170 cubic feet
  • This collection consists of the business records of REO Motors, Inc. and includes: correspondence, financial records, annual reports, minutes of meetings, policy directives, personnel records, blueprints, government contracts, sales and distribution records, operating expenses, and office memos. Personnel records include labor turnover reports (1917-1944), health and safety records (1917-1955), agreements and grievances, appeal board minutes, unemployment compensation cases, and wage records. A full record of correspondence details the company's relations with the U.S. government (1939-1957). Foreign correspondence documents REO sales in a number of countries (1923-1959). Miscellaneous records include business association correspondence, newsletters, and publications. Blueprints provide detailed information on the company's civilian and military products from 1920 to 1972, as well as describing company property holdings (1909-1973). White Motor Company Records, 1922-1974, include financial statements, letter books, sales information and parts specifications.
  • Finding aid to the collection:

REO Publications collection (00182), 1905-2010, 2012-2013

  • 1.0 cubic feet
  • The REO publications collection contains several different publications relating to the REO Motor Car Company. The publications in the collection are: REO EchO (1906-1911), REO Spirit (1928-1933), REO - Items (1952-1953), REO EchO (1974-2012) and REO Spirit (2002-2013). The collection also contains one folder of miscellaneous material relating to the REO Club of America.
  • Finding aid to the collection:

Ransom E. Olds papers (00027), 1884 – 1950

  • 5.6 cubic feet, 9 volumes
  • Ransom E. Olds (1864-1950) founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in 1896 in Lansing, Michigan. For various reasons, including the high cost of his first line of Oldsmobiles, this first venture in mass producing cars was less than successful. By 1902, however, the company's inexpensive curved-dash Olds was a success. In 1905 he sold out his stock in the Olds Motor Company and joined the REO Motor Car Company. He was President and General Manager from 1905 to 1924, when he retired from an active part in REO. Olds was chairman of the board from 1924 to 1936. During the later years of his life, Olds built financial security for his family and himself in stocks, bonds and real estate. Olds was also a philanthropist and donated money to a wide variety of social and moral reform societies. He was a businessman of widely varied interests, assuming a managerial involvement in such diverse activities as automobile manufacturing, peat mining and real estate.
  • The Olds Papers are divided into two sections. The first section consists of Olds' personal papers. Included in this section are Olds' love letters to Metta Woodward, whom he married in 1899, correspondence related to his philanthropic activities, day books, and two journals of the Olds family's European tour. The second deals with Olds' business activities from 1904 to 1947. Included are correspondence series of Olds Motor Works, REO, and several small companies of which Olds was either owner or the major stock holder. Also included is correspondence between Olds and various investment agents.
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