The Brothers Behind the Graham Blue Streak
The Brothers behind the Graham Blue Streak -- the Grahams Joseph, Robert, and Ray -- came out of southwestern Indiana, where they had been born in 1882, 1885, and 1887, respectively.
In 1825, James Graham, the boys' father, had purchased 121 acres in Daviess County surrounding the small community of Washington, and had prospered. The farm could have provided the brothers a comfortable living, but the three siblings had dreams beyond the bucolic life.
During the first two decades of this century, these three live-wire Indiana farm boys established themselves as successful players in not one but two major industries: first in glass-making (1901 to 1916), followed by truck manufacturing in the early 1910s, when Ray Graham devised a special rear axle and spliced frame to convert Model T Fords into one-ton express and stake trucks.
In 1921, they were invited to Detroit by Frederick J. Haynes, president of Dodge Brothers, who was anxious to expand Dodge’s own limited truck business. The brothers agreed to build their trucks using Dodge engines and drivetrains exclusively, and sell them through the extensive Dodge Brothers retail network.
By 1926, not only were these Indiana sharpies the largest exclusive truck manufacturer in the world, they were running the giant Dodge organization, and had been closely following the 1925 sale by the Dodge heirs of their Dodge Brothers holdings to the investment firm of Dillon, Read and Company.
But in April 1926, the Grahams suddenly and unexpectedly resigned from Dodge, which promptly completed its acquisition of the brothers’ truck business.
Why the Grahams left so abruptly remains unknown, but their unforeseen departure had important, far-reaching consequences. Deprived of their astute management, the Dodge firm slid rapidly downhill, ultimately -- in 1928 -- into the waiting arms of Walter P. Chrysler. But Dodge was firmly in the truck business, and the Grahams were firmly out.
In 1927, the brothers organized the Graham Brothers Corporation to manage their financial interests, which included an $11 million-dollar share of the Libbey-Owens Sheet Glass Company in Toledo. Three years later, Ray Graham, as chairman of Libbey-Owens, brought about a merger with the Edward B. Ford Glass Company to form giant Libbey-Owens-Ford in 1930.
Concurrently, the Grahams were casting about for an automotive property. They found it in the Paige-Detroit Motor Car Company, assuming control on June 10, 1927, from Harry Jewett, who, with his brothers, had built Paige into a successful and well-known independent.
But competition was increasing, profits were slipping, and Jewett was eager to sell. Perhaps Paige’s most attractive asset was a modern new factory the company was completing on Warren Avenue in Dearborn, just beyond the Detroit border.
Joe Graham became president, Robert vice-president/sales, and Ray secretary-treasurer of the renamed Graham-Paige Motors Corporation. In January 1928, the brothers proudly presented their new line of Graham-Paige cars, four sixes and an eight priced from $860 to $2,485.
Find out how these new Graham cars were received on the next page.
For more information on cars, see: