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Maxwell Motor and the Making of the Chrysler CorporationMaxwell Motor and the Making of the Chrysler Corporation

Anthony J. Yanik

State History Award; Society of Automotive Historians Award

Narrated by Barry Eads

Available from Audible

Book published by Wayne State University Press

Though usually regarded as a footnote in automotive history, Maxwell Motor was one of the leading automobile producers in the United States during the first quarter of the twentieth century, and its cars offered several innovations to buyers of the time. For instance, Maxwell's was the first popular car with its engine in front instead of under the body, the first to be designed with three-point suspension and shaft drive, and one of the earliest cars to feature thermo-syphon cooling. In Maxwell Motor and the Making of the Chrysler Corporation, Anthony J. Yanik examines the machines, the process, and the men behind Maxwell, describing both the vehicle engineering and the backroom wheeling and dealing that characterized the emergence and disappearance of the early auto companies.

In this detailed history, Yanik charts the company's evolution through the early Maxwell-Briscoe years, 1903-1912; the Maxwell Motor Company years, 1913-1920; and finally the Maxwell Motor Corporation years, 1921-1925. He considers the influential leaders, including Jonathan Maxwell, Benjamin Briscoe, Walter Flanders, and Walter P. Chrysler, who executed the business decisions and corporate mergers that shaped each tumultuous era, concluding with Chrysler's eventual deal to transfer all Maxwell assets to form a new Chrysler Corporation in 1925. Yanik also discusses the aftermath of Maxwell's dissolution and the fate of its famous corporate leaders. For this study, Yanik draws on a wealth of primary sources including old automotive trade journals, the writings of Ben Briscoe and William Durant, and company records in the Chrysler archives.

Maxwell Motor and the Making of the Chrysler Corporation fills a gap in existing automotive scholarship and proves that the Maxwell story is an excellent resource for documenting the development of the automobile industry in the early twentieth century. Auto buffs and local historians will appreciate Yanik's thorough and engaging look at this slice of automotive history.

Anthony J. Yanik is a widely published automotive historian and the former editor of Wheels: The Journal of the National Automotive History Collection. He is also the author of The E-M-F Company: The Story of Automotive Pioneers Barney Everitt, William Metzger, and Walter Flanders and editor of The Birth of Chrysler Corporation and Its Engineering Legacy.


“This volume connects the dots in a confusing swirl of information surrounding a turbulent time in automotive history. The reader will come away with a broad mass of information, most of which has only been seen in narrow slices.”

—John A. Bluth, former editor and publisher of DAC News magazine

“In these turbulent days when the Chrysler Corporation is frequently in the news, experiencing one of the largest bankruptcies in American business, it is fascinating to return to the early days of the creation of the first Chrysler automobile. Yanik employs notes from meetings, and relates the history in a straightforward manner that reads amazing clear, considering all that occurred in the early automobile business. ”


“Anthony J. Yanik tells the story behind the story of Maxwell pioneers who set up success for Walter P. Chrysler in the mid-1920s. Yet Maxwell-Briscoe-and the other corporate forms of Maxwell Motor Corporation and its allied companies-merits study not only because it prepared the way for the emergence of Chrysler but because the Maxwell car was at one time, in its own right, an important part of the American automotive marketplace.”

—Larry D. Lankton, professor of history at Michigan Technological University

“The author does an admirable job chronicling the musical seats of the burgeoning auto industry. Maxwell Motor is a more valuable addition to the history of the U.S. Automobile industry.”

Foreword Magazine

Maxwell Motor and the Making of the Chrysler Corporation provides a convenient introduction into this important, but now mostly forgotten, save for a handful of collectors and restorers, marque.”

Maxwell Messenger

“Yanik invites is into the competitive and risk-filled world of the nascent automotive industry through the story of Maxwell Motor, the company that would become the Chrysler Corporation. What is most delightful about this book in Yanik's skillful unpacking of the creative destruction of the early automotive enterprise and is passion for early automotive engineering; contingency marking every step.”

Michigan Historical Review

“Yanik tells a good story, one that blends technological change and Maxwell's always-shifting financial situation. He shows that the firm was extraordinarily lucky in its leaders, who were equally adept at mechanics and manipulation. Written from a variety of primary and secondary sources, this first biography of the company sevres it well.”

Technology and Culture

“Author Yanik has given us a thoroughly researched work with good balance between business history, product development and motorsports which Maxwell exploited to good advantage during its early years. Those who wish to have a good understanding of the development of the American automobile industry need to own this book.”

Society of Automotive Historians

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