Story of the Week

Posted: 04.15.2012
Early Automotive Advertising: Joe Louis & his 1935 Buick
By: Robert Tate
The early 1900’s were the beginning years for African Americans and automobile advertising. When the Motorcar became part of everyday transportation for Americans, many African Americans were featured in spark plug, tire ads, and other rare advertising to promote the automobile.

The Patterson-Greenfield Automobile Company featured its 1922-25 advertisements for the Greenfield Bus Body which appeared in the nation's commercial vehicle trade journals with only a handful of information distributed. At the time, C.R. Patterson Company was the only known African American owned and operated automobile manufacturing enterprise.

On May 13, 1914, Joe Louis, also known as the “Brown Bomber” was born. During the 1930’s, he was known as a professional boxer and became the World Heavyweight champion from 1937-1949. During 1935, Joe Louis and Buick created a great team effort for Buick advertising. During 1937, Buick sponsored the fight between Mr. James Braddock and Mr. Joe Louis at Comiskey Park, Chicago on June 22nd, 1937. Buick was the host of the show while McCarthy and Hill broadcasted the fight.

Joe Louis accepted a new 1935 Buick from the Fraser Motor Company located in Detroit, MI. This moment generated a positive relationship within the African American community and soon thereafter, many African Americans purchased 1935-46 Buick models. Throughout the 1970’s, the Buick was the automobile choice among the African American community and the Electra 225 was known as the “deuce and a quarter”.

Many African Americans also purchased Studebaker models. This was mainly due to the fact that Mr. Ed. Davis was the only African American Studebaker franchised dealer in Detroit, MI. During the 1940's and 50's, African Americans began purchasing many Ford, Chrysler, and Chevrolet models since many of them where employed within their auto factories.

During three periods of tight labor markets, World War I, II, and from 1962-2012, African Americans made memorable marks within the automotive industry. The availability of African American labor to a growing automobile industry during critical moments has provided an extraordinary mutual advantage. There can be no argument that the industries need and availability are the most significant facts in African Americans becoming such an important part of the auto industry's labor force. Throughout many memorable history movements, Buick was the name plate that held number one for the automobile to purchase within the African American community.

A special thanks to GM Media Archive for the usage of the Joe Louis material for this story. The enclosed material is made available for news reporting purposes only. It is not for resale. Any commercial or other non-editorial uses of the material require the express written approval from General Motors LLC. Please contact the Archive via e-mail at or by phone at 734-421-0273 #3.

Additionally, General Motors LLC makes no representations or warranties with respect to the right to consent to the services of those persons appearing in the Archival Works, to the music and lyrics contained therein, or with regard to the use of names, trademarks, trade dress, copyrighted designs or works of art or architecture which are not the intellectual property of General Motors LLC. Accordingly, the requestor must satisfy itself that it has obtained all necessary consents and releases regarding any of the above have been obtained.

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Please do not use any photographs without the permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area. For further information contact Robert Tate at If you have a story that you would like to donate to be featured as a MotorCities Story of the Week, email Lisa Ambriez at

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