Highlighted Book Reviews
5-Stars "An exhilarating survey for an auto enthusiast"
At the inception of the locomotive Golden Age experienced at the turn of the century, many cottage vehicle enterprises were started in America with many merchants welcoming the dynamism in this field as many people were turning from horse-drawn carriages to vehicles fueled by internal combustion engines. While some of these firms sprouted to become mega-companies that are still in existence today, others remained small scale, grappling to compete with other larger locomotive assemblies.
"The C.R. Patterson and Sons Company: Black Pioneers in the Vehicle Building Industry, 1865- 1939" is a compelling, behind-the-scenes account of one such company, C.R. Patterson & Sons of Greenfield based in Ohio and makers of the Patterson-Greenfield automobile. In a field dominated by White manufacturers, this company was the only African American-owned and operated automobile company.
Award-winning author, Christopher Nelson, writes with precision and candor, as he offers a clear-eyed chronicle of this company's transition from making carriages, automobiles, buses, and trucks in a bid to keep pace with the whirlwind of change that was happening in the motoring field.
The book does not tally in its progress, but progresses with firm details and information on the geographical and family background of the company owners. With a stirring preface and a spirited introduction, Nelson engages readers from the first sentence with his laity-friendly language to the last sentence capturing all the awe and fascination of a truly lionized period in automotive history.
The author further provides visual history through numerous vintage photographs that shine authenticity as they accentuate the topic herein. Throughout, he adds essential details not found anywhere else, including pointing out some of the challenges that the Patterson Company struggled with, including ostracism, fierce competition, the changing demands of the economy, and lack of capital.
"The C.R. Patterson and Sons Company: Black Pioneers in the Vehicle Building Industry, 1865- 1939" is a comprehensive and magisterial study that makes an irrefutable addition to Black History. Nelson's thorough research is evident during the reading and manages to give this five-star work a towering grace. Long-term car enthusiasts and new car owners alike will find an enlightening enchiridion in this award-winning feat.
~ Lily Andrews for Reader Views (2022)
9.4/10 "If it wasn't for authors/historians like Christopher Nelson and books like this, we might not have a history. "
"The C.R. Patterson and Sons Company is a historical, biographical book that documents the remarkable, exceptional lives of the Patterson family—a Black family that founded one of America's first automobile companies in the late 19th and early 20th century. Just think about that for a second: a Black family in the 1800s founded a business [coming out of] the slave-owning American south. That's astonishing and inspiring!
This really is the perfect book to showcase on Black History Month.
As touched on before, the C.R. Patterson and Sons Company was founded by Charles Richard Patterson in Greenfield, Ohio in 1865. It's so amazing to see the image on page 41 of Charles—a Black man—featured front and center on a business mural with his white employees. The author is quick to point out that Charles was not a slave. He was a free Black man [born] in the south.
As fascinating as Charles is, his sons are equally interesting to read about. The one who captured our imagination the most was Frederick Douglass Patterson. Why? Because he was the first Black football player in Ohio State history. Think about that for a second: before Troy Smith, before C.J. Stroud, before Archie Griffin, before Eddie George, before Orlando Pace, before Ezekiel Elliott, there was Frederick Douglass Patterson. He apparently scored Ohio State's sixth ever touchdown and served as its first ever Black quarterback (albeit in place of the starter) and was their first Black quarterback to throw a touchdown pass! Frederick Douglass Patterson was also the third ever Black student in Ohio State history. Some sources say that he was the first, although he actually missed that by one year. Apparently, Frederick Douglass Patterson was such a national hero and figure that US President Warren G. Harding offered him the presidency of Liberia, likely recommended by another legendary figure: Booker T. Washington.
C.R. Patterson and Sons Company started not as an automobile company, but rather as a carriage and wagon company. That's right, they made horse-drawn, animal-powered vehicles before the automobile was invented. So, it was a natural progression or evolution for the business.
When you think about automobile manufacturers and dealers, you think of Ford or General Motors. From the Asian market, you might also think of Toyota, Honda, or Mitsubishi. However, if things were a little different—if the Great Depression hadn't happened, for example—we might be talking about Patterson vehicles!
The Patterson company lasted seven decades, surviving until 1939.
Something we really respect and admire about this book is that it is incredibly objective. We know that might sound strange, but it's true! This book doesn't attempt to make some big, huge, profound socio-political point. Almost every book is trying to do that these days. No, instead this book is written in the way that history SHOULD be written: with an objective lens—detailing people and events just the way they are and presenting whatever relevant information is available.
If it wasn't for authors/historians like Christopher Nelson and books like this, we might not have a history. There's a reason why we know so much about ancient civilizations like Egypt, China, Persia, Israel Greece, and Rome—it's because they recorded their history for us.
The thing you have to be wary of as a historian is to be wary of sensationalism. In other words, you have to identify bias. Scribes throughout history have long written sensationalized, idealized records of people and events. You really need to use your noggin and know what sounds real and what sounds made up.
There's no question with this author and this book. Information is presented fairly and objectively, and when the author isn't sure about a bit of information, they'll let the reader know it. "
~ Outstanding Creator Awards 2/28/2023
"Author Christopher Nelson offers an exciting narrative about America's first Black Auto Manufacturers in his book 'The C. R. Patterson and Sons Company'"
"This is a masterful book that delves deep into the history of a specific family, into pioneers who have not been given credit so far. The story has been researched in-depth and updated, featuring a great deal of top-quality work from author Christopher Nelson. It is easy to see the parallels and learn from the past for the present."
"Nelson offers a sound, exciting narrative about the Patterson family and makes a great case as to why they need more recognition, contrasting their business with a white-owned one and exploring the power behind their work and contributions."
"The company was a pioneer in the business with Frederick Patterson, the son of founder C.R., who became the first and only Black manufacturer to have built an automobile. This success was linked to a strong development in other areas, like politics and promoting business for Black people during a time when it was very difficult."
"Christopher Nelson is an award-winning author whose book (originated) as a master's thesis. Since then, it has been revised and reworked to create a meticulously crafted and researched book that comes with plans for the big screen."
~ paxjones.com (Inspiring Stories from Around the World) blog
Review - "This book is a milestone of its own"
"It's a descriptive account of the first Black auto manufacturers and their impact on the vehicle industry. The book gives a complete timeline from horse drawn carriages to horeseless carriages and compares and contrasts the Black-owned businesses from the White-owned ones. The impact of Black-owned businesses and their economical contribution in the history of America's development into one of the richest, most successful and powerful econsomies of the world, have often been overlooked. This book is a gem of its own that brings to light some of these lesser known facts from American history."
~ read_with-Jessicaa Instagram book reviewer
Review - "Overall, a great read!"
"The (Patterson) business grew in such a time when it was difficult for Blacks to enter business. The author has described about their family background and history in detail which makes it easy for the reader to understand. The force and contributiions of Black owned businesses have too often been overlooked in American history. Flip the pages to explore this gripping read in detail. Starting from the language to the narration, writng style, cover, title - everything is just perfect. I would absolutely love to read more book sby the author. Overall, a great read!"
~ a_bookworm_forever Instagram book reviewer