Patterson book updated


Sabina native and former Greenfield resident Christopher Nelson has released a new copy of his award-winning book “The C.R. Patterson and Sons Company: Black Pioneers in the Vehicle Building Industry, 1865-1939.” The book is about the Greenfield family believed to be the only Black manufacturers of automobiles in the history of the United States.

The non-fiction book, first published in 2010, offers an adventure through some of the most untouched and unexplored parts of American history.

Nelson, who now resides in Nashville, Tennessee, brings years of research to the book as he documents the story of the C.R. Patterson and Sons Company and brings recognition to not just the Patterson company, but the Patterson family and its long-lasting contributions to American society as well.

Beyond the leaps the Patterson family made in America’s early automobile industry, the family’s story is a powerful testament to overcoming obstacles, breaking color barriers, and realizing the American Dream in areas of education, sports, business and politics, Nelson said.

“Christopher Nelson takes you on a winding journey through the past with elements still entirely relatable to the present,” said Madisun Leigh of Scenario Entertainment and Pergola Pictures. “The book is a must-read for generations to come as these pioneers are finally given a well-deserved place in the annals of history.”

The book was inspired by Nelson’s master’s thesis and was successfully redeveloped and expanded in the 2022 second edition release this year. Nelson’s background in archaeology and history, fields in which he has worked for nearly two decades, shines alongside his interest in the history of transportation and the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

His work on the book has earned acclaim. The book was named the winner in the “History: General” category of the 2022 American Writing Awards and placed as a top finalist in the “Best New (Debut) Non-fiction,” “History: United States,” and “Biography” categories. Additionally, in the 2022 Best Book Awards competition, the book was named a finalist in the competitive “History: United States” and the “History: General” categories.

The book touches on transportation history, Black history, and general United States history.

“The new edition of the book has a lot of new information and many images that have never been seen before, several of which were provided directly to me by first-line Patterson descendants, who I have been working with on this endeavor and they have been very supportive of my work in telling the most accurate story possible in both print and on the big screen,” Nelson said. “The book is nearly double the amount of pages of the 2010 edition.”

In a synopsis of the book, Nelson said, “The C. R. Patterson and Sons Company conducted business in Greenfield from 1865-1939. Founded by Charles Richard (C.R.) Patterson, a free person of color born in the 1830s South and relocating to the North in the 1840s, this company passed through three generations of the Patterson family. Throughout its history the company transitioned from building carriages, automobiles, trucks and then buses, all in order to keep up with the rapidly changing demands and technology of the transportation industry during that period.

“When C. R.’s son, Frederick, began producing automobiles in 1915, he became the first and only Black manufacturer known to have built an automobile. This company led many pioneering efforts in providing proper vehicles for both horse-drawn and motorized school transportation and was also an industry leader in winter buggy design. The company nearly saturated the markets of Ohio and surrounding states with their school buses during the 1920s. The Pattersons always tried to find their niche within the transportation industry where they could remain competitive and achieve continued success.

“The family was also involved in other areas as well, including Freemasonry, politics and aiding Booker T. Washington in the founding of the National Negro Business League and serving in high positions within that organization for the first decade of the league’s existence. They broke color barriers in education, sports, politics and experienced a slew of other successes at the local, regional and even national levels. This is a story of a family and company overcoming obstacles that stood in the way and making the most of every opportunity that was earned — never given.

“This company and family have a unique history, and this book documents their story of overcoming adversity and surviving for 74 years in the white dominated business world. This book provides as many details as possible about the Patterson family from their arrival in Greenfield during the early 1840s until 1939 when a series of multiple factors, including the Great Depression, caused the family to finally lock the factory doors and close their unique chapter in history.”

Plans are underway to bring the Patterson story to the big screen with the help of Nelson’s experience as an executive producer and associate producer on several films, Nelson said.

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Information for this story was provided by Christopher Nelson.

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