Whether you’ve owned a Chevrolet or just admired one on the road, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the work of our next family of greats. But, chances are you know them only by their last name, and the stamp of approval put on every one of their products from the early 1900’s until the 1990’s. Of course, we’re talking about the Fisher brothers and the Fisher Body Company.
Born to an Ohio horse-drawn-carriage shop owner named Lawrence P. Fisher and his wife Margaret, the seven Fisher brothers were destined to do big things from the start. Born in 1878 and 1880, the two oldest boys, Frederick John and Charles Thomas, moved to Detroit just after the turn of the century, and began working for the C.R. Wilson Company, a horse-drawn carriage manufacturer. There, the brothers worked building not only horse drawn carriages, but also crafting bodies for the budding automotive industry.
The two brothers established the Fisher Body Company in Detroit in 1908, after borrowing money from their uncle Albert Fisher, founder of Detroit’s Standard Wagon Works. Frederick’s previous work at C.R. Wilson Company resulted in him crafting the body of the Cadillac Osceola, and this gave the Fisher brothers their break in the automotive industry, and they quickly became the manufacturer of all of Cadillac’s closed-car bodies.
By 1913, the Fisher Body Company was producing 100,000 car bodies a year for customers such as Ford, Cadillac, and Studebaker. With such success, the company expanded into Canada with their Walker, Ontario, manufacturing plant, solidifying the company as a front-runner in the automobile manufacturing business. By 1916, the company had increased its production to 370,000 car bodies a year, with many more customers on the books, including Hudson, Oldsmobile, Packard, and Chevrolet.
Eventually, the five younger brothers (William, Lawrence, Edward, Alfred and Howard) joined the company, and it was, renamed the Fisher Body Corporation in 1914. Soon after, Chevrolet and the brothers struck a deal giving General Motors 60-percent ownership of the Fisher Body Corporation. By 1926, the company was integrated into General Motors as the in-house body manufacturer for the company and its subsidiaries. All but the eldest and youngest of the Fisher brothers remained with General Motors until 1944, at which time they resigned and went on to other projects and business ventures. Frederick, the eldest Fisher brother, and Howard, the youngest, both passed away prior to the other brothers’ resignations from GM.
Though the Fisher brothers moved on after 1944, the “Body by Fisher” emblem remained emblazoned on the door sills of GM vehicles until the 1990’s. Still to this day, the Body by Fisher moniker remains synonymous with classic Chevrolet cars.
The last of the Fisher brothers, Edward, passed away in 1972, at the age of 81. By that time, the Fisher Body Corporation had been part of many innovations in the automotive industry, including the invention of slanted windshields for glare mitigation, dual windshield wipers, “no draft” ventilation systems, steel turret top roofs, and the production of GM’s first unibody car, the 1960 Corvair. In 1984, the Fisher Body Division of GM dissolved, moving body production for the company to other divisions, including the Fisher Guide Division, continuing on the Fisher Body name through the mid ’90s.