George Henry Zuver and the Horseless Carriage

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I love the stories that I find about my distant relatives. It gives each individual more depth and usually reveals more information to research on. After searching a distant cousin’s on line findings of our mutual distant cousins I found another interesting story about a 1st cousin 3 times removed taken from a book The city of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922 , Michigan By Clarence Monroe Burton, William Stocking, Gordon K. Miller, S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.

“George Henry Zuver, (1885-1974) distributor for the Roman Automatic lubricators and oil guns has had a long identification with the automobile trade as the distributor of the Winton car. He has built up a large business. His course has always been indicative of the alertness and energy which are among his marked characteristics. He was born in Pleasantville, Pennsylvania, December 13 1855, a son of Thomas W and Nellie (Ives) Zuver, both of whom were natives of the Keystone state. His ancestors were those who served in the Revolutionary war, participating in  the battle of Bunker Hill. Thomas W Zuver spent his entire life in Pennsylvania, where he was connected with the oil industry, becoming one of the prominent factors in the development of the oil fields of that state. He passed away at Pleasantville, where the mother still owns the old home, but is now spending her time in Los Angeles, California. Their family numbered eleven children, five of whom are living; Vern L., a resident of Los Angeles; W. E. still living at Pleasantville, Pennsylvania; Nelson and Paul, both of Los Angeles, and George Henry.


In the acquirement of his education George Henry Zuver attended the public and high schools of Pleasantville, Pennsylvania, and also the Carnegie Technical Institute, from which he was graduated as a mechanical engineer. He then became a foreman with the Westinghouse Electrical Company and remained as electrical machinery expert from 1904 until 1907, when he resigned and entered the employ of the Winton Automobile Company as a mechanic. In 1910 he became connected with the sales force of the corporation and served in that capacity until 1916. During this period he also took an active interest in military affairs and became a member of the National Guard of Michigan, in which he rose to the rank of captain of Company H, Eighteenth Infantry. He was with this company at the Mexican border from 1916 until January, 1917, and then returned to Detroit. Soon afterward he was made manager of the branch of the Winton Automobile Company in Kansas City, Missouri, where he continued until August 1917, when he purchased the business and reorganized it, under the name of George H Zuver Company, Incorporated, and capitalized for fifty thousand dollars.

"The Winton had a two-cylinder, 20-horsepower engine directly underneath the driver’s seat, with a chain drive, capable of speeds up to 30 miles per hour; two speeds forward and one reverse; steering wheel on the right; no windshield and no top. It featured two of Alexander Wilton’s many engineering innovations: a ratcheted lever that prevented broken arms if the engine unexpectedly backfired in the midst of being crank-started; and a hinge that allowed the steering wheel to be tipped away as the driver took his position. Leather, upholstered seats were mounted high on a wooden body painted a reddish maroon with, as the sales brochure promised, "just enough polished brass… to enliven the general effect." 

Of this company he has since been president and has been successful in the management of the undertaking. This is a close corporation and the sales in 1917 amounted to about one hundred cars. The business steadily grew through the enterprise and progressiveness of Mr. Zuver. In 1921 Mr. Zuver gave up his contract as Winton distributor and became distributor for the Roman Automatic lubricator line with headquarters at 5764 Cass avenue. He is at all time alert, ready for any emergency, and by reason of his capable management and clean business methods has gained a position of high standing in trade circles in Detroit. He is a director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association.


On the 2d day of January, 1910, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mr. Zuver was married to Miss Mary Boyle, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Boyle of that city, where her father is police commissioner. They have five children; Dorothy, who was born in Pittsburgh, in August, 1911; George H., Jr., Born in Pittsburgh in 1912; Katherine, born in Pittsburgh in February, 1914; Robert, born in the same city in July, 1916; and lee Raymond, born in Detroit, in January, 1919.


Mr. Zuver in interested in various sports as indicated in his membership in the Detroit Yacht Club, the Detroit Riding and Hunt Club and the Detroit Automobile Club and his support of progressive measures for the welfare, up building and benefit of Detroit is manifest in his connection with the Board of Commerce.

The book places George in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Kansas City, Missouri. Census records show him around Pittsburgh both in 1900 and 1910 and in Detroit in 1920 and 1930 as an auto dealer when he was working for the Winton Company. George’s last days would be in Akron, Ohio, outside of Cleveland. I looked for more information on both the Roman Lubricator company and George’s involvement in the Winton company and haven’t been able to find anything further yet. 


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