The Hausmann Kissel Collection

History of The Kissel Automobile

Unleashing the Power of American Ingenuity: The Story of the Kissel Automobile

The American automobile industry has been revolutionized by the Kissel Motor Car Company, a brand that exemplified innovation and excellence for over a century. Founded in Hartford, Wisconsin, by Louis Kissel and his sons, the Kissel Motor Car Company became renowned for producing the most stylish, high-quality, and powerful automobiles of the early 20th century. The Kissel Motor Car Company stands as a testament to American ingenuity, determination, and craftsmanship, captivating the industry and the public with its exceptional Kissel automobiles.

From Humble Beginnings to Automotive Giants

The Kissel Motor Car Company’s journey is a classic tale of American entrepreneurship and perseverance, with Kissel automobiles playing a central role. In 1883, Louis C. Kissel moved to Hartford, Wisconsin, and established a hardware store. With his sons Adolph P., Otto P., William L., and George A., Louis expanded their business empire to include manufacturing and distributing farm machinery, engines, electric supplies, and finished lumber. However, the company’s true breakthrough came in 1906 when they incorporated the Kissel Motor Car Company, partnering with US District Attorney H.K. Butterfield. Production began in 1907, leading to the creation of iconic Kissel automobiles that showcased American craftsmanship and ingenuity.

The Birth of a Legend: The Kissel Kar

The Kissel Motor Car Company emerged as a brand that defined elegance, power, and exclusivity in the automotive industry. The introduction of their first car, the Kissel Kar, instantly captivated the public and set the tone for the brand’s future offerings. These Kissel automobiles were renowned for their superior quality, exquisite craftsmanship, and advanced engineering. While approximately 35,000 Kissel automobiles were produced, only a few hundred remain today, including the famous Kissel-built FWD Model B trucks. Preserving the legacy, the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford proudly houses some of these surviving Kissel automobiles. Notably, the museum exhibits the car donated by the Kissel Motor Car Company to Hollywood actress Anita King for her historic transcontinental trip in 1915, which marked the first-ever such journey by a female driving alone.

Kissel AutomobileThe Gold Bug: A Legend Reborn

Among the Kissel automobiles, the 1923 Kissel Speedster Model 6-45 Gold Bug (Deluxe) stands as a true masterpiece, epitomizing the Kissel Motor Car Company’s essence. The Gold Bug was more than just a car; it was a breathtaking work of art, featuring a sleek, aerodynamic design and a formidable 6-cylinder engine capable of reaching a top speed of 70 mph. Celebrities, including actors, aviators, and athletes, were drawn to this exceptional Kissel automobile, desiring to possess a piece of American automotive history. The Gold Bug’s popularity endured over time, resulting in multiple prestigious awards, including “Best in Class” at renowned events like the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the Elegance at Hershey.

Trucks and More: Kissel’s Legacy

The Kissel Motor Car Company not only excelled in producing luxurious automobiles but also created some of the finest trucks, hearses, fire trucks, and taxicabs of its time. The company’s diverse range of trucks, spanning from 3/4 ton to 5 tons, played significant roles during World War I as they were utilized by the US military and its allies. Additionally, the Kissel Motor Car Company emerged as a major supplier of outboard motors, retailing its products through Sears, and Roebuck. In 1942, the business transitioned to the West Bend Aluminum Company, ensuring that the legacy of the Kissel Motor Car Company lived on.

In conclusion, the Kissel Motor Car Company stands as a true testament to American ingenuity and excellence in the automotive industry. Their unwavering commitment to quality, craftsmanship, and innovation set them apart from their peers and solidified their place in history. The Kissel automobiles they produced were not mere vehicles; they were symbols of artistry and engineering, representing the pinnacle of automotive achievement.

The story of the Kissel Motor Car Company serves as a reminder of the power of ambition and the ability to transform humble beginnings into extraordinary success. From a small hardware store to a renowned car manufacturer, the Kissel family and their dedicated team left an indelible mark on the history of American automobiles.

The Kissel Motor Car Company embodied the spirit of the Roaring Twenties, an era that valued luxury, style, and power. Their automobiles, particularly the iconic Gold Bug, captured the imagination of the elite and brought a sense of prestige to their fortunate owners. These meticulously crafted vehicles became symbols of success, encapsulating the dreams and aspirations of their owners.

Despite facing challenges such as the Great Depression and fierce competition, the legacy of the Kissel Motor Car Company endures through the surviving automobiles, museums, and the memories of those who experienced the thrill of riding in a Kissel vehicle. These rare gems serve as reminders of a bygone era, where attention to detail and craftsmanship were paramount.

The Kissel Motor Car Company stands as a shining example of the passion, dedication, and entrepreneurial spirit that defined the American automotive industry. Their creations were not simply cars; they were works of art that represented the culmination of tireless labor, innovation, and a pursuit of excellence.

Looking back at the remarkable journey of the Kissel Motor Car Company, it becomes evident how they shaped the automotive landscape of their time. Their pioneering spirit, combined with their unwavering pursuit of perfection, propelled them to the forefront of the industry, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to be cherished.

In the annals of American automotive history, the name Kissel shines brightly, representing elegance, power, and innovation. The Kissel Motor Car Company will forever be celebrated as a true American classic, serving as a testament to the spirit of ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of automotive excellence. Their story inspires car enthusiasts, collectors, and historians to appreciate and preserve the rich heritage of American automobiles.

The Kissel Motor Car Company’s legacy is a testament to the profound impact a group of visionaries can have on an industry. Their extraordinary achievements continue to inspire generations, reminding us of the power of innovation, craftsmanship, and the pursuit of greatness. The Kissel automobiles will forever be revered as icons of American automotive history, a testament to the enduring spirit of American ingenuity.


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