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Sales Ad Saturday- Studebaker files for Bankruptcy

Another ad from the archives for this week’s ‘Sales Ad Saturday’. This week in 1933, Studebaker filed for bankruptcy. The early 1930s was a dark time for Studebaker. The company had evolved in many ways since its founding as a carriage maker in 1852. After securing many wartime contracts, particularly for the British during WWI, the company enjoyed much success through the roaring ’20s. Since 1915, the company had been led by Albert Erskine, who oversaw the transition to automobile production exclusively, leaving the horse-drawn carriage business altogether in 1920. Erskine also oversaw the acquisition of luxury automaker Pierce-Arrow in 1928 and the development of two entry-level subsidiary brands, the self-named Erskine in 1926, and the Rockne in 1932. The Rockne was named for famed Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. His association with the brand named after him was short-lived however, as Rockne was tragically killed in a plane crash in March of 1931. Despite a teetering economy, and at a time when other automakers were hoarding cash to survive, the company paid millions in shareholder dividends at Erskine’s direction through the worst years of the depression. By March of 1933, the company was out of money, officially going into receivership on March 18th. Shortly after, Erskine was removed from his position as president. Facing chronic health issues and looming personal financial difficulties he sadly took his own life in South Bend in July of that year.

As the economy was recovering, the company was quick to re-organize and rebuild under new leadership. The company had sold Pierce-Arrow to outside investors at a tremendous loss. Production of the ill-timed Rockne was dropped in 1933, and a new ‘streamlined’ line of Studebaker models was quickly developed and introduced for 1934. The ‘34’s are arguably among the best-looking Studebakers of the 1930s. By 1935, the company had begun to stabilize, gradually returning to profitability and leaving its dark chapter behind. The beautiful illustration of the ’34 in this ad was done by Frederic Tellander, an artist who was responsible for many beautiful illustrations in Studebaker ads through the 1940s.


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