March 05, 2021


Michigan Buggy Co. (1902-1912)
Michigan Motor Car Co. (1912-1913)
Kalamazoo, Michigan

This is a Michigan radiator emblem (1913)     mjs
Size: 63mm diameter   MM: None

The Michigan Buggy Company was an established manufacturer of horse drawn vehicles, when, in  1902, the company announced a plan to manufacture a motor vehicle to be called the Kalamazoo. However, apart from building a few initial models, this did not happen. Instead, the Michigan Buggy Company made a joint venture with the Burtt Manufacturing Company to build the Cannon automobile from 1902 to 1905. 

The Standard Catalog of American Cars claims that the Michigan Buggy Company motorized one of its standard buggies using a single cylinder 3-1/2 hp engine and offered these motor buggies on a limited basis for several years from 1904. However, detailed research has found no evidence of a Michigan Buggy Company motor buggy after 1904 and the only motor vehicle referred to in Michigan Buggy Company catalogs before 1909 is the Cannon automobile.

Manufacture of the first large Michigan motor car began in late 1909 and was mainly sold locally. This was the Michigan Model B, which was an assembled automobile with fine bodywork powered by a four-cylinder 36-40 hp Hazard engine. The Model B was very successful and continued largely unchanged into 1911 and was offered in roadster and touring body styles. New 33 hp Michigan models were introduced in late 1911 and other new models were added in 1912 alongside the larger 40 hp Michigan Models 40-K and 40-M. The Michigan Models L and R/S appeared in 1913.

The Michigan automobiles were built in the same plant as the horse drawn carriages and buggies. To distinguish the automobile side of the business, the Michigan Motor Car Company was established in September 1912. Buggies continued to be sold under the Michigan Buggy name. The Michigan automobile was heavily marketed as the "Mighty Michigan" and offered at a lower price compared to the competition. 

But there were serious problems within the company and in October 1913 several Michigan Motor Car Company officials were brought before the first grand jury case in the Kalamazoo County Court for over 40 years to face a variety of charges, including fraud. Production of the Michigan was stopped in 1913. There were attempts to save the Michigan but these were unsuccessful and the Michigan plant was sold in 1915.


It is extremely difficult to assess with confidence details of the use of emblems and other external identification on Michigan Buggy Company and Michigan Motor Car Company vehicles, because of the almost complete lack of original period photos or illustrations showing the radiator and the small number of surviving vehicles, most of which have been modified during restoration. 

The Michigan Buggy Company had a company logo, see below:

Michigan Buggy Company logo    kpl

The Michigan Buggy Company horse drawn buggies were unlikely to have carried an emblem. However, they would have displayed the "Michigan Buggy Company" name on a maker's tag or nameplate attached to the rear of the buggy, as was common with other buggies and carriages, see example shown below:

This is a Michigan Buggy Company tag (c1908)   ebay
Size: 70mm wide 18mm high

The Michigan Model B built in 1909 and 1910 had a brass radiator but did not carry an emblem or a radiator script.

Michigan automobiles built in 1911 and 1912 are believed to have also left the factory without an emblem or a radiator script. It is just possible that some 1911 and 1912 models had the "Michigan" name displayed on the radiator in the form of a decal but this cannot be confirmed. Any emblems and radiator scripts seen on surviving Michigan automobiles from 1911 or 1912 are believed to have been added at a later date, most likely created during restoration. 

The standard color for 1911 Michigan models was black and the trim was nickel, although other paint colors or brass trim were available on request. As stated earlier, it is believed that there was no emblem or script on the radiator of these 1911 cars when they left the factory. It is possible that some 1911 Michigan models had the "Michigan" name on the sill plates but I cannot confirm this.

Michigan models built by the Michigan Buggy Company before the Michigan Motor Car Company was established displayed the "Michigan Buggy Company" name on the hubcaps, see example shown below:

This is a Michigan Buggy Company hubcap (c1909-1912)    dkc

1912 Michigan models appear to have had nickel plated trim and mostly black painted radiators, although period illustrations of some 1911 models show a lighter color radiator, possibly nickel plated or brass. As stated above, it is believed that there was no emblem or script on the radiator when the cars left the factory. It is possible that the "Michigan" name was displayed on the radiator tank top using a decal, but there is no confirmed evidence for this. However, the "Michigan" name was certainly displayed on nickel plated brass sill plates, see worn examples shown below:

These are Michigan sill plates (1912)    ccc

1913 Michigan models had either black painted or nickel plated brass radiators when these cars left the factory and they carried a round Michigan radiator emblem, see illustration shown below from the 1913 Michigan Motor Car Company catalog:

This is a Michigan Model R with a radiator emblem (1913) dol

This is the blue and white enamel Michigan radiator emblem shown above at the top of this post and again below. This Michigan radiator emblem is extremely rare.

This is a Michigan radiator emblem (1913)     mjs
Size: 63mm diameter   MM: None   

Some Michigan models built in 1913 may also have displayed the "Michigan" name on the hubcaps, see example shown below, which uses the same design as the radiator emblem:

This is a Michigan hubcap (c1913)     ccc

This Michigan hubcap has only been seen incorrectly used on one restored surviving 1911 Michigan car and is extremely rare. Assuming the hubcap is original, it is so rare that I suspect this hubcap may have been from a trial batch that was never proceeded with before the demise of the Michigan, probably to avoid any additional cost.

Some surviving Michigan motor cars display radiator scripts. However, as stated earlier, there is no evidence that any of these Michigan radiator scripts were factory produced and they are believed to be recent additions, made and attached during restoration.

The following "Michigan" scripts seen on surviving Michigan cars are examples of these reproduction scripts. The first example uses the same style of the "Michigan" name as appears on the original sill plates shown earlier above: 

This is believed to be a reproduction Michigan radiator script ms

The following is a different reproduction radiator script displayed on a surviving late 1911 Michigan Model 40-K:

This is believed to be a reproduction radiator Michigan script     ms

This Michigan script uses the same lettering style as seen on a small "Michigan" emblem mounted at the rear of the same car, see below:

Small Michigan emblem at rear    rmsothebys

This is the painted cast brass Michigan emblem shown below. This Michigan emblem is very rare.

This is a Michigan emblem (dates unknown)     mjs
Size: 87mm wide 32mm high    MM:

This same Michigan emblem is seen mounted on the dashboard of another surviving restored Michigan car. However, there is no evidence that these Michigan emblems were attached when their host cars were built. The original Michigan dashboard, for example, had no holes in place to receive this small emblem and the rear mounted emblem is not seen on any other Michigan car or in illustrations in Michigan Buggy Company catalogs. It is believed that these Michigan emblems were attached during restoration to add interest to the cars. 

This small Michigan emblem is a mystery. It is seen in several early auto emblem collections but it is not known when or where this emblem was actually used. 

Harry Pulfer claimed that this emblem was used for Henry Ford's first car built by the Detroit Automobile Company in 1901, which was reputed by others to have been named the "Michigan", but this has not been confirmed and is most unlikely to be correct. 

If you can identify this Michigan and confirm when and where this emblem was used, please let me know, in order to update this post. Please also let me know, if you have details of any other Michigan emblems or nameplates and their dates of use.

In addition to other sources, I have used "The Kalamazoo Automobilist" by David O. Lyon as an important reference on the Michigan Buggy Company and the Michigan Motor Car Company. I am also grateful for the helpful advice of Craig Correll on detailed aspects of the use of emblems on Michigan cars and for photos from his collection. Any errors in my interpretation of this advice is entirely down to me. 

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