In 1915 John Gary Anderson began converting his buggy factory to the production of automobiles, and he soon promised Rock Hill that he would turn the town into the “Detroit of the South.”
In 1915 John Gary Anderson, owner of the Rock Hill Buggy Company, realized that the era of horse-drawn transportation was coming to an end. Rock Hill Buggy sales dropped by more than seventy percent that year, and Anderson began converting his buggy factory to the production of automobiles. He traveled to Detroit to see how automobile factories were organized. He also hired Joseph Anglada, an automotive engineer, to design six automobiles that were displayed in the Anderson Motor Company’s new showroom in Rock Hill in January 1916. Anderson promised Rock Hill that he would turn the town into the “Detroit of the South.”
The first models were a six-passenger touring car and a three-passenger roadster. The base price for the first Anderson model was $1,250. Most of the parts, such as the transmission and engine, came from northern suppliers. Anderson assembled the parts at his factory and, using his experience in the buggy business, constructed the frame and bodies.
At first demand for Anderson’s automobiles was brisk. Orders came in from across the nation. Dealerships appeared in Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Boston, and New York City. Anderson even established dealerships in England, China, and Australia. But the demand for automobiles diminished during World War I, and the company survived by building trailers for the federal government. Demand increased after the war, but Anderson’s vehicles cost too much for most consumers. Eventually, with increased competition from companies such as Ford and General Motors, Anderson lowered the price of his automobiles and introduced a new model, the Aluminum Light Six, in hopes of boosting sales. The effort failed, and Anderson ceased manufacturing automobiles in 1924. The company’s assets were auctioned off in 1926. During its existence, Anderson Motor Car Company built an estimated five to six thousand automobiles, one of which survives in the collections of the South Carolina State Museum.
Anderson, John Gary. Autobiography: John Gary Anderson 1861–1937. 2d ed. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1997.
Pascoe, Craig S. “Manufacturing a New South: The Business Biography of John Gary Anderson.” Ph.D. diss., University of Tennessee, 1998.