Fisher Body's beginnings trace back to a horse-drawn carriage shop in Norwalk, Ohio, in the late 1800s. The shop was owned and operated by Alfred J. Fisher's grandfather and it was where A.J.'s father and uncles learned their trade.
In 1904 and 1905, two of the brothers came to Detroit to work in the first "horseless carriage" body shops. In 1908, they decided to go into business for themselves as the Fisher Body Company.
The company was founded on July 22, 1908, by Albert, Fred, and Charles Fisher of Detroit, Michigan. Their company became one of the top coachbuilders in the United States, building their signature factory, Fisher Body 21, in 1919. At the time, the company had more than 40 buildings housing 3,700,000 square feet (344,000 m²) of floor space.
Prior to forming the company, Fred Fisher had built the body of the Cadillac Osceola at the Wilson Body Company. Starting in 1910, Fisher became the supplier of all closed bodies for Cadillac, and also built for Buick. General Motors bought 60% of the company in 1919 before integrating it entirely as an in-house coachbuilding division in 1926. Fisher purchased Fleetwood Metal Body in 1925. It was split from Ternstedt and recombined in 1968. Fisher was dissolved by being merged with other GM operations in 1984.
In the early years of the company, the Fisher Brothers had to develop new body designs because the "horseless carriage" bodies did not have the strength to withstand the vibrations of the new motorcars. By 1913, the Fisher Body Company had the capacity to produce 100,000 cars per year and customers included: Ford, Krit, Chalmers, Cadillac, and Studebaker. Part of the reason for their success was the development of interchangeable wooden body parts that did not have to be hand-fitted, as was the case in the construction of carriages. This required the design of new precision woodworking tools.
In 1916, the Company became the Fisher Body Corporation. Its capacity was now 370,000 bodies per year and its customers included Abbot, Buick, Cadillac, Chalmers, Chandler, Chevrolet, Churchfield, Elmore, EMF, Ford, Herreshoff, Hudson, Krit, Oldsmobile, Packard, Regal, and Studebaker.
The rest of the seven Fisher brothers, came to Detroit and joined their brothers at various times as they came of age.
From its beginning in the "horseless carriage shop" in Norwalk, Ohio, to its sale in 1919 and 1926 to General Motors, the Fisher Body Company was built by the Fisher brothers into one of the world's largest manufacturing companies.
The company owned 160,000 acres of timberland and used more wood, carpet, tacks, and thread than any other manufacturer in the world. It had more than 40 plants and employed more than 100,000 people, and pioneered many improvements in tooling and automobile design including closed all-weather bodies.
Fisher Body's contribution to the war effort in both World War I and World War II included the production of both airplanes and tanks. Alfred J. Fisher was Aircraft Director for Fisher Body.
On August 14, 1944, the Fisher brothers resigned from General Motors to devote their time to other interests, including the magnificent Fisher building on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. The brothers also mounted a bid to take-over Hudson Motors, but their tender offer fell short of its market value and the effort was rejected by stockholders.
On January 19, 1972, the last of the Fisher brothers died. The seven brothers left a legacy that will long be remembered. They donated millions of dollars to schools, churches, and other charitable causes and were active in directing those endeavors.
The Fisher family has continued on in the automotive industry with Fisher Corporation (metal stamping), General Safety (seat belts), Fisher Dynamics (seat mechanisms & structures), and TeamLinden (seat mechanisms).
- 1930 - Slanted windshields for reduced glare
- 1933 - "No-Draft" ventilation
- 1934 - One-piece steel "turret top" roofs
- 1935 - Former Durant Motors plant in Lansing, Michigan, opens
- 1936 - Dual windshield wipers
- 1969 - Fisher's "Side Guard Beam" is introduced
- 1974 - Invented the ignition interlock system
- 1974 - Produced GM's first airbag
- 1975 - Fisher develops GM's first all-metric vehicle, the Chevrolet Chevette
- 1983 - Fisher Body and Buick division's Flint, Michigan, operations are combined as Buick City
- 1984 - The Lansing factory is melded with Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac to become Lansing Car Assembly
- 1990 - Fisher closes Elyria, OH, facility
The General Motors "Body by Fisher" advertising campaigns were legendary and brought many artists to the attention of the American public. McClelland Barclay used artwork showing fashionable women to promote the image of comfort and style. Edgar de Evia photographed a large campaign for them through Kudner Advertising in the 1950s using leading name models, haute couture from top designers often with huge location production budgets.