Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Man Behind the Name “Willys” – A Brief History

John North Willys
Here is a very short history on the man that the Willys Jeep is named for and the house he lived in Toledo, Ohio. John North Willys was born in the small village Canandaigua, New York in 1873. John Willys was a business man from a very early age selling anything profitable and saving every penny he could. As a teenager he owned a laundry business with a friend and started a bicycle company around the age of 18. After turning that into a successful business John Willys turned his attention to the next big thing. Automobiles. He began by selling cars and eventually took over The Overland company in 1908.
John North Willys' House
Prior to his ownership, the Overland company located in Indianapolis, Indiana had essentially become bankrupt with laborers not paid and vehicles just sitting on the assembly lines with everything available but not being assembled. John Willys saw the opportunity in the company and brought it up to profitability in a short amount of time. In 1909 John Willys bought the Marion Motor Car Co. which was also located in Indiana and moved the operations to Toledo, Ohio in a production facility bought from the Pope Motor Car Co. John Willys changed the name of the Overland Company to Willys-Overland in 1912. While living in Toledo, this is the house that John Willys and his family shared approximately from 1910 to 1921. John Willys died in 1935 of a sudden heart attack and never saw the birth of the Willys Jeep during World War II. For more information and history of the Tillinghast Willys Bell home go to The Toledo Blade. The house is not currently for sale but is a great piece of American history.
John North Willys' HouseJohn North Willys' HouseJohn North Willys' House
John North Willys' House
To read more about John Willys, visit a few of the sources for this article:, and theAutomotive Hall of
Kaiser Willys Jeep Blog Story 

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