Ransom Eli Olds (June 3, 1864ľAugust 26, 1950) was a pioneer of the American automobile industry, for whom both the Oldsmobile and Reo brands were named. He claimed to have built his first steam car as early as 1894, and his first gasoline powered car in 1896.
Olds was born in Geneva, Ohio, the youngest son of blacksmith and pattern-maker Pliny Fiske Olds and his wife Sarah Whipple Olds. His parents moved the family to Cleveland, Ohio when Olds was still a boy. He eventually settled in Lansing, Michigan, where he married June 5, 1889 to Metta Ursula Woodward.
He founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan on August 21, 1897. The company was bought by a copper and lumber magnate named Samuel L. Smith in 1899 and renamed Olds Motor Works. The new company was relocated from Lansing to Detroit. Smith became President while Olds became vice president and general manager.
In 1901 Olds designed the Curved Dash Oldsmobile which sold for $650.00 Although the factory was destroyed by fire that year, they still sold over 600 models of the Curved Dash. In 1904 sales were up to 5000 units.
Olds and Smith clashed frequently until Smith removed Olds from the position of vice president and general manager in 1904 and Ransom E. Olds left his company. He went on to form the R.E. Olds Motor Car Company which was quickly changed to Reo Motor Company to avoid a lawsuit from the Olds Motor Works. The name REO came from the initials of his name as an acronym. Olds served as president (until 1925) and later chairman of REO.
The Olds Motor Works was bought by General Motors in 1908. The Oldsmobile brand, after a production run of 107 years, was discontinued by General Motors in 2004.