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Willys-Overland Co. Issued to and Signed by John N. Willys - Automotive Autograph Stock Certificate

Inv# AG2627   Stock
State(s): Ohio
Years: 1923

Great oversized automotive Stock issued to John N. Willys and signed on unattached transfer. Printed by the American Banknote Company, New York.

John North Willys (/ˈwɪlɪs/; October 25, 1873 – August 26, 1935) was an American automotive pioneer and diplomat. His company, Willys-Overland Motors, became the second largest carmaker in the United States after Henry Ford. Born in Canandaigua, New York, Willys began selling bicycles in his hometown and within a few years, expanded into manufacturing his own line of bicycles. 

Willys's interest in cars came after an 1899 trip to Cleveland, where he saw an automobile for the first time, and knew they would quickly replace bicycles. Willys returned to New York and opened his first car dealership in Elmira, New York, selling Overland Automomobile brand automobiles. After changing the name to the Willys-Overland Motor Company in 1912, the next year John Willys acquired the Edwards Motor Co of New York which gave him a license to manufacture the patented Knight "sleeve valve" engine. Success saw his car company become the second largest carmaker in the United States and in 1915 he built a seven-story headquarters in Toledo, Ohio, that was the most modern of its day. Before the end of the decade, one-third of the city of Toledo's workforce was employed either at Willys-Overland or at one of the numerous small businesses providing parts and supplies. His automobile empire offered the consumer the choice of an Overland, Willys or Willys-Knight vehicle, each relative to a specific type of engine or price range. Through his holding company, in 1918 John Willys acquired the Moline Plow Company of Moline, Illinois, which manufactured the "Universal" brand of farm tractor and a line of Stephens cars. The following year he acquired control of the Duesenberg company primarily to get his hands on Duesenberg brothers' factory in Elizabeth, New Jersey where he planned to produce a new six-cylinder car.

Labor difficulties began to emerge at the Willys-Overland Toledo plant that resulted in a violent strike in 1919, shutting down the plant for several months. Willys hired General Motors vice-president Walter Chrysler to run the Willys-Overland operation at the then astonishing salary of $1 million a year. However, Chrysler tried to oust John Willys with an attempted takeover bid that backfired when the shareholders resisted his move and Chrysler left in 1921 to go into business for himself.

Although very profitable, Willys' businesses were highly leveraged, expanded and/or acquired through massive borrowings. In 1921, Willys' nervous bankers forced him to consolidate in order to limit their exposure. To raise cash for debt reduction, the Willys-Overland plant in New Jersey was sold at auction to William C. Durantas was Willys' "New Process Gear Company," in Syracuse, New York. With debt under control, Willys once again began expanding and in 1925 bought the F.J. Stearns Co. of Cleveland, Ohio that made a line of luxury vehicles. In 1926 Willys introduced the "Whippet" model line that sold in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

The Great Depression of the 1930s saw numerous carmakers go out of business, and the Willys enterprises went into bankruptcy reorganization in 1933.

In 2008, Willys was posthumously inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan.

In 1908, John North Willys bought the Overland Automotive Division of Standard Wheel Company and in 1912 renamed it Willys-Overland Motor Company. From 1912 to 1918, Willys was the second largest producer of automobiles in the United States behind only the Ford Motor Company. In 1913, Willys acquired a license to build the Charles Knight's sleeve-valve engine which it used in cars bearing the Willys-Knight nameplate. In the mid 1920s, Willys also acquired the F.B. Stearns Company of Cleveland, Ohio and assumed continued production of the Stearns-Knight luxury car as well. John Willys acquired the Electric Auto-Lite Company in 1914 and in 1917 formed the Willys Corporation to act as his holding company. In 1916, they acquired the Russell Motor Car Company of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, by 1917 New Process Gear, and in 1919 acquired the Duesenberg Motors Company plant in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The New Jersey plant was replaced by a new, larger facility and was to be the site of production for a new Willys Six, but the 1920 recession brought the Willys Corporation to its knees. The bankers hired Walter P. Chrysler to sort out the mess and the first model to go was the Willys Six. Deemed an engineering disaster, Chrysler had auto engineers Owen Skelton, Carl Breer and Fred Zeder to begin work on a new car - the Chrysler Six. But in order to raise cash needed to pay off debts, all of the Willys Corporation assets were on the auction block. The Elizabeth plant and the Chrysler Six prototype were sold to one William C. Durant, then in the process of building a new, third empire. The plant would build Durant's low priced Star, while the Chrysler Six prototype would be improved and modified, becoming the 1923 Flint. Walter Chrysler moved on to Maxwell-Chalmers, where in January 1924 he launched his own version of the six-cylinder Chrysler he had been working on, one still based partially on elements originally developed at Willys. (In 1925 the Maxwell car company would become the Chrysler Corporation). In 1926, production of the Overland ended and was replaced by the Whippet brand of small cars. Following the stock-market crash of 1929 and the economic depression that soon followed, a number of Willys automotive brands began to falter. Stearns-Knight was liquidated in 1929. Whippet production ended in 1931, its models replaced by the Willys Six and Eight. Production of the Willys-Knight ended in 1933. At this point Willys decided to clear the boards and produce two new models - the 4-cylinder Willys 77 and the 6-cylinder Willys 99 - but the firm was on the verge of bankruptcy again, so only the 77 went into production. They were forced to sell their Canadian subsidiary, itself in weak financial shape, and started a massive reorganization. In it, only the main assembly plant and some smaller factories remained property of Willys-Overland. The rest were sold off to a new holding company that leased some of the properties back to W-O. The company was thus able to ride out the storm. In 1936 the Willys-Overland Motor Company was reorganized as Willys-Overland Motors.

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Condition: Excellent

A stock certificate is issued by businesses, usually companies. A stock is part of the permanent finance of a business. Normally, they are never repaid, and the investor can recover his/her money only by selling to another investor. Most stocks, or also called shares, earn dividends, at the business's discretion, depending on how well it has traded. A stockholder or shareholder is a part-owner of the business that issued the stock certificates.

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