Most people, upon hearing the name “Archie Andrews,” think of a red-headed teenager from the comic books with a friend named Jughead, playing in a band and torn between Betty and Veronica. However, a real-life Archie Andrews might be even more deserving of his own comic book, if only as the arch-villain. For how many men could kill not one, not two, but FOUR different auto companies?
Archie Andrews would have made a great rags-to-riches story in different circumstances. Born in poverty, he started at the age of sixteen as a photographer’s assistant making ten cents a day. After selling papers and giving banjo lessons, by the age of 22 he was a successful stockbroker with his own firm and a seat on the Chicago Stock Exchange. However, he is spoken of, in many accounts, as a stock manipulator. He bought troubled companies and then liquidated them for their assets. Andrews claimed to have lost $80 million dollars (in 1930 dollars) in the stock market during the Great Depression. But, undeterred, by his own account he made the money back and retired at the age of 50.
Not desiring the retired life, in 1932 Andrews returned to work in the banking and business management fields. The role he played in the bankruptcy of an electric razor manufacturing corporation and his continued discrepancies on the Stock Exchange would ominously foreshadow the fate of the four car companies he would eventually come to destroy.
Andrews was involved in a dispute with the New York Stock Exchange due to questionable stock offerings. He also was accused of trying to bribe a judge in a separate stock scandal. A judge in Michigan’s Eastern District, Arthur J. Tuttle, said that Andrews had “an unbalanced and dishonest mind.” In spite of his legal problems, Andrews brought enough stock of the Hupp Motor Company, makers of the Hupmobile, to be on the board of directors.
Andrews became enamored of a car he saw called the Ruxton. It was named for William Ruxton, a financier who it was hoped would invest in the car. He didn’t, and later sued to have his name removed from the car. The Ruxton was considered a marvel of engineering, a front-wheel drive car designed by engineers from the Wills Ste. Claire plant with C. Harold Wills himself taking part. Andrews took the design and insisted that Hupp Motor Company manufacture the car. It was a very different model than the ones Hupp was then producing and retooling the factories to produce the car would have been expensive, so the board refused. To mollify him, a prototype was produced but Hupp went no further with it.
After Hupp’s refusal, Andrews formed his own company, New Era Motors, to produce the car. Since New Era didn’t have production facilities, Andrews once again manipulated stock to take over the Moon Motor Co. Familiar with Andrews, the previous directors of the Moon Motor Co. barricaded themselves in the office
with their armed Pinkerton security guards, and refused to let Andrews in! Andrews eventually gained entrance with the help of a court order and the St. Louis Police Department, who rushed the office with guns drawn.
Unfortunately, the facilities of the Moon Motor Co. were inadequate to build the Ruxton. Besides the Moon Motor Co., Andrews had investments in the Kissel Motor Car Company. Besides producing their own auto, the Kissel Motor Car Co. also made parts for other companies, including Moon Motors. They were commissioned to make the transmissions and final-drive assemblies for the Ruxton. Andrews moved production to the Kissel factory. The brothers at first put up with Andrew’s intrusions, but when it became evident he was going to try to take over their company too, the brothers voluntarily took the company into receivership! In other words, they decided they’d rather close up shop than let the company fall into Andrew’s hands.
With the Kissel Motor Car Co. out of business, this left the Moon Motor Company at a disadvantage because Kissel had been one of their major suppliers. Soon, after only producing about 525 Ruxtons, the Moon Motor Company’s resources were totally depleted and they filed for bankruptcy in November of 1930. So did New Era Motors five days later.
With Kissel, Moon, and New Era gone, Andrews turned his attention back to the Hupp Motor Car Company where he was still on the board. In 1934 he hustled his way into the chairmanship. By 1935, the old board and the courts forced him back out but not soon enough. Hupp Motor Car Co. was so weakened by its board battles that it produced no cars in 1936. By 1938, the company was weakened enough by Andrews that it went into receivership.
Ok, for those keeping score, here is the list of car companies ruined by Archie Andrews:
1. Moon Motor Company
2. Kissel Motor Car Company
3. New Era Motors
4. Hupp Motor Car Company
In 1936, Andrews lost his seat on the Chicago Stock Exchange due to improprieties. In 1937, his properties were placed in federal receivership. Archie Andrews died in 1938 at the age of 59. According to some accounts, he died at his Greenwich, Connecticut mansion. According to others, he was facing a jail sentence and died on the run in Canada!
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