Durant, William C.

Durant, William C. (Crapo)

(1861–1947) manufacturer; born in Boston, Mass. He was raised in Flint, Mich., where he left high school to work in his grandfather's lumberyard and various other jobs. In 1885 he organized the Flint Road Cart Company which became a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages. In 1904 he invested in the failing Buick Motor Car Company, which he expanded to the General Motors Company (GMC) (chartered in New Jersey in 1908) by acquiring several firms such as Buick, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile, as well as parts manufacturers. GMC was taken over by a banking house in 1910 and Durant joined Louis Chevrolet to form the Chevrolet Motor Company (1911); its success enabled him to regain control of GMC as president in 1916. The company again ran into trouble under Durant's insistent involvement in all facets of the organization. In 1920 Pierre du Pont, president of General Motors, paid off Durant's debts in return for his resignation. The next year Durant opened Durant Motors, which built the low-priced "Star," but failed in 1933. Bankrupt by 1935, he listed only his clothes as assets. World War II stymied his last business venture, a chain of bowling alleys in Flint.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.