The Info List - Harlow Curtice

Harlow Herbert Curtice (August 15, 1893 – November 3, 1962) was an American auto industry executive who led General Motors (GM) from 1953 to 1958. As GM's chief, Curtice was selected as Man of the Year for 1955 by TIME magazine. Curtice was born in Petrieville, Michigan. He joined General Motors at age 20, and rose through its AC Spark Plug division to head it by age 36, and made the division profitable during the Depression. Selected to head the Buick
division of GM, he expanded its line and made it profitable in the 1930s. In 1948, Curtice became executive vice president of GM, and succeeded to the presidency in 1953 when GM president Charles Wilson became Secretary of Defense. With Curtice as president, GM became immensely profitable, and became the first corporation to have $1 billion in profits in one year. In 1958, Curtice retired just after his 65th birthday. The following year, he accidentally shot and killed a friend while duck hunting. He died in 1962 at age 69.


1 Early life 2 Executive 3 President 4 Later life 5 Notes 6 Further reading 7 External links

Early life[edit] Curtice was born in Petrieville, Michigan, on August 15, 1893, the son of Marion Curtice and the former Mary Ellen Eckhart, and was raised in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, attending Eaton Rapids High School. During school vacations, he kept the books for his father, a commission merchant, and also worked in a woolen mill. He graduated from the Ferris Business College in 1914. After moving to Flint, Michigan
Flint, Michigan
later in 1914, Curtice began his meteoric rise at GM. He started as a bookkeeper for GM's AC Spark Plug Division. The 20-year-old, in his job interview by the company comptroller, told him that his ambition was to become comptroller himself within a year. He did so, becoming AC Spark Plug's comptroller at just 21.[1] Curtice went beyond the ledger, exploring the plant to find out what the figures meant in terms of men and equipment.[2] After a brief period of service as an Army enlisted man, Curtice resumed his career at AC Spark Plug, becoming assistant general manager in 1923 and president in 1929. While other product lines struggled with or were destroyed by the Depression, Curtice's AC Spark Plug Division expanded and prospered.[1] Executive[edit] GM's Buick
division was having great difficulties during the Depression (according to Curtice, production was at only 17% of 1926 levels). Curtice was put in charge, and quickly made a new organization for Buick, and marketed a new car.[1] He also created a small network of dealers that would be exclusively Buick
dealers.[1] Curtice guided Buick
through the war years and by the time he was elevated to a GM vice presidency, he had made Buick
the fourth best-selling car line.[2]

Curtice as the head of the Buick

During World War II, Buick
produced aircraft engines with such efficiency that the Army considered making Curtice a General, but he declined.[1] In 1946, GM President Charles Wilson offered him the position of executive vice president—to be Wilson's right-hand man—but Curtice declined, stating that he wished to see Buicks rolling again off the assembly line before he left the division. In 1948, Wilson offered the position again to Curtice; this time he accepted.[1] Curtice had greater power as executive vice president than any prior holder of that position. He was in charge of all staff matters. In 1953, Wilson left after President Dwight Eisenhower
Dwight Eisenhower
appointed him Secretary of Defense. GM's board of directors appointed Curtice to take Wilson's place.[1] President[edit] Curtice kept GM's tradition of letting division heads be effectively autonomous. However, with GM's Allison Division (aircraft motors) lagging in 1953, he stepped in personally to help run the division and find money for a massive investment for a new line of engines that again made the division competitive with Pratt & Whitney. In 1955, Eastern Airlines' Eddie Rickenbacker
Eddie Rickenbacker
placed a large order for the new engines.[2] In his first two years as president, Curtice traveled abroad twice, spending millions each time with on-the-spot decisions.[1] The early months of Curtice's rule at GM saw fears of a recession. In February 1954, with the economy still lagging, Curtice announced that GM would spend $1 billion (approximately $12 billion today) in expanding its plants and facilities in anticipation of the boom to come. This set off a spree of capital spending by other corporations, which helped ensure the recovery of the economy.[1] Ford matched the billion with a billion of its own, while Chrysler announced plans to spend $500 million.[2] Meanwhile, Curtice, a poker player, upped the ante by announcing plans to spend a second billion.[2] Curtice saw that the economy would recover, and was prepared for it. In 1955, GM sold five million vehicles and became the first corporation to earn a billion dollars in a year.[1] Curtice was given Time magazine's "Man of the Year" recognition for 1955 because "in a job that required it, he has assumed the responsibility of leadership for American business. In his words 'General Motors must always lead.'"[2] During his presidency, he was only at his home in Flint, Michigan
Flint, Michigan
at the weekends; he remained at GM headquarters during the week.[1] In 1956, he announced plans to devote another billion to capital investment, the largest such sum ever invested by a single firm in a single year.[1] At the peak of his earning ability, he made $800,000 per year (over $9 million today).[1] He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame
Automotive Hall of Fame
in 1971. Later life[edit] Upon reaching age 65, Curtice retired on August 31, 1958. He remained a director of GM.[1] In 1959, he accidentally shot and killed retired GM vice president, Harry W. Anderson, while on a duck hunting trip to Canada.[1] Curtice resided in Flint throughout his career. He died at his home in Flint in 1962, aged 69, of an apparent heart attack. He was survived by his wife, three daughters, and a brother.[1] Notes[edit]

^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Harlow H. Curtice is dead at 69". The New York Times. 4 November 1962. Retrieved 2009-10-06.  (fee for article) ^ a b c d e f "Person of the Year 1955: Harlow Curtice". Time. 2 January 1955. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 

Further reading[edit]

Dunham, Terry; Gustin, Lawrence (2005). Buick: A Complete History. Automobile Quarterly Publications. ISBN 0-9711468-3-7.  Freeland, Robert F. (2000). The Struggle for Control of the Modern Corporation : Organizational Change at General Motors, 1924-1970. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-63034-7.  Halberstam, David
Halberstam, David
(1994). The Fifties. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-449-90933-6.  May, George S. (1989). Encyclopedia of American Business History and Biography: The Automobile Industry, 1920-1980. Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-2083-3. 

External links[edit]

Harlow Curtice
Harlow Curtice
at Find a Grave

Business positions

Preceded by Charles Erwin Wilson CEO General Motors 1952–1958 Succeeded by Frederic G. Donner

Preceded by Charles Erwin Wilson President General Motors 1952–1958 Succeeded by John F. Gordon

v t e

Time Persons of the Year


Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh
(1927) Walter Chrysler
Walter Chrysler
(1928) Owen D. Young
Owen D. Young
(1929) Mohandas Gandhi (1930) Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval
(1931) Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1932) Hugh S. Johnson
Hugh S. Johnson
(1933) Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1934) Haile Selassie
Haile Selassie
(1935) Wallis Simpson
Wallis Simpson
(1936) Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
/ Soong Mei-ling
Soong Mei-ling
(1937) Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
(1938) Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
(1939) Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
(1940) Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1941) Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
(1942) George Marshall
George Marshall
(1943) Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
(1944) Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
(1945) James F. Byrnes
James F. Byrnes
(1946) George Marshall
George Marshall
(1947) Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
(1948) Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
(1949) The American Fighting-Man (1950)


Mohammed Mosaddeq (1951) Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II
(1952) Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer
(1953) John Foster Dulles
John Foster Dulles
(1954) Harlow Curtice
Harlow Curtice
(1955) Hungarian Freedom Fighters (1956) Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
(1957) Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
(1958) Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
(1959) U.S. Scientists: George Beadle / Charles Draper / John Enders / Donald A. Glaser / Joshua Lederberg
Joshua Lederberg
/ Willard Libby
Willard Libby
/ Linus Pauling
Linus Pauling
/ Edward Purcell / Isidor Rabi / Emilio Segrè
Emilio Segrè
/ William Shockley
William Shockley
/ Edward Teller / Charles Townes / James Van Allen
James Van Allen
/ Robert Woodward (1960) John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
(1961) Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII
(1962) Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
(1963) Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
(1964) William Westmoreland
William Westmoreland
(1965) The Generation Twenty-Five and Under (1966) Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
(1967) The Apollo 8
Apollo 8
Astronauts: William Anders
William Anders
/ Frank Borman
Frank Borman
/ Jim Lovell (1968) The Middle Americans (1969) Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt
(1970) Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
(1971) Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
/ Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
(1972) John Sirica
John Sirica
(1973) King Faisal (1974) American Women: Susan Brownmiller / Kathleen Byerly
Kathleen Byerly
/ Alison Cheek / Jill Conway / Betty Ford
Betty Ford
/ Ella Grasso / Carla Hills / Barbara Jordan / Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King
/ Susie Sharp / Carol Sutton / Addie Wyatt (1975)


Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
(1976) Anwar Sadat
Anwar Sadat
(1977) Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
(1978) Ayatollah Khomeini (1979) Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
(1980) Lech Wałęsa
Lech Wałęsa
(1981) The Computer (1982) Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
/ Yuri Andropov
Yuri Andropov
(1983) Peter Ueberroth
Peter Ueberroth
(1984) Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
(1985) Corazon Aquino
Corazon Aquino
(1986) Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
(1987) The Endangered Earth (1988) Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
(1989) George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
(1990) Ted Turner
Ted Turner
(1991) Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
(1992) The Peacemakers: Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat
/ F. W. de Klerk
F. W. de Klerk
/ Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
/ Yitzhak Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin
(1993) Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
(1994) Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich
(1995) David Ho
David Ho
(1996) Andrew Grove
Andrew Grove
(1997) Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
/ Ken Starr
Ken Starr
(1998) Jeffrey P. Bezos (1999) George W. Bush
George W. Bush


Rudolph Giuliani (2001) The Whistleblowers: Cynthia Cooper / Coleen Rowley
Coleen Rowley
/ Sherron Watkins (2002) The American Soldier (2003) George W. Bush
George W. Bush
(2004) The Good Samaritans: Bono
/ Bill Gates
Bill Gates
/ Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates
(2005) You (2006) Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
(2007) Barack Obama
Barack Obama
(2008) Ben Bernanke
Ben Bernanke
(2009) Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg
(2010) The Protester (2011) Barack Obama
Barack Obama
(2012) Pope Francis
Pope Francis
(2013) Ebola Fighters: Dr. Jerry Brown / Dr. Kent Brantly
Kent Brantly
/ Ella Watson-Stryker / Foday Gollah / Salome Karwah
Salome Karwah
(2014) Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel
(2015) Donald Trump
Donald Trump
(2016) The Silence Breakers (2017)


Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 26241310 LCCN: n91057238 GND: 1138159107 SN