Roy D. Chapin

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Roy D. Chapin
Roy D. Chapin hec.19010.jpg
6th United States Secretary of Commerce
In office
August 8, 1932 – March 3, 1933
President Herbert Hoover
Preceded by Robert P. Lamont
Succeeded by Daniel C. Roper
Personal details
Born Robert Dikeman Chapin
(1880-02-23)February 23, 1880
Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
Died February 16, 1936(1936-02-16) (aged 55)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Resting place Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Inez Tiedeman Chapin
(m. 1914 - 1936, his death)
Children Roy Dikeman Chapin, Jr.
Joan King Chapin
John Carsten Chapin
Sara Ann Chapin
Daniel Chapin
Marian Chapin
Alma mater University of Michigan
Profession Government

Roy Dikeman Chapin, Sr. (February 23, 1880 – February 16, 1936) was an American industrialist and cofounder of Hudson Motor Company, the predecessor of American Motors. He also served as the United States Secretary of Commerce from August 8, 1932, to March 3, 1933, in the last months of the administration of President Herbert Hoover.

Early life

Born as Roy Dikeman Chapin on February 23, 1880 in Lansing, Michigan, the son of Edward Cornelius Chapin and Ella Rose King. He attended the University of Michigan. Chapin married the former Inez Tiedeman in 1914. The couple had six children. One son, Roy D. Chapin Jr., would also pursue a career with Hudson Motor Company, eventually leading American Motors Corporation (AMC).

Commercial interests

Secretary of Commerce Roy D. Chapin applauds President Herbert Hoover at the Nine-Point Prosperity Conference (August 26, 1932).

Chapin headed the consortium of businessmen and engineers that founded the Hudson Motor Car Company in 1908. The company was named for Detroit merchant Joseph L. Hudson, who provided the majority of capital for the operation's start-up.

Chapin was also behind the 1918 formation of the Essex Motors Company, a subsidiary of Hudson. Essex is notable for developing the first affordable mass-produced enclosed automobile in 1922.[citation needed] Because of the success of the inexpensive enclosed Essex Coach line, the American automobile industry shifted away from open touring cars in order to meet consumer demand for all-weather passenger vehicles.

In addition to his corporate interests, Chapin spearheaded the drive to build the Lincoln Highway, along with Henry B. Joy of Packard Motors. While Chapin viewed a system of professionally designed and built roadways as the greatest way to grow the automobile industry, he also saw the modern roadways movement as a way to secure long range strength for the United States as a nation.

Political activities

Chapin at his desk as Secretary of Commerce, 1932.

After building Hudson into one of the most profitable independent American automobile manufacturers, Chapin left Hudson for the Hoover administration upon his appointment in 1932.

During his tenure as Secretary of Commerce, Chapin was unsuccessful in persuading Henry Ford to provide financial help to avoid the collapse of the Union Guardian Trust Company of Detroit. Ford's refusal to aid the bank in averting a financial failure led to the Michigan Bank Holiday, an event that preceded the Roosevelt administration's national bank holiday of 1933.

Later life, death and succession

Chapin returned to Hudson in March, 1933. His final three years were spent trying to save the company from the effects of the Great Depression. He died in Detroit, Michigan, in 1936 and was succeeded at Hudson by A.E. Barit. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

The former residence of Roy D. Chapin in Washington, D.C.

In 1954, Hudson was acquired by Nash Kelvinator in a friendly merger. The resulting company, American Motors Corporation (AMC), continued until it was acquired by Chrysler in 1987. Chapin's son, Roy D. Chapin Jr., served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AMC and led the automaker to the acquisition of Kaiser Jeep Corporation in 1970. Chapin was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1972. His grandson, William R. Chapin, was named president of the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2010.


  • May, George S. The Detroit-New York Odyssey of Roy D. Chapin. Detroit in Perspective 2 (Aug. 1973): 5-25.

Further reading

The Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan has a collection of Chapin's papers:

  • Roy D. Chapin, by J.C. Long (biography)

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
One of the founders of the company
Chairman and CEO of Hudson Motor Car Company
1908–1932 and 1933–1936
Succeeded by
A. E. Barit
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert P. Lamont
U.S. Secretary of Commerce
Served under: Herbert Hoover

August 8, 1932–March 3, 1933
Succeeded by
Daniel C. Roper