Knudsen, William S., 1879-1948Alternative names
William Signius Knudsen (1879-1948) was born in Denmark on March 25, 1879. He apprenticed as a bicycle mechanic then held a variety of positions in the United States with Ford Motor Company and Chevrolet Motor Company. He served as vice president, then president of General Motors from 1933 to 1942. He received his appointment as lieutenant general on January 28, 1942, as director of production in the Office of the Under Secretary of war. He was director of Army Air Forces Materiel and Services from July 1944 to May 1945, and returned to private industry June 1, 1945.
From the description of Knudsen, William S., 1879-1948 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10575592
William Signius Knudsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on March 25, 1879, as a child he attended public school and apprenticed under Fritz Henningsen, a wholsaler in crockery, toys and hardware, finally working as a junior clerk and bicycle assembler at the importing firm of Christian Achen. William arrived in New York in 1900 at the age of 20 and held various jobs, most notably as a supervisor for John R. Keim Mills, a bicycle manufaturer in Buffalo, New York, from 1909-1913. In 1904 Keims started to manufacture automobile parts and was contracted to Ford Motor Company, Ford purchased Keim in 1911, that same year William married Clara Elizabeth Euler of Buffalo, New York, they had four children, Clara, Semon, Elna and Martha. In late 1912 the machinery from Keim Mills was moved to Highland Park and in 1914 William moved his family to Detroit, by 1916 he was in charge of 28 Ford branch assembly plants nationwide. William resigned from Ford in 1921 and in 1922 joined General Motors, by 1924 he was general manager of Chevrolet. By 1933 William was executive vice-president of General Motors responsible for coordinating the production of the company's car maunufacuring divisions, from 1937-40 he was president of General Motors. William left GM after a call to come to Washington, DC from President Franklin Roosevelt, where he became a member of the National Defense Advisory Council. During WWI, William was appointed lieutenant general and director of war production in the war department and was instrumental in providing the American war effort with unprecedented quantities of war material, when he was relieved of active duty in 1945 he went back to GM and remained there until his death in 1948.
Semon Emil Knudsen was born in Buffalo, New York in 1912, roughly a year later he moved with his family to Detroit, Michigan. Upon graduation from Detroit Country Day School in 1931, Semon entered Dartmouth College and after one year of study moved to M.I.T. where he received a degree in Engineering in 1936. He married Florence McConnell and began working at Pontiac Division in 1938 where for 10 years he worked in a variety of positions such as assembly line worker, foreman, chief inspector and master mechanic. From 1949-53 Semon worked as the director of General Motors' Process Development section until he was transferred to the Allison Division of General Motors in Indianapolis, Indiana where he worked as asst. manufacturing manager of aircraft engine operations. Semon returned to Detroit in 1955 as the manager of Detroit Diesel Engine division of GM, in 1956 he returned to Pontiac as general manager. In 1967, Semon resigned from GM and was appointed president of Ford Motor Co. in 1968 where he remained for 19 months until his termination. Semon started his own motor home company, Rectrans, Inc., eventually however he became the chief executive officer and director of White Motor Co. until his retirement in 1980. Semon and Florence had four children, Judith, Lisa, Kristina and Peter. Semon died in 1998.
From the description of Papers of William and Semon Knudsen, 1896-1998. (Detroit Public Library). WorldCat record id: 63263292
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Speeches, addresses, etc|
|World War, 1939-1945|
|Automobile industry and trade--Photographs|
|Automobile industry executives|
|Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)|