Knudsen, William S., 1879-1948

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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

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954. Papers concerning General Motors Corporation, 1915-1954. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Sidney Hillman papers, 1930-1946, 1935-1945 (bulk). Cornell University Library
referencedIn Neel, Samuel E. (Samuel Ellison), 1914- . Papers, 1941. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Blair Moody Papers, 1928-1954, 1934-1952 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations. 1900 - 2003. Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities. 1947 - 1984. NORMANDY, THE AIRBORNE INVASION OF FORTRESS EUROPE
referencedIn International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. Local 9 (South Bend, Ind.). UAW Local 9 records, 1933-1963. Wayne State University, Archives of Labor & Urban Affairs
referencedIn [General Motors Corporation : historical materials]. Folder 87-4.19-1a. Kettering University
referencedIn Scharchburg, Richard P. Richard Scharchburg's published articles 1964-2000. Kettering University
referencedIn Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America records, 1914-1980, 1920-1950 (bulk) Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
creatorOf Knudsen, William S., 1879-1948. Papers of William and Semon Knudsen, 1896-1998. Detroit Public Library, Detroit Main Library
referencedIn United States. Council of National Defense. Advisory Commission. Records, 1940-1941. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations. 1900 - 2003. Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities. 1947 - 1984. FILM HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LIFE OF GENERAL H.H. ARNOLD, U.S.A COMANDING GENERAL A.A.F
referencedIn Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954. Papers, 1880-1954. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn James William Fesler papers, 1918-1991 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Raskob, John J. (John Jakob), 1879-1950. Papers, 1900-1956. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations. 1900 - 2003. Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities. 1947 - 1984. UNITED STATES ARMY AIR FORCES NEWSREEL
referencedIn Wilson, C. E. [General Motors Corporation : historical materials]. Folder 87-4.19-3. Kettering University
referencedIn Jesse Siddall Reeves Papers, 1853-1942, 1901-1942 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Alexander G. Ruthven Papers, 1901-1961, 1906-1951 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Fesler, James William, 1911-. James William Fesler papers, 1918-1991 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Gorman, Michael A. (Michael Arthur), 1892-1958. Michael Arthur Gorman papers, 1920-1958. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Mott, Charles Stewart, 1875-1973. Papers, 1896-1973. University of Michigan-Flint, Frances Willson Thompson Library
referencedIn Association Against the Prohibition Amendment. Records, 1920-1953. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Michael A. Gorman papers, 1920-1958 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Frank Murphy papers, 1908-1949 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations. 1900 - 2003. Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities. 1947 - 1984. REVIEW BY GENERAL KNUDSEN
referencedIn McMillan, William C.,. William C. McMillan picture collection, ca. 1920-1945. The Henry Ford, Benson Ford Research Center
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Association Against the Prohibition Amendment. corporateBody
associatedWith De Lorean, John Z. person
associatedWith Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954. person
associatedWith Fesler, James William, 1911- person
correspondedWith Ford, Edsel, 1893-1943 person
associatedWith Ford, Henry, 1863-1947 person
correspondedWith Ford, Henry, 1917-1987 person
associatedWith Ford Motor Company. corporateBody
associatedWith General Motors Corporation. corporateBody
associatedWith General Motors Corporation. Chevrolet Motor Division. corporateBody
associatedWith General Motors Corporation. Pontiac Motor Division. corporateBody
associatedWith Gorman, Michael A. (Michael Arthur), 1892-1958. person
associatedWith Guest, Edgar A. (Edgar Albert), 1881-1959 person
associatedWith Hudson, Rock, 1925-1985 person
associatedWith Iacocca, Lee A. person
correspondedWith International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. Local 9 (South Bend, Ind.) corporateBody
associatedWith Kahn, Albert, 1869-1942 person
associatedWith Knudsen, S. E. (Semon Emil), 1912- person
associatedWith MacArthur, Douglas, 1909- person
associatedWith McMillan, William C., person
associatedWith Moody, Blair, 1902-1954 person
associatedWith Mott, Charles Stewart, 1875-1973. person
associatedWith Murphy, Frank, 1890-1949 person
associatedWith Neel, Samuel E. (Samuel Ellison), 1914- . person
correspondedWith Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994 person
associatedWith Raskob, John J. (John Jakob), 1879-1950. person
associatedWith Reeves, Jesse Siddall, 1872- person
associatedWith Romney, George W., 1907-1995 person
correspondedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962 person
correspondedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 person
associatedWith Ruthven, Alexander Grant, 1882- person
associatedWith Scharchburg, Richard P. person
correspondedWith Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972 person
associatedWith United States. Council of National Defense. Advisory Commission. corporateBody
correspondedWith United States. War Production Board corporateBody
associatedWith White Motor Company. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Speeches, addresses, etc
World War, 1939-1945
Automobile industry and trade--Photographs
Automobile industry executives
Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)
Defense industries--Photographs
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1879-03-05

Death 1948-04-27

Male

English

Information

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SNAC ID: 54734716