Jacob Studebaker, the youngest son of John C. and Rebecca Studebaker’s thirteen children, was born in Ashland County, Ohio on May 23, 1844. He moved with the family to South Bend in 1851. At age 13 he took work as a farmhand earning six dollars a month, and was later employed as a “brick carrier” by future South Bend postmaster Sorden Lister.
With his elder brothers engaged in the wagon and carriage business, Jacob took an apprenticeship in carriage trimming with Mr. Peter VanNess of Tiffin, Ohio. Upon completion of the three-year apprenticeship, Jacob returned to South Bend and enrolled in a two-year business course at the University of Notre Dame. After finishing his curriculum he entered employment with the Studebaker Bros. Manufacturing Company. Utilizing his bookkeeping and business training, Jacob began work in the general offices of the company, and in 1868 was made a full partner and placed in charge of the Carriage Department.
The opening of the Studebaker’s Chicago Repository in 1885 saw Jacob spend a large amount of time in that city. He maintained a residence in South Bend and often returned on weekends. Like his brothers, Jacob was an avid horseman, and is credited as being a founder of the Percheron-Norman Horse Company near Greeley, Colorado. Jacob’s local stables housed many successful racing horses, including the stallion “Governor Tilden” and a black mare, “Gertie.”
In 1864, Jacob married the former Harriet Chord. Together they had two children, Ida, born in 1870, and Helen, born in 1872.
Jacob was a member of the Baptist faith and a strong supporter of the South Bend’s First Baptist congregation. He was a major contributor to the First Baptist’s new church that was located at the northwest corner of Main and Wayne streets in downtown South Bend. Jacob and his wife also hosted several benefits for the church. In early 1881, Mr. and Mrs. Studebaker hosted a “barn warming” at his newly-completed horse barn on South Bend’s east side. The Ladies of the Baptist society prepared a dinner, for which a 10-cent admission was charged. Over 1,000 people were served that evening, and the entire evening netted over $300 for the church.
Although often described as being in fine health, Jacob Studebaker became ill while visiting Chicago in December of 1887. After a weeklong illness, he succumbed to inflammation of the bowels and periotinitis on December 17, 1887 at Chicago’s Leland Hotel. He was the first of the five Studebaker brothers to pass away, and is buried in South Bend’s City Cemetery.
About this Series
Check out our series of articles called Meet the Studebakers! This series is based upon a Museum exhibition featured in 2015.