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The Early History of the Bosch Magneto Company in America

The Bosch Magneto Company Old Magnetos

Robert Bosch, who would go on to establish one of the most prominent automotive electrical component manufacturering companies in the world, was born in Albeck, Germany on September 23, 1861. By the mid-1880s he had moved to America and was working as a mechanic at the Bergmann Company in New York City, a producer of electrical equipment. After leaving that firm, he worked for the Edison Machine Works for a time. Bosch then left the country and worked for six months at the Siemens Brothers in London, another producer of electrical devices before returning to Germany.

  • The Bosch Magneto Company Old Magnetos
  •                                            “Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal” – October 1906.

Bosch then returned to his homeland and opened his first facility for electrical engineering and mechanical work in Stuttgart, Germany in November of 1886; soon he was producing low-tension magnetos. By 1902, sensing that the make-and-break magneto ignition systems days were numbered, he developed and brought to market his high-tension magneto for use with spark plugs. His ignition systems soon became well known both in Europe and the United States for their reliable performance on both passenger and racing cars.

  • The Bosch Magneto Company Old Magnetos Bosch ignition coil and switch for dual magneto-battery systems
  •                           The first Bosch ignition coil and switch for dual magneto-battery systems,
  •                                             the “Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal” August 1908.

By 1906 Bosch had produced over 100,000 magnetos and decided to establish a presence here in the U.S. That same year Gustav Klein a Bosch sales executive came to this country to promote the product to both automakers, and for retrofits on existing cars. In September of 1906, Robert Bosch New York Inc. was formed and a plant was also established in New York City. The name was changed to the Bosch Magneto Company in 1908. A branch was opened in Chicago during 1908, and on the West Coast in 1909 located in San Francisco.

  • The Bosch Magneto Company Old Magnetos
  • Percentage of cars equipped with at the three main auto shows in the world – February, 1908 “Motor”.

Sales in America grew rapidly due to the expansion of the automotive industry and the excellent reputation that Bosch products had built. With sales increasing, the Company next moved into a new four-story building in New York City in 1908. By running both day and night shifts at the facility, eight to ten thousand magnetos were assembled per month. In 1910 after customs tariffs were put in place on imported products and components, Bosch opened a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts that both manufactured all of the parts needed and assembled the units in house.

  • The Bosch Magneto Company Old Magnetos
  • The Bosch Magneto Co. booth at the Boston Auto Show in 1910 equipped with hand-operated magneto demonstration stands. The photo is courtesy of Isabelle Bracquemond.

In 1914, the Bosch Magneto Company expanded and purchased another factory building in Plainfield, New Jersey. Next the firm acquired the Rushmore Dynamo Works, also in Plainfield, which firmly established Bosch in the starter and generator manufacturing business. At about the same time, Bosch’s magneto sales here in the U.S. surpassed that of its German operations.

The advertisement below in the Motor, June 1910 issue, marks the occasion of Bosch manufacturing its 500,000 magneto. Learn more about the vintage Bosch magneto here.

The Bosch Magneto Company Old Magnetos

8 responses to “The Early History of the Bosch Magneto Company in America

  1. I have read that the Bosch “Logo” was widely supposed to represent the Devil but was actually a cartoon of the intrepid race driver of the time….Count Zborovsky . Can anyone verify that?

      • Camille Jenatzy wasn’t a German racing driver. He was Belgian and famous as being the winner of the early 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup race driving a Mercedes. Over here he’s better known as being the first ever driver to pass the 100 km/h barrier. On April 28 th, he drove his electric car (La Jamais Contente) at 105,88 km/h. Jenatzy died at 45-year-old age by a hunting accident in Habay-la-Neuve. He crept jokingly in the bushes to imitate a wild boar. His grunts were apparently convincing, because his friend Alfred M, Director of the newspaper l’Etoile Belge, fired and killed Jenatzy . Regards from Belgium, Luc Ryckaert.

    • We know Robert Bosch’s Germanic background, and that the artist that produced the Bosch art was Julius Klinger who was an Austrian who worked in Vienna, Munich and Berlin.

      That means the likely identification of the figure in red is the allegorical Mephistopheles (or the shorter Mephisto). Which doesn’t discount that the artist might have had some inspiration from Jenatzy’s press coverage, but if you look at his work you might rethink that possibility.

      More Julius Klinger artwork here

  2. I just found a small (4″?) open end wrench with a feeler gauge that folds out.. it says American Bosch Magneto Corp. It obviously ended up on my bench as part of either my dad’s or grandfather’s tools I’ve inherited. I don’t recall ever seeing it before. Interesting… hence my locating this site.

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