Just about everyone is familiar with the name JEEP when it comes to either daily road-going vehicles or in association with the U. S. military a highly effective and versatile “go anywhere” type of transportation, but few think about is origin or the man behind it all.

                              Canandaigua, New York born John North Willys (October 25, 1873) years after selling the founding automobile Brand Overland at his auto dealership in Elmiyra, NY – in 1907 -bought the (Overland) company and five years later changed the name to Willys-Overland Motor Company.


In 1913, John acquired the Edwards Motor Company of Long Island, NY.  The Edwards Company held a license to manufacture the Charles Y. Knight dual-sleeve based Knight motor that John also acquired in the deal.  By 1914, John Willys’ auto company began producing Willys-Knight four- and six- cylinder engine model cars.  Willys-Knight vehicles were produced in Toledo, Ohio.

1915 Willys Knight Ad

                                             Source: Motor trade journal, Volume 25, Issue Number 2, November 1915, Page 169

  1917 Willys-Knight Overland Sedan


Overland vehicles were always noted for being a very durable and capable auto, especially over rough, rocky and nascent roads that crossed the sprawling landscapes in America and other countries.






                           Famously, in 1941, a Willys Jeep driven by New York State U. S. Senator James M. Meade ascended the steps of the U. S. Capitol building without upset or incident to the surprise and delight of the Senator.  This photo image was sourced from a terrific article titled, “World War II Jeep Advertising,” penned by our friend, the incomparable Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Library and Research Center Assistant Librarian Matt Hocker published in the Club's Antique Automobile magazine and on their website.  (See


The Jeep Brand and auto manufacturing concern has been owned by several different companies since its inception and has always proven profitable – a remarkable feat in the auto industry.


Leap forward to more recent time, 2003, the DaimlerChrysler Corporation re-acquaints the public with the Overland name with its more feature-filled Jeep Grand Cherokee “Overland –trim” model version.

In 2007, the Ontario County Historical Society (OCHS) located in John North Willys’ hometown of Canandaigua, NY and author OCHS Museum educator, Preston E. Pierce published a book titled, “A Man who could stand Prosperity” – a quote from John N. Willys – that profiled the career of the celebrated Canandaigua native. 


The OCHS followed this up in 2015 with a commissioned video on the man in which Preston provides an evocative and inspiring narrative on the talented and charismatic late auto man.  The video can be viewed by clicking on the image or using the following link at

In a very recent meeting with the OCHS management, MotometerCentral™ founder Francis G. Clax was given a complimentary copy of Preston’s book.


The Ontario County Historical Society is prominently located at 55 North Main Street in downtown Canandaigua, New York 14424, a few miles outside of Rochester, New York, telephone: 585 . 394 . 4975.  Visit their website at to keep track of the latest exhibitions, to subscribe to their newsletter, arrange a visit and make a donation.


On behalf of Francis, and everyone at Motometercentral™, we very much appreciate the generosity of the Ontario County Historical Society for their book donation, time taken with us and look forward to working with and supporting them as time goes on.

John N. Willys Portrait on
Willys-Knight Overland 1915 Sedan Ad on
1917 Willys-Knight Overland Sedan
NY U. S. Senator James M. Meade Driving Jeep up U. S. Capitol steps on
DaimlerChrysler 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee with Overland Trim Package
Preston E. Pierce "A Man who could stand Prosperity" Book on



SINCE 1912

© 2019  Francis G. Clax, MotometerCentral™, MotometerCentral Publishing™ and Spirit Communications Ltd.™


Preston E. Pierce "A Man who could stand Prosperity" Book on