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Halstead Harley Seeley


Gender: Male

Date of Birth: April 19, 1876

Birth Place: Livingston County, MI

SEELEY, Halstead Harley, manufacturer, was born in Livingston County, Mich., Apr. 19, 1876, son of Miles Gay and Asenath (Halstead) Seeley. His father was a farmer. Halstead H. Seeley attended Michigan State Normal College, Ypsilanti, 1895-96, and was graduated B.L. in 1899 at the University of Michigan. He taught at the Bennington (Mich.) District School, 1894-95, and in the eighth grade in another school, 1896-97. While at Michigan State Normal College he was a wholesale supplier of crackers and pickles, and at the University of Michigan he was agent for New York Mutual Life Insurance Co. In 1900 he met the inventor of a gasoline firepot, which was the basic principle for all blow torches and also offered the key mechanism for a gasoline lamp that was much brighter and more satisfactory than the kerosene lamps of that day. Although the invention had already been pirated, Seeley and his two brothers, Dana E. and Roy R. Seeley, organized the Superior Manufacturing Co., Ann Arbor, Mich., for manufacturing the lamps for indoor and outdoor use, including street lighting. Halstead H. Seeley was in charge of sales. The business flourished and in 1911 the firm began production of windshields, which at that time were not standard equipment for cars. The early windshields were strapped to the front fenders; the Superior company was the first to alter the design so that the windshields could be bolted directly to the cowl. Among the cars which used the new windshield were the Lincoln, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Lozier, Locomobile, Saxon, Scripps-Booth, Stutz, Chandler, Chalmers, Winton, Apperson, Mitchell and Velie, and eventually the whole industry. In 1916 this company was merged with the Rand, Diamond, Vanguard, and Universal Metal windshield manufacturing companies. All the factories were sold except the plant at Ann Arbor, the Lozier plant in Detroit was bought. Under the name Motor Products Corp., of which Seeley was vice-president in charge of sales, windshields, steel tubing, stamping radiators, and other parts and accessories were manufactured, and additional plants in Chicago and Walkerville, Canada, were acquired. He retired from the company in 1925. Meanwhile, in 1919 he became associated with Horace W. King, professor at the University of Michigan, and developed a dashboard fuel supply gauge from King’s hydraulic level indicator for power reservoirs. They formed the King-Seeley Corp. in Ann Arbor, and started production of the gauge in 1922 with capital of $16,000. Seeley became president of the company in 1925. In that year the Ann Arbor facilities of the Motor Products Corp. were bought and other dashboard instruments were added to the production. By 1936, when Seeley resigned as president, the company owned 66,500 square feet of floor space, employed 800 people, and in 1936 had annual sales of $2,380,609. He also served as director of King-Seeley during 1946-50. In 1945, with his first wife, he established the John Harper Seeley Foundation in memory of his son who had been killed during the Second World War; the purposes of the foundation were to help train surgeons and to grant scholarships and fellowships in the School of Business Administration at the University of Michigan. His clubs were the Detroit and Detroit Athletic and the Rotary, University, and Barton Hills Country clubs of Ann Arbor. His religious affiliation was with the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor, and in politics he was a Republican. A bibliophile, he owned a large library. Seeley was married twice: (1) in Milford, Mich., Oct. 17, 1902, to Laura May, daughter of Reuben Harper of that place, a farmer, and adopted a son, John Harper; his first wife died in 1947; (2) in Detroit, Aug. 11, 1949, to Elizabeth (Wilcox) Barnhart, daughter of Collins Loren Wilcox, a merchant of Lincoln, Neg., and widow of Henry Pleasant Barnhart. His death occurred in Ann Arbor, Apr. 19, 1952.

Page 148 – 149, “National Cyclopedia of American Biography” . (NY: J.T. White, 1898-1984), vol. 41.

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