THE HINDENBURG DISASTER
(May 6, 1937 – Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey)
Errett Lobban Cord
(Founder, American Airlines)
WHO BENEFITTED FROM THE END
OF THE AIRSHIP INDUSTRY?
The Official Story
ERRETT LOBBAN CORD
(Founder of American Airlines)
Errett Lobban “E. L.” Cord (July 20, 1894 – January 2, 1974) was an American business executive. He was considered a leader in United States transport during the early and middle 20th century.
Cord founded the Cord Corporation in 1929 as a holding company for over 150 companies he controlled, mostly in the field of transportation. The corporation controlled the Auburn Automobile Company, which built the Auburn and Cord automobiles; Lycoming Engines; Duesenberg Inc.; New York Shipbuilding; Checker Cab; Stinson Aircraft Company; and American Airways (later American Airlines), amongst other holdings. The Aircraft Development Division, (Erret L.) Cord Manufacturing Co., was instrumental in the development of the Vultee V-1 airliner which spawned a series of airliners and military aircraft from the (Gerard Freebairn) Vultee Aircraft, Aviation Mfg Corp-AVCO.
Born in Warrensburg, Missouri, Cord had been a race car driver, mechanic and car salesman before he was offered the opportunity to manage the dying Auburn Automobile Company in 1924. By 1928 he controlled Auburn, which by 1931 was the 13th largest seller of autos in the United States. During 1934, he moved to England, reportedly because of kidnapping threats. He moved back to the United States in 1936, but then came under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for his dealings in Checker Cab stock. In 1937 he sold the Cord Corporation to the Aviation Corporation and retired to Los Angeles to earn even more millions in real estate. Cord owned several of the first radio and television stations in California and later Nevada, where he moved in the 1940s. In the call letters of his Los Angeles radio station, KFAC, the A.C. stands for Auburn Cord. In Reno, Cord established KCRL-TV and radio in the 1950s and operated it for more than 25 years. The ‘CRL’ in the station’s call letters stood for “Circle L”—a ranch Cord owned in the Nevada desert.
During the 1940s he filled in for a Nevada state legislator who died in the middle of his term and again rose to fame as a politician in his later life. In 1958 he was asked to run for governor of Nevada, but he refused and never explained why. He died in Reno, Nevada from cancer in 1974, aged 79.
A collection of his autos is in Auburn, Indiana, (1600 South Wayne Street) at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.