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17 June 1947 Sir Edward Holden

 17 June 1947   Sir Edward Holden

Sir Edward Holden, chairman of General Motors Holden, died on 17 June 1947, the last Holden to hold the senior position in the company. 

Sir Edward was the grandson of James Holden who had established his saddlery and leathergoods business, on the corner of King William and Rundle Streets, Adelaide, in 1856. The business grew, which meant several moves to larger premises. In 1878 James' son Henry came into the business and they began to do some carriage repair work. In 1885 Henry Frost suggested a merging of his carriage building operation with Holden's leatherwork and a partnership was formed. Only two years later James died leaving Henry Holden in charge.

The Boer War boosted the business and in 1905 Edward, a graduate in Science and Engineering, was convinced that the motor car was the vehicle of the future. He gradually convinced his father this was the industry to be in. Henry went overseas to look at developments there, and in the meantime Edward set up a small workshop at the rear of the Grenfell Street premises and began doing work on cars. In 1914 Holden and Frost moved towards full scale motor body construction and by 1920 Holden's Motor Body Builders, in a large factory in Gilles Street, was thriving. During this period Edward's younger brother William also entered the business and it was he who found the land at Woodville where a much larger factory was built in 1923. This was the largest motor body works in the British Empire and more than 36,000 car bodies were built there in 1926 by 5500 employees.

Then production tumbled and lay-offs leapt with the onset of the depression. Holden's was already making car bodies for the American Company, General Motors, which bought out Holden's in 1920, merging names to become General Motors-Holden's Ltd, and keeping the Australian directors with Edward Holden as Chairman. A year after his death the Holden car was built at the Melbourne factory.

Old Holden cars are not the only relics of Holden history: the horse head, from Holden and Frost's Grenfell Street business was on display (with a history of the company) at Old Parliament House, the 1920 factory dominates the corner of Gilles and King William Street, and factory buildings span the whole history of expansion at Woodville until GMH left Woodville to concentrate at Elizabeth in the 1980s.

Shane Birney,  Australia's Own: The History of Holden, Golden Press, Sydney, 1985.
usan Marsden, A History of Woodville , 1977, pp. 156-161, 198-203, 234, and manuscript history, 1977, p. 87.

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