As a teenager Paul G. Hoffman (1891-1974) lived out every boy’s fantasy by becoming a daredevil racecar driver. The son of an inventor, Hoffman was fascinated by the mechanical and he was so taken by these wonderous machines he decided to make the automobile his life. At 20 he made it official, dropping out of college in his native Illinois and coming west to Los Angeles where he got a job as a grease monkey with the local Studebaker distributor. By the time he was 34, Hoffman was no longer draining crankcases – he was president of Paul G. Hoffman, Inc., Los Angeles and Orange County’s official Studebaker distributor and a millionaire at that. He would later rise even higher, becoming CEO and Chairman of Studebaker itself from 1935-1948 and again from 1953-1956.
With World War II, Hoffman began moving into government and civic service, taking leave from Studebaker in 1948 to oversee the Marshall Plan, appointed by President Truman as director of the Economic Cooperation Administration. Between 1951-1953 he was the president of the Ford Foundation and in 1966, at the age of 75, he was named first Administrator of the United Nations Development program, a position he was to hold until 1972. A few months before his death in 1974 at the age of 83, Hoffman was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald R. Ford. As Mark Rhoads was to write for the Illinois State Society’s biography of Hoffman as a member of the State Hall of Fame, “Paul Hoffman’s greatest contribution in public service was not as an automobile executive but as a businessman for peace.” A worthy legacy indeed.
But there was no denying he was also a great automobile man and by 1920, he had guided the Los Angeles Studebaker franchise to such a success it was able to move into a magnificent new headquarters on what was then automobile row, Figueroa Street, just south of downtown. The headquarters of Paul G. Hoffman, Inc., located at 1250 South Figueroa Street, opened with gala fanfare in June of 1920 and was a landmark at Pico and Fig for the next thirty years until in 1950 it went the way of the Dodo.
As part of their advertising campaign in the mid-1920’s, Paul G. Hoffman, Inc. ran a series of beautiful advertisements in Touring Topics showing the latest Studebaker models in front of attractive Southern California scenes. I thought you would enjoy seeing some of these as a little mini tour of a few choice Southern California sites via Studebaker and with a few additional comments from the Peanut Gallery (i.e. me).