The White Motor Company was an American automobile, truck, bus and agricultural tractor manufacturer from 1900 until 1980. The company also produced bicycles, roller skates, automatic lathes, and sewing machines. Before World War II, the company was based in Cleveland, Ohio. White Diesel Engine Division in Springfield, Ohio, manufactured diesel engine generators, which powered U.S. military equipment and infrastructure, namely Army Nike and Air Force Bomarc launch complexes, and other guided missile installations and proving grounds, sections of SAGE and DEW Line stations, radars, combat direction centers and other ground facilities of the U.S. aerospace defense ring, such as the Texas Towers. During the Vietnam era, the company retained its position within the Top 100 Defense Contractors list (it ranked 87th in the Fiscal Year 1965, 77th in 1967, 73th in 1968, 89th in 1969). Its production facilities, such as the Lansing truck plant in Lansing, Michigan, and the main plant in Cleveland were engaged in production, inspection, engineering services and maintenance of thousands of military/utility cargo trucks M39, M44, M600, and M602 series trucks, as well as spare parts, such as cylinder heads, diesel and gasoline engines with accessories.
About 1898, Thomas H. White purchased a Locomobile steam car and found its boiler unreliable. His son, Rollin, set out to improve its design. Rollin White developed a form of water tube steam generator which consisted of a series of stacked coils with two novel features: the first was that the coils were all joined at the top of the unit, which allowed water to flow only when pumped, allowing control of the steam generation; the second was pulling steam from the lowest coil, closest to the fire, which allowed control of steam temperature. This second point was critical because the White steamer operated with superheated steam to take advantage of steam's properties at higher temperatures. Rollin White patented his steam generator, US patent 659,837 of 1900.
Rollin H. White patented his new design and offered it to, among others, Locomobile. Finally, he persuaded his father, founder of the White Sewing Machine Company, to allow the use of a corner in one of his buildings to build an automobile.
White's brother, Windsor, who was a management talent, joined the business venture, followed by their brother, Walter, who became instrumental in the sales, promotion and distribution of the product. The first group of fifty cars were completed in October 1900, but none were offered to the public until April 1901 so the design could be thoroughly tested. Since the cars were being offered by the automobile department of the sewing machine company, White could not afford to diminish the reputation of the parent company by the introduction of an untested product.
It became necessary in 1905 to separate the automobile department from its parent company to accommodate the growth of the business and to physically separate them, as a fire in one could ruin both operations. On July 4, 1905, a racing steam car named "Whistling Billy" and driven by Webb Jay set a record of 73.75 mph (118.69 km/h) on the Morris Park Racecourse.