Benjamin Berkeley Hotchkiss was born in Watertown, Connecticut in 1826.
He became a skilled designer in the family's engineering business with a passion for weapons but having failed to interest the US Government in his designs he moved to France where he set up the Hotchkiss Company in 1867.
In his first factory at Route de Gonesse in Saint-Denis close to Paris he began producing weapons and explosives for the French Government.
Hotchkiss died in 1885 but the company continued with his personal passion, the development of a truly automatic machine-gun.
The first working model was produced by 1892 and was adopted by the French Army in 1897.
Hotchkiss was on its way to becoming one of the largest and most important mechanical and auto engineering companies in France.
By the 1930's Hotchkiss had become involved in producing a range of multi-wheel drive military vehicles in conjunction with the Laffly Company.
Laffly-Hotchkiss vehicles included cars, ambulances, tankers, carriers, and prime movers and were more often than not designed by Laffly but with Hotchkiss engines and often manufactured by both companies. Almost all the larger military vehicles featured the additional set of small front wheels to help the vehicle overcome obstacles.
In 1937, the Hotchkiss Company merged with Amilcar.
With World War II nearing, the Front Populaire Government nationalized the body stamping and armament side of the company. They began producing military vehicles and light tanks.
In 1942 the Peugeot Company purchased the Hotchkiss Company. By 1946 production of the Hotchkiss vehicles resumed with the production of tractors and light trucks.
Production of automobiles continued during the close of the 1940's and into the early 1950's. They had bought the rights to the Gregoire front-wheel drive car and by 1951 were producing a version of this vehicle, though it was expensive. A new body style, the Anjou, was introduced in 1950. The Antheor cabriolet joined the line up in 1952. With all these introductions and modernizations of their vehicle line-up, they were poised to continue building vehicles, but sloping sales forced them to cease production by 1952.
In 1954 the Hotchkiss Company merged with Delahaye to become Societe Hotchkiss-Delahaye. Production would continue for another year before switching over to the production of license built Jeeps.
In 1955 the French Army took advantage of Hotchkiss' licence from Willys and ordered some new MB jeeps to meet its growing need for jeeps. This was only ever meant to be a stop gap measure whilst waiting for the new improved Delahaye jeep to be produced. Like the first civilian jeeps Hotchkiss produced the first batch of licence MBs had to be assembled from imported parts.
Production capacity in the factory at Boulevard Ornano, Carrefour Pleyel, St-Denis (see picture above) was small but the assembly of MB jeeps was under way before the end of the year alongside the first completely French built JH-101 civilian jeep.
By the end of 1955 the French army decided to stick with the simple and proven MB design rather than continue to consider more advanced jeeps from other manufacturers. These included Delahaye who had now been taken over by Hotchkiss to form Hotchkiss-Delahaye.
In 1956 Hotchkiss merged with Brandt to create Hotchkiss-Brandt and it was from the Brandt factory (complete with test track) in Stains on the Northern outskirts of Paris that the majority of the 27,628 Hotchkiss M201 jeeps based on the original MB design were produced for the French Government between 1957 and 1966.
Again in 1966 the company was again taken over to become Thomson-Houston. The company produced military vehicles from 1967 through 1971.