A MICROCOSMIC HISTORY OF THE CARRIAGE INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES.
A FEW LEADING CARRIAGE CENTERS.
Hub October 1897 pages 420-430.
“A wonderful stream is the River Time,
As it runs through the realms of Tears,
With a faultless rhythm, and a musical rhyme,
And a broader sweep, and a surge sublime
As it blends with the ocean of Years.”
To write a history, even though brief, of an industry like that of vehicles for pleasure or business, covering though it may a short period, is in a measure to write the progress of a people, in those walks that lead to a higher degree of civilization and to trace a record of advancement in artistic culture, mechanical perfection and individual comfort, but as each such record is written a step is taken in the direction of an advanced education. Time flies rapidly, and to look back a quarter of a century seems but a few years, and yet in these modern times each quarter is so replete with changes that it furnishes material sufficient for a score of pens without a conflicting of interests or incidents. It is on this thought that the HUB enters the arena and contributes as much as possible, in a limited space, to a review of the past, confining ourselves, however, mainly to the last half century, and to carriages only.
Few are left of those who were foremost in the carriage industry even a quarter of a century ago, and if we would preserve personal recollections we must gather them from those who participated in the events of these and the preceding days.
Each generation, as it supplants the previous, is disposed to congratulate itself on its superiority over the preceding and they, who are now foremost in the carriage industry, do not differ from men in other callings in claiming for themselves superiority. It is one thing to found a house and carry it from small beginnings to a large and successful business, with an established reputation, and another to take up the broken thread, after the master hand has been stilled by death, and continue the work and maintain the high reputation already earned. To say this implies no reflection upon the successors; on the contrary it does credit to those who have maintained the high reputations earned by the founders in these days of active thought and supreme effort.
When the Carriage Builders’ National Association was organized the carriage industry was rich in eminent men, men who had made their impress and who placed the industry among the foremost in our land. We may be excused if we mention a few who were then leaders who have since passed away. No truthful history of the carriage industry of this country could be written that did not include the venerable James Gould, of Albany, N.Y.; Jason Clapp, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Lewis Downing, of Concord, New Hampshire, pioneers; nor is G. C. Miller, of Cincinnati, Ohio, to be forgotten. These men were among the first to make the American vehicle known throughout the world. Then there was Thomas Goddard, of Boston; James Brewster, of New Haven; C. P. Kimball, of Portland, Maine; John R. Lawrence, of New York; James M. Quinby, Newark, New Jersey; Wm. D. Rogers, whom everybody loved, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the fearless, liberal and energetic John W. Britton, of New York, New York; Frederick Wood, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, one of the brightest men ever connected with the carriage industry; Wilder H. Pray, the carriage art critic; James Curtis, of Cincinnati, Ohio. They are all gone and the few who were contemporaneous with them, who are yet spared, are closely approaching the allotted years granted to man, all of whom are sharers in the honor of having contributed to an eminent degree to place the industry on a high plane. The work done by these men has been continued in many instances by their successors, but in others the names are lost to the industry. Younger men have taken the places of those who were active in 1872 and new methods have supplanted the old. These, aided by inventions and improvements, have changed the conditions, giving a greater variety of styles, but we doubt if the quality of workmanship has been improved. In fact, if durability is made the test, the high grade vehicles built twenty five years ago would be the peers of those built at the present, excepting in one particular, that of painting; but when those conditions are considered that minister to comfort, the vehicle of today is vastly superior. The knowledge gained by experience has wrought wonders.
The necessity of a spring that would take the place of the elliptic for light carriages brought out a long line of carriage springs half elliptic, torsion, etc., and completely changed the methods of hanging light bodies, and to a considerable extent such vehicles as rockaways, phaetons, etc. The great improvement made in drop forges worked a wondrous change and machine wrought forgings took the place of malleable castings and hand forgings. While rubber tires come as a final cure for discomfort and noise, these and the hundreds of minor inventions of merit, worked a revolution in vehicle construction. The American manufacturer became independent of the foreign steel maker. In 1872 we doubt if there was a carriage maker who would dare to say that he used springs made of other than English steel, while now 95 per cent. of the steel used for springs is made in this country and a broken spring, or one that has lost its shape, except from long wear, is comparatively a novelty. The great advance made in bending timber has made it possible for every manufacturer of vehicles to use bent timber whenever he may deem it advantageous.
Twenty five years ago one of the questions that was agitating the trade was, Can machinery, other than for sawing, be used to an advantage in the carriage shop? and the consensus of opinion was that it could not, except where the capacity of the factory was such as to require four fires at least in the blacksmith shop. It is true that spoke machinery was profitably employed in wheel factories, as was also mortising and primitive boring machines, but since then, as though touched by the hand of a magician, the carriage shop has become a vast machine shop, and the iron man seems almost imbued with reason. Had the body maker of a quarter of a century ago been told that almost every piece of timber entering into the construction of a body would in time be dressed to shape and fitted to its place by machinery he would have laughed at the “simpleton” who presumed to make the assertion; so, too, in the smith shop and the trimming shop, everywhere machines are in use, performing the most delicate, as well as the coarsest, work with an accuracy that is astonishing. The few machines of a quarter of a century ago that were thought to be marvels of accuracy are cast into the waste heap and new ones have taken their place. There are machine manufacturers who count their machines, for carriage makers’ use, well up into the hundreds, while some machines are so constructed that, by the use of attachments, the one machine can be made to answer nearly all the requirements of a moderate sized wood-shop. This introduction of and improvement in machinery has completely revolutionized the methods of working, in both wood and iron work. It has rendered the brainy, skillful mechanic more than ever a necessity and made it almost impossible for the careless and unskilled to work the harm that they did in years past. We can recall the time when the mention of machinery in the wood-shop was like waving the proverbial red rag before the bull. We recall, too, the time when it was thought a great help to have the timber sawed to shape from the plank; then followed the plainer; but neither was in the carriage shop; they were run by outside machinists. Then the head knife; for several years there was but one in one of our largest carriage manufacturing cities, and every heavy body maker sent his timbers to be dressed up square. This machine, however, broke down the barrier and in a few years ingenious men devised machines for every imaginable purpose, until now the carriage builder has but to name the work to be done and the manufacturer of machinery will produce the device. It is perhaps too much to say that wood working machinery is in its infancy, but those who watch events and note the advances of each succeeding year, can but feel that the future carriage builder, he of a quarter of a century hence, will wonder how the manufacturers of 1897 ever did the work with the machinery then used. The day is past when a carriage shop, no matter how small, cannot use machinery to a profit.
The twenty five years past have worked other revolutions in the carriage industry than those of a mechanical nature; they have gone higher and developed artistic skill and brought forth scores of scientific designers and draftsmen, who have made the American carriage builder of today independent, to a certain extent, as creators of styles, whereas before that time we were dependent upon Europe for almost everything in the way of designs for heavy work and borrowed largely for our light work. Now we create as well as they, and Europe has become a borrower of styles and process of manufacture from us. The two factors which contributed most to this result were the technical carriage journals and the Technical School for Carriage Builders. The former paved the way and made the school possible, while at the same time they were and are instructors on all matters pertinent to the trade, and by their fashion plates, working drawings and general technical instructions, are educating the mechanic and stimulate the draftsman to increased efforts. The school by special instruction fits ambitious students as designers, draftsmen and constructors, and has sent forth a corps of educated draftsmen, and stimulated those who were not of its pupilage, until now there is a goodly number of draftsmen and designers who may challenge the best of the old world. The HUB has much reason to congratulate itself for its share in the work done.
Prior to 1872 a very large percentage of our pleasure carriages were built in the eastern and middle states. A large carriage industry had developed in Ohio, in Cincinnati in particular, where the industry dates back almost to the beginning of the century, but elsewhere in the West the manufacture of carriages was confined to a few cities, notably St. Louis. The cheap wagon, that is the “three for a hundred” buggies, had not made its appearance, or if it had, it cut no important figure in the industry. True, there, were Eastern cities that had the reputation of making “shoddy” vehicles, but they were not of the type first mentioned. The first visible impress made upon the market by the low grade work was by Cincinnati, Ohio, manufacturers; and a Cincinnati buggy was supposed to represent the extreme in cheap work. The builders of medium and fine work looked upon the Cincinnati buggy as an interloper, one that was a disgrace to the industry, the quality of which, it was predicted, would destroy that particular class in a few years, but the facts proved otherwise. The cheap buggy was sold by the thousands. Agriculturalists, who had been in the habit of using their farm wagon for pleasure purposes, bought the cheap carriage, and say what we may of its merits, it was the pioneer that opened up the country districts as a carriage market and taught the hundreds of thousands to appreciate the advantages of a spring carriage who would never have felt that they could pay a hundred or more dollars for a vehicle for pleasure purposes. The lessons taught were not lost, and they who had owned one of these bought a better one, if possible, or one of the same quality, when the original was worn out. Cincinnati is no longer the monopolizer of cheap vehicles. They are now built in scores of places, by the thousands, but, owing to the introduction of improved machinery and the great advances made in the manufacture of material, the cheap carriage of today is a vastly superior vehicle to the one of twenty five years ago. T o the cheap carriage may be attributed the general use of buggies throughout the farming and thinly populated sections of the country. To make them machinery was a necessity, and the great improvement in machinery for carriage makers’ use is due in great measure to them. They also opened the way and created markets for hundreds of thousands of vehicles of a better grade. The carriage dealer, other than he of large cities, is of their creation, and the cheap carriage of today is as much a necessity to the vehicular industry as the felloe is to the wheel.
Time has wrought marvelous changes, and cities that once were the headquarters of the industry are now in the rear ranks. Newark, New Jersey, for many years, led all others. The business was so well established that at the beginning of the present century the product rivaled that of New York. From 1820 to 1857 carriage building was carried on extensively, there being at one time as many as twenty factories, that employed from twenty five to one hundred men each, besides numerous smaller establishments. At the present time there are but four factories of importance in the city. Rahway, New Jersey, is an other illustration. Prior to 1857 that city was one of the best known among carriage buyers in the country. Some of the factories were among the largest in the United States and were noted for the fine quality of their work, but cheap work predominated and a “Rahway” cheap carriage was considered the poorest of its kind. The business gradually died out, until at the present time it is nearly a tenth of what it was, but “Rahway” is no longer synonymous with cheapness.
Wilmington, Delaware, is another city that has lost its prestige as a large carriage center. Prior to 1862, and even down to the seventies, it boasted many large and reputable factories, but the loss of the Southern trade was a severe blow, and there was a marked falling off in the number of factories and the output. The city, however, has always maintained a reputation for good work. The first Carriage Builders’ Association in the United States was formed in that city and at the time of the organization of the Carriage Builders’ National Association the members of the Wilmington Association were among the most active in effecting the present National Association.
NEW YORK CITY
New York City has from its earliest days been the great selling center of the carriage trade and the arbiter of fashion. In Colonial times it was the central point for the manufacturer of fine heavy carriages, although at that time the number was not great; but eventually Newark, New Jersey, and afterward New Haven and Bridgeport, Connecticut, surpassed it in the manufacture, but New York retained the selling trade. In the earlier part of the present century it drew its supplies from Rahway, New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Albany New York, Bridgeport and New Haven, Connecticut, while the Hudson River towns furnished the sleighs, many fine road wagons coming from Philadelphia, Bridgeport, New Haven and Newark supplied better grade of heavy pleasure carriages, while Boston, Massachusetts, furnished many of the chaises, of which large numbers were sold. England and France, however, were looked to for two wheelers, sporting vehicles and the, higher grades of coaches, landaus, etc. Prior to the panic of 1857 the best showing made was about thirty plants, running about one hundred fires. The panic of 1857 caused many to go out of business. During 1859 and 1860 a slight increase was noticeable, but the war which followed, again prostrated the industry for two years. It began to rally in 1863 and from then until 1866 the trade was more prosperous than ever before in its history, new plants were established and new repositories opened, but the change that followed drove large numbers out of business- and the number of plants was again reduced. The ten years immediately preceding 1880, showing an average of but eleven plants and eighty six fires. From 1881 until 1890 there was a further decrease in the number of plants, but a slight reduction in fires. The dealers’ trade, however, increased and the city became more and more a selling mart than a manufacturing center and at the present time manufacturing is at a lower ebb, so far as the number of plants is concerned, than it has been for many years. But the city’s position as the headquarters of style is not affected, for in addition to acknowledged foremost position of the builders, there are dealers who dictate styles and contribute largely to keep the city at the front in fashions.
One of the noticeable changes is the removal of dealers from Broadway. Prior to 1872 they were nearly all on Broadway, below Fourteenth st. ; now there are but two and they are both branch houses, one of them is one of the largest Western manufacturers and the other a New Haven house. These houses that are on Broadway at the present time are above Thirty fourth st. Our space is too limited to give a full history of the changes, but the following brief review will serve to indicate how great the changes were. Going back to 1847, fifty years ago. Prior to 1850 the fine carriage building in New York was confined to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth wards. Elizabeth st. was a leading center; here were located Flandrau, Goodwin, Stratton, Fielding and one or two others of less importance. Flandrau was admittedly on the top as the builder of gigs, Joseph Goodwin leading as builder of medium light vehicles, Fielding doing all he could in the same line and Stratton was ever ready to build anything, from a grocer’s wagon to a gig, or anything else that was called for. Charles Beardsly was located in Canal st., from whence he removed to Thirty seventh st. and Broadway in 1851. On his death his son succeeded to the business, but after a few years gave up and the business was discontinued. The Farrel Brothers were also in Canal st., they afterwards moved to Thirtysixth st. and Seventh ave. Miner & Stevens were on Broadway below Canal st.; their repository being on Broadway and the factory running through to Courtland alley. Wood, Tomlinson & Co. had a repository in old Apollo Hall, a few doors north of Miner & Stevens’, and a repair shop on Courtland alley. Wier & Co. did a conservative business as coach builders on Mott st., near Grand, and John C. Parker (“Kit”) was the legitimate coach builder at Eighty fourth st. and Third ave. Peter Dubois (his reputation for years was second only to Dunlap, of Philadelphia,) built sulkies and road wagons on Amity st., now South Fifth ave, on which was also located a number of smaller shops, mostly repairers of coaches. Williams & Dingel, well known builders, were on the same street, but further south. Mr. Williams subsequently located on Nineteenth st., and afterward became one of the firm of Loos & Williams, later Healey, Williams & Co. A. Manee, the inventor of the shifting top, and the clip bottom and scroll top, fifth wheel, was on East Broadway. Armour Brothers and Larry Brower were then at Fiftyfourth st. and Third ave. John Swenarton, in all probability the most enterprising and inventive carriage builder of his day, was also on Third ave., but to avoid the appropriating of his inventions by a neighboring builder, he moved to Lawrence st. Levi Adams was located on Third ave. and One Hundred and Twentyfifth st., and Lockwood & Gillen, at Third ave. and One Hundred and Twenty seventh st., were builders of note. Ludlam & Smith began in Broom st., over a livery stable. All the firms mentioned hung out their signs as “Coach Makers,” when in fact none but John C. Parker did anything in the line of coach making, that class of vehicles coming mainly from out of town builders. Messrs. Mix, McKinstry and John R. Lawrence, afterward. Lawrence, Brewster & Co., Witty, Ham and others, had repositories on Broadway above Canal st. for the sale of out of town work. Reynolds, the inventor of the clip king bolt, had a small repair shop in the rear of his livery stable on Norfolk st. Between the years 1850 and 1860 a marked change took place. R. M. Stivers bought out Sutton, “the left hand smith,” and Fred Young, on Grand st. He soon afterward associated himself with A. Wilmot as Stivers & Wilmot, on Eldridge st. Dusenbury & Vandusen, on Christie st.; Lawrence & Townsend opened a factory, at Fiftieth st. and Third ave. In 1851 James Flynn and F. Seaman opened shops on Thirty sixth and Thirty seventh sts., near Third ave.
A. S. & William Flandrau succeeded their father and started out on Seventh ave. Without question, leaving J. W. Lawrence out, they were the best builders of New York of the period. The rock on which they were wrecked was perfection. They entered into such minute details of perfection that they could not possibly compete with other and less careful builders, and after varied successes went under, A. S. Flandrau becoming a salesman with Brewster & Co., of Broome st.; Wm. Flandrau acting as general superintendent. The company of Brewster & Co., now of Forty seventh st. and Broadway,composed of Henry Brewster, James W. Lawrence, of Lawrence & Townsend and John W. Britton, then a salesman with McKinstry, started in 1856 on the corner of Broom and Mott sts. John C. Parker moved to Twentyfifth st. and formed the firm of Parker, Brewster & Co., later on Parker, Brewster & Baldwin, and later J. B. Brewster & Co., now Downey, Duncan & Wright. Wood Bros. took the place of Wood, Tomlinson & Co. William Gray, a dealer, came to the front as a builder. W. & J. Dunn started in a barn on Eighty sixth st. Frey & McGerald began business in 1858, and at the death of Mr. Frey, Mr. McGerald assumed the control and today is one of the oldest builders in the city. Many others started in a small way, but soon closed out. During the years from 1860 to 1863 very many changes took place, leaving Brewster & Co. (Broom st.), Parker, Brewster & Baldwin, Stivers & Smith, Dusenbury & Vandusen, Loos & Williams, W’ & J. C. Dunn, Levi Adams, Wood Brothers and a few others of less importance. In about 1864 there was a marked revival and a large number of houses started up, but they were as a rule short lived. The business reached its greatest prosperity in the metropolis in about 1876. Since then there has been a general decrease in the number of builders, and at the present the prominent houses that were in business in 1872, of which the founders are living, are R. M. Stivers, in East Thirty first st., and Arthur McGerald, Water st. and Gouverneur Slip.
In reality the amount of production in the carriage trade today is no more than it was in 1857. Two causes combined to lead to this result- the loss of men who were masters of the business and the development of the industry in the West, in localities where lumber, land, labor and all other conditions favor low cost of production, where they can build carriages and send them to New York at prices below what they can be produced for here. This city is the great consumers’ market and within its limits are built carriages that are not surpassed by any in the world. Here is the great originating center and it will continue as such, though it may never regain the supremacy as a builder in point of number of vehicles.
The carriage industry of Amesbury, Massachusetts, for a period of twenty five years, is virtually a record of its business interests, which have been the leading power in creating prosperity and wealth. The town has grown whenever this trade has prospered. Its inhabitants have suffered from the depression incident to unsuccessful seasons equally with the members of the firms engaged in the carriage trade. Whenever an era of advance along the carriage lines of trade visited the town, prosperity followed in all other departments.
In 1850 there were twenty six firms manufacturing carriages. In the fall of 1888 the great fire occurred on “Carriage hill,” which destroyed the business plants of sixteen of these firms. Yet, undismayed by this disaster, new and elegant brick establishments replaced those burned. While a few were cast down, none were destroyed, and, today, there are as many carriage firms doing business as prior to that date.
The changes in the trade have been no more frequent than in any other largely prosecuted industry in its business progress. Individual firm names formerly well known to the trade have dropped out to give place to others who are striving to attain success, and are bravely steming the tide which has been setting so strongly against all the business developments of the country during the last few years. A conservative feeling has governed the trade so far with mutual safety to all, and with the promised dawn of better times in the near future, the carriage firms are hoping to obtain benefits from the trade winds of commercial business prosperity.
Having visited nearly all the firms we find the members hopeful. Many of them report a fair business season, and with an increasing trade over the previous year. The intervening years from 1883 to 1892 are considered to have been the most prosperous years for the carriage trade in Amesbury. In fact, no period of ten years since the beginning of carriage building in the town in 1853 has witnessed such continued activity. The tide of prosperity increased until hundreds of workmen were employed in all departments, several of the large firms employing as many as fifty blacksmiths, running from twenty to thirty forge fires. Wages were at the highest price, the best mechanics earning from three dollars to four dollars per day, while the force of skilled workmen employed in all departments led to the building of newer styles and better finished work, until Amesbury carriage firms began to employ skilled designers to create new and more beautiful forms of riding vehicles.
Ralph Clarkson made the first perspective drawings of carriages in Amesbury in 1878. This gentleman studied art in Paris, and is now a leading artist in Chicago., Illinois. Later F. A. Sands was employed in like work. In 1889 Mr. Svanberg came from Germany to the town, and since that date has done nearly all the carriage drafting.
Every variety of vehicle known to the trade is manufactured in Amesbury from the expensive brougham to the modest road wagon, from the less expensive “two wheelers,” up to all the varied grades and styles, including every form and feature of a fancy carriage with its bicycle wheels, or common wheels with rubber tires. Each yearly “carriage opening” discloses some new design and pleasing style.
It is claimed that more patents have been obtained by Amesbury carriage mechanics for different appliances in rendering ease and convenience to riding vehicles than in any other carriage section of the country. These patents not only include various changes by which a two seat vehicle can be transformed almost instantly into a stylish single seat, but to patent wheels and springs. In fact, much of the machinery by which the manufacturer has been able to enlarge and carry forward his business, and its improvement, is the invention of the mechanics here employed.
The above statements are introduced, not in any sense as “puffs” to an industry which has long sustained its reputation and standing, but as true and worthy of mention. In the carriage trade, as in all other departments of industry, there come periods when the business boom pushes business to its highest point of development. This has been seen in the manufacture of cotton and woolen goods in the United States; in the iron trade, and many other departments of labor. Then follow years of depression; of losses and failures. Similar results mark the course of the carriage industry. Many firms in this country whose standing was considered beyond the possibility of financial disaster, have been compelled to suffer great loss. The Amesbury manufacturer has suffered in common with the trade, but to such an extent as to involve only a few individual firms. Today the condition of the trade will compare most favorably with any carriage in the country, as to present and prospective business ventures. The following brief sketch of the industry may prove interesting: The founder of the carriage industry in Amesbury was Jacob R. Huntington, who begun business in 1853. In 1875 he retired from active business with a competency, and now makes his home in the town which he did so much to build up.
The Briggs Carriage Co. was organized in 1859. It has been an important factor in the carriage industry under the management of J. W. and Richard Briggs. They built their own plant on the margin of Clark’s Pond, consisting of one large four story wooden building, and three additional brick factories added in later years. So successful was the firm that they cleared a large section of land near their works and erected thirty five dwellings for the accommodation of the mechanics employed by them. The two brothers have each passed “over the river.” James, the elder, died in 1891. Richard, the active business partner, died in the full tide of prosperity in 1894, loved and honored in the trade and in the community. The business established by them remains a lasting monument of their skill and financial ability, and is continued by the sons of J. W. Briggs.
To Richard Briggs is due the added industry in 1889 of the manufacture of electric cars, which has been quite successfully prosecuted under the present management of his nephews and his namesake, Richard.
Among the early established firms continuing to push its business is the “Hume Carriage Co.” The foundation of this firm dates from the purchase in 1857 by James Hume, of the business of J. R. Huntington, the pioneer manufacturer of the town. Under Mr. Hume’s management the firm became known all over the country for the style and variety of its work. In 1884 Mr. Hume retired from active labor, and during the last ten years the business has been continued by William H. Hume, a brother of John, and George Walker.
In justice to Mr. Hume it may be said there is no one in the trade today who is more interested in the success of the carriage industry he labored to establish. His capital to the extent of thousands of dollars has been loaned at common rates of interest to aid and help others in the line of trade which made fortunes for him.
From Mr. Charles F. Robinson, the financial agent, we learn that the business of the present year has been much more encouraging than the preceding year, and the outlook for the immediate future is good.
The Biddle, Smart Carriage Co. dates its organized capital in 1878. Up to within two years it was the largest firm in number of carriages manufactured. During its busiest years it kept in operation thirty forge fires, manufacturing its own wheels and wood work. At the present writing this extensive business plant is comparatively idle. The firm has ample capital and ready means at command to recommence business at any moment when changing prospects warrant, or the conservative members of the firm consider it wise so to do.
The firm was composed of William E. Biddle, William W. Smart, M. D. F. Steeve. William W. Smart’s connection with the firm was dissolved by his death in November, 1895. Mr. Smart had been educated in all the mechanical details of the trade, and his death was a great loss to the company and the community. In 1876 7, Mr. Smart was established in business for himself and sold out to become a member of the larger firm.
George W. Osgood commenced business in 1870, at Amesbury Ferry, in a small plant, studying the best methods for continued success. Finding it inconvenient to increase his trade away from the carriage center, he erected quite an extensive plant on Powow st., and removed his works thereto, which has been several times enlarged. In 1882 he purchased the old buildings of F. A. Babcock, on Carriage Hill, and fitted them up as carriage repositories, with an office, where his sons receive the customers of the firm.
Lambert Hollander commenced business in 1886, building general light work, which he sold on the road. In 1888 commenced to build as a specialty the “Hollander Rockaway.” In this line of work has been very successful. He is the owner of a valuable brick carriage plant on Carriage ave., bought of A. N. Parry. Mr. Hollander was among the firms burned out in 1888. From this disaster he has fully recovered, and reports trade prosperous. The carriage business in Amesbury he believes to be in a more favorable condition to take advantage of the promised increasing trade than for many months, notwithstanding the general depression throughout the country.
The firm of Hassett & Hodge is composed of James and John Hassett, brothers, and George C. Hodge. Mr. James Hassett, senior member, embraked in the carriage business in 1887. In 1890 associated George E. Hodge as a partner. In 1893 John Hassett was admitted to the firm. They manufacture a varied line of pleasure carriages, and notwithstanding the great depression in the business world, during the last four years, report a continual yearly increase of sales.
From the present business outlook this firm anticipates a large increase in their business for 1898.
The Currier, Cameron Co. commenced its business on Friend st., in shops owned by F. D. Parry, in 1880, for the purpose of manufacturing carriage bodies and gears. It employed eighteen hands and the firm was made up of Colin D. Cameron and Daniel Trefetheren. In 1881 James Drummond bought out the interest of Trefetheren and the firm changed to Cameron & Drummond. In 1882 Charles Goss and John Currier were admitted to the firm and the name changed to Goss, Drummond & Co. The business was moved to the Colchester Mill building on Elm st. In 1887 the firm name was again changed by the retirement of Goss and Drummond, H. J. Batchelder, of Merrimac, connecting himself with the business. The firm continued under the name of Currier, Cameron & Co. until 1895, when C. D. Cameron, originator of the business, retired, leaving the present members, John Currier and Horace J. Batchelder, sole owners and managers. The firm occupy a large business plan, and have all the improved facilities for the prosecution of their trade, employing in busy times eighty five mechanics.
Among the early manufacturers who aided in building up the industry, and whose sign continues to swing in the breeze, is E. S. Feltch. He entered business in 1859 and pushed his way to financial success until 1883, when F. W. Nelson, a son in law, who served as Treasurer of the Board of Trade, was admitted as a member in the firm. Charles F. Stone and B. F. Sargent, sons in law, were associated in the trade at one time. The firm is doing but a small business at present as compared to more prosperous years. The business plant, which covers nearly an acre, of ground on Market st., commenced to curtail operations several years ago, and is waiting for a better business outlook for a renewal of its former activity.
The firm known as the Connor Carriage Co. was organized in 1887. The firm reports its business as quite prosperous during the last year. Its special work is depot wagons, traps, carts, victoria standard.
Herbert F. Chase commenced business in 1888. He makes a general line of carriage work of light and medium weights. Mr. Chase reports trade better the present year than the preceding one. Sales in July 40 per cent. better than in the corresponding month of 1896.
The firm of Folger & Drummond dates from 1887. It was organized by David J. Folger several years prior to this date. The new firm erected a spacious brick factory, 175 by 55, five stories, with an annex 45 by 67 feet, and, three stories. Mr. Folger was financially successful before the new firm was instituted. Mr. Drummond had been connected with the firm of Goss, Drummond & Co., and therefore brought a good mechanical experience to the partnership. About one year ago Mr. Folger sold his interest to Mr. James Drummond, who continues the business, only waiting trade developments to again push business with old time vigor.
Eben M. Currier is the senior member of the firm of the Currier Carriage Co., organized in 1888, as Eben M. & J. Woodbury Currier. They erected a convenient brick block on Carriage Hill and commenced business. In 1890 J. W. Currier retired from the firm, since which time it has been successfully conducted by E. M. Currier.
T. W. Lane entered business for himself as a carriage manufacturer in 1874. In 1890 his business had proved so far successful that from a tenant occupant of a small factory on Elm st., he became the owner of a fine business plant on Chestnut st., containing twenty five thousand feet of floor space, with a large carriage repository in the rear of his dwelling on Elm st. His two sons, Fred W. and F.. Lewis Lane, attend to all the details of the trade.
John H. Clark & Co. was organized as a carriage firm in 1884 and has so continued. In the great fire of 1888 their business plant was entirely destroyed, but replaced by one of the finest carriage factories in the town. The firm, though cast down for a time, was not destroyed, and by a conservative business management has continued to prosper in the manufacture of a fine grade of general light work as a specialty.
N. J. Folger, who learned his trade as a carriage maker in Merrimac, came to Amesbury at the time that industry was starting into more active life, and engaged in business in 1880. His plant was among those destroyed by the great fire in 1888, but a new business plant was erected for his accommodation by James Hume, on the line of the B. &. M. R. R. His business was quite successfully prosecuted until the depression of three years ago, and only awaits the promised return of better times to again push onward.
Charles N. Dennett engaged in business in 1873, and has been a successful manufacturer, having invented several patent specialties, among them “Dennett’s Jump Seat.” His was among the unfortunate factories destroyed by fire in 1888. Mr. D. did not rebuild, but entered into business with Seth Clark, Jr., with whom he continued until the firm dissolved by mutual consent. Mr. D. then leased a business plant and took his sons into partnership.
J. T. Clarkson & Co. started in the carriage business for themselves in 1891, although both had been connected with it for ten years prior to this date. They put upon the market several new and improved designs in one and two seated (interchangeable seats) carriages, which were novel in construction and taking in style, and with the improvements yearly made continue to be quite popular. They have also made essential changes in two wheels. Several of their patented novelties are built in other localities.
S. R. Bailey, of S. R. Bailey & Co., was well known to the carriage trade as early as 1866, being connected with firms in Bath, Maine, and in Boston in 1878. In 1882 he came to Amesbury and established his business, and in 1887 admitted his son, E. W. M. Bailey, to partnership. For several years they made a specialty of carriage poles and high grade sleighs. A few years ago they added carriages of special make and design, and were the first to introduce the bicycle wheels. Their factory contains 30,000 feet of floor room, and is filled with machinery largely invented by Mr. Bailey for the prosecution of his varied work.
The business of S. Rowell & Son was established on Pond st., in 1873. In 1890 the senior member died and the junior partner became sole proprietor. In 1880 a large storehouse and factory was built near the depot of the B. & M. R. R. Three years ago Edward Rowell, was admitted to the firm. The establishment is one of the largest in the town.
Charles Rowell & Son have manufactured carriages on Friend st., Amesbury, for many years. Charles Rowell, the senior member, retired from the business twelve years ago, and built for himself a fine mansion on the banks of the Merrimac River at Pleasant Valley, and is the owner of a large farm adjoining. His son Jacob continues the business under the firm name and has been very successful.
The firm of Rand & Co., dates from 1870. Several changes have taken place. A few years after commencing business, Rand left the firm and went on the road selling carriages. The firm changed to Batchelder & Cowan. In 1890, to Brout & Co., for two years. Since this date the firm has been known as Rand & Batchelder W. H. Rand and Herbert Batchelder.
C. W. Long entered the business in 1872, and erected a plant on Clark st., where he continued for thirteen years. The remainder of the time he has conducted his trade near the railroad station.
The firm of J. H. Shiels & Co., six years ago, give place to new members, J. Woodbury Currier and George Collins becoming the active managers.
Among the older and successful carriage firms is that of Osgood Morrill. In 1870 he commenced the trimming of carriages as a distinct branch of employment on Elm st. In 1878 entered into partnership with Dudley E. Gale and did business in Front st. This firm was dissolved in 1893, and the business continued by Osgood Morrill, who erected extensive wooden buildings on Morrill st. In 1891 H. P. Wills, an inventor of several carriage specialities, became associated with him.
Neal & Bolser entered the trade in 1890, and have pushed their business quite successfully in the manufacture of fine pleasure carts of new and novel designs.
Of the thirty firms doing business in the town twenty five years ago, fourteen have either gone out of business entirely or sold out their plants to others, as follows: Seth Clark, Jr., William S. Eaton, F. C. Boardman, J. F. Easton, Dudley E. Gale, G. W. Marden, John Francis, F. D. Parry & Son, B. F. Lewis, Locke & Jewell, Amesbury Carriage Co., R. Drummond & Son., D. J. Folger, A. M. Huntington, Huntington & Ellis, Edwin Morrill.
The firm of Miller Bros. is composed of John Miller, Jr., Thomas C. Miller, Robert Miller, William Miller. They commenced the business of making carriages in the wood and iron, in 1889, on Market st. In 1895 removed to more extensive and convenient quarters on Carriage Hill, furnished them by Poyen & Co., where they gave employment to fifty mechanics. The business depression reduced the force to twenty hands, and during the last few months but little work has been turned out. They are making ready to forward their work and expect, with the turning tide of fortune, to ring out the anvil chorus with renewed vigor.
The death of William G. Ellis, of the firm of Ellis & Son, was a great loss to the trade. For eight years prior to 1875 he was a member of the firm of Huntington & Ellis, when it dissolved. In 1875 be commenced business on his own account, and erected an extensive plant near his residence on Friend st. In 1888, his two sons, David and William, were made members of the firm. William died in 1890, and James took his place and the business was mainly under their management. Mr. Ellis, senior, in January 1889, introduced into the town a new branch of industry the manufacture of electric cars. For several years he was quite successful, employing eighty first class mechanics. In 1895 the plant was destroyed by fire and such loss ensued that the business was abandoned. Mr. Ellis was born in Elgin, Scotland, in 1832. Come to Amesbury in 1863 as a common laborer, but with all the vigor, determination, and native skill of a true born Scotchman, he pushed his way up
ward and onward as a successful business man. He was stricken down in the strength of manhood by disease, and in his death the business he planted remains silent.
The history of the carriage industry of the town of Merrimac, Massachusetts, is a virtual history of the town. There is no one town in New England whose destiny and growth (from the West Parish of Amesbury to its organization as Merrimac in 1876) for a century of existence can be traced so directly to the establishment of carriage manufacture. All through the century, or since Michael Emery, of West Newbury, built carriages, and the art was captured by the people across the Merrimac the town has had the benefit of the industry, which has been carried on successively by a large number of enterprising business men. It may be of interest to call the roll of the early carriage builders of the town, nearly all of whom have died or retired from the field of labor. Among these may be mentioned the following: Joseph Sargent, Patten Sargent, Willis Patten, Joshua Sargent, Jr., John Sargent, Jr., William Gunnison, Ephraim Goodwin, Moses Clement, Francis Smiley, Francis Pressey, Nicholas Sargent, S. S. Tuckwell, William P. Sargent, Edmund Whittier, Stephen R. Sargent, Stephen Bailey, Edmund Sargent, William Nichols, John Sargent, Jona. B. Sargent, Frederick A. Sargent, William H. Haskell, John Little, Joshua Colly, James Nichols, William Johnson, Caleb Mitchell, Cyrus Sargent, U. H. Sargent, J. W. Sargent, James H. Harlow, Stephen Fatten, E. S. Fullerton, John S. Poyen, Charles H. Palmer, Isaac Jones, William Smiley, Thomas E. Poyen, George F. Clough, Isaac B. Little, G. G. Larkin, Thomas B. Patten, A. T. Small, A. M. Waterhouse, Thomas Nelson.
W. H. Haskell, above mentioned, is now living at the age of eighty six years. He commenced business in 1831. In 1850 entered into partnership with William P. Sargent and William Gunnison, under the firm name of Sargent, Gunnison & Co. This firm was well known in all carriage centers throughout this country- until its dissolution in 1860. Mr. Haskell became the financial agent in establishing the First National Bank of Amesbury in 1864 (now Merrimac), and has served as its President up to the present date.
The style and quality of the carriage work manufactured in Merrimac has sustained a first class reputation. The first application of machinery to the manufacture of carriage gears was made by John S. Foster in 1867. The manufacture of carriage springs and axles was commenced by Jonathan B. Sargent about 1856. He was the inventor of the half patent axle, which is still used quite extensively. He was a man of marked ability. He died August 11, 1882.
In 1880 the following firms were engaged in business: J. B. Lancaster, organized in 1858; J. B. Judkins, organized 1857; C. H. Noyes, 1846; Gunnison & Co., 1870; S. J. Pease & Son, 1860; Elmer P. Sargent, 1871 ; H. G. & H. W. Stevens, 1860; M. G. Clement & Son, 1850; A. M. Colly, 1879; Willis P. Sargent, 1835; William Chase, 1838. These respective firms represented an invested capital of nearly a half million dollars, giving employment to 1,600 mechanics.
The firms now engaged in the industry are S. C. Pease & Sons; the J. B. Judkins & Sons Co.; George Adams & Sons; A. M. Colly; William Chase & Son; E. C. Hopkins; D. M. Means: J. A. Lancaster & Co.; H. G. & H. W. Stevens; C. H. Noyes & Son; C. E. Gunnison & Co.; Clement & Young; Richard Finn.
The business, although undergoing several changes in the firm names, has been well sustained, and, considering the depression of trade, has met with fewer changes than is usual in a mechanical business. Every variety and style of carriages is produced by the trade in Merrimac. Many of the designs are the work of their own employees.
The extensive firm of S. C. Pease & Sons was composed of the three sons of S. C. Pease; James T. admitted in 1879, Frank E., in 1883, and John T., in 1888. Frank F., was a graduate of the New York Technical School of Carriage Drafting, and his skillful hand has wrought many original designs.
The J. B. Judkins & Sons Co. is another leading firm. Fred B. Judkins was admitted to the firm in 1893, after graduating from the New York Technical School of Carriage Drawing, and was chosen a few years since as one of the Executive Committee of the Carriage Builders’ National Association.
The firm of William Chase & Son is the oldest in the town. The firm consisted of father and two sons, Arthur and Fred. Fred died in the spring of 1890, and Arthur is the only remaining member of the firm. He also was a member of the New York School.
Several of the firms have recently been encouraged by receiving large orders and nearly all look forward to a more active trade. A century devoted to the carriage trade by the sons and grandsons of the town has been fruitful of a great advance in business lines, and has enabled the respective firms to take the front rank in carriage manufacturing. The beautiful town, founded by their skill and energy, will not be allowed to suffer any decadence in the near advancing years of prosperity.
New Haven, Connecticut, has long ranked as one of the leading manufacturing cities of our country, and is today a hive of industry. The city is one of the oldest, as it was the fifth city to be incorporated after the recognition of American independence.
The carriage industry, which has so long been one of magnitude, dates back to 1810, when James Brewster established his business; others might have been building vehicles at an earlier date, but their names are not on record, and we must therefore begin with Mr. Brewster. He was the first to give the city a reputation and the plant founded by him continues to the present time, although under another name.
The records show that Mr. Brewster started in 1810, as stated above, and for twenty years conducted the business alone. That the business became a prosperous one is shown by the fact that as early as 1827 he opened a repository in New York and employed John R. Lawrence as salesman. In 1829 he formed a copartnership in the New York house with Mr. Lawrence under the firm name of Brewster & Lawrence, and in 1830 he formed a copartnership with Solomon Collis, his New Haven bookkeeper, under the firm name of Brewster & Collis in New Haven, the two houses continuing under the above firm names until 1839, when Mr. Brewster retired, and the firm names were changed to Lawrence & Collis in New York, and Collis & Lawrence in New Haven. In 1850 William H. Bradley bought out Mr. Collis’ interest in New Haven, and Mr. Lawrence purchased the New York interest. The New Haven firm name was changed to Lawrence & Bradley, continuing such until 1857, when William B. Pardee become a partner, when the firm name was changed to Lawrence, Bradley & Pardee, which became of one the best known in the United States. Mr. Lawrence sold out his interest in the New Haven house in 1868 to his partners, and about two years later Mr. Pardee sold his to Mr. Bradley, who continued a few years, but was compelled to suspend and after about one year the property was sold to A. T. Demarest, the present proprietor, thus keeping the plant running about eighty seven years. Under the present builder the high reputation for a fine grade of work is fully maintained.
A. T. Demarest- The early history of this house is embraced in the history of the business of James Brewster; the present house holds a high place among the builders of fine vehicles and their New York wareroom is stocked with a line of sporting and pleasure vehicles of rare quality and style. They also have an extended trade among buyers of this class of vehicles in all parts of the country. The factory is one of the largest and best equipped in the city.
The plant of Henry Hooker & Co. is one of the largest in its line in the country. The founder of the house, Henry Hooker, began business in 1830, at which time he established a repository in a Southern city, for the sale of Northern carriages; later on he formed a copartnership and began manufacturing in New Haven, under the firm name of Hooker & Osborne. This firm was dissolved and Mr. Hooker continued under the firm name of Hooker, Candee & Co. and later as Henry Hooker & Co. Mr. Osborne also formed a new copartnership and the new firm name was Osborne & Adriance. In 1868 Henry Hooker & Co. incorporated. The present officers of the company are: Edwin Marble, President; Frank H. Hooker, Treasurer and Manager, and N. Albert Hooker, Secretary. In or about 1862 Henry Hooker, together with James Brewster, Edwin Marble and Leverett Candee, who were heavy endowers of the paper of the G. D. Cook Co., were compelled to take the latter company’s plant to save themselves, and the business of Henry Hooker & Co. was moved therein, where it continues to the present day, although greatly enlarged from what it was when the Cook Co. occupied it. The firm built a high grade of work for city trade, and the house takes rank as one of the most flourishing in the country. Henry Hooker, the founder of the house, died about twenty-three years ago. The plant stands today as one of the most thoroughly equipped in the United States, and its product is known, not only well known at home, but also in foreign countries, the export trade for many years having been a leading feature.
The New Haven Carriage Co. dates its ancestry back to 1838, when F. A. Holcomb began manufacturing in Bradford, Connecticut. The business was subsequently moved to New Haven and was conducted under the firm name of Holcomb Bros., G. F. and H. S. In the latter part of the seventies they opened a repository in California and did a satisfactory trade for a number of years. The firm name was changed again, becoming Holcomb Bros.& Co.; later on it was incorporated, taking the title of the New Haven Carriage Co., with George F. Holcomb, President and Treasurer; H. S. Holcomb, Vice President, and W. Hooker Atwood as Secretary. The present plant is one of the largest in the city, and is thoroughly equipped with modern machinery, but as the company is making a specialty of high grade sporting and pleasure carriages and horse show vehicles, there is no duplication and the machinery is little used. George F. Holcomb is one of New Haven’s ex-mayors. Mr. Atwood holds the record of being the champion carriage traveler of this country; three times at least he has gone around the world, visiting every country where pleasure carriages could be used and opening markets in nearly all.
Samuel K. Page, successor to Henry Hale & Co., is another of the houses that dates back half a century. The business was founded by Henry Hale in 1846; subsequently Mr. Hale took a partner and the firm name became Hale & Waterbury. In 1891 Mr. Waterbury retired and the firm name was changed to Henry Hale & Co. On the death of Mr. Hale in 1892 Mr. Page, who had been a partner with Mr. Hale for several years, became sole owner of the plant and the firm name was changed accordingly. This house is one of a few in New Haven that never did a Southern trade, but confined itself to the local and Northern city trade, making a specialty of a finer grade of vehicles than could be handled by the general trade. Mr. Page now confines his product to carriages suited to the best city buyers, almost entirely of the heavier grades of pleasure and driving vehicles.
Cruttenden & Co. is another of the New Haven carriages that dates its foundation back about half a century. The house was established by Henry Killam, as Wiswell & Killam, in 1848, his brother, E. Killam, becoming a partner in 1856. In 1859 the firm name was changed to Killam, Cruttenden & Co., with the admission of G. O. Cruttenden into the firm. Henry Killam sold out to Edward Wells in 1861, who retired in 1870, since which time the firm has consisted of G. O. Cruttenden, E. Killam and J. E Killam. The firm have a large and well equipped factory, and make a specialty of high grade coach work. They enjoy a widely extended trade, having customers in all localities where fine carriages are used.
The house of Henry Killam & Co. was founded by Henry Killam, together with J. M. Wiswell in 1848, under the firm name of Wiswell & Killam. Its history prior to 1861 is contemporaneous with that of Cruttenden & Co. At that time Mr. Killam withdrew from the old house and for six months was out of business; he then formed a copartnership with Leonard Pardee which partnership was dissolved by the death of his partner; a new partnership was formed with Francis Potter under the firm name of Henry Killam & Co. After a few years the company incorporated under the name of Henry Killam Co. The company met with reverses but is in a fair way of resuming in a short time. Mr. Killam was the second president of the C. B. N. A. ; he died Sept. 20, 1896.
The house of M. Armstrong & Co. was established by M. Armstrong in 1859, who has continued as its head to the present time. The factory is most thoroughly equipped with such modern appliances as can be utilized in the building of a high grade of heavy carriages, which find a market in our large cities. And then few cities where such carriages are used when the products of this house cannot be found. Mr. Armstrong has associated with him his two sons, E. M. and E. L. The firm enjoy a high reputation, both as to style and quality of work and methods of business, which after all, is the secret of success.
Kean & Lines is another of the houses that date back into the fifties; they are the successors of P. H. Bartholomew. This house has always been conservative but not hide bound as to styles or finish. Building a good grade of work, such as would be appreciated by buyers who sought for comfort and utility, they have been able to find markets in our leading cities, both direct and through leading dealers.
J. F. Goodrich established business in 1859, and in 1873 associated himself with Mr. A. W. Adams and formed a copartnership, under the firm name of J. F. Goodrich & Co. The New Haven factory is among the largest in the city, and in busy times gives employment to a large number of skilled workmen. The firm has a New York repository under the charge of the junior partner, Mr. Adams, and it is well stocked at all times with vehicles from the New Haven factory. The range of work embraces all styles of popular pleasure carriages for city and country, of a grade to command the recognition of buyers who appreciate style, quality and finish.
Seabrook & Smith founded their business about thirty years ago, and carried it on as a firm until 1895, when they incorporated under the title of Seabrook & Smith Carriage Co., with H. C. Seabrook as President, John H. Moore, Vice President and L. T. Smith, Secretary and Treasurer. The house gives special attention to the production of a high grade of light work. Their factory is fitted up with all the needed machinery -and appliances necessary for their business. The greater part of their product is sold in the Eastern cities, but its good quality has gained for them a fair trade among the buyers of fine work in the large Western cities.
The Boston Buckboard Co. was established in New Haven by the Rev. W. H. H. Murray in 1879, backed up by capital from Boston, with a view to the manufacture of a certain style of buckboard wagon, the patent for which was owned by the reverend gentleman. It failed however to meet the expectations of its originators and in 1885 the company was reorganized as The Boston Buckboard and Carriage Co., since which time attention has been given to the manufacture of light and medium carriages of a high class for the general trade. The officers of the company are Edward E. Bradley, President; James Graham, Vice President, and W. E. Weld, Jr., Secretary and Treasurer. The building occupied by them was built by James Brewster and has been used as a carriage factory for full half of a century.
Though ranking as one of the principal manufacturing centers of the carriage industry at the present time, the most prosperous days of the New Haven carriage builders were prior to the Civil War. The South up to that time was a large and profitable market; many of New Haven’s leading houses had branches in the Southern cities, while others sold their work largely to dealers in the South. The cutting off of that trade, by the war, and inability of the people of that section to purchase largely of fine vehicles, since that time necessarily told heavily on the carriage industry of the city, and caused numerous changes; some houses disappearing, others changed hands and for a time all curtailed their product. Among the houses that flourished prior to 1862 may be mentioned the following, though this list does not include all. There was the large house of Lawrence, Bradley & Pardee, Hooker & Osborne, Hale & Waterbury, George A. Hoadley & Son, P. H: Bartholomew, G. S. Ferris & Co., T. and G. Cook & Co., G. and D. Cook & Co,. Sizer & Doolittle, George T. Newhall, D. and L. D. Wilcoxson, P. B. Hinsdale & Co., B. and H. Merriman & Co., Hubble & Morton, Pardee, Miner & Wier, Edwin Lee, Isaac Bradley, A. P. Munson & Co., F. A. Bradley, M. Armstrong & Co., I. F. Goodrich, Keen & Lines, Durham & Booth, Henry Killam and possibly others whose names we did not obtain, each of whom employed from thirty to a hundred and twenty five men or more; many of these have passed out and left no successors. A few have continued to have been succeeded by others, who have kept the industry running.
That there were others, we have no doubt, one in particular of whom many humorous stories are told; this one was named Day, who became known as “Turtleshell” Day. It seems that he had a coach the varnish on which was cracked, as it will sometimes to the sorrow of the builder, in large squares all over the body. To burn off this paint and repaint the job, would be an expensive operation; so Mr. Day decided to send it to his Southern repository, and he instructed his salesman there to say that it was a new style of finish, imitating a turtle shell, and under this recommendation it found a buyer. The transaction becoming known, Mr. Day was rechristened “Turtleshell,” but he saved the expense of repainting.
Some of the houses above mentioned built a cheap grade of carriages which were sold at low prices. Others made a high grade, and found buyers among the most wealthy of our people, both North and South.
Notable among the old firms that succumbed at the time of the war was the G. D. Cook Co., successors to G. and D. Cook Co., who ranked as one of the largest houses in the trade. They were engaged in the manufacture of light carriages and made a great reputation in their day for their jump seat, which was patented by G. & D. Cook in 1857. Their work, though not of a high grade, was in good demand, but the house, both as an individual firm and as a company, met with reverses and was finally compelled to close out, their plant falling into other hands. The export trade began at an early day, Mexico and the West India Islands being large buyers of New Haven made carriages. Later on in the history of the industry, New Haven carriages were shipped to other parts of the world, notably South America and Australia, but there are few countries in the world where New Haven carriages are unknown.
The changes that have taken place since the time above referred to have been many. In 1872, at the time of the organization of the Carriage Builders’ National Association, there were thirty four firms engaged in the business; of these there are but ten of the original houses now in existence, three of which are under other names, but new firms have taken place of the old, and the industry continues as one of New Haven’s most important.
The change in firms, however, has been no greater than that in the character of work. At the present there is no house of any magnitude that can be ranked as a builder of low grade work. A very large percentage of all that is produced is sold to city buyers, in our large cities or our fashionable resorts. This fact explains why so little machinery is used; there is absolutely no such thing as duplication, each individual job differs to a greater or lesser extent from the other and where this condition exists, machinery, other than sawing, planing, etc., cannot be used to a profit. The Western manufacturer with his duplicating machinery has driven New Haven as well as other Eastern cities out of the field of low priced work, but it has left bulk of the high grade fashionable trade to the Eastern builder.
At the present time there is but little doing in the New Haven carriage factories, probably the aggregate is below one third the normal capacity, as the manufacturers are not disposed to build in advance of orders, but we doubt if there is an industry in which the members are in sounder condition, or financially better situated to meet a demand for a high grade of work. And when the time comes, as it surely will, the New Haven builders will be able to meet all reasonable demands as to quantity and quality.
At the present time there are some twenty firms engaged in the carriage industry in the city, but want of space prevents us from mentioning any but the older houses.
If the question was asked: “In what city in the world are the greatest number of carriages manufactured?” almost any American school boy would answer Cincinnati, Ohio, and yet twenty five years ago the percentage of its product was but little greater than that of other cities. The industry, however, is an old one, dating back to 1815, at which time the population was but little over 5,000. In that year George C. Miller built a small shop on the site now occupied by the George C. Miller Sons Co. The business has been continued in the family to the present time, although the form of the firm name was changed two or three times. The house early, established a reputation for good work, a reputation which it has always maintained. The firm is credited with having made the first vehicle, with tires, in Ohio.
Jeptha G. Miller & Sons Co. is an outgrowth of this house; the senior member was one of the sons of George C. Miller, and formed one of the firm of George C. Miller & Sons, organized in 1843; he continued with the old company until 1892, when he withdrew and organized a new company, which was incorporated in January, 1893, he and two of his sons being among the incorporators. We know of but two carriage houses in the United States that have been founded a like number of years and remained in the hands of the family of the founders until the present time.
Another old house was that of John W. Gosling, his business dating back to the thirties. Mr. Gosling’s aim was to build as good work as it was possible to put up. He proved to be a successful manufacturer, and at his death he was among the wealthiest carriage men in the West.
Other old houses were those of B. Bruce & Co., William Holyoke, at one time one of the largest manufacturers in the country; Armstrong & Baines, in 1838 the senior member of which learned his trade of William Holyolce, and John Curtis. All of these had fine plants and did a flourishing business prior to the days of cheap work, and none of them ever become identified with the production of the low grade vehicle. In those days Cincinnati coaches held a high place as to style and quality and competed successfully in the Southern trade with the best coaches built in Eastern cities.
Just who was the first to introduce the manufacture of buggies on the duplicate system or “machine made,” it is hard to say, there being several claimants for the honor. The weight of evidence is in favor of Simmons & Son, a firm located in the West End. They are accredited with putting them on the market early in the seventies and to have made a success from the start; the other claimants are Emerson & Fisher and Louis Cooke, but all evidence is in favor of Emerson & Fisher, who early in 1872 opened a small factory on Central ave. The idea of duplicating work, as is now done, seems to have impressed itself on Mr. Emerson’s mind so firmly that he determined to try the experiment and associated with himself John W. Fisher, a carriage trimmer, who had served an apprenticeship in the factory of Gosling & Co. The venture proved a great success from the start, and the firm of Emerson & Fisher was compelled to enlarge their factory almost yearly until 1889. In 1890 the house was incorporated under the name of the Emerson & Fisher Co. In late years sharp competition and lengthened credits took off the cream of the cheap carriage trade, and under the severe pressure of the dull times of the past four years the company failed. A reorganization has been effected and the company is making a strong effort to regain its lost trade.
The example and successes of the first firms to build cheap work were followed and it was not long before numerous large plants were building cheap carriages. Some of those who started had a hard fight. They, however, were enabled to make arrangements with merchants so that settlements could be made every thirty days, and as the work was quickly built, and sold for cash, this arrangement proved advantageous to all, and the weak firms soon became strong. It is told of one young man who is now at the head of one of the most successful carriage houses in the cheap line that he had in the works a lot of buggies nearly finished, but he had reached the limit of his credit and was unable to purchase the necessary leather to finish them up. After a most persistent effort he succeeded in getting a friend to indorse his note for $100; the money obtained from the note served to procure the desired stock, which he did quickly, and disposing of the carriages for cash was enabled to continue his business successfully.
Each year after the success of the cheap work plan was assured saw the number of factories increase and it was not long before the man who built anything less than a thousand carriages was looked upon as small fry.
We have no space to enumerate the different factories, nor would it be necessary except to name them, as the experience of one was the experience of all. For about fifteen years the manufacturers of cheap work flourished as none of the craft had flourished before them. The Cincinnati buggy ceased to be a by word, and there was hardly a hamlet in the great West and South that did not house a Cincinnati buggy.
The conservative carriage trade made light of the cheap vehicle and for years refused to recognize the builders as fellow craftsmen, but the power of money is great and as the old carriage builder, he who built on the old lines, saw his Cincinnati competitors growing rich. He relaxed his ideas and begun to think that after all cheap carriages could be built, and the builders of them could make a living profit.
From 1880 to 1892 were the harvest years of the Cincinnati carriage builders. Their factories were taxed to the utmost, and they kept so close to cash sales that losses were light and fortunes were accumulated.
The census of 1890 show that employment were 3,880 persons employed in the factories, to whom was paid in wages $2,091,265. The value of the product was $8,183, 615. These figures do not include those houses designated as blacksmiths and wheelwrights, neither do they include manufacturers of carriage materials, but they do include repairers. The total number of factories is placed at eighty. There are but four industries in the city accredited with giving employment to a like number of workers and but three that exceed it in the value of their products. The high water mark was reached in 1892, when the value of the carriage product reached $11,000,000.
The manufacture of low priced carriages has increased rapidly in the West and at the present time Cincinnati no longer holds the palm for cheapness. In many other localities cheap carriages are being built to meet this competition. The builders in this great carriage center are greatly improving the product, without increasing cost. Then, too, there are numerous houses that are producing a grade of vehicles that find ready sale in city markets. These houses, while taking advantage of all that is to be gained by the free use of machinery, are greatly improving their styles and finish. We would like to mention these firms, but space does not permit; certain it is, however, that the buyer visiting Cincinnati can now supply himself with an unusually good grade of low-priced vehicles; he can also find an ample supply of really finely finished and carefully made carriages, suited to the great middle trades vehicles that compare favorably with any that are made to be sold at the same range of prices, and if required he can also find an ample supply of high grade work.
We have thus noted Cincinnati cheap work, as we feel that it has been a boon to carriage users. Thousands of farmers and persons of moderate means now enjoy the luxury of an upholstered spring vehicle that could never have purchased one of high price, and the trade has been strengthened because of the habit of riding in these vehicles. As each buyer becomes able he replaces his cheap vehicle with one that is better, or, if he lacks the means, he purchases another cheap one, and we believe that the number of good and high grade vehicles has been doubled because of the introduction and extended sale of Cincinnati cheap carriage.
Carriage building in Chicago twenty five years ago had not risen to the dignity of an art. The great fire in 1871 marked an epoch in Chicago’s history and helped to fix in mind much valuable data. At that time coach building had not appeared. The few heavy carriages then running were of Eastern build, but the buggy had many modelers. Designs or complete working drafts were almost unknown; thumb rule and eye prevailed with wonderfully good effect, however. There were many enthusiastic fanciers of the various types of this then most popular vehicle; such as coal boxes of several styles, the square box and piano box, the latter considered an improvement on the square box in the introduction of round corners on body and seat, followed by a still more radical departure, named after that memorable boat, the “Monitor,” which it resembled; and yet another change was effected by the substitution of bar risers, extending from front to rear corner pillars, in place of panel risers, and sometimes curved in the middle.
Want of capital embarrassed many of the builders of those days, who were mostly graduates of the shop. An instance in this connection may be of interest. It was the writer’s privilege, as a boy, to visit among then, and well do I recall Old Father Ford, disrespectfully called by the “gamins” “Old Man Ford.” He then ran a large shop for the times, on Lake st., near where Mr. Stoltz is now located. He was, I believe, a body maker by trade, from New York, and often told that he secured his capital as follows: His brother put in $500, he borrowed $500 from a friend, had saved as much more, and he got $500 from Jane. Now Jane was his beloved wife, and to avoid a threatened suit against the doctor and druggist, for culpable negligence in bringing her to an untimely end, Mr. Ford accepted the physician’s check for the above amount.
Among other popular vehicles of those days I recall the fantail phaeton and the Democrat wagon. The former might be considered the forerunner of the spider phaeton; the latter sometimes beautified by raised panels and provided with a half top over hind seat, if desired, is too well known to need further description. Butter bowl wheel houses painted to resemble the rising sun, or blinds, and transfer ornaments constituted conspicuous detail when applicable. There were also much in vogue, several styles of Concord buggies, seating two to six persons, as well as side spring buggies, followed by an era of patent spring side bar wagons and reachless buggies of the Col. Saladee type, while the jump seat was largely used, as a family carriage, the Kimball and Eureka being most in favor, these latter having given place to the trap, while surreys, carryalls and four passenger phaetons are more in demand for light family carriages. Heavy carriages, as I have stated, were not then manufactured, for Chicago twenty five years ago contained a population of but little over a quarter of a million inhabitants, and few of her people were able to support a coachman, livery stables and hack stands supplying the want. Berlin coaches, landaus, landaulets, Clarence coupes and rockaways were then popular close carriages, while Victorias, bretts, barouches, and park phaetons were used for summer driving. The first rockaway I know of being built in Chicago was made by C. Stone & Sons. It was used by a prominent hotel keeper for many years. I think the Coan & Ten Brocke Manufacturing Company were the first to engage in heavy carriage building, much to their sorrow, I am informed, for it was the beginning of the downfall of this pillar of the West, by whom all carriage builders measured their standard of work and gauged their prices. They were the largest house west of the Allegheny Mountains, with repositories in several Western cities. Their fine stock of carriages in their repository on Adams st., near State, always excited my admiration.
My first attendance upon the convention of the C. B. N. A. was at Philadelphia, in 1876. The meeting was held at the Exposition and I was favorably impressed with the appearance of the members present. The only exhibit from Chicago was an iron or steel gear buggy, built by C. Stone & Sons, and again exhibited at the Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893, though considerably the worse for wear.
The directory of 1872, the date of organization of the C. B. N. A., which, as a matter of history is the earliest directory accessible, contains the names of thirty five carriage makers and dealers, who with one exception have all long since dropped out of business. The wooden anniversary of the C. B. N. A. finds the list largely increased, and among the names of builders that year (1877,) are found the following: C. Ten Brocke agent, successor to C. & L. B. Manufacturing Co., C. P. Kimball & Co., who came to Chicago that year and succeeded to the business of the above house ; Henry Killiam & Co., B. Manville & Co., and Henry Hooker & Co., of New Haven, and others. Henry Willets, who was formerly a foremost builder, Thomas H. Brown, John Browne, Beal & Dowell, Sam Blaisdell, George Bohanan, Hayde & O’Brien, W. T. Jones, J. H. Klein, Miller & Parsons, Pennoyer, Shaw & Co., P. L. Smith & Co., C. Stone & Sons, Tower Bros., G. Wetterlund, Frazer & Sommers, Kruge Bros., M. Hopkins, Irvin & Jones, J. K. Kimball, Smith & Dryden, J. Miles Standish, William Stoltz, D. H. Wren and others.
Among the many exhibitors about that time were Studebaker Bros., who some years after erected their magnificent building on Michigan avenue, and engaged in manufacturing in the city; A. B. Clark & Co., Cunningham & Co., the Rockford Carriage Co., Garland, Holmes & Co., H. C. Walker & Co., Edwards & Son, Kean & Lines, Hill & Co., California Carriage Co., New England Carriage Co., besides wagon makers who carried a line of carriages. These, with but few exceptions, have long since failed. Seeking the cause of this sad history of blasted hopes and pitiable financial wrecks which have come to my knowledge I am glad to learn that the temperance expounder can find no subject illustrative of his pet curse; extravagance in small things may account partially for the downfall of some, but few were lacking in industry and close attentions to business. Ambitious to out rival his opponent through ignorance or failure to realize that business is a science, of many truths and principles, their ruin came while many then engaged in other lines of manufacturing, in mercantile and professional vocations are now prosperous, which raises the question again: Is the carriage business profitable?
Perhaps no event is of equal importance in a brief narrative, as that of the World’s Columbian Exposition, as upon two previous occasions the C. B. N. A. held its annual meeting here during the progress of the world’s greatest fair. C. P. Kimball & Co., Studebaker Bros., C. Stone Sons, Staver & Abbott Co., represented the local trade. The character of the work exhibited showed a marked improvement in construction over any previous exposition and reflected most creditably upon local builders. It marked the culmination of elaborateness in designing since which time its tendency to severe plainness has prevailed, particularly so in heavy work, a condition noted in all previous eras of business depression, seemingly in keeping with the sentiment imbued. It is sincerely to be regretted that any taint of suspicion should have detracted from the value of the awards, but so is our country stigmatized.
As if the carriage builders of Chicago had not yet experienced all the pangs of regret for engaging in so unfortunate a calling from a pecuniary standpoint. Just prior to the opening of the fair the workmen organized a union, and, under the leadership of aggressive disturbers, must needs show their activity and opposition to the best interests of both themselves and employers by promulgating orders inimicable to the interests of all concerned, which culminated in a strike, causing a serious pecuniary loss, estrangement, and consequent disturbance of confidence.
The city of St. Louis, Missouri, ranks as one of the largest vehicle centers in this country. There are at the present time nearly 140 houses engaged in the business as manufacturers, dealers or repairers, among them many wholesale houses, of world wide reputation. Some of the earliest builders were from Newark, New Jersey; among these was R. Dougherty, who left Newark during the hard times, between 1837 and 1840, and early in the fifties if a journeyman carriage maker talked of leaving Newark his first thought was, Dougherty of St. Louis. But St. Louis had earned a reputation as a desirable carriage center before Mr. Dougherty went there. Just when the first house was established we cannot say, but in 1835, when St. Louis was a town of a few thousand inhabitants, Samuel Mount, and the firm of Carter & Powers had earned a reputation as builders of fashionable carriages. With the latter firm there were two apprentices, then in their teens, who in after years became partners and the leading builders of fine carriages in the West. These were Wesley Fallon and James A. Wright, who conducted business for many years under the firm name of Fallon & Wright, and one of whom, Mr. Fallon, signed the first call for a carriage builders’ convention, and at the permanent organization of the C. B. N. A. was elected as one of the eight vice presidents.
A story is told of a proposed trade which was offered during the apprenticeship of the boys above mentioned, which they repeated in after years, and which illustrates the growth of the city, as follows: The firm of Carter & Powers had in stock a second-hand stage coach, and a party owning a fine block of ground near their factory, bantered them for an even trade the ground for their coach, but they refused, as they considered the old coach of more value than the land, consequently no trade was made. A few nights later on some one hitched to the old stage and drove it off and they never heard of it again. Today that block of ground, with its improvements could not be bought for $3,000,000.
Theodore Salorgne started the manufacture of carriages in St. Louis in 1838, and continued until 1881, when he died, leaving only one son and a large estate the business was discontinued at that time.
Fallon & Wright started in 1845 and continued until 1861, succeeded by Wesley Fallon, who continued until 1876, the year of his death. Business then closed out.
James A. Wright started again in 1863 on his own account, until 1877, when the firm became James A. Wright & Sons; the senior James A. Wright died June 29, 1877, the business being continued under same name by his sons until January, 1882, it was incorporated. James A. Wright& Sons Carriage Co., under which name it still exists, and rank as the leading manufacturers of fine work of St. Louis.
George Bailey in the early fifties was a large importer and manufacturer of carriages. T. B. Edgar also handled Eastern work and did repairs. He subsequently retired from the business and became a banker and his name became prominent among business men. He still lives quite hale and hearty.
Alexander Finley was a large dealer and builder in the fifties.
R. Dougherty & Bro. started in the forties and continued until 1882. During the war the firm built ambulances and stage coaches. R. Dougherty died leaving quite an estate.
Nathan Card did quite an extensive business from 1865 to 1888.
Henry Timken (the famous spring man) commenced business here about 1855, and at present is President of the Timken Carriage Co., doing a very large business.
The Haydocks came here in 1879 and built up an immense business in duplicate work. They are now succeeded by Haydock Bros. Carriage Co.
Freeman & Green did a large business from 1864 to 1870. Mr. Green is now in Cleveland, Ohio.
McCall & Haase date back to 1873. They do a large trade on fine work.
Edward Bersch dates back to 1860, and is still at it, doing quite a trade.
Moon Bros. established their business in the year 1882 and are doing a large duplicate business.
Bauer, Walter Buggy Co. was established in 1885, and are now one of the large duplicate businesses.
The Embree McLean Carriage Co. was established in 1892. They do a large trade in medium work.
St. Louis in 1873 had about thirty shops in all mostly small. St. Louis in 1897 has about forty five shops, six or seven buildings, in quantities from 4 to 10,000 jobs each. In fine work all classes, light and heavy are built. and sent to all sections from East to West.