William D. Rogers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coach-Maker’s Magazine June 1855 page 59
There are few persons among the great multitude which constitute the carriage consuming public, who are not familiar with this name. The popularity of this gentleman as a scientific coach-maker, and a thorough going business man, is extended far and wide throughout the Union, and from this fact he is generally supposed among a portion of the craft south and west to be a man of many years, and through this mistaken idea he has received by many the appellation of “Old Billy Rogers.” Before our first introduction to Mr. R., we too had set him up in our imagination as a father in the craft, and of course the first opportunity which presented itself we were determined to make the acquaintance of the old gentleman. Accordingly two years ago, as we were passing through the Quaker City we called to see the man and his new factory, of which latter we had heard great accounts. On entering the large building we inquired of the gentlemanly clerk for the proprietor, who replied that Mr. R. was somewhere about the factory, and would soon return to the office. Presently a man made his appearance who we took to be a spry young jour, from the fact that he had his coat off, sleeves rolled up, apparently only about twenty eight or thirty years of age, and looked very much like, one who was ready to pitch into anything in the way of work or business. As he entered the office the clerk turned from his task and informed us that this was Mr. Rogers.
With our fixed idea of old Billy we very naturally concluded that the little man before us was only a chip of the old block, and therefore very politely informed him that it was the old gentleman we wished to see, upon which we were assured that the identical Billy was before us, and ready with the greatest of pleasure to conduct us through the factory, and show us what he was doing. We relate this little anecdote of our introduction to Mr. Rogers for the benefit of those of our readers who are laboring under the same mistaken idea as yourself, that they may henceforth know the man as he is. Mr. Rogers commenced business in Philadelphia in 1847, and as the fruits of his close application and unceasing industry, he was enabled in the fall of 1853 to erect a factory which is now the model shop of this country -not the largest, but we believe it is universally acknowledged to be the best arranged factory for coach making in the United States, and to give the reader a faint idea of its appearance we give below an illustration of the exterior view from a distance which will also serve to illustrate the extent to which Mr. R. is engaged in manufacturing.
The lot on which this beautiful structure is erected, is 172 feet by 137. The main building in view is 40 feet wide, and runs back the full length of the lot 172 feet, and four stories high. To the right of the engraving are seen lumber sheds, jobbing shops, &c. At the present time 100 men find employment in this factory.
Mr. Rogers has promised us a sketch of a light Phaeton of which he is the designer. This in all probability we will illustrate in our next. He is also the originator of a most beautiful light Rockaway and City Calash, both of which we intend to illustrate in the Magazine. The illustration, of these carriages will speak more in behalf of the abilities of Mr. Rogers as a practical coach- maker, than a pen and ink description would be susceptible of doing. We will therefore stand back and let them speak in our stead.
Coach-Makers’ Magazine October 1857 page 69.
The Philadelphia Press gives the following compliment to our old friend, Mr. Rogers, of that city: The Manufacture of Carriages. Since the owning of a “horse and carriage” has become an almost universal institution all through the country, and in not a few instances constitutes the point of attainable luxury among our enterprising citizens, a few words respecting their manufacture in this city may be of interest, especially since it has been the fortune of Philadelphia in this, as in many other branches of manufactured articles, to carry off the palm.
First, a few words as to the history of carriages: The rudest sort of wheeled vehicles of conveyance were, probably, among the first of antediluvian mechanical inventions. Their invention, however, has, by historians, been ascribed to Erichthonius, of Athens, in the year 1846, B. C.
This invention can of course not include the “chariot” used by Pharaoh in pursuing the Israelites, as this event is said to have occurred about five years prior to the date of the Athenian’s invention. In pursuing their history, however, we find that carriages, like many other ancient inventions, either relapsed into extinction, or else took a Rip Van Winkle nap during a series of centuries after their first discovery; for, from the date above named, until the time of Henry II of France- a period of three thousand years- there is comparatively little said of their use, except as a vehicle of warfare, and conveyance for the nobility. Carriages were known in England, but, not the art of making them, A. D., 1555; but not until near the close of the sixteenth century did they come into general use even among persons of the highest rank.
In the reign of Elizabeth, A. D. 1601, a bill was brought into parliament to prevent the effeminacy of men riding in coaches. From the record, it is also evident that the spirit of rivalry, as to who can male the finest show, cut the biggest splash, or take on the loftiest swell in the carriage line, is not of a very modern origin, as we are informed that in the beginning of the year 1619, the Earl of Northumberland, after his liberation from the confinement to which he had been subjected for his supposed connection with the Gunpowder Plot, hearing that Buckingham was drawn about with six horses in his coach, the Earl put on eight to his, and in that manner passed from the Tower through the city.
One of the finest displays of carriages in this country is now made at the new establishment of Wm. D. Rogers, on Chestnut street, above Tenth. This spacious repository of every description of fine carriages, thrown open as it is in front, and at once presenting the highly finished contents of two floors, really presents a most attractive feature to passing pedestrians. Having recently paid a visit to the immense manufactory connected with this establishment, located at the corner of Sixth and Master streets, we were equally aroused, delighted and surprised, at the great mechanical system by which the rough planks and dull iron are converted into the glittering vehicles of luxury and convenience that glide so gracefully along our streets. The lot upon which the factory is built has a front of 127 feet on Sixth street, and a depth clear through to Marshall street, of 178 feet the main building occupying the southern half of the whole lot, whilst the remaining three sides are severally occupied as lumber sheds, jobbing shops, wheel manufactory, silver plating establishment, and a packing house; forming, upon the whole, a large hollow square, sufficiently convenient for turning carriages, &,e.
The main building has four stories, which are severally occupied as follows: The first, with the exception of a fifty feet apartment in front is wholly devoted to the smith work of the establishment. It is supplied with eleven forges, and presents a workman like appearance in all its details. The second story is similarly divided to the first, the west room corresponding to the smithing apartment on the ground floor – is occupied in getting up all the body work of the carriages, in which nothing but the most perfectly seasoned material is ever used the heaviest part of the wood frequently undergoing a seasoning of four years before it is admitted to use. The east room on this floor is occupied by the trimming department, in which the vehicles receive a finishing touch, and are then lowered through a conveniently arranged and very capacious hatchway. In the third story all the painting and varnishing is done, and as few are probably aware of the amount of labor necessary to produce the durable and mirror like polish which so peculiarly distinguish the carriages of Philadelphia manufacture, we may state that after the woodwork is finished, it passes into the painters’ apartment, and receives, as a preparatory process, eight coats of ochre and lead, after which it is left to dry three weeks, when, if the weather has not been too damp, it becomes ready for rubbing.
This process, which is performed by a preparation of pumice stone, is the work of four days’ hard labor of one man for the body of every ordinary sized carriage. This rubbing is followed by six coats of lead, and whatever color is preferred; after which the application of four coats of varnish completes the labor of the painter’s apartment, when it is ready for the trimming room already noticed.
The fourth, story is the jobbing room, in which vehicles are repaired, finished wood work stored away, &c.
Owing to the ever varied and constantly changing style of work required to be got up, the steam engine is not employed in this establishment. The carriage parts and wheel making department is interesting on account of its ingenious machinery. The silver plating shop, where thin sheets of fine silver are so ingeniously attached to the polished parts of iron, as to require the closest inspection to distinguish them from solid silver, is also an interesting process. As the work of Mr. Rogers’ factory is principally for orders of gentlemen in this city, and throughout the South and West even to Cuba, New Orleans, Santa Fe and St. Louis he employs none, but the best workmen, to the almost entire exclusion of apprentices. To many, also, it may be news to know that in the department of carriage manufacturing there are no less than five different branches, requiring separate apprenticeships: These are body making, blacksmithing, painting, wheel and carriage parts, and trimming.
Of the business of this establishment, we learn that $60,000 are expended annually for the bare materials; that an average of one hundred and eight hands are employed the year round, at an aggregate cost of wages of $50,000 annually, and that the amount of carriages sold is about $125,000.
The reader will probably be surprised to learn that, with all this investment of capital and employment of hands, there are not quite four hundred carriages produced in a year, which is no doubt attributable to the fact, that the proprietor aims rather at durableness of quality than rapidity of execution, four months being the usual time allotted for the manufacture of a carriage. The description of work produced is almost everything, from the merest “grasshopper” skeleton of a race course sulky to a gentleman’s private carriage of the largest size, ranging is prices as high as $1,400 apiece. The building is supplied with buckets filled with water all through it, to be used in case of fire. A watchman is stationed on the premises every night, who rings the bell on the roof every hour; and as a still further preventative against fire, there are no chips, shavings, or sawdust allowed to accumulate the entire building being cleanly swept every evening in all its parts.”
BIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM D. ROGERS.
Of the multiform subjects which engage the minds of thinkers at the present day, that of “success and failure in life,” in its various phases, holds a conspicuous place, and, in view of this fact, and the truism, that the most impressive lessons of philosophy are taught us by living examples, the history of living men- whose web of success has been woven within memory, and, we may say, under the eye of the present generation- becomes not only a matter of intelligent interest, but of substantial importance, to all, and, more especially, to young men who are about to engage in pursuits for a living. Hence it is that these biographic sketches presenting, in brief outline, the business career of their respective subjects, possess a peculiar value in the experimental landmarks they afford to younger mariners on the sea of active life.
The subject of this sketch, William D. Rogers, Esq., of Philadelphia, whose portrait appears in the present number, was born in the city of Baltimore, in 1810, and is consequently, at this writing, about forty years of age. When quite young, his, parents removed to the city of New York, and subsequently to Philadelphia, where their son William, after leaving school, was apprenticed to learn the business of coach trimming. It is in the self sacrificing energies of this period in the life of the boy that was sired the spirit of successful enterprise in the future man. The trials to which be was exposed, during the greater part of the six years of his apprenticeship, were such as only those who have been similarly situated can appreciate; yet, in the face of every obstacle, young Rogers persevered with a heroism that cared for nothing but the acquirement of a perfect knowledge of everything pertaining to his future business. Nor was this fidelity entirely lost upon his employer. Two years before the expiration of his term, be had so thoroughly mastered his profession, and evinced so much fidelity and vigilance in the absence of his employer, that the entire charge of the shop was given to him.
At the expiration of the time for which he was bound, having scrupulously discharged his obligations, to the letter, he determined to avail himself of whatever knowledge could be gained as a traveling journeyman; and, having learned that the coach makers of New England were acknowledged to be the most skillful practitioners of the craft in this country, he at once set out for Boston, where he arrived early in 1841, carrying with him letters of introduction to the most celebrated coach makers of that city. As the reader will remember, this was at a period when, under the depressing operations of the tariff, which was supplanted in 1842, the business of our country, and especially of our factories, was so prostrated as to make non employment of operatives the rule, and employment the exception. After having made a manly effort to obtain a job in Boston, without success, Mr. Rogers, who had now attained his majority, at length procured employment for a short time in a shop at Roxbury, for which, however, as Mr. R. has been frequently heard to acknowledge with warm expressions of gratitude, he was mainly indebted to the good offices of Mr. Dennis, who was at that time the partner of Mr. Goddard, now one of the leading carriage builders of Boston.
In addition to this act of disinterested kindness, Mr. Dennis took great pains to describe to his young applicant the manners of the people of New England, their mode of dealing, &c.; he also gave him a memorandum of the shops in that part of the State, all of which was of signal service to Mr. Rogers in his future tour through the Eastern States.
As has often been realized in the life of a worthy artisan, the first job led to numerous others. He had no sooner complete his Roxbury engagement than a door was open for him at Lynn, and subsequently at Amesbury and Newbury. He next went to Exeter, New Hampshire, where, as the writer has frequently heard Mr. Rogers relate, he passed among the snow drifts one of the happiest, most eventful, and instructive winters of his life, working at his trade in a snug little shop, at the rate of seventeen dollars per month and his board. In the spring he left Exeter, but returned again the following year -the auspicious change wrought by the new tariff during this short interval being signally attested in the fact that, instead of returning to work at the rate of seventeen dollars per month, his new engagement in the same town, after the lapse of a single year, was at the more than quadrupled compensation of eighteen dollars per week! To follow Mr. Rogers from this point through all his adventures in the different parts of New England, and, subsequently, through the Southwest, would swell this sketch into a volume. We cannot refrain, however, from briefly referring to a few characteristic incidents, as affording an expressive index of the self reliance under difficulties which has uniformly marked the course of our subject through life.
A few hours after his arrival at the town of Springfield, on the Connecticut river, Mr. Rogers was the hero of the following adventure: On the opposite side of the street from where he was standing, a stage coach, containing a single passenger -a young lady- was halting in front of a hotel. The driver having left his box, the horses took fright at some passing object, and started on a furious run. The gallantry of young Rogers, however, was not to be outdone by the speed of the Connecticut span, and accordingly, while the villagers stood aghast with alarm at the probable fate of the fair tenant of the coach, he managed to head the horses against a towering elm, and so rescued the young lady from the perils of a stage coach runaway; though it is questionable if ever a hub of Mr. Rogers’ world- renowned carriage- wheels was more completely surrounded with fellows than was this young lady on her safe landing upon terra forma. It may be stated here, that it is a question, which, from the writer’s conversations with Mr. R. upon the subject, he has never been able fully to determine, whether his standing opposite the stage coach was prompted by a commendable admiration for its fair occupant, or a characteristic curiosity to inspect any and every object endowed with wheel locomotion. With the evidence before us, the latter opinion seems most probable, as a more acute and indefatigable observer of all sorts of wheeled vehicles, than Mr. Rogers, we have yet to hear tell of. But the sequel to this adventure is yet untold. Among the throng assembled around the arrested coach was an old gentleman, who, from admiration of this brave act, engaged young Rogers in conversation, when the fact was elicited that the former had a number of carriage bodies to trim, and intended to bring them to Springfield for that purpose. Rogers promptly applied for the job. “But,” said the old gentleman, “where do you propose to do them?” “Have them on this corner, on Monday morning, at seven o’clock, and I will show you the shop,” was the response, and which was given with so much prompt assurance, that the proposition was at once agreed to. This, as already stated, occurred within a few hours after R.’s arrival in the place; his first business, therefore, was, to procure a shop, in order to meet this impromptu engagement, which he soon succeeded in doing. On Monday morning, the old gentleman appeared at the corner with his team, containing the bodies, where he was met by Rogers, prepared, as he had day’s’ after his entering Springfield he had started a coach trimming establishment, and was driving a brisk business, and this, too, without having previously had the slightest acquaintance with a single soul in the town. It was Rogers’ intention to leave Springfield on the day of his arrival there, so that it is to the stage coach accident that his very successful four months episode ” n his own hook,” in that town, is attributable, at the end of which period, he returned to Philadelphia, after an absence of two years.
He had not been in Philadelphia long, however, before the impressions left behind him, in New England, gave rise to so many solicitations, from the friends he had made in that quarter, for him to return, that he finally consented. The major part of his second trip East was spent in Boston, and some few of the principal towns of Massachusetts, in first class shops, and executing the finest work.
In the winter of 1844, Mr. Rogers, having made a pretty thorough acquaintance with the coach making facilities of Philadelphia, New York, and the towns of New England, set out for the western country. His first stopping point was at Madison, Indiana; but, finding the change rather inauspicious in several respects, he soon decided to remain there no longer than to fulfill an engagement, during which, however, he introduced many new styles of work, some of which bear his name in that region of country to this day. We next find him traveling through Kentucky and Tennessee, and, while in the former, giving evidence of a capacity for describing the wonders of Nature, scarcely less remarkable than the artistic taste evinced by him in his profession, if we may judge from his admirable description of the Mammoth Cave, written to a gentleman in London, and subsequently published in an English journal. His intercourse with HENRY CLAY, during his visit to Ashland, had, as Mr. Rogers has frequently admitted in our hearing, much to do with shaping his future course, and to this day he is proud to number among his most important business maxims those received from that venerated states man during his visit to Kentucky. When a boy he had a strong desire to visit the Island of Cuba, and when we find the man with the directness of character and tenacity of purpose possessed by Wm. Rogers as far southward as Kentucky, we may rest assured that the dreams of his boyhood meant something; and, accordingly, we next find him in Huntsville, Alabama, still working his way South, until he reaches New Orleans, where he embarks for Havana, carrying with him letters of introduction to General O’Donnell and several other prominent citizens. Of his trip to and arrival at Havana he retains a rich fund of anecdotes, which he occasionally unfolds to his friends in a social way.
His visit to Cuba filled the cup of his ambition for travel; and accordingly, in a few months, he went back to New Orleans, and from thence to Louisville, Kentucky, where he worked until the following April, when he again returned to Philadelphia with the view of engaging in business for himself, which had, in fact, been his aim and object from the day he was entered as an apprentice to the business.
Mr. Rogers had now spent several years in what, to the superficial observer, may seem merely as the unsettled life of a cosmopolite. The truth, however, is exactly the reverse of this conclusion. Having acquired a full and minute knowledge of the business he intended to follow, he had the sagacity to see that, to cater successfully to the wants of sections remote from Philadelphia, a degree of personal knowledge of those sections was necessary. Prompted by this conviction, he traveled, partly with the view of perfecting himself in all the branches of his profession, but mainly to obtain that intimate acquaintance with men, and especially such as he might wish to become his future patrons, which every wise business man knows from experience to be a necessity. This devious tour, then, of Mr. R., instead of being without a purpose, was made with the same prudent motives that a builder has in laying a firm foundation before commencing his above ground operations. Being an acute observer of men and things, and possessing social qualities which at once admitted him to the first circles of society, and, withal, a straightforward integrity that inspired the confidence of every acquaintance he made, it is not difficult to perceive that a tour, such as he accomplished, would ultimately redound to immense business advantage, provided he obtained the necessary facilities for making them available. This Mr. Rogers was now about to undertake. His first step was, to buy out a small establishment, located at the corner of Sixth and Brown streets, on a lot belonging to the Girard Estate. His next object was to procure the right stamp of workmen. To effect this he found it necessary once more to visit New England, which he did, and returned with seven competent hands, and commenced, in Philadelphia, the business of coach making, in the autumn of 1846.
Mr. Rogers was now twenty seven years of age, though much younger in appearance, and, judging from this, many predicted the certain failure of his undertaking an enterprise, for which a large amount of experience was known to be necessary. These surmises, of course, sprang from a total ignorance of the man, as the very quality in which they judged him to be deficient he possessed to a greater extent than any other coach maker in Philadelphia, of twice his years. His several journeys among strangers, throwing him constantly upon his own resources, secured to him the fullest training of those moral and mental characteristics which find their highest use in surmounting difficulties, and which qualities, it may here be stated, are possessed by few persons in a higher degree than we find them developed in the character of Mr. Rogers. One disadvantage, it is true, was consequent upon his long absence from Philadelphia; he was comparatively friendless and unknown in the city where he now expected to build up a business. It is said by himself that, the day he opened his shop; there was not a man in Philadelphia from whom he could solicit one dollar’s worth of work on the score of acquaintance. Yet, this very disadvantage was more than made up by the knowledge he had gained in making this sacrifice. He had not only learned men in his travels, but he had studied the character of the country, and especially the roads, with the view of understanding the character of wheels best adapted to the different localities he visited.
As might be inferred, however, this knowledge could not be made available at the start, and accordingly the first year’s experiment was one of more trial than remuneration. But the first year’s seed had not been sown in vain. The character of his work, in point of style, finish, and durability, was so entirely satisfactory, that orders began, to pour in from all sides, so that the following spring he found it necessary to employ thirty hands. During the second year, he received orders from several persons of distinction and influence, which had the effect of bringing his work more prominently before the public, the result of which was that, at the close of the second year, his work afforded steady employment to forty five hands. From time to time he found it necessary to enlarge his facilities for manufacturing, until, after remaining in his first quarters six years, and finding that large additional expenditures on the premises were necessary to afford working room for his operatives which, in view of the restriction in Girard’s will, not to lease any portion- of his estate for a longer term than five years- he availed himself of a spacious lot in the northern part of the city bounded, on three; sides; by Sixth, Marshall and Master streets, upon which he erected an immense brick factory, forty feet by one hundred and seventy two feet, and four stories high. The lot on which it stands has two fronts, of 137 feet each, one on Sixth and one on Marshall Street, and a front of 172 feet on Master Street. In addition to the main building, the lot is occupied by a wheel shop, a silver plating shop, an iron room, lumber sheds, two dwellings on Marshall Street – one for the foreman, and one for the watchman – the whole forming a hollow square for the display of carriages, receiving materials, etc., and when finished was considered the model coach factory of the Union.
In perfect keeping with Mr. Rogers’ uniform style of going ahead with what he undertakes, this vast building, constructed in the most complete manner from cupola to foundation- together with all the other buildings named–was finished in thirteen weeks from the date of its commencement, and in the Spring of 1854 one hundred hands were employed in the establishment.
Notwithstanding the extraordinary facilities Mr. Rogers now possessed for producing an immense amount of work, he, from this time forward, confined his operations entirely to building vehicles to order for consumers, making nothing but the best quality of work; yet so steady was the increase in the demand for his carriages, that the number of operatives last named had to be enlarged from time to time. In the estimation of his friends, the splendid new quarters in which he was now established were thought to cap the climax of this prince of carriage builders’ ambition, and of a man possessing an ordinary degree of enterprise this judgment might have been correct, but not so of our subject.
In Mr. Edwin T. Freedley’s new work on “Philadelphia and its Manufactures”- the most complete and accurate book on this subject ever published- is contained an interesting article, entitled, “Rogers’ Carriage Manufactory,” describing the factory above referred to, from which we take the liberty of extracting the following introductory comments
“With the exception of two or three noted establishments, our attention in our tour of observation around the city was invited to none other more frequently than to that which forms the caption of this article. Even in a brass founder’s shop, we were reminded not to forget the superiority of the light carriages constructed in Philadelphia–that Rogers builds as good vehicles as are built in the world;’ and that he deserves special credit, for by the excellence of his manufactures he reflects credit upon the city. Attending Herkness’ Auction Sale of Carriages, we noticed that, whenever a second hand ‘Rogers wagon’ was offered, the attention of the bystanders was awakened, bidding became lively, and the price obtained was evidently satisfactory to the seller. We then recollected of having read that a light carriage, constructed by Mr. Rogers to order, for a gentleman in Switzerland, was regarded, from its extraordinary lightness and strength, as so great a curiosity that, the owner having left it for a day at a hotel, a few miles from Zurich, the hostler exhibited it during his absence, at a stipulated charge for a ‘sight,’ and thus made more money in one day than his wages amounted to in six months. All these circumstances combined the complimentary allusions to his standing as a gentleman by his fellow mechanics, excited a strong desire to know something of his manufacturing facilities, and the following is the report of a gentleman who was specially employed to describe them: In consequence of its necessary length, we omit the report, at the close of which we find the following Mr. Rogers is also building several light buggies to order, for gentlemen in Austria; and no doubt but many of these will be driven on the Prator at Vienna ere this year closes.”‘
But we have intimated that Mr. Rogers’ goal of ambition had not been reached even in the attractive quarters above referred to. In the summer of 1857 we find him erecting a splendid Repository, forty six feet by one hundred and seventy eight feet, on Chestnut street above Tenth, right in the heart of the city, on the most fashionable thorough fare. Those who have not seen it may be at a loss to appreciate, the taste and appropriateness of introducing a carriage house in the midst of splendid saloons, dry goods palaces, and jewelry establishments such as mark Chestnut street in that vicinity; yet, when we say that of all the attractive store rooms here named there are none more imposing and picturesque in their appearance to passing pedestrians than this Carriage Repository of Mr. Rogers, we are but stating a daily admitted fact.
The external appearance of this edifice is chaste and symmetrical, and the interior, being so constructed as to display at once two stories of elegantly finished vehicles, presents a very beautiful, although novel, scene.
The upper part of this spacious building has the honor of being occupied by the library, reading and committee rooms of the Philadelphia Young Men’s Christian Association. In the rear of the show room are shops fitted up for repairing purposes. Taking this Repository and the immense factory at Sixth and Master streets, we have presented one of the most extensive and commodious establishments of the kind in this country.
It is not a little remarkable that Mr. Rogers has built carriages to order to go to every State in the Union, as also to the West Indies, South America, and various parts of Europe. The superiority of his work has been flatteringly attested wherever it has appeared. Medals have been showered upon him by public institutions, and from every section he has received, what is even more valuable, the encomiums of the Press. Yet, in the face of all this laudation and success, he is, in manners and social qualities, as the writer is happy to know, the same William D. Rogers he was when a traveling journeyman thirteen years ago.
Did space permit, we should be glad to refer especially to some few specimens of his workmanship that have created the most sensation abroad. One of his light carriages, built to order and sent to Southampton, England, for the late General Welsh, attracted much attention, on account of its extreme lightness and beautiful proportions. This vehicle was examined by the Earl of Derby and several other notables, as also by Mr. Andrews, mayor of Southampton, who declared it to be the finest specimen of carriage building he had ever seen, which, considering that the mayor had himself been a practical carriage builder, was a substantial compliment.
The most expensive thing in this line of manufactured articles, probably, ever executed in this country, was a magnificent hearse, built by Mr. Rogers, to the order of Messrs. Lynch, Arnot & Co., of St. Louis, at a cost of thirty seven hundred and fifty dollars. The designs on this elaborately finished carriage for the dead were entirely original, and, as may be inferred, the workmanship and stock employed in its production were of the very first order. The hearse, when completed, was exhibited in both Philadelphia and St. Louis, to thousands of persons. In perfect keeping with Mr. R.’s thorough way of transacting business, we may state that, when this expensive piece of workmanship was finished, he superintended personally its delivery to the owners in St. Louis.
The business habits of Mr. Rogers are thoroughly systematic, so that, although his manufacturing operations are of the most complex nature, the various processes progress with all the punctuality and precision of clock work. One of the chief excellences of his mode of business is, that, with rare exceptions, every man in his employ knows his duty and performs it; a fact that is no less attributable to his respectful regard for the rights and feelings of those under him than to the stern discipline he has found it necessary to employ. In his dealings he is liberal, but just, and exercises a policy as opposite to “that which holds a sixpence so near the eye as not to be able to see a quarter at arm’s length” as could well be imagined. By men who know him best, his word is regarded to be as good as his wagons, which is saying considerable. In short, there is nothing that commends him more highly, as a business man and a gentleman, than the fact that his warmest friends are among those who have dealt with him most and known him longest.
PHILADELPHIA AND ITS MANUFACTURES.
By Edwin T. Freedley, 1859 page 444-447.
Rogers’ Carriage Manufactory.
With the exception of two or three noted establishments, our attention in our tour of observation around the city was invited to none other more frequently than to that which forms the caption of this article. Even in a brass founder’s shop we were reminded “not to forget the superiority of the light carriages constructed in Philadelphia that Rogers builds as good vehicles as are built in the world;” and that he deserves special credit, for by the excellence of his manufactures he reflects credit upon. the city. Attending Herkness’ Auction Sale of Carriages, we noticed that whenever a second hand ” Rogers’ Wagon” was offered, the attention of the by-standers was awakened bidding became lively, and the price obtained was evidently satisfactory to the seller. We then recollected of having read that a light carriage, constructed by Mr. Rogers to order, for a gentleman in Switzerland, was regarded, from its extraordinary lightness and strength, as so great a curiosity that, the owner having left it for a day at a hotel a few miles from Zurich, the hostler exhibited it during his absence, at a stipulated charge for “a sight” and or made more money in one day than his wages amounted to in six months. All these circumstances combined – the complimentary allusions to his work by competent judges, and similar allusions to his standing as a gentleman by his fellow mechanics, excited a strong desire to know something of his manufacturing facilities, and the following is the report of a gentleman who was specially employed to describe them.
The entire establishment includes two buildings, a Factory and a Repository, and the combination constitutes, probably, the largest one of the kind in the country; having an actual working space of nearly 40,000 superficial feet. The factory is situated in the northern part of the city, at the intersection of three streets, Sixth, Marshall, and Master, occupying the entire square; the lot is 137 feet on Sixth street, 137 on Marshall, and 172 on Master street. The factory itself is a handsome building, of forty feet front, and the full depth of the lot. It is four stories high, well lighted, furnished with all conveniences, and with the jobbing shops, silver plating, and wheel shops, and lumber sheds, forms a hollow square. Within these boundaries every part of the business is pursued; and in the factory nine distinct occupations necessary to the manufacture of a carriage are carried on. One hundred and twenty five men are employed in these departments, including smiths, designers, body makers, wheelwrights, carvers, painters, platers, trimmers, upholsterers, and others of occupations less distinctive. These departments we shall examine upon the plan employed in the construction of a carriage.
Entering the front door, we find ourselves in a large and handsome room, filled with Barouches, Buggies, Germantown Wagons, and light carriages of every description, completed, and ready to be sent to the Repository. Interested, at present, more in the method than the result, we are shown by the politeness of Mr. Gorgas, the intelligent foreman of the establishment, into the Body Department, in which the carriage we intend to build is commenced.
The first step in construction is the execution of a design on paper; and here the idea of a Buggy, or Barouche, is first realized upon a scale of three quarters of an inch to the foot. This done, the purchaser is at liberty to suggest any alteration in his plan; and the second step is the execution of a geometrical plan of the body upon the black board. The third step is cutting the patterns in thin wood. The skeleton in wood is now completed, and the shape and proportion are determined. In this process nut merely mechanical ability of execution, but mathematical exactness of design is essential. In this room fifteen men are busily employed in wheel work, and making body patterns. Wood, however, is insufficient; its strength barely supports its own weight, and could not possibly support the strain of unequal movement, with the burden of a single person. The skeleton must be strengthened; and for this purpose it is removed from the second story to the Smith Shop, upon the ground floor. In this department the body is bound, and riveted in iron. This shop is probably one of the finest of the kind in the country. All the iron work of a carriage is executed here; and the bolts, iron axles, locks, hinges, tires, and springs, are made and fastened to the wood. Twelve large forges are in constant, use, and thirty five men are employed. The springs used are all of one kind, and found practically superior to any that are patented. The principle in all springs is identical, and the important difference is in the quality of manufacture more than the mere form.
The process ensuring stability being completed, the skeleton is again removed to the Body Department, where the paneling follows; the floors are laid; the sides are built upon the proper curves; the seats and doors are introduced, and the body is ready for the painting room.
In this room, in the third story, eighteen or twenty coats of paint are given to the carriage; each being dried before the following coat is applied, and the whole surface repeatedly polished with pumice stone. These early coats are merely intended as the ground for future color, and are technically termed the “priming.” White lead and litharge are used at first, and succeeded by coats of white lead and yellow ochre, upon which the selected colors of green, brown, black, &e., are properly applied.
The body is now removed to the Trimming Room, where considerable taste is employed in selecting the material, and adapting the color of the trimmings. Fine cloths, silks, carpetings, lace, oil-skin, embossed leather, hair cushions, &c., are here employed in furnishing the coach. The coach now presents a very handsome appearance, but so far, instead of carrying others, it has been carried about itself. Leaving it upon the trestles, we return to the lower story.
The carriage manufacture is divided into two branches, those of body making and of carriage making; for though we have used the term “carriage” indiscriminately, in technical phraseology it applies only to axles and wheels, or the locomotive section of the vehicle. Wheelmaking is usually a separate business; but Mr. Rogers prefers that all parts of his carriages should be of his own manufacture. Wheels are made in large quantities, and a stock is kept on hand. An exact proportion exists of the wheels to the body, and the average difference of diameter, between the fore and hind wheels, is two inches. In the lumber yard is an immense stock of hickory, of which the wheels and shafts are made; a material securing unusual lightness and strength. Ash is generally used for the body; oak, poplar, &c., are employed for various parts ; and most of this wood is kept on hand two years before it is used.
The “carriage,” like the body, passes through several successive stages, and after it is completed with axles, perches, shafts, &c., the body is hung upon the springs, and the coach is conveyed to the Finishing Room. Here it is polished, varnished, enameled, ornamented, finished and only requires a pair of horses, a driver, a young lady, and a plank road, to display its comfort, durability, and speed.
In passing through this establishment, we were pleased with the arrangement of rooms, the facilities of transferring work from the ground floor to the fourth story; and, most of all, with the systematic management, evident in every department, as well as in the entire establishment. We saw much beautiful and elaborate work in process of manufacture, chiefly of light carriages; the building of heavy coaches commencing in July, for the fall trade. In the body room we saw a magnificent Brett, intended for St. Louis, in which by the use of curved iron work, bracing the wood, the ordinary perch is dispensed with, and the body is supported by its own firmness. Twelve shifting top wagons for the same city, of polished hickory, are not surpassed in our remembrance for excellence and beauty; and a Box Buggy for this city, ornamented with exquisite paintings, the order having been given to disregard expense, will be one of the handsomest light carriages ever built in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
Mr. Rogers is also building several light Buggies to order for gentlemen in Austria; and no doubt but many of these will be driven on the Prater at Vienna, ere this year closes.
The Repository, an exterior and interior view of which is given on the opposite page, is situated on Chestnut street above Tenth. This edifice is 46 feet front, and 178 feet deep, and three stories high, and is an ornament to the neighborhood. Here carriages of all kinds are kept for sale; and here all ordered work is deposited for delivery, after having received a careful test examination at the factory. Some of the handsomest carriages ever made in America are exhibited here; and persons more fond of examining beautiful results than inquiring into curious and complicated methods, are invited to pay a visit to the Repository.
Coach-Makers’ International Journal December 1867 page 50.
CARRIAGE MANUFACTORIES. Philadelphia, PA.
We give to our readers a brief description of a few of the coach factories of Philadelphia, and intend continuing the same until we have noticed the principal establishments within its limits, which we think will compare favorably with other places more noted for the manufacture of this useful article of merchandize.
W. D. Rogers, located 1009 and 1011 Chestnut street, is an establishment of considerable importance among the carriage making fraternity of the Quaker City. Of the reputation of this house for first class work, it is needless for us to speak, as the name of n Rogers’ wagon is known from one end of the country to the other; in fact, a buggy of this make, half worn out, will bring as much under the hammer as new ones from many factories considered good. Great care is taken in every department to have nothing but the very best materials used; employing the best workmen only, and paying good wages. Apprentices are entirely ignored, owing partly to the present loose system of apprenticeship. The class of work made here comprises all styles, from a light open buggy to a large private family carriage, ranging in price from $300 to $2,300. The work is principally ordered, and so great is the reputation of this house that instead of working half time with a reduced force, his hands are working overwork. It seldom happens that a person can get one of this make of wagons without leaving their order in advance. The factory is not so extensive as some others, employing only about 60 hands, and turning out 150 carriages annually. Being centrally located, a very large amount of repairing is done here, about one third the whole business, and it is so systematized that it does not conflict with the new work, having a separate set of hands altogether for that department. The factory and repository is 40 by 178 feet, three story front and five story back buildings. Mr. Rogers is a man in middle life, and been engaged in business about twenty-one years, having started in a frame shanty on the corner of Sixth and Brown streets, afterwards removing to Sixth and Master streets, and from thence to his present location, where we hope he may long be permitted to enjoy the benefits of his world wide reputation.
Coach-Makers’ International Journal March 1871 page 93-94.
CARRIAGE FACTORY OF WM. D. ROGERS & CO., OF PHILADELPHIA.
In our sketches of the leading carriage factories of Philadelphia we disclaim all thought of favoritism – our sole object being to furnish the readers of the JOURNAL with information concerning the systematic arrangement and government of those establishments which have earned an enduring reputation by strict attention to excellence in their manufactures, hoping by this means to incite carriage builders, who have poorly constructed shops, to inquire whether they are doing all they should to systematize the complicated business in which they are engaged, and give that attention to excellence in detail, which has been the secret of success with Messrs. Rogers & Co.
Our space is too limited to enter into as full an account of the inception and subsequent increase of the business of this house as we would like. We will, however, give a sketch of its history sufficient to prove that a young man may, by industry, frugality in its true sense, and a fixed determination to excel all others in the quality of his products, reach the goal, success. We will state, in the outset, that the firm in question occupy.
At 1009 and 1011 Chestnut street, with workshops in the rear, where twenty five hands are employed on repairing; also, the commodious factory at Thirteenth and Parrish Streets, formerly in possession of Geo. W. Watson & Co., who recently retired from business. Messrs. Rogers & Co. took possession of the latter premises last December, and now run a heavy force of hands mainly in building new work. The business which today has assumed such large proportions, exhibits the steady growth of that which was started in a small way twenty five years ago.
IN THE YEAR 1846,
In a small building on the corner of Sixth and Brown streets, Mr. Rogers, then a very young man, commenced the manufacture of coaches and carriages, employing but seven men, but these were selected from among his former shopmates and acquaintances, whom he knew to be first class workmen, thus showing at the outset an innate desire to place on the market superior work. By adhering to this plan, so wisely laid, and ever giving his undivided attention to excellence in detail, his business increased very rapidly, so much so that larger accommodations and better shops were required.
In 1853, new shops, 172 by 137 feet, and four stories high, were built at Sixth and Master streets; these were fitted with every convenience and appliance for carrying on the business in an extensive manner.
THE NEXT IMPORTANT STEP TAKEN
Was the opening of warerooms at 1009 and 1011 Chestnut street, fitted in a style in keeping with the magnificence of that great thoroughfare, and where be also removed his office. For the convenience of his city customers, and those from abroad, who desired to select from a large stock, he felt that this movement was a pressing necessity. This was accomplished in 1857. Again, a few years later, workshops were connected with the offices and repository, so that all ordered work could be done under the direct supervision of the proprietor himself, his business by this time having grown largely into a custom trade. Accordingly, in 1860, the rear portion of the building was rebuilt, and in 1865 was added a. large four?story brick building on Filbert street, in rear of the main building. A steadily, increasing demand for his work at length forced the conviction on the mind of Mr. R. that the business needed to be extended to such a degree as to enable him to supply promptly, at just the proper season, the various classes of work called for and to prepare to keep pace with the proportions his trade would in all probability assume in the near future. After weighing this matter carefully for several months, he decided to seize a most favorable offer presented to him, and the result was the leasing of the factory formerly occupied by Geo. W. Watson & Co. He had also, in the meantime, associated in partnership with him Mr. Joseph Moore, a son of the President of the Bank of Northern Liberties, who is a young man possessed of undoubted financial abilities and executive talent, and an address which will add greatly to the popularity of the house. With ample capital, and accommodations for manufacturing sufficiently extensive for years to come, this firm enters on a career which may not be measured by any standard we can apply.
OUR VISIT TO THE FACTORY,
Corner of Thirteenth and Parrish streets, was in every way a pleasant one. On a former visit, a few months ago, we found the work of remodeling in full progress, which included many alterations and additions deemed absolutely necessary. Consequently, from the office and wareroom upward, and throughout the building, masons, bricklayers and carpenters were carrying on a work of seeming destruction and confusion; wooden partitions were being removed, staircases wrenched from their long resting places, the solid brick walls ruthlessly cut through, and roofs removed to afford place for upward reaching stories. On our late visit the interior appearance was quite different, showing plainly how important and essential were the improvements made.
Front on Thirteenth street, running through to Duane street, occupying 180 feet on that street, with a side facing on Parrish street of 95 feet, and being four stories in height. On the first floor are the wareroom and office, and connected with the latter a stock room, where axles, springs, &c., are stored, being accounted for by the book keeper, who deals them out as necessity requires. At the rear of, the ware-room a large doorway opens into a spacious hall, to the right of which is the smith shop for jobbing, and on the left an apartment containing five forges, where four spring work is ironed and hung up. While in this room we inspected the iron work very closely, and must admit that the fitting, filing, and delicacy of form of the several parts were so perfect that nothing seemed to remain to be desired. All the iron work is made in the shop except the bolts. These rooms are light, cheerful and well heated.
On this story are situated also the sawmill and a blacksmith shop, containing six forges, where light work is ironed and hung up, and convenient to this are racks for every description of selected iron.
The basements contain the steam engine, drilling machines; grindstones, &c. The lumber room is on Thirteenth street. It is two stories high, where. some 40,000 feet of lumber is stored, a reserve of 34,000 feet being kept at another point to draw upon when needed.
The hatchways and hoisting apparatus are inclosed in a separate building; between the main buildings, and on either side are workshops communicating directly with the hatchways, thus removing one of the greatest annoyances to which hands are subjected.
IN THE SECOND STORY
Is situated the trimming room, and connected with it a stock room. Adjoining the trimming room is an apartment for setting and dressing bows and repairing- the wood shop, containing fourteen benches,) the wheel room, a finishing room, where work is dropped down from the paint rooms, and put in readiness for delivery, and two store’ rooms. The wheel room deserves special notice. Here we found a large stock of wheels and wheel stuff, and machinery for expediting certain portions of the work. The wheel stock is of the best quality, so selected at the time of purchase as to exclude even one inferior hub, spoke or rim. The first cost is greater, but there being no wastage, and but little repairing on the finished work, they prove cheapest in the end. From 100 to 125 sets of wheels are kept ahead to insure against shrinkage when placed in actual service. One man devotes his whole time to mortising hubs, driving spokes and setting boxes, while others attend to nothing but rimming, thus securing uniformity and perfection as near as it is attainable.
THE CARRIAGE PAINT ROOMS.
Are on the third floor, where every convenience is furnished the hands employed in assisting them in the production of first class work. Ascending to the fourth floor we enter the body painting room.
The arrangements on this floor, are, at the north end: rough room for bodies; next, a perfectly clean varnish room, where the under coats are applied; then a space where bodies are painted and the varnish rubbed or leveled down, and at the south end, the finishing room. To those who have seen the surprisingly beautiful finish on Rogers & Co.’s work, and may have only a vague idea how it is obtained, thinking perhaps, that some great secret is connected with it, we would say, that their paint and varnish rooms are similar to those in other first class shops. The finishing room walls are smooth coated, painted and varnished; the floor is double, and interlined with two layers of roof felting. The windows exclude all dust. In the door is a small hinged window, operated from the inside, admitting of observation from the paint room, yet safe from intrusion. No time or expense are spared in bringing the bodies up from the foundation to the finishing coat, a matter too often neglected by carriage makers.
Mr. McGowen, the finisher, seems to possess full control over varnishes, for under the strokes of the brush in his hand is produced surface of great beauty, and not excelled, if equaled.
Having now made the circuit of the building, we may add that throughout its extent the most complete facilities for the comfort of the employees are afforded. The factory is under the superintendence of Mr. Geo. Gardner, formerly with G. W. Watson & Co. Mr. Rogers, visits the factory daily, spending a portion of the morning in carefully looking after each branch; the remainder of his time is spent at his office and warerooms on Chestnut street, and it has been by this daily inspection, and care in attending to excellence in detail, that has gained for this house an enviable reputation, and a class of customers of the most select kind. Besides shipments to all parts of America, they have regular customers in England, France and Italy, and occasional orders from other foreign sources.
WILLIAM D. ROGERS, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA.
Great Industries of the United States, by Horace Greeley, 1872 pages 805-811.
Some of the best examples of American carriage building are afforded by men who have risen from obscurity and poverty to wealth, success, and reputation by their own energy, industry, and intelligence. Such an instance is that of the extensive carriage warehouse and factory of the firm of William D. Rogers & Co., of Philadelphia, whose history and present condition well illustrate the present attainments of American carriage making, and the power of the personal qualities just mentioned, in the American business world.
In the year 1846, in a small building belonging to the Girard estate, on the corner of Sixth and Brown Streets, Philadelphia, Mr. Rogers, then a very young man, began the manufacture of coaches and carriages, and laid the foundation of a name which now stands high throughout the United States and a great part of Europe. He employed only seven men at the outset, but being himself a practical coach builder, as well as an energetic and judicious foreman and manager, it would be hardly an exaggeration to estimate the force employed at several more than seven.
Mr. Rogers remained in this location until 1853, when he erected new shops at the corner of Sixth and Master Streets, and for the first time possessed an establishment in some measure adequate to the rapid increase of his business, and to his own ideas of arrangement and equipment. It is four stories high, covered a space of one hundred and seventy two by one hundred and thirty seven feet, and was so completely finished and fitted that it might really have been reckoned, at the time, the model coach shop of America.
In 1857 Mr. Rogers, having found the office and sales?rooms at the factory insufficient and inconveniently placed, fitted up and opened his present extensive and commodious Bazaar at Nos. 1009 and 1011 Chestnut Street. This enlargement sufficed for a few years, but a large custom trade had by this time grown up, the natural consequence of the durable and tasteful character of the work turned out by the house. As this class of business requires especially close supervision, Mr. Rogers rebuilt the rear portion of the Chestnut Street buildings in 1860, and fitted them up as workshops, in order the more conveniently to oversee them himself. More room being still required, a large, four story building on Filbert Street, directly in rear of the main building, was added in 1865.
The last step in this series of enlargements took place in December, 1870. Mr. Rogers had a little before this time associated in partnership with him Mr. Joseph Moore, Jr., a son of the president of the Bank of Northern Liberties, a young man of financial abilities, executive talent, valuable business connections, and excellent address. Thus re-enforced, and after some months of consideration, the new firm, now William D. Rogers & Co., transferred their principal manufacturing operations to the extensive and commodious premises formerly occupied by George W. Watson & Co., at Thirteenth and Parrish Streets, this firm retiring from business. The new factory was thoroughly remodeled and refitted from office to roof, and is now in full operation, filling the whole of a four story building one hundred and eighty feet by ninety five, and there is some expectation that the demands of the business for “more room” will be quiet for a little while at least. The factory and repository are connected by telegraph,- a fact which shows the completeness with which the business is organized.
No single item will give a better idea of the patience and scrupulous care, as well as the important investment of time and money required for such a business as this, than that of the lumber and stock department. The woods used in carriage making are principally, for bodies, ash, cherry, and poplar; for wheels and running gear, hickory. All this must be seasoned during from two to five years before it is fit to be put into first class work; and accordingly there must always be stored in the lumber department from two to five years stock of wood. The quantity thus kept on hand is at least seventy thousand or eighty thousand feet. Nor is this tedious preparatory process confined to rough lumber merely. From one hundred to one hundred and twenty five sets of wheels are always kept in stock, in order that the additional shrinkage, which always comes after finishing and fitting, shall take place in the shop, thus preventing its appearance during actual service, and rendering the work more durable, besides saving dissatisfaction and bills for repairs.
The chief other departments, of course, are the smith shop, wheel shop, body room, and painting and trimming rooms. These are duplicated in Messrs. Rogers & Co.’s business, each being equally indispensable in the factory and at the Chestnut Street house. At the former, however, where the main stock of lumber is kept, there is also a saw mill, run by a steam engine, which furnishes whatever power is needed for any purpose throughout the works. The smith shop consists of a room for jobbing, a room for what is called the “four spring work,” and another for “light work.” These contain about twelve forges, and along with them there goes a good deal of room occupied by finished work waiting to be united with carriage bodies, racks for selected iron of all kinds, etc., etc.
All the iron work is made in the shop, except the bolts. The iron used, is Norway, Ulster, and Lowmoor iron, the experience of the firm having shown that these are best suited for its work
The “body room” is really, however, the place where the carriage begins, for here it is that the body of the carriage is made, and from here it goes to the smith shop to be ironed. All the work here is done by hand, from the full sized drawings furnished by the designer. It then receives one coat of paint, when it goes to be ironed.
A second period of patience and delay comes while the carriage is receiving its glossy coat of color. The care and labor of the process of painting carriages are extraordinary, as it requires eighteen separate coats of paint and varnish before a carriage body is thoroughly finished, each having to be carefully laid on, slowly dried, and laboriously rubbed down – a process which cannot be hurried, and must occupy many days. The work from Rogers & Co. has a reputation for beautiful finish, which may possibly have led to the supposition that some chemical secret is employed. There is nothing of the kind, however, the effect being produced only by the extraordinary care used to maintain an even temperature in the rooms, and to exclude dust. The former object is attained by constant reference to a thermometer, and adjustments accordingly, the latter by having the walls of the finishing room hard finished, painted, and varnished, by having the floor double, and interlined with two separate layers of roof felting, and by having the windows and doors so closely fitted as to be dust proof. So far does this anxious solicitude extend, that, in order to avoid any unnecessary opening of doors, a small glazed opening is arranged, through which the room can be looked into from without when requisite, without moving the door itself.
The special advance supply of wheels, kept on hand in the wheel department, has been mentioned. This is by no means the only precaution used, however. The wood itself used in the wheels is selected with the greatest care, and to insure the greatest degree of uniformity and thoroughness in this most important part of the structure, one and the same steady, skillful, and experienced workmen has, for the last nineteen years, driven every spoke used in the factory. The rigid scrupulousness used in the choice of stock for wheels makes their first cost greater than that of a power wheel; but there is no wastage in buying on this principle, and the repairing on the finished work is a minimum, so that the wheels are the cheapest in the end.
The same thoroughness and care are bestowed on the choice and use of materials in the trimming room, as in all the rest of the work. The leather used, for which the establishment has a special reputation, is made to Messrs. W. D. Rogers & Co.’s own order. The carpets, silks, etc., are mostly imported.
In inspecting; the whole of the two portions of this great establishment, it is impossible to avoid being greatly impressed by the extreme thoroughness and completeness with which its departments have been organized, systematized, and arranged with reference to each other, and their remarkable economy of room and fullness of equipment. This secures to every workman the power of accomplishing the greatest quantity of work with the least possible expenditure and waste of time. However, the establishment itself, the obvious excellence of the finished work it turns out, the efficiency, regularity, and ease of all its daily operations, and its great and increasing reputation are all the result of one and the same original motive power the vivid, wide awake, inexhaustible, incessant, and close personal supervision and stimulus of its founder. How much such a force amounts to in twenty years may be gathered from a patient examination of this concern. Nor can any intelligent observer pass even a short time in the company of Mr. Rogers himself without being convinced that the force is at least adequate to the result. Mr. Rogers, is a compactly, and strongly built man, with abundance of brain, unusually quick motions, keen, bright eyes, a very ready and at the same time a very thoughtful expression, an open, intelligent face, a prompt and pleasant smile altogether a fine personification of intelligent strength and activity. As might be expected, the conduct of his business is marked at once by liberality’ foresight, and kindness, as well as by the strictness and regularity of a mere business man. This is well shown by the fact–one of the highest of all testimonies- that his workmen remain with him so long; many of them, indeed, began their apprenticeship in the concern, and show no signs of leaving it yet. Nor, after a quarter of a century of labor, does this remarkable “prime mover” relax his oversight. The vigilant supervision of the experienced department foremen, able and constant as it is, is not enough. Mr. Rogers visits the factory daily, and carefully inspects all that is going on in each branch, and during the rest of the day he is on duty at the office and warerooms in Chestnut Street.
No effort has been made by William D. Rogers & Co. to turn out “cheap work.” Such work could not pay for the sort of labor and care exercised in their establishment, nor could the mind that habitually exercises such labor and care be satisfied with cheap work. The point aimed at, and reached, has been, by thorough attention to excellence in detail, to secure the utmost excellence in whatever work should be turned out, whether little or much. A proper price has been charged.
And, the, result shows that there are abundance of customers who are better satisfied to pay what is necessary for the, sake of obtaining a strong and enduring job.
Messrs. Rogers & Co. Ship their carriages to all parts of America; they have regular patrons in England, France, and Italy, and orders from other foreign countries are from time to time reaching them. What the future of the firm is to be it is useless to conjecture; but it is certain that it has by no means approached the limits of practical and prosperous development.
John W. Britton’s tribute to William D. Rogers.
FIFTH ANNUAL CARRIAGE BUILDERS NATIONAL ASSOCIATION CONVENTION
…Hub November 1877 page 363.
“Our Respected Ex-President: “–Responded to by Mr. John W. Britton, who opened with an apropos story, and paid a tribute to Mr. Kimball, as a man of great force of character and an able carriage-builder, whom Chicago should feel proud to possess. His tribute to Mr. Wm. D. Rogers, which followed, was one of the most finished and impressive pieces of oratory we ever listened to. We reproduce it below, as nearly in full as we are able, but in re-writing it we feel how inadequate it is to convey to the reader any idea of the pathos, the passion of Mr. Britton’s words. His manner showed that this was no common speech, cut and dried beforehand; but that, inspired by his subject, his heart spoke for him, and every movement of his hands, every expression of his face, the occasional tremulousness of his voice–all helped to lend force to his words.
Mr. Britton’s Tribute to Wm. D. Rogers.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen–I beg you will indulge me in a few remarks regarding another friend whose career reflects honor upon this Association and the trade at large.
More than thirty years ago a young and ambitious carriage-maker began business in a neighboring city, with but little capital beyond a well established character for integrity, thorough mechanical ability, and untiring industry; but these qualities, we all know, Mr. Chairman, are the great elements of success in a trade like ours, and they soon brought him into the front rank of American carriage-makers, and no young man’s future seemed more prosperous or secure.
Then, my friends, came the troubles that preceded our great civil war, and like many other good men, he was carried down the current that swept away so many fortunes, and the accumulations of years of hard work were lost to him forever. Worse than all, he had not only been impoverished, but he was loaded with a debt of more than fifty-thousand dollars, which most men would, under similar circumstances, have despaired of ever paying by their own labor and exertions. Not so, however, with our friend. He found his creditors full of generous sympathy–they believed in the man’s honor, and promptly released him from all legal obligation to pay a single dollar of this large indebtedness, bidding him God-speed in the new enterprise he had already planned ; and he went on, rejoicing that now he had to pay a debt of honor–an all-powerful incentive to action, to a man of his noble character.
(The room was now perfectly still, and every eye was fixed on the speaker. Few, if any, knew of whom he spoke.)
Mr. Chairman, only his most intimate friends know the intensity of our friend’s struggle to carry out the resolve he had made, that all these generous friends should in good time know that their confidence in him had not been misplaced. He did not wait until he had accumulated a fortune which he could well spare to pay this debt of honor, but within the first year of his new venture he began to pay portions of it, and year after year, as fortune favored him, he lessened the debt, until, during the year 1876, by his own industry, and with the help of no man, he had the pleasure of paying the very last dollar of this large sum. Then, Mr. Chairman, as if nature only waited in admiration the end of this grand struggle before applying the penalty that inevitably follows an over-worked body and an over-tasked brain, our friend was prostrated upon a bed of sickness, where for many months he lay, his life trembling in the balance, and his friends almost without hope; but God in his goodness willed that he should live, and to-night, Mr. Chairman, our friend joins us at this festive board, honoring us with his presence, and encouraging us by his example in the path of honor and duty.
And now, Mr. Chairman (with this the speaker advanced to the opposite table, his hand extended), permit me to name this honored member of our association, and to give you the good health and happiness of Wm. D. Rogers, of Philadelphia.
An instant of silence followed, for nearly every eye was dimmed, and then all arose and drank the toast, and a voice cried, “Rogers! Rogers!” But he sat with his face buried in his hands, and his tears were the most eloquent response.
“Gentlemen!” added Mr. Britton,” I beg that you will excuse Mr. Rogers from making any reply. I know him well, and know that his heart is as tender as a woman’s, and that he would shrink from being called thus prominently before you.” (Renewed applause.) The band then opportunely struck up a lively air, “Hail to the Chief,” after which the President proposed the next toast:….
WILLIAM D. ROGERS OF PHILADELPHIA.
Hub October 1882 page 418-419.
We take pleasure in herewith introducing a portrait and biography of Mr. Wm. D. Rogers, of Philadelphia, one of America’s oldest and most esteemed carriage builders, and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Carriage Builders’ National Association. The accompanying portrait has been engraved from a recent photograph, and the following biographical sketch has been prepared from notes gathered from various sources, including Freedly’s “Business Pursuits and Business Men,” 1854; the “New York Coach makers’ Magazine,” 1859; ” The Royal Road to Wealth,” by Vansant, 1868; and the “Biographical Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania,” 1873; the whole being subsequently revised and amended after interviewing the subject of the sketch.
Mr. Rogers was born in Baltimore, July 16, 1819. His parents visited Philadelphia when he was a mere child, and leaving the above city for New York, resided there for several years, and then returned to Philadelphia, where William was placed at school.
In 1830 his father died, and at the age of 12 he manifested a desire to be working at something, and constructed a turning lathe between school hours. The wheel of that lathe was the first he made, but it was the forerunner of a host of others of a different pattern. At the age of 15 he entered on trial the carriage works of John Carruthers, and after a few months became an indentured apprentice to learn the “art, trade and mystery of coach trimming.” There were no hours of rest at this establishment, but from 6 A. M. until 8 and even 10 P. M. he was kept at his task. Before his time expired he was obliged to do many things outside of his department, including the purchase of stock for the different branches. It was a work of toil, but he served his time out faithfully.
In the summer of 1840, when he reached his majority, a vacation of a week or two being resolved upon, he proceeded to Saratoga Springs, New York, and upon arriving there, became acquainted with Mr. Coleman, at that time the carriage maker of the village, who wished some work finished, and who persuaded William to remain a few weeks to assist him. This was his first work as a journeyman. Returning to Philadelphia, a situation was offered him in the carriage factory of William Dunlap, where he worked until the following spring, when a desire to travel for the purpose of perfecting himself in the business, led him, in the spring of 1841, to visit the leading shops in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The old tariff law was then nearly at an end, and trades of all kinds were paralyzed in New England, especially the carriage business, so he found only temporary jobs. At that time the principal carriage-builders in Boston were John Raynor, Walter Frost, Goddard & Dennis, and Slade & Whiton. He spent the summer in Boston and Lynn, and in the fall, by the invitation of a friend, visited West Amesbury, now the flourishing town of Merrimac. At this place he did some work. The next place visited was Exeter, New Hampshire, where he entered into the employ of Mr. Henry Shute, and passed the winter. The following spring found him in Springfield, Massachusetts. In this way he visited many places in New England, but finally returned to Philadelphia in the winter of 1842, after making many friends and a reputation as a skilled workman.
On reaching Philadelphia he had two bodies made after patterns not used in New England, and placing these on a sailing vessel, left with them for Boston. The bodies were sent to West Amesbury, where he finished them entire, and with a horse took them to Providence, Rhode Island, selling them on the bridge at that place. This was his first attempt as a salesman.
He next accepted an offer made by Mr. Henry P. Newell, of Madison, Indiana, to superintend his carriage factory at that place. Mr. Newell was formerly of New Haven, and made heavy work for his repository at Frankfort, Kentucky, and did a good business. After eight months Mr. Rogers declined an offer of partnership, preferring finally to settle in business in Philadelphia; but for the time being he concluded to travel in the Southwest, and proceeded through Kentucky and Tennessee. Arriving at Huntsville, Alabama, he entered the factory of Mr. Henry Halsey, and engaged to finish his heavy work for that season. Having finished this contract, he proceeded to Nashville, and went down the river to New Orleans, where business proving to be dull, he left on the steamer for Havana, Cuba. Returning to New Orleans, he next proceeded up the river to Louisville, where several offers were made to him, and he accepted one from Mr. J. R. Hall, who had some fine ordered coaches to finish. He worked here until spring, when his brother wrote him that a small carriage shop could be bought out in Philadelphia, and if it suited him, it should be purchased for him. The word came in good time. He had a surfeit of travel, felt competent to undertake the building of any kind of carriage, and accordingly returned home. Upon leaving Louisville, Mr. Hall said to him: “Young man, you will not name a price to remain with me; you insist on leaving, and I think your success is doubtful, with the present competition by Philadelphia builders, whose reputation is great. They will swamp you before you get under way. But remember that if misfortune overtakes you, write to me, and I will give you the best chance any young man ever had west of the mountains.”
The lot of land with frame shops located at the corner of 6th & Brown streets, Philadelphia, was at that time owned by the Girard estate, and leased by John Marston, a carriage maker, who carried on the business. An agreement for the purchase of the tools, fixtures, etc., was closed with Mr. Rogers, possession to be given in the following August. To fill up the intervening time he went East again, and worked for Bailey & Maxwell, at West Newbury, Massachusetts, and on his way home a few skilled workmen were engaged to work for him in Philadelphia, where the business was organized in August, 1846, with 12 men.
On account of his exceptional experience in the different modes of manufacture prevailing in the various sections of the country traveled through, and the requirements necessary to suit the public taste and the roads of those sections, he was enabled to take orders other than local, assuring satisfaction to customers. His desire was to produce as substantial and as fine work as possible, and every exertion was made to do so. The competition was strong, Philadelphia being noted at that time for building as high a grade of carriages as could be found anywhere. Ogle & Watson, Vansciver, Wm. Dunlap, and Geo. Jeffries were the principal builders of that day, and it required some patience and nerve to enter the contest with these widely known and well established firms, with up hill work for some time; but after his vehicles got on the road they attracted attention, and soon city orders began coming in, together with those from other sections, and in three years time he found work for 45 men.
In 1848, the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, gave an exhibition of manufactures, and he determined to enter the field as a competitor for honors. His exhibit was an elegantly finished four wheeled Tilbury of a new pattern, which attracted the attention of connoisseurs, and secured the highest prize against all competitors. From this time his reputation as a maker of light carriages rapidly increased, and orders for heavy work were frequently declined on account of insufficient space and capital. In 1853 he was induced to take a lot at the corner of 6th and Master Streets, 138 x 178 feet, and erected a brick factory, 40 x 178 feet, together with lumber sheds and silver plating and wheel shops, which, when completed, was considered the model carriage factory of the country.
At this factory both light and heavy work was built, and shipped to all sections of this country, and also to Canada, Mexico, the West Indies, and even to England, France and Germany. Work was built to order only, and in time it gave him a national reputation.
He was now employing 100 hands on fine work. His city customers wished him to take a repository and repair shops in the central part of the city, and in 1857, he secured the premises on Chestnut Street above 10th, the lot being 46 x 175 feet. Alterations were made, and in August of that year he took possession, just as the great financial panic struck the business of the country. He succeeded in weathering the storm for three years, but upon the approach of the civil war, which stopped remittances from the South, where much of his work had been shipped, and which temporarily paralyzed the demand for carriages, he was finally obliged, after a hard struggle and a succession of heavy “losses” to succumb to the inevitable, and in September, 1860, he suspended. This was a sad blow to him. Everything was given up to his creditors, both real and personal estate; and on account of the times, the property brought low prices, the danger threatening all, and after the sale he stood with the clothes on his back and $50,000 in debt.
Some of the creditors created a fund and bought in some unfinished work that was ordered, and accepted his proposition to work for them six months at a salary and turn in the orders; at the expiration of which time they received back the funds put in, and 70 per cent. on their investment. During this time he was solicited to enter into partnership with several parties in different sections, but he concluded to remain and, if possible, wipe out his indebtedness in the city where it was contracted, determined to show his friends and customers that nothing should be wanting on his part to regain his trade and former commercial standing. In the meantime a release had been drawn up for the creditors to sign. The law of Pennsylvania was, that every creditor must sign this in order to release the debtor, and he was urged to present himself to every one of his creditors for this purpose. He assumed this task in person. It was a formidable undertaking to attempt to induce fifty men to sign away their rights to claims without a dollar of security or even a promissory note; but in ninety days all had signed the release, with the verbal promise, only, that if he ever made the money, they should be paid. Thus the payments were left entirely to his honor. All he now desired was good health, he having the right to use his name, which was all the capital he possessed in thus starting a new.
The first year of the war but few carriages were needed, and his time was taken up principally with repairing. His friends and customers stood by him nobly, and soon orders came in that kept his small force busy at the Chestnut Street place. He was obliged to demand cash for his work, having already experienced the disadvantages of the long credit system; but his friends were ready to pay the cash, and an increased demand soon necessitated his taking a small factory in the rear of his repository. In the third year after the failure he began to pay small amounts to those who needed it most, and every six months thereafter a certain percentage was sent to the old creditors, increasing from year to year until the indebtedness of $50,000 was liquidated in full. Thus did he nobly keep his word with his creditors, but to execute the task he performed the work of three men every day, and at length his health began to fail. He had, however, accomplished his purpose, and feeling that he had done only his duty, he never was happier than while these debts were being paid. Some who have been unfortunate and who have paid up their old debts in full when left to their honor to do so, have not commenced to pay until they became wealthy and could well spare the money; but few begin to pay at once and as fast as they earn it, which was true in this instance, and we seldom have to record a similar case.
In 1870, the old and well known firm of George W. Watson & Co. retired from business, and, feeling justified by an increased demand for heavy work, Mr. Rogers secured a lease of their carriage factory from the heirs, and after alterations had been completed, his workmen were removed to the factory at 13th and Parrish streets, the Chestnut street place being retained for warerooms and repair shops. The removal took place on January 1st, 1871, when Mr. Joseph Moore, Jr., came in as a partner, and the firm name was changed to Wm. D. Rogers & Co. With an increase of capital and other facilities, the business was then increased so that 130 hands were employed, principally on orders and repairs. In the Spring of the same year his health gave way, and, by his physician’s advice, he took a vacation of three months in California, returning much benefited by the change.
Several years of prosperous trade followed, and in 1876, when the Centennial Exhibition occurred in Philadelphia, this firm was one of those who took a lively interest in the matter, and entered into active competition for honors. Their exhibit consisted of specimens of light, medium and heavy work, which were accorded the first mention and highest honors, the award of the judges being “for uniform excellence, superior workmanship, perfection of finish, and elegance of style, in both heavy carriages and light wagons.” This decision was not unexpected by many carriage makers acquainted with their work.
But now, again, his health broke down. The incessant labor attendant on the Exhibition, together with the hot weather, prostrated him with fever, and a complication of diseases followed, which kept him confined to his bed for nearly five months, while for weeks his life seemed to hang on a thread. But careful nursing and a good constitution carried him safely through the ordeal. It was a long time, however, before he could resume his work. On the 31st of December, the copartnership came to an end by limitation, Mr. Jos. Moore, Jr., retiring from the firm. During the month of February the repository caught fire from the American Theater, a few doors above, and the whole of the front part was burned, many carriages being destroyed. This occurred at a time when his life was despaired of, and the news of the fire was not made known to him until many weeks afterward, and then only after the new building had been completed.
As regards his business at present, trade continues steady, and his well established reputation for quality secures him a class of critical customers who desire the finest work. His working force, now numbering upwards of 125 hands, embraces a corps of mechanics as skillful and intelligent as will anywhere be found; many of whom have been with him ever since he began business, thus following his fortunes for thirty six years. Mr. Rogers was one of the organizers, in 1872, of the Carriage Builders’ National Association, and has continued a member of the Executive Committee from that time up to the present. For three years past he has acted as Chairman of that Committee, a position of responsibility fully equal to that of the Presidency, and he has performed the many arduous duties thereto pertaining to the entire satisfaction of the Association, who justly esteem him one of their main pillars of strength.
Hub October 1884 page 490.
About 2:30 o’clock on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 20th, smoke was observed issuing from the rear of the four-story brick carriage warehouse of Wm. D. Rogers & Co., Nos. 1007, 1009, and 1011 Chestnut-street, Philadelphia. The fire was first seen by some compositors connected with a morning paper, who forced open the doors on the Chestnut-street. In the meantime an alarm had been sounded, and, by the time the apparatus of the department reached the scene, all of the carriages on the ground floor, nearly one hundred in number, and valued at $60,000, had been removed. The front portion of the second floor was used as a wareroom while the remainder of the building was used as repair shops. It was in one of the latter that the fire originated, and it burned stubbornly for over an hour before it was gotten under control. It is estimated that the loss will aggregate about $40,000, which is fully covered by insurance.
PRINCE AMONG MANUFACTURERS IS DEAD.
Carriage Monthly February 1885 page 306.
Wm. D. Rogers, the honest man, the noble hearted, generous friend, the model husband and father and faultless gentleman, left his Chestnut street establishment December 30th, to return no more. Friends who have met him within the last five years, have seen regretfully that his vitality was constantly waning and the fires of life were burning fitfully and low.
January 3d the silver cord was loosed, the golden bowl broken, the pitcher failed at the fountain, the wheel stopped on its center and would draw no more from life’s cistern.
When last we met him, his old enthusiasm was aroused by the reports from the St. Louis Convention, and he expressed very eloquently his satisfaction with its results. The earnest words of praise bestowed on Western members for the generous conservatism of their action we would they all could have heard. We never heard him utter a word in any discussion concerning the interest of the Convention or of the craft, anything that indicated a selfish desire, or knew of an act of his in such connection, that indicated a thought of personal interest or advancement. Though in conversation the most eloquent man connected with the coach manufacturing business of the country, he could not be induced to make a public speech. Not only wisely unselfish was he, but so devoid of envy or jealousy that the only man who might be permitted to divide the honor of being the leading fine coach maker in America was his devoted and life long friend. From him we hope to hear a eulogy at our meeting in Boston. For wise counsel and encouragement given the proprietors of this journal when they were young in experience, he will be held in grateful and lasting remembrance.
Failing to elicit from other sources anything in addition to the biographical notice of Mr. Rogers published in the Hub and Coach, Harness and Saddlery journals in 1882, and these journals entitled to credit, we give it in full: …
In the time that elapsed since the publication of the above sketch, Mr. Rogers pursued his business as heretofore, his influence increasing as he ripened by time and experience. He was a rare instance of a successful man, with positive convictions and great self reliance, who was not too old to learn at sixty, and continued to be courteous and kind to those who differed with him in opinion. When convinced by events that he had entertained a mistaken opinion of others, he would surrender with grace as charming as it is rare. It is not enough to say of W. D. Rogers that he was able in conversation. He was one of the most gifted gentlemen we ever met. His declining vitality, though continued through years under the influence of disease, did not overcome his vivacity in conversation or abate his interest in the Convention, Technical School, or any other interests with which he was identified. Tuesday, December 30th, he left the place of “toil and endeavor,” closed the door upon himself forever, and went to his home, where he died Saturday evening, January 3d, failure of the heart being the direct cause. The anxiety caused by the fire in his repository, early in October, no doubt hastened his death. The first news the employees had of the seriousness of the attack was about four o’clock Saturday afternoon, when the sad intelligence reached them that little hope was entertained for their employer living through the night. On gathering at the factory the following Monday, the faces of the men were very sad. They mourned not the death of their employer only, but each his personal friend. They organized a meeting and passed the resolutions following: PHILADELPHIA, January 5, 1885. At a meeting of the employees of Wm. D. Rogers, Son & Co., held this day, the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted: Whereas it has pleased Almighty God in His infinite wisdom to remove from our midst our respected and beloved employer. William D. Rogers, thus depriving us of the presence, influence aid counsel of one whom we could always look up to as a faithful friend and conscientious adviser; therefore, be it:
Resolved, That our sincerest sympathies be tendered to the members of the family in the great loss they have sustained.
Resolved, That as a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased we attend his funeral in a body.
Resolved That these resolutions be published in the Public Ledger, and the Record and a copy of the same be properly engrossed, framed and presented to the family. CHAS. J. THOMSON, DAVID MULGAHY, MICHAEL GOWEN, Committee, NATHAN RAYMOND, EDWARD COMBY, DMUND J. GORGAS, President. HARRY B, WOOD, Secretary. On Thursday, January 8th, he was buried from his late residence on North Fifteenth street, where a large number of friends and business associates gathered to pay their last tribute of respect to the departed. The trade both carriage builders and dealers of Philadelphia – was well represented; also many former employes were observed in the gathering. Among the leading carriage builders present who also are active workers in the Carriage Builders’ National Association, were ex President John W. Britton, New York; ex President Henry Killam, New Haven; President Henry C. McLear, Wilmington, Delaware; Secretary Frank H. Hooker, New Haven; Wilder H. Pray, Chairman of Executive Committee; R. M. Stivers, member of Executive Committee; Theodore Gray, Newark, New Jersey, and W. B. Templeton, New York. W. N. FitzGerald, of the Coach, Harness and Saddlery journal, and Charles A. Heergeist and A. M. Ware, of the MONTHLY, represented the trade magazines.
The honorary pall bearers from the carriage trade were H. C. McLear, Henry Killam, Frank H. Hooker, Wilder H. Pray, R. M. Stivers, Theodore Gray and Chas, J. Thomson. The employes gathered at the factory and marched in a body to the house, viewed the remains, and then preceded the hearse in carriages to the cemetery.
Ex President John W. Britton, in answer to a request by telegraph, to write for the MONTHLY an obituary of Mr. Rogers, writes:
HOTEL BRIGHTON, ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey, January 13th, 1885. EDITOR MONTHLY?DEAR SIR:- Your telegram of 10th has reached me here. I went over to Philadelphia as soon as I could after news of Mr. Rogers’ death, and remained there until he was taken to his long rest.
I was so much broken up by this event following my long sickness, that I have come here to seek restoration.
I am in constant pain except when lying down. Under these circumstances, I dare not attempt to write the obituary of my dear friend, which should be far better than I could write in my present condition. Yours, very truly, John W. Britton.
W. D. ROGERS & SON’S CARRIAGE FACTORY.
WALNUT ST., PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA.
Hub November 1894 page 565.
As an admirable example of brick architecture, of the renaissance style, exhibiting considerable academic feeling, the building occupied by W. D. Rogers & Son as a carriage repository on Walnut St., Philadelphia, easily stands ahead of anything else in that city. While the general lines are severely classic, the details have been handled with a great deal of freedom and delicacy, and show the artistic training of the architects, Messrs. Cope and Stewardson, who are doing a great deal to, redeem the architecture, of a city noted for its poverty of really scholarly and dignified work. At the same time, the character of the building as a business house has not been lost sight of, and the broad plate glass show windows and the ample lighting of the upper stories attest its adaptability to the purposes of a carriage repository and factory. The color treatment of the facade is particularly happy, the first story of English red stone harmonizing remarkably well with the upper stories of dark red mottled Pompeiian bricks, ornamented with terra cotta of the same shade. The boldly projecting and elaborately ornamented cornice fittingly caps an architectural composition which does great credit to its designers.
The interior arrangements are most admirable. Back of the main building there are two wings, extending to Sansom St., with a wide driveway between. This driveway forms a court into which the windows of the wings open, and which insures abundance of light to the various departments which occupy the wings. The smith shop, which is in the basement, is also well lighted and ventilated.
Throughout the arrangements of the various shops are most perfect, making this one of the most convenient, as well as the most attractive carriage factory in that city, and affords a model that can be copied to an advantage.
The upper floors of the main building are also occupied as workshops, including the harness room, in which is made the fine harness sold by this firm.
The repository is well lighted, and so arranged as to show the carriages and harness to the best advantage. The office is also on this floor.
SUCCESS WRIT LARGE.
Carriage Monthly November 1907 page 245.
To maintain the standard of a manufactured article for over half a century, and hold against the onslaught of time the trade once gained is a feat of industrial generalship that who live so much the “today” of things, are apt to pass over unthinkingly. Go to the oldest resident of any city and ask him to name the most successful and promising enterprise of his day. Then look down the list of today’s largest establishments in that same town and see how many of the old names you can find. Very few, indeed. Plants that were considered great and promising fifty years ago, or even twenty five years ago, have been swept into oblivion in the onward of time, or have settled down into a condition of hopeless mediocrity, and are never heard of beyond the narrow limits of local patronage.
Things are not made today as they were fifty years ago. Business is not transacted as it was fifty years ago. Time has wrought changes great and revolutionary in the industrial and commercial world. To maintain through all the exigencies of trade the reputation gained years ago on a certain commodity, to weather the vicissitudes that fifty years will bring to a firm and individual, to successfully combat competition in all its subtlety of attack, and to so regulate the conduct and equipment of a business that it will meet readily and naturally the constant changes and innovations that Time forces into every field of industrial endeavor, spells VICTORY in capital letters. It means that an experienced hand has been at the helm, and a trained eye has seen in time the rocks ahead. It is SUCCESS in its broadest interpretation, and an accomplishment of which any firm may well feel proud. The march of progress is rapid, and it takes energy and brains and skill to keep up with it.
Sixty-one years ago the name of William D. Rogers, Philadelphia was, familiar to the carriage-building and carriage consuming world. People who could afford fine custom made carriages, who looked for the beautiful and artistic in carriage construction as they did in other things, went to William D. Rogers to have their carriages made. The recognition work well done is art inspiration to the worker to do still better work and the generous endorsement of discerning buyers in those early days encouraged William Rogers to do still greater things, until at the time of his death his reputation as a skilled carriage maker had extended far and wide.
Today, after sixty one years, the same class of patrons goes to William D. Rogers’ Son & Co. for artistic carriage and automobile work, and they get it, because the firm has kept up with the march of progress. When the automobile became an established fact, they shaped their business so as to accommodate autobody work, and applied their knowledge and skill to the new line with eminently satisfactory results. They have always “kept up with the procession,”‘ yet ever holding fast to the old fashioned principle of making a thing well at any cost. It is proverbial that a job has never left the Rogers shop unless the firm themselves were satisfied with it, and a job pleases the critical eyes of these long experienced makers, it is pretty apt to be a good job even down to the last detail that would never be, detected by the lay eye.
That the firm of William D. Rogers’ Son & Co., with all the success that has come to them, still continue to grow and expand is again evident in the recent occupation of their splendid new five-story home on the corner of Thirteenth and Cherry Streets, Philadelphia, where everything that is modern in carriage-making machinery and appliances has been provided. To the experienced carriage builder, the equipment of this big building is most interesting, as showing the modern methods employed in handling and building carriage and automobile work. Upon the great elevator in the rear of the building, the largest motor car may be hoisted like a toy to the fifth floor. The convenient arrangement and great capacity of this elevator system is a phase of modern factory equipment that small shops can only dream of.
On the fifth floor is located the paint shop (a spacious, splendidly lighted room), where the chassis and running gear are painted. On this floor is also located the varnish room, equally well equipped and lighted. On the fourth floor can be found the body paint shop, where experienced hands convert the unattractive unpainted bodies of motor cars and carriages into things of beauty. The trimming shop occupies the third floor, and it is in this department that the bodies of motor cars are mounted on the chassis after painting.
There is always plenty of work to occupy the skilled hands that are employed in this department. The wood and blacksmith shops are located on the second floor, and here the bodies of the fine Rogers carriages and motor cars are built. Carriage wheels are also made on this floor, and over in the left front end of the building is the designing and drafting room, one of the most interesting features of all. William D. Rogers’ Son & Co. have always excelled in the designing and drafting of their work. In this room are designed all the broughams, coaches, landaus, touring cars and limousines, comparing fully with the latest Paris styles. Those patrons who desire individuality and wish to have their own ideas carried out, may have their motor car bodies designed to suit their own tastes, and finished throughout with the best made cloths, leathers and laces that money and skill can produce. Men who know thoroughly their business and fell a joy in their work are the only employees of the Rogers shop, and is not that, after all, the secret of success?
LATE CHARLES J. ROGERS
Carriage Monthly February 1911 page 16.
Charles J. Rogers, president and general manager of William D. Rogers’ Son & Co., Thirteenth and Cherry Streets, Philadelphia died after a short illness on Saturday, January 14th. The deceases was the son of William D. Rogers, founder of the above named concern, and a carriage builder whose fame was spread throughout the United States and Europe.
Charles J. Rogers was fifty-four years of age on January 5th last February, 1911. He was born in Philadelphia and received his early education in the schools of that city. Upon the death of his father in 1885, he began an active business career in the conduct of the well known house of William D. Rogers. In 1894 Eugene Everhart joined with Mr. Rogers as partner, the firm thus formed continuing until May, 1899, when the present company was organized.
The carriage concern, of which the late Mr. Rogers was the head, has had an interesting history. It was founded in 1846 and began immediately to acquire a reputation for its work that increased until the name of Rogers was almost as well known in France, England and German vehicle circles as it was in America. When some of the earliest European manufacturers of automobiles decided to open up a market for the new vehicles in this country, they naturally turned first to the Rogers establishment with an offer of the Philadelphia representation. A satisfactory arrangement was made, and as early as 1894 the concern began its experience in building automobile bodies, making the first limousine and the first touring car bodies turned out in Philadelphia. The limousine was built for George D. Weidener and the touring car for George W. Elkins, two of Philadelphia’s most prominent citizens.
In automobile construction, the late Mr. Rogers and his associates maintained the high reputation for fine coach work that had been acquired by the founder of the establishment. His wide experience in all matters relating to carriage building, combined with. his characteristic kindliness and good nature, made him a much valued member of the local vehicle manufacturers’ association He was one of the most active men in that association, and it was seldom that any matter of importance came up for discussion that he did not take the floor during the debate. Very few members were more regular in their attendance at the meetings or did more to enhance their interest than Charles J. Rogers, and the Carriage and Wagon Builders’ Association of Philadelphia will not soon recover from the loss occasioned by his departure.
The funeral was held on Tuesday, January 17th, from Mr. Rogers’ late home, 1803 North Twenty second Street, Philadelphia, being attended by many men prominent in the vehicle trade. The employees of the Rogers factory, as well as the members of the Carriage and Wagon Builders’ Association, were in attendance at the funeral. Two of the pall bearers were selected from the factory, two from the local association and two from among the vehicle accessory men.
Mr. Rogers is survived by his mother, Mrs. William D. Rogers, who has passed her eightieth birthday, and one sister, Mrs. Annie I. Rose, Philadelphia.
Acknowledgements. Free Library of Philadelphia, Automobile Reference Collections
Factory with flag on top of building: Great Industries of the United States by Horace Greeley 1872 page
57. Half-spring Piano Box Top-Wagon: Hub August 1872.
52. Whitechapel, Carriage Monthly October 1880.
Late Charles J. Rogers, February 1911 page 16.
13th & Cherry street factory, Carriage Monthly November 1907 page 245.
William D. Rogers, Chairman, Hub October 1882 page 418.
W. D. Rogers & Son’s Carriage factory and repository, Hub November 1894 page 565.
Physician’s Rockaway, New York Coach-Makers March 1860.
Early factory, Coach Makers’ Magazine, June 1855 page 59.
Early Wm. D. Rogers, New York Coachmaker’s Magazine March 1859.
Business card from the collection of Paul Downing.
Early factory engraving. Philadelphia and Its Manufactures by Freedley, 1859.
55. Piano-Box Jenny-Lind, Hub July 1872.