History of Early American Automobile Industry
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Copied from the 1912 Automotive Magazine
Wireless Telephony from an R-C-H
An R-C-H touring car made the trip up
Lookout Mountain, near Los Angeles, recently, equipped with wireless aerials quite like a
battleship. Arrived at the top, the necessary adjustments were made and a voice picked up
out of the air from Long Beach, some 38 miles away. No difficulty was experienced in
hearing, the wireless telephone working perfectly. The apparatus was furnished with
current from the batteries of the car, and is the invention of Earl Hanson, a Los Angeles
boy. With him on the trip were G. N. Jordan and A. E. Morrison. Jordan left Boston last
July and now has charge of the R-C-H branch in Los Angeles, while Morrison is the Pacific
Coast representative of the R-C-H Corporation.
One good way to describe the automobile industry would be by calling it a
rollercoaster. The ups and downs and the twists and curves were certainly indicative to
the industry. General Motors made a quick rebound to profitibility and Maxwell cars were
doing very well and making a profit. Ford Motor Co. had developed its assembly line in
1913 and was producing automobile at record numbers and low prices. However, other
companies were not doing so well and began to lower the prices of their cars to where the
profit margin was very slim. Banks began to tighten their loan programs and forced a lot
of companies out of business and the industry took a downward turn.
The Berkshire Automobile Company's prototype was built and production
began in 1904 as the Berkshire automobile. The car's transmision was designed to prevent
stripping of gears and was patented. This proved a disasaster to the company for it did
not work. It was an uphill battle because of this problem. The factory was shut down in
1907 when the owners closed down for lack of capital and stated that it would only
reopen until proper financing could be had.
1906 Berkshire Side Entrance tonneau
Once again in 1909, it was tried under the company's name as Berkshire
Auto-Car Co. building 30 cars in 1910. More threats of moving the company did not work and
in 1912, the Belcher Engeineering Co. of Cambridge bought up all the parts and built three
cars in Cambridge.
Frank and Charles Matheson of Grand Rapids, MI decided to go into the
automobile business at the turn of the century. They tried negotiating with Clark Sintz,
an engine builder who had made a car in 1897, but to no avail.
Clark Sintz and family in his 1897 gasoline vehicle
They traveled to Holyyoke, MA to talk to Charles Greuter who had been
building his Holyoke automobiles since 1900. His factory was now for sale.
1900 Holyoke, "Little Elephant" Gasoline Trap
1901 Holyoke Tourer
1902 Holyoke Runabout
They not only bought the company, but Greuter's services as well. His car
was not what they wanted, it was his engine. He was their engineer for seven years and
designed all of their engines.
1904 Matheson Touring, Henry Ford Driving
Their first model was for 1904 that was a seven passenger touring with a
four-overhead valve cylinder, 24 hp engine that sold for $5,000. Approximately 100 cars
were sold in the first three years of production. Greuter had been using this type of
engine for his cars. In the middle of 1905, it was decided that the Holyoke factory was
inadaquate, so a decision was made to build a bigger facility in Wilkes Barre, PA. It was
ready in 1906 and the company moved into their new facility.
1908 Big Four Laundelet
1911 Matheson Touring
The company had a series of set backs beginning with a labor strike in
1907 and their sales agents, Charles Singer and H.V. Palmer, in New York who brought a
lawsuit against the company that was settled the following year. By 1910, the company was
in financial trouble and went into receivership which it survived. Even with a larger
engine, a second receivership was in 1912 which it did not survive. It was considered as
one of the best cars built.
1910 Matheson Advertisement
1911 Matheson Touring Automobile
As a footnote: Charles Greuter was a future president of the Society of
Engineers of America and in 1912 he designed the 1913 K-D Touring car.
1913 K-D Touring at the 1913 Boston Automobile Show
The K-D Motor Co. was formed to produced and American Automobile with the
little known K-D engine invented by Margaret E. Knight and Anna F. Davidson, both female
inventers. The K-D Motor Co. was also known as the Knight-Davidson Motor Company. The K-D
automobile was a large 137 inch wheelbase five passenger touring car with wire wheels.
Very few K-D automobiles were made and their cost was $6,000.00. Margaret E. Knight,
no relationship to Charles Knight, designer of the Silent Knight engine, was a female
inventor born in York, Maine in 1860. In 1913 Moore & Munger manufactured the rakish
touring body for the Charles R. Greuter-designed Knight-Davidson prototype. Margaret E.
Knight displayed the finished vehicle at that falls Boston Automobile Show hoping to
license her sleeve-valve engine to an established automobile manufacturer.
Knight held a number of automobile related patents, many of which were assigned to the
Knight-Davidson Motor Co. of Saratoga, New York (Anne F. Davidson, Beatrice M. Davidson,
two wealthy relatives from Saratoga Springs financed the enterprise). Unfortunately,
Knight passed away before any licensing agreements could be established and no further
vehicles are known to have been constructed with her engine.
In 1907 Henry Palmer and Charles Singer joined forces to open an
automobile dealership in New York City ifor Simplex, Matheson, and Isotta-Franshini
automobiles. In 1908, P & M started producing their own vehicles under the name of
Palmer-Singer Mfg. Co. with the automobiles being made at the Matheson factory
until their factory was finished at Long Island City.
Palmer-Singer Skimabout, with rumble, 28-30 h.p
Palmer-Singe Town car, 28-30 h.p.
1908 Palmer-Singer Automobile Advertisement
1910 Palmer-Singer Victoria Touring Automobile
The first model was a Skimabout. The company many race
successes with their fast little skimabout. Palmer died in 1911 before he could see his
car performances. Over the next few years, there were several different models introduced.
One was in 1915 called the Magic Six.
1915 Magic Six
Costly experiments were blamed for the company declaring bankruptcy in
1915. The assests were sold that summer. The owner thought about building cars, but he
resold everything to Singer. Singer came out with just his name.
In late 1902, L.P. Hallady bought out the Erie Motor Carriage and Mfg. Co.
in Anderson, IN and moved it to Streator, IL. After seeking capital for a year, enough
money was raised to start building cars under the name of Streator Automobile and Mfg. Co.
After working in secretcy for one year, the Halladay touring car was put on the market.
It was the only car that completed the 250 mile Free-for- all race at
Atlanta, GA in 1910 without a stop.
1912 Light Six Touring
The 1911 Glidden tour press car was a Hallady. The company was renamed as
the Streator Motor Car Co. Production reached 900 cars a year. Eddie Rickenbacker
and three of the Fisher brothers were part of the work force, Its slogan was
"Everyday is a Halladay". Even with all of its successes, it was in trouble and
in 1912 it went into receivership. The reason given was internal strife, but it was
$200,000 in debt with only $200. in assests. It operated on credit and not
enough cash. The Streator personal property was sold in January of 1913 to the bank
and was resold to Albert Barley. He returned the Halladay to production and things were
going smootly until he lost interest and focused on another car that he was going to make
known as Roamer. The Roamer was going to be built in Kalamazoo, MI. He sold the Halladay
company to a group of investors that moved the company to Ohio in 1917. It was reorganized
as the Halladay Motor Car Co.
For the next five years, it was moved from city to city in Ohio until in
1922 when it was moved to Newark. By now the engine was a six cylinder and its
company name was Halladay Motors Corp. A four cylinder model was attempted under the
Falcon name and it was shown at the 1922 New York Automobile Show. A few months later, it
was put to put to rest for non payment of the parking lot paving.
To distinguish it from so many companies that were named American, it is
refered to s the American Underslung, meaning that the chassis sits below the frame.
The American Underslung was a product of the American Motors Company of
Indianapols, IN. During the course of its being in business, the company had three models
that were named American Scout, American Tourist, and American Traveler. All three models
are shown here. The large wheels and body clearance was very effective for speed and road
1910 American Traveler
1910 American Underslung
1910 American-Underlsung Automobile Advertisement
1913 American Scout
Its high price of $5,000 and being made between the country's worst
financial crisises prevented a large number of sales. Most of its top executives left the
company for other jobs. Only 45,000 cars had been made before it went out of business in
1914. The remainder of the unsold cars were sold at a bargain by the purchaser of the
The Speed Changing Pulley Company, Indianopolis, IN, made the DeTamble
from 1908 to 1913 which was headed by Edward DeTamble. A new organization, the DeTamble
Motor Car Company, moved it to Anderson, IN, in August, 1909.
1910 De Tamble Five Passenger with a Detachable Tonneau
Copied from the 1910 Automotive Industry Magazine
DETAMBLE CARS AS EXHIBITED
"This make of automobile is represented by two models, one of
which is a roadster known as the DeTamble "2" and sells for $650; the other is
the DeTamble "4," selling at $1,400. These cars are marketed by the Car Makers
Selling Company, Chicago, and will be briefly described as follows: The Model
"2" is fitted with a 16-horsepower motor, 30 by 3-inch Hartford pneumatics, has-
a 90-inch wheelbase, high-tension magneto, and a rumhle seat. The Model "4" is a
large touring automobile, in which the power plant is of the 4-cyIinder, water-cooled
type, with 4 1-2 by 41-2-in. bore and stroke, high-tension magneto ignition, and the usual
refinements. The wheelbase is 115 inches, standard tread, and 34 by 3 1-2-in. Firestone
tires are used on all four wheels. The body is commodious, seats live, and the upholstery
is in keeping with the "straight" style body, with No. 1 m. b. leather
throughout. The equipment is complete, including an acetylene generator, headlights,
1912 De Tamble Automobile Advertisement
1910 De Tamble Advertisementt was shown at the 1910 St. Louis
Automobile Show, but did not gain much interest. The production was very small for
the year. In August, a group of wealthy men bought the company an moved it to three
different states with three different names. One of the conditions for the sale was that
Detamble would own all of the sales agencies West of the Mississippi River. By the end of
1910, 2,000 had been produced.
1912 De Tamble Torpedo Body De Tamble
Because of plant closures at the different locations, a minimal number of
cars had been made and each one created a financial crises. 1911, was not any better.
Charles Walters, who had worked his up the ladder from office boy to the general manager,
was arrested for embellzing fom the company. New management took over, but financial
troubles persisted until the company was closed down in 1915.
The American Locomotive Company of America had been making cars under the
French Berliet licenses for three years before deciding to make their own cars at St.
Louis, MO using their initials for its model name. Due to the reputation of their
locomotives, the cars were supposed to be the perfect automobile and they claimed that it
took nineteen months to build one.
1912 AlCO Touring
In 1912, the company was convinced that they could not build a better one,
they concentrated on making it more beautiful. They were big, powerful, and
pricey and at $6,000-$7,500 the were the highest priced cars in the country.
1908 ALCO Advertisement
At the same time, Alco had contracted the Crane Motor Car Company in
Bayonne, NJ to design and build a cheaper model in the $3,400 price range. Three
prototypes were built before AlCO stopped its manufacturing of automobiles and gave all of
its attention to its locomotives. The reason was soon learned the company had been
losing $460 on each one that was built.
The Harrison automobile was introduced at the 1906 Chicago Automobile
Show. It was a product of the Harrison Motor Car Company, Grand Rapids, MI. The company
was a subsidery of Harrison Wagon Works in Grand Rapids. It was known as a car without a
crank. Supposedly by a push on a button that started an air pump and sent the necessary
gas mixture into a cylinder.
1905 Harrison Model A Automobile
1906 Harrison Touring
However, this was only the beginning of what this device could do. It was
touted that it could be used for testing the coils and plugs, lighting the lamps, pumping
the tires, and last , but not least, it would dust off the car. All of this for only
$5.000. It was a seven passenger touring with a 106-inch wheel base. with a
fiour-cylinder, 40-hp motor. There was one problem that hindered sales; it didn't do what
it was supposed to do without problems. It had been designed by Alber Menges, who left the
company in November.
1906 Harrison Automobile Advertisement
Internal dessention set iin 1907 and the Harrison people realized their
mistake in making the automobile and turned it over to anothe group who in turn let the
creditors have the company. This was done by March.
The Lenox Motor Car Company was the successor to the Martell Motor Car
Company in Jamaiaca Plain, MA. The Marteel had been trying to find a backer for two years,
but were unable to do so. The first Lenox was shown at the 1911 Boston Automobile Show. It
was a 27-hp, four-cylinder model. The designer was Chester Bates who previously, was the
engineer for the Morse Automobile Company in Springfield, MA. No sooner had the
production started before they began to look for a better location
1912 Lenox with rumble seat
Lenox Motor Car Co. Jamaica Plain, MA
In 1913, a 60-hp, six-cylinder was made along with a 30-hp, four-cylinder.
They decided to start building commercial vehicles in 1915 and moved their factory to
Lawrence, MA. By doing this, it cost them so much money for the commercial vehicle that no
money was left to continue making their regular model cars. The factory closed down at the
end of 1917.
Charles Herreshoff of the famous boat building Herreshoff family got
serious about automobile manufacturing in 1908 and organized the Herreshoff Motor Company
in Detroit, MI at the old Thomas-Detroit factory.
Herreshoff Runabout with Single Tonneau
1909 Herreshoff Touring
The first models were 1909's with a 24-hp, four cylinder
engines that were originally designed by Charles Herreshoff as a marine engine.
There were two fours available for 1911 that were 40 hp and a six cylinder was available
for the 1913 models.
1912 Herreshoff Five Passenger Touring
1911 Herreshoff Automobile Advertisement
1912 Herreshoff Advertisement
1913 Herreshoff Coupe Automobile
His location of the new plant was not welcomed by his neighbrs and
they vigoriously objected causing the company trouble. Also, Herreshoff began to use
engines manufactured by other companies one of which was Lycoming which he said that they
were defective. The company was in financial troubles in 1914 and in May of of that year,
Herreshoff sold his company and blamed the Lycoming company for his troubles. The new
owners were Ernst and Otto Kern who were dry good merchants in Detroit. It was quickly
sold to J.C. Gorey and Company of New York City and the last few that were assembled were
sold by that firm. Charles kept his hand in the automobile business by designing cars for
two unsuccessful non-descrpt marques.
In October of 1908, Thomas Hart of Muncie, IN announced his new car would
be called the Inter-State as a result of the winning name in a contest that he had
launched . He named his company the Inter-State Automobile Company. When production
was followed a short time later, he also announced to the press that he was building the
best car in the country even though not everyone doesn't know it. Muncie was well aware of
it and hoped that this new car would spread Muncie's name.
MORE POWERFUL INTER-STATE
"Among the new cars, no one looms up better than does the
Inter-State "Forty," which is made in three models, designated as 30, 31 and 32.
These are but the methods of indicating the differing body styles, for all three rest upon
the same chassis. Thirty refers to the touring car body with standard equipment, ready for
five large people, and with plenty of leg room. Passing on to Model 31, it is the
demi-tonneau or short coupled body as some prefer to call it. In this the rear seat is
just above the rear axle, and although the capacity is reduced to four persons, the
feeling of roominess is unchanged. Model 32 is the runabout, the same designation applying
whether no rumble, single, or double rumble is used. The chassis is powered with a motor
of four vertical cylinders."
1913 Inter-State- Model 45
The first models were medium sisze four-cylinders in the medium price
range. A six-cylinder followed in 1913. Soon afterwards, he had trouble within the company
when he asked for more capital from the stockholders. He was unable to raise more money so
he requested receivership,citing disagreement within the company. Problems were not solved
and before the year's end, he requested involuntary bankruptcy. F.C. Ball, one of his
investors and maker of the famous "Ball Fruit Jars", paid all of the company's
debts and reorganize it as the Inter-State Motor Company
1912 Inter-State Advertisement
1916 Inter-State Advertisement
Copied from the 1916
Automotive Industries Magazine
No Changes Made in Car Reduction on Roadster and
Muncie, Ind., July
9The Inter-State Motor Co. has made a price reduction of $150 on its touring and roadster models which for 1915 sold at $1,000.
The new price, $850, is the only change made for this season, the car being the same
mechanically. The specifications of the Inter-State car
include a four-cylinder Beaver motor with the cylinders cast in a block and with over-head
valves. The dash instruments are carried on a cowl board and the gasoline tank is under
the cowl. The equipment includes a one-man top of mohair and full set of instruments and
tools. The price, $850, is f.o.b. Muncie, and applies to either the touring car or the
1917 Inter-State Model T Automobile
The Inter-State Motor Car Company was one of the first cars to stop
production for duration of the war and war product were made. The company announced in
February of 1919 that it was going to resume the production of its car, but changed his
mind and sold it to General Motors for production of their new Sheridan automobile.
Copied from the Sept. 10 issue of Motor Age Magazine
"Building MarathonsBy the middle of September the Southern
Motor Works will be turning out Marathon cars from its
Nashville plant at the rate of five per day. About seventy-five men are employed, but the
force is to be rapidly augmented at once until it reaches 400. The plant is located in a
big brick structure that was formerly a cotton factory. The plant formerly was located at
Jackson, Tenn., but was removed to Nashville, the capital largely increased and operations
greatly enlarged. Only two models were turned out at Jackson, but the Nashville factory
will begin with four."
Marthon's Official Logo
While the company was in Jackson, it was sometimes referred to as the Southern.
1911 Marathon Touring
When it was relocated to Nashville, was named the Marathon Motor Works and
the cars became Marthon models.Its motifs in advertising showed references to Greet
Mythology and structures. It was an influential method and business was very brisk at
first and Marathon outsold its Nashville competetor 5-1.
1912 Marathon Light Six
1912 Marthon Light Six
Copied from 1912 Motor Age Magazine
With a low-powered car of exceptionally low price as the feature, the
Marathon line, as announced for the present season, is based on four chassis models
ranging in size from the new model K-20 to the N-50. The four models are known as the
K-20, L-30, M-40 and N-50, the figure representing roughly the factory's horsepower rating
of the motor. The general design of the cars is the same throughout the entire line and
there are several features that are common to all of them. The design embraces in each
case a unit power plant with a four-cylinder motor, of which the cylinders are cast in
pairs, a multiple-disk clutch operating in oil in the flywheel housing, a sliding gears.
Naturally, the most interest will center in the latest addition to the Marathon line, the
little K-20, which is listed with standard equipment at $685 as a roadster and $800 as a
This success could not overcome the incompetence of its officers and the
company went bankrupt in 1914. It tried to fight the bankruptcy, but failed. At years end,
Herff-Brooks of Indianapolis, IN. distributors and stockholders in the company took over.
Herff-Brooks Corporation was organized in 1913 to handle the national
sales of the Marthon automobiles. H.H. Brooks was the former sales manager for
Marthonmotors and the Herff bothers were theIndianapolis distributors for the company. In
addition to its distributing the Marthons, they also built some. When Marthon shut down,
Herff and Brooks began to manufacture them in Indianapolis under the Herff-Brooks name.
1915 Touring Automobile
1914 Marathon Automobile Advertisement
Both fours and sixes were made, but they soon found out to their sorrow,
it was no more populsr in the midwest as was in the south and the Herrf-Brooks went out of
business in 1917.
The Partin Mfg. Co. was a large automobile sales agency in Chicago that
joined with the Palmer Motor Car Co..in Detroit to manufacture cycle cars called the
Pioneer, a 45 model to be named the Partin, and a model 38 that was going to be called
Partin-Palmer. The cycle car did not last to the end of the year along with the Partin
model. The models would be called Partin-Palmers.
1913 Partin -Palmer Roadster Automobile
1915 Partin-Palmer Automobile Advertisement
A few may have been made in Detroit before the company was moved to
Chicago to take over the Staver factory.. Only the model 38 was made that year. A small
20-hp roadster was made in 1915 priced at a low $495. By now, Partin and Palmer was no
longer with the company. The company moved to Rochelle where the George D. Whitcomb
Company would assemble them. They were makers of gas machines and mining equipment. The
car's name was changed to Commonwealth and became the forerunner of Checker cabs.
Cut from the 1915 Horseless Age agazine
Pierce D. Schenck organized his Speedway Motor Car Company, Dayton, OH in
1907 after several investors had raised $50,000. His chief engineer
was a much experienced Gilbert Loomis who, not only had his own automobile manufacturing
company at the turn of the century, but also, had designed cars for other startup
companies since. Schenck believed the more the merrier and that is what he practiced at
first. His rutenberg engines were four and six cylinders, he also had several models on
two chassis sizes, 116 and 132 inches. But in the middle of 1907, the Bank Panic changed
his mind and his chassis was 120 inches and the motors were four cylinders. The motors
would be made at his factory.
1909 Speedwell Automobile Advertisement
1911 Speedwell Touring Automobile
1913 Speedwell Roadster Automobile
1912 Speedwell Cruiser Automobile
As with all of Loomis' designs, it was well
designed and built and price was $2,500. The slogan was " It would be folly to pay
more, but unwise to pay less" It was the first one with a torpedo body, hidden hinges
and the horn was under the hood. In 1912, the Cruiser was added to its list of models.
From 1909 through 1912, 4,000 cars had been built. aunfortunately for the company, Schenck
got tired of making cars and left the company and so did Loomis. The new owners began to
making wrong decisions abiout its engines and sales suffered. A flood in 1909 did great
damage to the company and when the dealers did not receive their cars on time, they left
the organization. Speedwell declared bankruptcy in 1915.
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