History of Early American Automobile Industry

Chapter 20

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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.

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1906 Berkshire Side Entrance tonneau

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1906 Advertising

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.

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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.

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1900 Holyoke, "Little Elephant" Gasoline Trap

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1901 Holyoke Tourer

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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.

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1904 Matheson Touring, Henry Ford Driving

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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.

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1908 Big Four Laundelet

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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.

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1910 Matheson Advertisement

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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.

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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.

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1909 Palmer-Singer  Skimabout, with rumble, 28-30 h.p

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1909 Palmer-Singe Town car, 28-30 h.p.

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1908 Palmer-Singer Automobile Advertisement

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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.

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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.

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1910  Touring

It was the only car that completed the 250 mile Free-for- all race at Atlanta, GA in 1910 without a stop.


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1911 Touring

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1912 Light Six Touring


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1911 Advertisement

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 conditions.

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1910 American Traveler Touring

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1910 American Underslung

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1910 American-Underlsung Automobile Advertisement

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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 company.


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.

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1910 De Tamble Five Passenger with a Detachable Tonneau

Copied from the 1910 Automotive Industry Magazine


"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, etc."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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1905 Harrison Model A Automobile

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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.

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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


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1912 Lenox with rumble seat
Lenox Motor Car Co. Jamaica Plain, MA 

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1912 Lenox

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. 

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1909 Herreshoff Runabout with Single Tonneau

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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.

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1912 Herreshoff Five Passenger Touring

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1911 Herreshoff Automobile Advertisement


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1912 Herreshoff Advertisement

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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.


"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."

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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

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1912 Inter-State Advertisement

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1916 Inter-State Advertisement

Copied from the 1916 Automotive Industries Magazine

No Changes Made in Car Reduction on Roadster and Touring Models

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 roadster.

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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."

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Marthon's Official Logo
While the company was in Jackson, it was sometimes referred to as the Southern.

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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.

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1912 Marathon Light Six Coupe Automobile

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1912 Marthon Light Six Touring Automobile

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 fore-door tourist.

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

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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.

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1913 Partin -Palmer Roadster Automobile

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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.

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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.

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1909 Speedwell Automobile Advertisement

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1911 Speedwell Touring Automobile

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1913 Speedwell Roadster Automobile


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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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Addendum 1    Addendum 2   Addendum 3