History of Early American Automobile Industry
Chapter 12Home Forward Contents
As long as one could handle an automobile, he could get a license to drive one.
Claude Cox, who had made a three wheel vehicle for his senior year thesis at the Ross Polytechnic Institute and Charles Minshall, owner of Standard Wheel Co. of Terre Haute, IN, met one day in 1902, to discuss Minshall's desire to build an automobile. He knew nothing about building one , but he trusted what knowledge that Cox had. Cox was hired to design the car and to head Standard Wheels' new automobile department.
Cox proceeded and built an advanced car for its time and it was named the Overland. It was a two-cylinder water-cooled engine and mounted up front under a hood. It was fitted with a two-way switch plug for change over to two dry batteries. The switch plug was removeable so it could not be driven without it.
1903 Overland Runabout
The prototype was finished in February of 1903 and twelve were built that year. 1904 sales were doubled and Cox was already designing his 1905 models with a four-cylinder engine and a steering wheel. In January of 1905, the space was too cramped and he decided to move the Overland to Standard Wheels' plant in Indianapolis that was no longer in use.
He had scarcely begun to work when Minshill informed him that he wanted out because it was not proving to be profitable and he figured that it was not going to be so. Cox was lucky that a carriage maker by the name of David Parry was a customer of the Standard Wheel Co and had made an electric car in 1892 that wasn't driveable, saw the models and was willing to provide capital for 51 percent of the company.
Copied from the August Issue of the 1906 Automotive Industries Magazine
REORGANIZATION OF THE OVERLAND COMPANY
"Indianapolis, Ind., August 25.The long-expected reorganization of the Overland Automobile Company is being effected. A company is now being formed, headed by D. M. Parry, a well known carriage manufacturer, to take the plant. Something more than one year ago the Standard Wheel Company disposed of its automobile business to Claude E. Cox, and he has kept the factory open, employing a few men to make experiments with 1907 models. It is understood that the present site of the factory will be retained, but that it will be greatly improved and enlarged."
In 1906, he company's name became Overland Auto Company. New additions were made to the Parry Mfg. Co, and production began in 1907 just as the bank panic began an Parry lost everything including his house.
Meanwhile, John Willys was in his Overland Automobiles dealership in Elmira, NY, desperately trying to find the reason why his Overland automobiles had not been shipped. He had contracted the Overland's entire 1906 production and for another 465 for 1908. He had paid $10,000 in advance and his customers wanted their cars. With no answers to his telephone calls tor elegraph messages, he decided to travel to Indianapolis to see what was happening. When he got there, he was stuned to find out that the company had gone bankrupt and the owner had lost everything and no cars made. He immediately took took over the factory and did an inventory which showed that there were enough parts to build three cars.
1907 Detroit Automobile Advertisement
He was also the distributor for the Detroit car. He had bought the company's entire production for 1907. . The Detroit Auto Vehicle Company was established in 1904 with its first production in 1905. The model was called the Crown.
Evidently, the Detroit company had sold them too cheap to make a profit and financial conditons being as they were, the company closed down.
He paid off the workers salaries that were due, erected a large circus tent, and restarted the Overland company. He built 465 cars that year.
Copied from the 1908 Motor Magazine an article by a reporter who was visiting several new factories
"Overland In Tents
To leave the Premier and Marmon factories and in a little while come to the Overland factory is to leave a staid eastern city and drop down in a real live western town. They are surely "going some" at the Overland plant. They are literally building machines in large tents grouped about the factory precincts and every available inch of ground space is crammed with men who are being persuaded to do their utmost to bear their part in the production of the Overland successfor it has been a success, this little machine. Everybody at the Overland plant has the most irregular habits as regards eating and sleeping and quite regular ones as to work all the rest of the time; but through it all they carry a look of satisfaction that is unmistakable. On the dusty, bumpy road that runs past the factory doors test cars tear up and down just as hard as the men driving can send them. From a tent in the rear comes a continuous high-frequency rattle that tells of many engines on the test stands. In the clutch and striking mechanism. In the first place a multiple-disk clutch with cork inserts is used. In the second place comprehension of the failings of the disk clutch has led to the adoption of an ingenious automatic clutch brake; and, thirdly, the clutch-striking mechanism is all safely ensconced in an extension of the gearbox away from the dust and dirt and always lubricated."
1909 Taxicab catalogue picture
Not believing what was happening, Claude Cox quit the company in 1909. He was very unhappy and angry. Overland's production for that year was 4900 cars with some of them being six cylinders. He bought the Pope Toledo factory in Toledoin 1909 and moved there. Toledo would be the Overland's home from that time on. Also. In 1909, he bought the controlling interest in The Marion Motor Car Co. and sold cars built by them. He sold his interest back to the company in 1911.
The overland automobile experienced phenonomal growth for the next ten years. Only the Ford company had more sales. During that time, Willys merged with Curtis Aircraft and this made him president of that company. He moved his headquarters to New York City and and formed the Willys Corporation as a holding company.
One of his best buys was the Edwards Motor Car Company, Long Island, NY in 1912. Edwards was the last company to receive rights to the Knight engine. Willys was a great fan of this engine and wanted it for his new model that he had plans for. He bought the company outright including the patent rights to the engine. Everything was shipped to the former Garford plant in Eliria, OH. which Willys had previously bought. The new car became the Willys-Knight.
Copied from Coachbuilt's web site
"The January 5, 1913 New York Times reported: C.T. Silver, the Overland agent In New York, has evolved a scheme to aid those who desired to purchase cars on the part-payment system. The customer pays half of the catalogue price in cash, and 10 per cent is added to the remained, which is then paid off in six monthly installments. The purchased is required to maintain insurance on the car, the title to which remains with the company until the final payment. The first such plan that was made. Studebaker followed suit with their plan later that year.
The Willys-Knight was put into production in 1914 and even though in 1909, the company was changed to Willys-Overland, Willys-Knight was the first one to carry his name.
1918 Willys Automobile Advertisement
1929 Rumble Seat Coupe
Throughout the Willys-Knight production, it was one of his best sellers.
He made a very bad mistake in placing Clarence Earl a former hardware manufacturer, in charge of the Toledo operation.to oversee the continuous production. Earl did not do a good job. A disastrous strike took place at the Toledo plant in 1917 and his 1917 model wasn't put into production until 1919. By now the Overland was a moot car in competition with the Ford Model T.
In 1918, he purchased the Duesenberg facility in Newark, NJ, and the Willys-Knight sixes wereproduced there. He bought the Moline Plow Company, Moline, IL, makers of the Stephens automobile, in 1919..
The post war recession was a real hard blow to the industry and Willys Motor Corp. was no exception. He was in deep financial troubles. In order to survive, he had to seek help from the banks. Chase Manhattan offered to help only if Walter Chrysler would take over. Relunctly, he agreed. Chrysler's terms was a million dollar salary. The first thing that Chrysler did was to cut Willys' salary in half and the second thing was the firing of Clarence Earl. After two years of cost cutting, Chrysler left to take over as president of Maxwell -Chalmers. The Willys Six that was made in the Duesenberg plant was very similiar to the first Chrysler car.
1920 Overland Advertisement
Meanwhile, Willys got his company back through carefully putting his company through receivership and himself back into control. He disposed of his stock in Curtis airplanes and sold his Duesenberg plant to William Durant who was just starting his comeback after being fired from General Motors
Willy's did what he was his best at and that was selling. His sales soared to the point that his debt of $20,000,000 was now in the black in 1923 for the same amount. The 1924 Overland models were the last of this name.
John North Willys died in 1929. He knew how to get things done.
Within three years after going bankrupt with the Overland Motor Car Co., David Parry had regained his money and was ready to attempt building once more, but this time it would be with his name. He was sure that he had an answer to success in the automobile industry. He would build it in two models and in large enough quantities to offer it at a cheap price to guarantee a winner. He organized the Parry Auto Company in 1909 and within two months he was in operation with 389 employees and another three thousand in the near future and was delivering his cars to dealers. His desire was to make 5,000 the next year and be the first one to do so in two years of business. He did not succeed in the lower price range.
1910 Parry Model 30 Touring Automobile
1910 Parry Automobile Advertisement
1911 Parry Roadster
The following year, there was a large sign on the building with the name reading "Motor Car Manufacturing Company" and another car was being built there by the name of Pathfinder under that name. The two were built along side of each other. Parry was capitalized for $1,000,000, but only $150,000 was collected. The cars that were sold in 1910 were at a loss. There was no money left.
1911 Parry Bull Dog Advertisement
1911 Parry Touring Advertisement
Parry's failures in the automobile business did not affect his family business, He and his brother had owned a successful carriage business from the 1880's that was also building carriages until 1916. They also built bodies and in 1917 joined with Martin Carriage Works to form the Martin-Parry Co. to build truck bodies and continued doing so until the depression of 1929.
For the first year in business, the Pathfinder was being made at the Parry Auto Company factory the same time as the Parry automobile. When the Parrycompany went into receivership in 1910, its creditors took over the company and for lack of a better name, it was called the Motor Car Manufacturing Company. It was changed to Pathfinder Company in 1916. 1912 was the first year of production with some of Parry's creditors as shareholders and officers. The Parry was phased out as the Pathfinder was phased in.
1913 Pathfinder Model 40 Touring Automobile
Because body styling was its primary concern, it was known for its looks.. The speedster had a boattail, concealing the spare wheel, and having the top recessed into a panel top and designing a coach called the Martha Washington. Many colors could be chosen with different schemes that gave them a bright look. It was priced in Hudson and Cadillac range. It won accolades not only for its looks but reliability in long didtance tours. THye Rpyal Automobile Club gave it a certificate of performance in one of its tours.
1916 Pathfinder, King of Twelves Advertisement
In 1915, front swivel seats were available on the touring car. The first car in the country to offer this feature. The company quickly built sixes and in 1916 a twelve cylinder was built known as "Pathfinder, the Great". Shortage of material in 1917 caused the company to go under.
In September, 1905 the Forrest City Motor Car Company was organized in Cleveland, OH, known as the Forrest City. A prototype was built and investors were sought. The chief investor was Herbert Croxton a steel manfacturer from Massillon, OH and the company was moved to that city. The name of the car was to be the Jewell.
1907 Jewel Advertisement
1908 Jewell Advertisement
It was a typical high wheeler with rope drive. The body was hinged to the chassis at the rear so one could tilt it to do maintenance work. The "L" was dropped from the name. There was nothing else to distinguish it from other high wheelers and sales suffered. Early in 1909, the firm's name was changed to Jewel Motor Car Company and another new car was added to its line by the name of Breeze that last for less than a yeat. In August of that year The name was changed again with new owners.
Copied from the 1909 Automotive Industries Magazine
'Massillon, O., Aug. 16The Jewel Motor Car Company, of this city, will in the future be known as the Croxton-Keeton Motor Company, with a capitalization increased from $250,000 to $500,000. H. A. Croxton, whose name now appears in the designation of the company, will continue in his former position of president and treasurer. He is also connected with the Massillon Iron & Steel Company, the Massillon Bridge & Structural Company and the Massillon Foundry & Machine Company, and has been designing and constructing machinery and machine tools for the past fifteen years. F. M. Keeton has been in the automobile business for ten years, serving in various capacities with the Pope-Toledo and De Luxe companies, and for the past two years has been making a close study of the taxicab situation.
1910 Croxton-Keeton Automobile Advertisement
For 1910, the Croxton-Keeton line will consist of eight models, built on three chassis of 30, 45 and 60 horse-power. The 45 horse-power cars will be practically duplicates of the two Jewel cars which passed creditably in the Glidden tour. The smaller chassis will be particularly adapted to town-car use, and may possibly be built as a taxicab.
The Croxton-Keeton Company will produce 600 cars in 1910. It has purchased the factory which it has leased for the past three years, and, although the capacity has already been doubled, is designing another additional building 160 by 380 feet, of sawtooth construction. Work will be begun during the next month. The company has also secured an option on seven acres of ground across the street from the present factory for future enlargements. Distributing branches have already been established in New York, Pittsburgh, Pa., Cleveland, Chicago and Boston, and in the near future Minneapolis, Minn.; Kansas City, Mo.; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco, and Atlanta, Ga., will also be covered. The car made by the Croxton-Keeton Company will be known as the Croxton-Keeton, instead of the Jewel."
Because the production had not been completely halted, the Croxton-Keeton cars became Croxton models with a couple of new ones added. The company was reorganized as the Croxton Motor Car Company.
1910 Croxton-Keeton Roadster
Croxton Motor Car Company merged with the Royal Tourist in 1911 to form a holding company known as Consolidated Motor Car Company, but it wasn't too long before they split and Croxton was once more on his own with his Jewel Carriage Company
Copied from the 1912 Issue of the Automobile Journal Magazine
"The secretary of state in Ohio has authorized the merger of the Jewel Carriage Company and the Ohio Motor Car Company, both of Cincinnati, O. In the past the Jewel company, which formerly was a well known maker of horse vehicles, has been in charge of the sales of the Ohio gasoline car. made by the Ohio company. The carriage end of the business was sold to the American Carriage Company of Cincinnati some months ago.
The Ohio Motor Car Company is constructing an additional plant at Colborne, Ont.. which will be operated by the Canadian branch. The officers of the concern are: President and general manager, Charles F. Pratt; vice president and factory manager, A. E. Schafer; secretary."
After splitting with its holding company, the Consolidated Motor Car Company, it had financial troubles that put it into receivership which lasted until 1912. The company was reorganized as the Ohio Motor Car Company with Jewell as president. Previous to this the Ohio Motor car Company was the sales organization for the Jewel company. Ralph Northway was the engineer. He was the owner of the Nortway Engine Company.
As was often with the automobile companies, there would be disagreements within the company that would cause a breakup.This and with credtors banging at the front door while the owners were running out the back door would put it into receivership. This was what happened to the Ohio Motor Car Company in 1912. Northway sold his engine company to General Motors and bought out the entire Ohio Company and reorganized it as the new Crescent Motor Car Company with the Ohio becoming a new model for the company.
The company went sideways for a little over a year before it went downard and out of business.
Louis Hoffman was president of the Hoffman Bicycle Company, Cleveland, OH who decided to build automobiles in 1900. His first car that he put into production was the Hoffman Steam Car in 1901. His sales were enough to encourage him to organize a company, Hoffman Automobile and Manufacturing Company, to put them in full time production in 1902.
In January of 1903, he introduced his gasoline model. There was enough popular demand for his car, a single cylinder, 7 1/2 hp touring, to keep building them calling it the Hoffman General Utility Gasoline Car.
1903 Hoffman Rear Entrance Tonneau
1904 Hoffman, Shelby, and Mitchell
In order to expand his business, he had to get additional financing and he reorganized with a new president, Edward D. Shurmer. There were enough disagreements between Hoffman and Schumer to cause Hoffman to resign. The Hoffman became the Royal Tourist
Copied from the 1904 Horseless Age Magazine
'The Hoffman Automobile & Mfg. Co., which has been succeeded by the Royal Motor Car Co., built about 100 cars during the past season. The machine was a light single-cylinder runabout which proved very popular, a number of them being sold in Chicago. For the coming season the new company will build heavier cars; one model a two-cylinder car of 16-horsepower and the other a four-cylinder car of 32-horsepower. The new products show radical changes throughout and the Hoffman type of car has been wholly abandoned. The company is now in shape to make deliveries'
Hoffman started another company, Reliance Motor Car Company. The same company that joined with General Motors in 1909.
The Royal Motor Car Co., of Cleveland, OH, which has succeeded the Hoffman Automobile & Mfg. Co have two or four cylinders placed vertically in front under a hood. The motor in the 16-horsepower car has two cylinders and has a maximum speed of 1,300 revolutions and is capable of being throttled down as low as 250 revolutions. An improved cone clutch is used, with a universal connection between it and the transmission, the latter being of the three-speed sliding gear form, in an aluminum crank case, which is dust proof and oil tight. The direct drive is on the high speed, and transmission is by means of the universal joint on the propeller shaft, with bevel gear drive on the rear axle. The car weighs 1,750 pounds and will list at $2,300, which will include a full equipment of gas and oil lamps,. and set of tools. With a canopy top and set of baskets the price will be $2,500.
When Edward Shurmer bought the company from the Huffman Automobile and Mfg. Company in late 1903, he hired the well known engineer, Robert Jardine, as his chief engineer. The name was changed to The Royal Motor Car Company and the model name was the Royal Tourist. It was first shown at the New York Automobile Show in January and was well received and 100 cars were sold that season. With encouraging sales, the company was reorganized in 1906 as the Royal Motor and Manufacturing Company. The capital stock was raised from $200,000 to $500,000 with a work force of 400 men.
1905 Royal Tourist
1909 Royal TouristTouring car
The sales continued to be encouraging. It was reorganized as the Royal Mortor Car and Manufacturing Company in 1906. In 1907, it moved into a new factory building with a 400-man work force. A six-cylinder model was planned for 1908, but as with other companies, the Panic of 1907 prevented this. It did survive the panic and was reorganized as the Royal Tourist Car Co. in October of 1908. The six was not made in 1909. In late 1910, It merged with the Keeton Automobile Company to form the Consoladated Motor Car Company. It was dropped from production that year.
Hart Berg, of New York City, announced in the latter part of 1902, he was going to manufacture two automobiles of the European type. The first one was the Berg. It was built in Cleveland by the Berg Automobile Co. The prototype was built by the Cleveland Machine Screw Company. It was capitalized at $400,000 and it was first shown at the 1903 New York Automobile Show. It was an exact copy of French Panhard car and was advertised as such. Robert Jardine, who designed the Car-Nation was the designer for the Berg and the second car, the Euclid. The Berg Euclid was never made.
1904 Berg Tonneau
1904 Berg Advertisement
In 1904, Berg sold his Berg company to Worthington Automobile Company
1904 Berg Automobile Advertisement
Copied from the 1904 Horseless Age Magazine
"A new company made up of the head men in the Worthington Automobile Co., has purchased all the rights .and property of the Berg Automobile Co. The business will continue to be conducted as the Berg Automobile Co. The -4-horsepower car will be sold as the Berg, with the Reinier Co. as selling agent. The Worthington Automobile Co., 547 Fifth avenue, will sell the 18-horsepower Berg under the name of the Meteor. The headquarters of the new company will be at the latter address. The company is now erecting a garage at 141 to lol West Forty-ninth street, running through to Fiftieth street, at a cost of $450,000. The officers of the Worthington Automobile Co. are Charles C. Worthington, president; W. ,T. P. Moore, vice president and general manager; H. Rossiter Worthington, secretary and treasurer."
1904 Berg Tonneau Automobile
1904 Berg Automobile Advertisement
1907 De Luxe Side Entrance Tonneau
The De Luxe car was as prententious as its name and its price tag of $4,750 was indictive of this. The company claimed to use the more expensive bearings manufactured in Germany which was not true. They were American made Hess-Bright bearings. The first factory that was used belonged to the defunct Yale automobile in Toledo,OH.
1907 De Luxe Advertisement
1907 De Luxe Automobile Advertisement
Shortly after beginning, the Kaufman brothers merged with C.H. Blomstrom maker of the Blomstrom and Queen cars in Detroit. A factory of its own was built in Detroit, but the next year, it was out of business.
During C.H. Blomstrom years of manufacturing automobiles, he had built five different cars, Queen, Blomstrom, Gyroscope, Rex Cycle Car, and the Frontmobile. His first car he built was an experimental model in 1898 and his second one in 1899, was also an experimental model. In 1902 He built a small single cylinder runabout named for himself, the Blomstrom. By the end of 1903, he had built twentey-five of these.
1904 Queen Runabout
1905 Queen Advertisement
1906 Queen Side-Entrance Touring
In 1905, the four cylinder was used and the single cylinder was dropped. During the summer of 1906, the company was in trouble with the authorities for improper incorporation. His problem was solved when the owners of the Car De Luxe negotiated a merger with the Queen and was a blessing when the Queen was discontinued. His operation was moved across town into a new factory and was organized as Blomstrom Mfg. Co. The two cars became the Blomstonm in 1907. The next year, the Queen and Car De Luxe went under. An estimated figure for the total amount of Queen cars that were built is 1500.
When Olds Motor Works burned down in 1901, Its engineer, Charles King, and chief mechanic, Johnathon Maxwell left and teamed up to make a car of their own that came to be known as the Northern that Maxwell had designed. The design resembled the Oldsmobile. The Northern Manufacturing Company was organized in 1902. The early versions were called Silent Northern.
1902 Norhern Runabout
Copied from the 1903 Motor Age Magazine
"The Northern Automobile Co. management expressed itself as more than pleased with its business in 1903. "We turned out more than 500 automobiles,'' said Mr. Miner, '' and could not keep up with our orders. I do not think we will be able to handle all the business we could get in the coming year. We have cut the price of our single cylinder car from $800 to $750, and have put many improvements in it. We are just now completing our two-cylinder car for the New York show. This is our '15' car15 horsepower, 1,500 pounds, and $1,500, but more than 15 miles an hour. This car has direct drive. The tonneau is not detachable and it is a thoroughly practical touring car. It will be on the market in May."
In 1904 Maxwell left the company and he and Benjamin Briscoe became partners to build a car of their own that was known as the Briscoe-Maxwell automobile. King did all the engineering from there on.. His 1906 design had left hand steering, air brakes, clutch and had four cylinders.
1906 Northen Automobile Advertisement
All operating controls were located on the steering column in 1908. The two cylinder cars were being made in a new factory at Port Huron, MI. That year, they merged with the Wayne Automobile Co. with expectations they would continue building cars. Soon thereafter, the E.M.F.took over the entire plants and Wayne and Northern were out of business by years end. Charles King had left the company some time ago to build his car known as the "King".
Charles King of Detroit was mentioned as having Henry Ford riding a bicycle behind him while he was driving his four-cylinder automobile, making it the first one in Detroit. The two were very good friends. He furnished the parts for Ford's car. King had entered his car in the 1895 Chicago Herald-Tribune Race but it was not finished on time. He was the umpire for the Mueller-Benz entry and drove it to a second place finish.
Charles King testing his 1896 car in Detroit, MI
He was an inventor of gas engines for vehicles and motor launches and held several patents on them. He left his busines to serve in the navy during the Spanish American War. He sold his engine business to Ransom Olds' Olds Motor Works and worked as his engineer until 1901. Then he and Johnathan Maxwell, who also worked for Olds, established the Northern Manufacturing Company that built the Northern car from 1902-1908.
When Northern began to fail in 1908, he left with plans to build another car, but before he did, he spent two years in Europe studying automobile design. He returned to Detroit to build his new four cylinder car. It was tested in 1910 and put into production in 1911 as the King Motor Car Company with a capital stock of $500,000.
1911 & 1912 King Closed Coupe
Copied from the 1912 Automotive Industries Magazine
The unique King car introduced to the motoring public during the season of 1911 remains mechanically unchanged for 1912. The line comprises three models: a touring, roadster and coupe, all of which are built on the same chassis. The coupe is the latest product of the King company. It is finished with nickel trimmings throughout; is equipped with a Disco acetylene selfstarter; has electric side and tail lights and gas headlights; a Standard speedometer is fitted; and one of its best features is an adjustable driver's seat which may be pulled forward so that a woman may drive the car, or shoved back to give room for a long-legged man. It is upholstered in leather; has left-hand drive with the gear-shifting lever in the center; and it seats three passengers comfortably. A new patent windshield is a feature of the equipment on the touring and roadster models. The King motor car is unique because of the simplicity and originality of its design. The four cylinders of the motor are cast en bloc and integral with the upper half of the crankcase. The exhaust pipe also is an integral part of the cylinder casting; and the inlet manifold is incorporated in the plate that covers the valve operating mechanisms.
1913 King Boattail Roadster
1913 King Advertisement
The lid on the boattail could be lifted to store luggage or a spare wheel.. He was working out of a rented factory, but moved into the old Hupp automobile factory hat had recenly been vacated. He expanded his business too fast and this expansion may have caused him to go into receivership and purchased by Artemus Ward. King was out and a new president was installed. Shorlty thereafter, Ward installed himself as president. The 1915 model had a V-8 engine with a price tag of $1350.00.
Copied from the 1915 July Issue of the Automotive Industries Magazine
King to Make No Changes for 1916
"Detroit, Mich., July 12The King Motor Car Co. has decided not to make any changes, either in construction or in price, in its eight-cylinder car until.the end of this year. This is in accordance with the new policy recently adopted by the company. During the first six months of 1915 the King company has built and sold about 3500 cars. The first eights were shipped about Jan. 15. It is expected that during the second half of this year the production will total about as many cars as during the first half of the year. Officials say that the business outlook is very good, dealers reporting conditions to be most satisfying in practically all parts of the country. "
The company sold 3,000 cars in 1916 which was its largest output. Charles King went back into military service in 1916 with the U.S. Army Signal Corp and designed the King-Bugatti airplane engine.The eight cylinder was the only one used on the King automobile and production declined very rapidly year after year until 1920.
1917 King Model EE
1920 King Advertisement
The King's assests were sold in 1921 to Charles Finnegan of Buffalo, NY and moved it there. The company struggled until 1925 when it finally closed down.
When Benjamin Briscoe was ousted as president of United States Automobile Company in 1913, he became an unwanted person in the automobile industry. The company's 127 subsideries were in shambles and were ready for extinction. He did the only thing that he could do and that was to follow his pre vice-president brother Frank to France and try to make a fresh start.
After studying in France for two years on European car designs, he and his brother Frank came back with two cars The one that he wanted to bear his name, Briscoe, had one huge head light that was illegal to drive in most states and a paper mache body. While he was in France, he noticed that there were a lot of small three-wheel cars running on the streets and he got the bright idea that this was what the people back home would love to have. They were cheap and this would be a model that he could compete with Ford. His first choice for a name was Ajax, but that name was too common. He finally settled on the name Argo.
1915 Argo Cyclecar
He needed financing for his new Briscoe Motor Corporation and a factory away from Detroit. The factory would be in Jackson. He found his backers.
Copied from the 1914 Automotive Industries Magazine
Briscoe Capital to Be $6,000,000, Swift Interests Behind New Co.Lewis Plant Bought30,000 Cars Planned
Jackson, Mich., Dec. 17Final arrangements for the reorganization of the Briscoe Motor Co. and its affiliated concern, the Argo Motor Co., both of this city, were made to-day whereby the Swift interests of Chicago are to back the greatly enlarged organization originally brought to this city by Benjamin Briscoe and his associates. The deal means an increase in the capital stock of the Briscoe Motor Co. to $6,000,000, of which $4,600,000 is common and the balance preferred.
Coincident with the perfecting of this enlargement, it becomes known that the large and modern plants of the Lewis Spring & Axle Co. here have been bought by the Briscoe combination, as well as some of the equipment in them. These plants have been occupied in the production by the Lewis concern of the Hollier eight, but the purchase does not mean that Lewis will go out of business. On the contrary, the plant at Chelsea, Mich., which Lewis bought in August, will be used for the making of the Hollier eight, according to Fred Lewis. This is the old Flanders plant and is a large four-story structure. It has been fully equipped with all the necessary machinery and equipment by the Lewis company and has been in operation for some time. Its production capacity is 20,000 cars or more.
Some time ago this movement of providing greater production facilities was begun by the Briscoe concerns, and as was reported in The Automobile for Nov. 11, the Jackson Motor Parts Co. was formed with a capital of $200,000 to make parts for Argo and Briscoe cars. More recently, the machinery and equipment of the new defunct Mason Motor Car Co., Waterloo, Iowa, was bought and has been brought to Jackson for installation in the motor parts plant The plant of the Jackson Metal Products Co. has also been taken over to give added production facilities.
Benjamin Briscoe is still the head of the reorganized company; Frank Briscoe, who only recently became general manager of the old company, appears in the new as vice-president in charge of manufacturing; L. E. Wilson of Chicago, who recently became associated with the Briscoe concern as general manager, has the title of vice-president in charge of sales and advertising in the new combination.
The result of all these added production facilities is said to be a schedule of 30,000 cars for the first year, of which 5000 are to be light deliveries, 10,000 the present models, and 15,000 a new four-cylinder design at low price
His sales were not doing so well that he needed another gimmick and that would be a choice of two engines. "Buy the Four, drive it for a month and if you didn't like, bring it back and exchange it for an "Eight" and only pay the difference."
Two Headlights Instead of One
Externally, the 1916 Briscoe car is quite different from the 1915 model chiefly in that two headlights are used in place of the single light incorporated in the radiator, which scarcely met the requirements of certain states where two lamps are compulsory equipment.
Later in 1916, he offereed a smaller four model that heclaime that he and fourteen of the brightest engineers in France designed.
1919 Model B Touring
1920 Briscoe Automobile Advertisement
No amount of gimmcks nor bragging about the brilliance of his designs was helpind and in 1920 his last gimmick to simplify construction proved fatal. He gave up and turned the presidency over to Clarence Earl. Earl continued building Briscoes with what parrts he had on hand and selling them until 1922. In the meantime, they were sold as the Earl cars. Briscoe had departed for the west to seek other ways to make a living.Home Forward Contents