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Amesbury Metal Body Co.; England Mfg. Co.; Motor Vehicle Equipment Co.
Amesbury Metal Body Co., 1907-1911; Amesbury, Mass.; England Mfg. Co.,1911-1921; Motor Vehicle Equipment Co., 1920; Detroit, Michigan
Associated Firms
Walker-Wells Body Co.; Fisher Body Corp.

Frederick England was the driving force behind the organization of two related body-building firms, the Amesbury Metal Body Co., of Amesbury, Massachusetts and the England Manufacturing Company of Detroit, Michigan. The latter firm being so successful that it was acquired by the Fisher Body ineterests in 1920.

(The England Mfg. Co. was unrelated to the The Gordon England Company of America, which was formed in 1929 to take over the assets of the Holbrook Co.)

Frederick (Fred) England was born April 1867 in Rochester, Strafford County, New Hampshire to Michael (b.1805-d.1874) and Phoebe J. (Roberts - b.1820-d.1904) England.

Born in England in 1805, Michael England emigrated to the United States at the age of 18, finding employment in a cotton mill at Salmon Falls, New Hampshire, where he continued to work for several years. He saved up enough money to purchase a farm in Gonic, Strafford County, New Hampshire and after a number of years married Phebe J. Roberts, a native of Strafford County, N.H., and to the blessed union were born the following children: Martha (b. 1846-d.1880); Sarah A. (m. Walter Wiggin - b.1848-d.1925); William H. (b.1868); Walter (b. Feb 13, 1859) Freeman (b. Dec. 1865) and Frederick (b. Apr. 1867) England.

The 1870 US Census lists 4yo Frederick living with his parents, Michael (70yo) & Jane T. (48yo) and two siblings, Freeman (6yo) and Walter (8yo) in Rochester, Strafford County, New Hampshire (the family’s farm was actually located 2½ miles south of Rochester in Gonic). Noticeably absent is the three sibling’s mother Phoebe J. (who may erroneously listed as Jane T. England as they age is about the same).

Although Frederick remained in school after Michael England’s 1875 passing, his older brother Walter abandon his schooling at the age of 15, finding employment on a neighboring farm. In 1877 Walter relocated 10 miles southeast to the village of Rollinsford, N.H. where he began farming on his own accord. Frederick joined him and the 1880 US Census lists him ‘at school’ as Fred R. England (14yo) living with his older brother Walter (19yo), and Walter’s bride, Clara A. England (17yo).

After he completed his secondary education in the Rollinsford school, Frederick was apprenticed to a machinist and during the next decade worked at various firms located in and around Lowell, Massachusetts in addition to serving four years in the Massachusetts National Guard as a lieutenant.

In 1888 our subject married Mary Jane (aka Jennie) McGarvin (b.1864 in Canada, emigrated to the US in 1868) and to the blessed union were born three children; Ralph W. (b. Apr. 21, 1889); Grace Madeline (b. Aug. 19, 1892); and Frederick jr. (b. Aug. 29, 1894) England.

Sometime before 1892 he relocated to Amesbury, Massachusetts to accept a position as a machinist at Atwood Bros., a well-known manufacturer of carriage lamps located at 2 Chestnut Street. Organized in 1872 by W. I. and I. H. Atwood, the brothers’ lamps could be found on many of the carriages built in and around Amesbury. The firm was subsequently reorganized as the Attwood Mfg. Co. and in late 1908 as the Attwood-Castle Co., the November 12, 1908 issue of Motor World recording:

“Castle Acquires an Atwood Interest.

“F.E. Castle, formerly with Gray & Davis, of Amesbury, Mass., has again gone into the lamp business by acquiring an interest in the Atwood Mfg. Co., of Amesbury. As a result of the arrangement the name of the company will be changed to the Atwood-Castle Co., for the future.”

(Although they shared the same name, Gray & Davis’ William Gray was not connected with William H. Gray, the famous Manhattan carriage dealer located at Nos. 20-22 and 63 Wooster St. who distributed many Amesbury-built carriages during the late 1800s.)

On Sept. 16, 1896 a machinist named William Gray (b. Aug. 1868) formed a firm dedicated to manufacturing lamps for the exclusive use of motor cars, his partner in the enterprise was J. Albert Davis (b. May 1865), an Essex County businessman who supplied $2700 of the firm’s $3000 capitalization, the remaining $300 paid in by Gray.

Gray & Davis’ first factory was located in a small brick building, with a production of ten sets of lamps per week. In those early days automobile lamps were powered by one of three systems, kerosene was the most common, closely followed by acetylene, with battery-powered systems being a distant third.

While kerosene was the cheapest, requiring only an old carriage lamp to put the light to the road, its candlepower was far from satisfactory and most automobilists insisted upon the much brighter acetylene system which required an on-board canister of acetylene gas for fuel. A complete 2-lamp acetylene system cost between $75 and $100, a very costly piece of equipment at the time. The battery-powered systems were too impractical as the acid-cell battery required frequent replacement as a practical on-board charging system was not yet available.

As the sales of motor cars increased, so did Gray & Davis’ business and in 1899 it became necessary to substantially enlarge the first factory. It became necessary to hire a number of additional mechanics and craftsmen to keep up with demand, and Frederick England was hired on as their chief machinist, the 1900 US Census lists his occupation as machinist. By that time J. Albert Davis share in the firm had been acquired by Lambert Hollander a well-known Amesbury carriage builder who for many years had been a minority shareholder and director in the firm. He remained a partner in Gray & Davis until 1917 when he sold his share to S. Preston Moses and retired to Florida.

In early 1907 a group of Amesbury business owners decided to establish an automobile body-building plant devoted to the manufacture of aluminum –sheathed composite bodies, which were slowly supplanting the decades-old wood-sheathed bodies that had been built up until that time. The April 18, 1907 issue of The Automobile announced the firm’s organization:

“Amesbury, Mass., is to have a large factory devoted exclusively to the building of metal bodies. A company has been formed under the title of the Amesbury Metal Body Company, and has secured a large, centrally-located factory with 20,000 square feet floor area, which is now being remodeled and machinery installed. The plant will be in operation at the beginning of June. The heads of the new company are J. Albert Davis, formerly of Gray & Davis; James H. Walker of Walker Carriage Company, John Foster and Fred England.”

J. Albert Davis and James H. Walker supplied the bulk of the capital with John W. Foster, Gray & Davis’ secretary and Frederick England, its chief machinist, providing the management and engineering with Foster being credited with a number of the firm’s body designs.

They leased space in the former No. 5 Babcock plant on Chestnut Street and began the manufacture of aluminum doors, fenders, bonnets (hoods) and body panels with a staff of 40. Amesbury historian John Bartley claims the firm built an average of 8 complete bodies per week , the majority of their work destined for Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, Stevens-Duryea Motor Co.

Its listing in the 1909 International Motor Cyclopedia follows:

“Amesbury Metal Body Co., Cor. Clarke and Elm Sts., Amesbury, Mass. Mfrs. aluminum, iron and steel bodies. Est. April 1, 1907.”

Numerous aluminum body panels were supplied to the Walker-Wells Body Co., owned by James H. Walker, one of its directors, and small numbers of completed bodies were built for Boston’s ALCO, Packard and Studebaker distributors as well as the body for George W. Hamblet’s 1909 Hamblet automobile. In addition to its main plant on Chestnut street the firm also leased office space on the other side of the railroad tracks at the corner of Clark & Elm Sts.

The Amesbury Metal Body Company was a known exhibitor at the 1911 Boston Automobile show and on November 14, 1911 Fred England, was awarded US Pat. No. 1008805 (Filed Apr 25, 1911) for a ‘Door for Automobiles and Other Vehicles’.

The December 1911 issue of Carriage Monthly included the following tribute to the firm:

“Where Skill and Hard Work Won Out

“The success of the Amesbury Metal Body Co., Amesbury, Mass., manufacturers of automobile bodies and fenders, affords a splendid example of the possibilities open to mechanics in the East to establish an industry along the lines which were in vogue in the early history of New England industries. Many of the largest manufacturing industries of the present day located in New England are the outcome and development of a small beginning.

“It was the custom for one or two mechanics living in the same neighborhood and possessed of practical knowledge in a particular line of manufacturing to associate themselves in a partnership for the manufacture of the article in which they were skilled.

“In many cases their only assets were their mechanical skill, good character and a capacity for hard work. They found a sale for the goods in their immediate neighborhood and business was confined to a restricted area. The profits derived from the sale of their goods was turned back into the plant, the partners drawing just a sufficient amount to cover their daily household needs.

“With the development and growth of the country there came a corresponding development in their business, which meant larger factories and more employees. The employees were the sons and daughters of the neighbors, and, as new capital became necessary, shares of stock were sold, and these neighbors participated in the profits of the business. Today in scores of instances these small beginnings have grown into large and most important industries.

“The Amesbury Metal Body Co. demonstrates that it is still possible to start on the old lines, and with small capital succeed in building up a profitable business. Starting in business three years ago with a small capital they have achieved a success which is truly remarkable. At first they adopted the standard method of producing bodies, but they soon realized that the old-fashioned method was too slow and that in order to build up a profitable business it would be necessary for them to devise a system which would enable them to produce their goods not only at the least cost, but also in larger quantities in the same given time, and having become convinced of this fact, they undertook to work out the problem.

“They could not draw from the results and experiments of others made in this line as the plans of manufacturing which had been evolved by them were entirely original, consequently, they were dependent on their own resources to work out new ideas, as every dollar invested in the enterprise belonged solely to the members of the firm. They were not handicapped by directors nor factory managers in their experiments.

“With a feeling that their future success depended absolutely upon the perfection of their ideas, they started upon the task of working them out. It was no easy task, and they toiled long hours and many times under discouraging conditions, and, having such a small capital to start with, they were worried as to the outcome, as failure to perfect the method which they had in view would mean the loss of their entire savings which they had put in their capital, as the expense attendant upon the experiments would have absorbed the entire amount. But eventually their skill conquered the difficulty and they succeeded in perfecting their ideas.

“Today they are producing bodies under that system which are practically perfect, not only as regards strength and durability, but also in the other essential of a high-class body, absolute smoothness of surface. The best evidence that could be offered as to the quality of their work and the satisfactory service which they render their patrons is the fact that they have manufactured 2,500 bodies of one type for one manufacturer under their new method.

“It is pleasant in these days of large capitalization to learn that it is possible for skilled mechanics to go into business and successfully compete with firms which have been established for years and with ample capital to finance their contracts. Today the Amesbury Metal Body Co., as the result of skill and persistence, is one of the largest automobile aluminum body manufacturers in the country, and in addition to reaping a substantial reward for themselves they are giving employment to a large number of skilled mechanics in the town of Amesbury. From the present indications, they will run their factory to its full capacity for 1912. The company sells only to the automobile manufacturers and does not accept orders from individuals.”

The firm’s directors soon realized there was significantly more money to be made in Detroit and during the Spring of 1912 organized a Detroit-based firm to take advantage of that opportunity, the April 25, 1912 issue of The Iron Age reporting:

“The England Mfg. Company, Detroit, has been incorporated with $50,000 capital stock to manufacture a line of pressed steel doors and other specialties for automobiles. The incorporators are Frederick England, John W. Foster and J. Albert Davis.”

June 20, 1912 issue of Motor World:

“England Leaves Bay State for Michigan.

The England Mfg. Co., which produce; metal stampings and automobile accessories, has removed from Amesbury, Mass., to Detroit, Mich., where it is occupying the factory at 1559 Jefferson avenue which once was used by the King Motor Car Co. J. Albert Davis, who at one time was of the lamp making firm of Gray & Davis, is prominently identified with the England company.”

July 1912 The Hub:


“The England Mfg. Co. has removed from Amesbury, Mass.. to Detroit, Mich., where it is occupying the factory at 1559 Jefferson avenue, formerly used by the King Motor Car Co. The England Mfg. Co. produces metal stampings and automobile accessories. J. Albert Davis, who at one time was of the lamp making firm of Gray & Davis, is prominently identified with the England company.”

The firm’s executives were all listed in the 1915 Detroit Board of Commerce members directory as follows: Fred England, England Manufacturing Co. ; Albert Davis, Vice President, England Manufacturing Co.; John W. Foster, Treasurer, England Manufacturing Co.

At the time England Mfg. Co. was the only Detroit-based manufacturer producing one-piece stamped door panels for automobile bodies and by 1916 the firm was so inundated with orders that they constructed a new factory at 44 Leavitt St., W., Detroit, Michigan, the June 15, 1916 American Machinist reporting:

“The England Manufacturing Co., manufacturer of automobile parts, is constructing a new factory at Leavitt and Campbell Ave., Detroit, Mich.”

Within the year the factory was completed as announced in the May 26, 1917 issue of Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record:

“The England Manufacturing Co., Leavitt street, near Junction avenue, new factory completed; employs 125 men, to add 50 more.”

The firm celebrated a successful 6 years in business with a display ad in the September 26, 1918 issue of Iron Age:


The advertisement coincided with the election of Charles P. Parsons as the firm’s vice-president.

Charles P. Parsons was a well-known Detroit executive, who had been identified with a number of Detroit automobile manufacturers. Born in St. Clair, St. Clair County, Michigan on April 8, 1878 to Warren J. and Jennie (Husel) Parsons, Charles P. Parsons acquired his education in the public schools of his native city and remained on the farm until eighteen years of age, when he became a salesman, eventually becoming the purchasing agent for the Monroe Manufacturing Company, a body manufacturer located in Monroe, Michigan. He was subsequently appointed chief clerk in the body division of the Cadillac Motor Company, from which position he resigned to become purchasing agent of the C. R. Wilson Body Company, holding this position two years, while through the succeeding five years he was in charge of the metal stamping division of the Fisher Body Corporation.

Backed by Fisher Body interests, in November of 1918, Parsons purchased a third interest in the England Mfg. Co., becoming its vice president and general manager, and coincident with the firm’s January 1, 1920, takeover by Fisher Body, became its president, the sale revealed in the following article published in the January 29, 1920 issue of The Automobile which announced the formation of the Motor Vehicle Equipment Co.:

“Equipment Co. Formed to Build Truck Cabs

“DETROIT, Jan. 24 — The Motor Vehicle Equipment Co., to specialize in the manufacture of cabs for motor trucks, has been incorporated, with a capital of $600,000, of which 5000 shares will be common and 1000 preferred, of par value of $100 each. The plant is at 41 Federal Avenue, Detroit, and is headed by Fred England, who has been connected with the England Mfg. Co., sold recently to the Fisher Body Corp. John W. Foster, treasurer, formerly was a designer of automobile bodies for the England company and Chris B. Madson, factory manager, has had wide experience in the body manufacturing field. Charles P. Parsons, president of the England Co., is a director. The company expects to be in full production by Feb. 15. More than $300,000 of the common stock was subscribed for and paid in at the first stockholders' meeting.”

41 Federal Avenue, Detroit, was also the address of the Federal Motor Truck Company, so we can assume MVEC had some connection with Federal. In fact the only mention of the Motor Vehicle Equipment Co. comes from the preceding announcement, the firm apparently vanished soon afterwards.

Frederick England’s son, Frederick England Jr., went to work for his father following his discharge from the US Army at the end of World War I. When Fisher Body purchased the firm, Fred jr. went to work for the Durant Motor Car Company in Lansing, Michigan. In 1922 he left his position with Durant and formed a partnership with H. J. Cook as the England-Cook Motor Sales Company, distributors of Chevrolet motor cars.

In 1921 Fisher Body combined the England Manufacturing Company’s operations with that of the Ternstedt Manufacturing Co., as recorded in the August 27, 1921 issue of Automobile Topics:


“Detroit Concern Takes Over Fisher Body Hardware Plants—Also England Mfg. Co. — Maintains a Capacity Production Schedule.

“Arrangements have been completed, whereby the Ternstedt Manufacturing Co., Detroit, has taken over the body hardware plants of the Fisher Body Corp., as part of an extensive expansion program. This enlargement of its facilities which is described as necessary because of a steadily increasing flow of business, likewise includes the purchase of the plant of the England Manufacturing Co., as well as the erection of a large plant in Detroit. These added facilities are described as giving the Ternstedt organization the distinction of being the world's largest builder of automobile body hardware.

“No sooner was the consummation of the two deals which placed the facilities of the body hardware plants of the Fisher Body Corp., and the plant of the England Manufacturing Co. at the disposal of the Ternstedt company completed, than work immediately started on the building of a fine new plant in Detroit, the building being completed and the equipment purchased from the Fisher organization installed just 45 days after ground was first broken. This new plant, which is designated as plant No. "2" together with the England company plant No. "3," and the original Ternstedt plant No. "1," provides facilities that will enable the company to care for the demands which have been placed upon it.

“A capacity production schedule has been maintained for some time past, according to Paul W. Seiler, now president and general manager and who, before the reorganization, was general manager of the Ternstedt plant. This production schedule will be maintained indefinitely; it is pointed out, as many of the company's customers have already lined up their entire requirements for some time ahead. In increasing the scope of its work, it is the aim of the company as described by Seiler, to so standardize the building of body hardware, that purchasers of the company's products may avail themselves of the advantage of buying their complete requirements from one source instead of scattering their purchases as heretofore has been necessary.

“The Ternstedt name has long been identified with Fisher interests, as will be recalled, and the present plan whereby it takes over the automobile body hardware facilities of that organization, places it in a strong position. Whereas the company builds hardware for both closed and open bodies, more than eighty per cent of its business is for closed type bodies. This is attributed to the constantly increasing demand for the closed vehicle as an all-Season conveyance.”

Under the General Motors Corp. entry in the 1922 Edition of Moody’s Manual of Railroads and Corporation Securities:


“FISHER BODY CORP. (Controlled by General Motors Corp.).—Inc. Aug 21. 1916, in N. Y., and acquired all the property and assets and assumed the liabilities of Fisher Body Co. and Fisher Closed Body Co.; also the entire $150,000 capital stock of the Fisher Body Co. of Canada, Ltd. The Fisher Body Co. was incorporated July 22. 1908, in Mich., and the Fisher Closed Body Co., on Dec 22. 1910, in Mich. Upon the transfer of their assets these two companies each reduced their capital to the nominal sum of $1,000. The Fisher Body Co. of Canada, Ltd. was incorporated April 25, 1912. and operates a plant at Walkerville, Ont.

“The body plants, 33 in number, are located at Detroit, Mich., and Walkerville, Ont. The corporation is the largest manufacturer of automobile bodies in the world. The total floor space of plants is over 4,000,000 sq. ft.; the number of employees. 14.000. and the volume of business, $100,000,000. The Fisher Body Ohio Co., a subsidiary, was incorporated Oct 17, 1919, in Ohio, to build and operate a new plant in Cleveland, O. (see appended statement). The National Plate Glass Co., a subsidiary, was incorporated Jan 17, 1920, in Md. (see appended statement).

“Control.—About Nov, 1919, the General Motors Corp. acquired control of Fisher Body Corp. through acquisition at $92 per share of 300,000 of the 500,000 shares of Com. stock of no par value. The Fisher Body Corp. agreed that for a period of five years, commencing Oct 1, 1919, not less than two-thirds of net earnings in each fiscal year, after taxes, interest and Pfd. dividends and sinking fund payments, shall be paid in dividends to the Com. stockholders, until they shall have received in each fiscal year, dividends at rate of not less than $10 per share per annum. General Motors Corp agreed to purchase from Fisher Body Corp. substantially all its requirements for automobile bodies at a price based on cost plus 17.6% for a period of ten years.

“Acquisitions in 1920.—The Fisher Body Corp. acquired during 1920, the entire Com. stocks of the following accessory companies: International Metal Stamping Co. (incorporated Sept 12, 1916, in Mich.); Ternstedt Manufacturing Co. (incorporated April 17, 1917, in Mich.); The Shepard Art Metal Co. (incorporated May 1, 1919, in Mich; The England Manufacturing Co.(incorporated May 1, 1912, in Mich.). The latter Company and the International Metal Stamping Co. have since been merged with the Ternstedt Mfg. Co.

“The controlled accessory companies manufacture plate glass, metal door panels, metal body panels, stampings and automobile body hardware.”

Charles P. Parsons would eventually serve as vice-president of Ternstedt Mfg. until he left to take a job as sales manager for Lansing, Michigan’s Auto Body Co. in 1926. Parsons also controlled the Parsons Mfg. Co., 21st & Fort Sts. (later 5301 Bellevue St.), Detroit, who, like Ternstedt, supplied automobile hardware (locks, hinges, etc.) to Detroit’s automakers. His 1926 move to Lansing coincided with the sale of Parsons Mfg. Co. to the Motor Products Corp., Detroit.

© 2012 Mark Theobald -







Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

Arthur Pound - The Turning Wheel, pub. 1934

John Scales - History of Strafford County, New Hampshire and Representative Citizens, pub. 1914

Orra L. Stone - History of Massachusetts Industries Vol I-IV - Boston, MA, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1930

John Bartley - Amesbury as a Body-Building Center – research paper dated April 13, 1943 – Collection of the Amesbury Public Library

Clarence Monroe Burton, William Stocking, Gordon K. Miller - The city of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Volume 3, pub. 1922

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