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Barnes-Curtiss Company
Barnes Carriage Co., 1896-1909; Barnes-Curtiss Co., 1909-1918; New York City, New York
Associated Firms
H.H. Babcock, C.S. Caffrey

Once considered a leading builder of automobile bodies this totally forgotten firm produced carriages and automobile coachwork for Manhattan’s elite in the late 19th and early 20th Century.

The firm was organized in 1896 by Henry Burr Barnes, the second son of Alfred Smith Barnes and Harriet Elizabeth (Burr) Barnes. Born on December 14, 1845 in Brooklyn, N. Y., Henry attended the Williston Seminary at Easthampton, Massachusetts, the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute at Brooklyn, New York, and eventually Yale College, from which he graduated with an A.M. degree in 1866.

He subsequently entered business with his father in the famous publishing house of A. S. Barnes & Co., and on January 1, 1869, was admitted to the partnership.

He married in Brooklyn, N. Y., June 16, 1869, Hannah Elizabeth, daughter of Courtlandt Palmer and Hannah Elizabeth (Williams) Dixon and sister of William P. and Ephraim W. Dixon, and had three sons and three daughters, the sons all being Yale graduates, in 1893, 1902, and 1910, respectively.

From 1876 to 1880 he edited The International Review, one of the era’s most prestigious periodicals. In January, 1891, a large portion of the firm’s book list was purchased by the American Book Co., and became a director of that firm. In December, 1895 he bought a controlling share in what remained of the old firm, which was once again began publishing under the as A.S. Barnes & Co. imprint, admitting his son Courtlandt to the partnership in 1905.

The senior Barnes was also connected with other business enterprises, being vice-president of the Barnes Real Estate Association, and since 1896, president of the Barnes Carriage Co. of New York. It is that business enterprise with which we are interested in here.

The first mention of the firm appeared shortly after H.B. Barnes acquired 319-329 Western Boulevard, the July 12, 1896 issue of the New York Times reporting:

“Seventy-sixth Street, southeast corner of Western Boulevard, by H.B. Barnes of 5 East Forty-fourth Street, owner, alterations to a five-story brick warehouse; cost, $600.”

The following classified advertisement included in the January 29, 1898 edition of The World (New York) indicates Barnes was using the entire building for his new carriage business:

“BEST UPTOWN CARRIAGE WAREROOMS – BARNES CARRIAGE CO. 319, 325 and 329 Western Boulevard, cor. 76th st., (UPPER BROADWAY), builders and dealers in carriages, wagons, &c. High-class repair shop. Estimates furnished on application. SPACIOUS STORAGE LOFTS. Second-hand broughams, phaetons, runabouts, &c. INSPECTION INVITED.”

For many years Manhattan’s Western Blvd. was popularly known as Upper Broadway, the change being made permanent by New York Mayor Robert A. Van Wyck, who renamed Western Boulevard north of Columbus Circle “Broadway” in 1899.

The February 6, 1898 issue of The World included the following ‘news item’/advertisement, which states the firm was ‘well-known’ at the time:


“Carriages of all styles and make may be seen at the warerooms of the Barnes Carriage Company, at the Boulevard and Seventy-sixth street. This well-known firm are now showing some of the finest workmanship and style of the H.H. Babcock Company, of Watertown, N.Y. and the C.S. Caffrey Company of Camden, N.J., vehicles. Since they have been handling these excellent vehicles their business has been increasing rapidly, and they are now more than busy showing and selling. Physicians all over the country are loud in their praise for the new Babcock doctor’s wagon. This wagon has rubber tires, is handsomely trimmed and finished and runs with a great deal of ease. It is being recommended all over the country by physicians as the wagon. The Babcock road wagon, made with or without a top, is attracting the attention of drivers of fast horses, who are unanimous in their praise for its excellence in trim and workmanship. The Barnes Carriage Company not alone sell carriages, but they also do repairing of all kind. Mr. David Miller, the manager, said yesterday: ‘We are showing as fine an assortment of carriages as can be seen at any place in the city, and it will merit the attention of buyers of carriages to pay us a visit.’”

In early 1900 the firm vacated their West Blvd. and W. Seventy-sixth Street manufactory and wareroom and the April 25, 1900 issue of the Horseless Age announced it was now dealing in motor vehicles:

“The Barnes Carriage Co. has entered the motor carriage field and is taking orders for vehicle bodies. They have recently removed to 147 149-West Ninety-ninth St.”

The ‘In The Real Estate Field’ column of the March 22, 1904 New York Times announced that Barne’s had formally purchased the firm’s new property:

“Weber and Burke have sold to Henry B. Barnes, of the Barnes Carriage Company, 147-149 West Ninety-Ninth Street, a six-story brick building on a lot 45.2 by 100.11. The Barnes Carriage Company will continue to occupy the building.”

An April 1904 issue of The Automobile followed up the preceding announcement with the following item of interest:

“The Barnes Carriage Co., of New York City, which is doing a growing business in automobile repairs, has just bought the building which it occupies at 147 and 149 West 99th St.”

The June 22, 1903 issue of the New York Times reported that as of May 27,1903 Henry B. Barnes Jr., the son and namesake of the firm’s founder, was now a full partner in his father’s carriage business, which would continue under the same name.

Henry Burr Barnes Jr., (b. Sept. 15 1872-d.Nov. 20, 1951) was born in Stonington, Connecticut on September 15, 1872 to Henry Burr and Elizabeth (Dixon) Barnes. His siblings included Elizabeth William (b. April 1871), Priscilla Dixon (b. June 1875), Sarah Palmer (b. Feb. 1878), Courtlandt Dixon (b. June 1881) and Thomas Sloan (b. Aug 1889) Barnes. After a private education at Everson's School, New York City, he attended Yale College, receiving a B.A. in 1893, after which he intermittently attended the Columbia University Law School, finally receiving his L.L. B. in 1897.

A listing for the firm dating from 1906 shows the junior Barnes’ involvement with the firm and also indicates they may have had a satellite operation at 11 E. Twenty-fourth Street, which was located at the corner of Madison Avenue, facing Madison Square Park from the East:

“Barnes Carriage Co. (RTN) Henry Burr Barnes ft. Henry Burr Barnes Jr.; 11 E. 24th & 147 W 99th.”

In a 1907 listing of its membership, the Carriage Builder’s National Association (CBNA) lists H.B. Barnes as a member.

Other than the occasional classified advertisement, little was heard from the firm until the Summer of 1907 when a friend and distant cousin of the Barnes’ joined the firm. The new partner, Alfred Loomis Curtiss, had embarked upon an identical course of education as his cousin, Henry Burr Barnes Jr., receiving his B.A. from Yale College in 1896, and his L.L. B from the Columbia University Law School in 1899.

Alfred Loomis Curtiss was born on July 23, 1874 to Addie (Beers) and Henry Wheeler Curtiss. His father was a partner in the Manhattan silk importing firm of Hoeninghaus and Curtiss. Henry Wheeler Curtiss was born in Monroe, Conn. in June of 1845 and came to New York where he found employment with the his cousin’s book publishing business. His cousin just happened to be Alfred Smith Barnes, the founder of the famous school-book publisher, A.S. Barnes & Company. Henry Wheeler Curtiss worked for the firm from 1867 to 1881 when he entered the silk business. He and his wife Addie (Beers)(b. April 1849) had two children, Maude H. (b. May 1871) and Alfred Loomis (b. July 1874) Curtiss, our subject.

The Decennial record of the class of 1896, Yale College, (pub 1907) states the younger Curtiss joined the Barnes Carriage organization in 1907:

“Alfred L Curtiss spent the summer of 1906 in the loan department of William A. White & Sons, Real Estate, 62 Cedar Street, New York. He gave up the practice of the law on May 25th, 1907 and went into business with the Barnes Carriage Company makers of carriages, etc. 147 West 99th Street, New York City.”

The following document, ‘AAMA Brief in behalf of the American automobile industry ‘ presented to Congress on December 31, 1908 by Henry B. Joy and Benjamin Briscoe (representing the Associated American Manufacturers of Automobiles) indicates the firm was considered to be one of Manhattan’s leading producers of automobile coachwork at that time:

“Mr. Sherrill states that a finished machine is never sold to wealthy patrons directly, such wealthy patrons preferring to have their automobiles built in New York, by either Demarest or Brewster, and but for this fact both of these well-known and reputable houses would have failed.

“To characterize this statement as absurd is rather mild, but in refuting it we will content ourselves in referring your Committee to the statistics compiled by the Appraiser and Collector of the Port of New York during the last five years. These will show that fully 30% of automobiles imported were imported by individuals who had purchased abroad, and that the bodies were built by such well-known body-builders of Europe as Rothschild et Cie, Kellner et Cie, Audineau, Vedrine and others. Of the other 70% of motor vehicles imported by dealers and agents an unbiased investigation will show that the work has been pretty well divided between J. M. Quinby & Co., Burr & Co., R. M. Stivers, Barnes Carriage Co., Kimball & Co., Flandrau & Co., Rothschild & Co., Studebaker Bros., Willoughby, Schildtwachter, Healey, New Haven Carriage Co., Blue Ribbon Carriage Co. of Bridgeport, and many other American carriage makers.

“The list enumerated above consists mostly of New York carriage builders. If we consider the number of carriagemakers in the United States, some of whom turn out as many as 75,000 vehicles a year, who have not benefitted by the imports at the Port of New York and the business they may have given to the local industry, it will show that this is but a drop in the bucket compared to the 50,000 automobile bodies built in one year for the manufacturers in whose behalf this argument is made.”

The April 1909 issue of the Carriage Monthly announced the reorganization of the firm as the Barnes-Curtiss Company:

“The Barnes-Curtis Co., incorporated on February 8th under the laws of the State of New York, with an authorized capital of $25,000, will manufacture automobile bodies and carriages. The principal office is at 147 West Ninety-ninth Street, New York City, the new incorporation being successor to the Barnes Carriage Co. of same address.”

A concurrent issue of Automobile Topics made a similar announcement which included the names of the principals:

“New York, N.Y. Barnes-Curtiss Co. with $25,000 capital to manufacture, rent and repair automobiles. Incorporators: H.B. Barnes, H.B. Barnes Jr., and A.L. Curtiss.”

Henry B. Barnes served as president, Henry B. Barnes Jr., vice-president and Alfred L. Curtiss, secretary treasurer of the new enterprise. The only known pictures of Barnes-Curtiss coachwork accompanied the following article which can be found in the July 1909 issue of The Carriage Monthly:

“An Elegant Well Equipped Private Ambulance

“The accompanying cut shows an interior view of a very handsome limousine type of a private ambulance built by Barnes-Curtiss Co., Inc., 147-149 West Ninety-ninth Street, New York City, for The Crane Oxygen Works, New York City.

“The side view of this car is shown in Plate No 441 from which it will be seen that exteriorly this car has the appearance of an ordinary high class limousine and there is no indication of its being a hospital ambulance. The interior however is arranged to be convertible into an ambulance with every facility for the comfortable transportation of invalids to and from railroad trains, steamers and from dwellings to the hospital. By a pair of lever catches operated from the inside of the body, the rear lower panel drops down permitting easy access for the stretcher bed shown in the picture. This bed takes up less than half the interior space thus making it possible for the physician and nurse to accompany the patient.

“In the front right hand corner is carried the cylinder of oxygen and under the rear seat in the right hand side is a galvanized watertight ice compartment. The stretcher, constructed of ash framework with cane bottom on which the mattress is placed, has a movable section at the head where it rests on a small shelf in the body itself, so that the patient may lie in any position desired. This stretcher is fitted with two brass lifting handles at each end.

“The body is trimmed inside with genuine unglazed pigskin with carpet silk curtains, etc. to match, thus giving a bright and cheerful appearance. The upper back quarters and roof are finished in natural wood varnished thus adding to the sanitary fitness of the ambulance by doing away with material which would collect dust and dirt while in use. All glass frames are of mahogany and drop down as in the ordinary limousine with the exception of the front and rear windows which lift inward and are fastened to the inside of the roof by specially secured brass fasteners. This had to be done to allow proper use of the stretcher bed. The body is fitted on a 35-horsepower Locomobile chassis. This car is owned and operated by The Crane Oxygen Works, New York City.”

The senior Barnes died of heart disease at his New York home January 12, 1911, at the age of 65 years, his obituary appearing in the January 21, 1911 issue of Publisher’s Weekly:


“Henry Burr Barnes, head of the publishing firm of A. S. Barnes & Co., died suddenly this week at his home, 112 East 56th Street, New York City, from apoplexy.

“Mr. Barnes was born in Brooklyn on December 14, 1845, and was the son of Alfred S. and Harriet Elizabeth (Burr) Barnes. He received his preparatory education at Williston Seminary, Easthampton, Mass., and in 1866 was graduated from Yale, being the historian of his class. The same year he entered the publishing house of A. S. Barnes & Co., which had been founded by his father, and in 1868 was made a partner. He became head of the firm in 1896.

“Mr. Barnes also had extensive outside business interests. He was president of the Barnes Real Estate Association, vice-president of the Central Real Estate Association and director in the American Book Company, and the Barnes-Curtiss Company. From 1878 to 1880 he edited The Intentational Review. His club membership comprised the Century, University, Aldine and Republican Clubs. Mr. Barnes married Elizabeth Dixon, daughter of Courtlandt P. Dixon, in 1869. Besides a wife, Mr. Barnes leaves three sons and three daughters.”

The May 1, 1913 issue of The American Stationer provided some details of the senior Barnes’ estate:

“Henry B. Barnes, member of the original school book publishing firm of A. S. Barnes & Co., lost more than $200,000 trying to continue business under the firm name after the bulk of the assets had been taken over by the American Book Company in 1896. This fact was disclosed this week in the transfer tax appraisal of the estate of Mr. Barnes, who died January 12, 1911. In spite of his heavy loss Mr. Barnes left $582,330.”

A classified ad for a ‘Racing Body’, manufacturer unknown, appeared in the May 24, 1913 issue of the Automobile Club of America Journal:

“No 893 - Racing Body complete with fenders, etc. Can be altered to fit any car. Price $70, Apply Barnes- Curtiss Co., 147 West 99th Street, New York City.”

The 1913-1914 Directory of Directors in the City of New York indicates that Curtiss remained in charge of the firm’s business affairs and that another individual, James H. Randle, was another director of the firm:

“Barnes, Henry B. Jr., of the firm of Moen & Dwight; 52 William St.; A.S. Barnes Co., The, Dir.; Barnes- Curtiss Co., Incorporated, Pres. and Dir.”

“Curtiss, Alfred L., 147 West 99th St. Barnes-Curtiss Co., Incorporated, Sec'y, Treas. and Dir.”

“Randle, James H., 149 West 99th St. – Barnes-Curtis Co. Incorporated: Dir.”

The firm’s last known directory listing was in White-Orr’s 1918-1919 Reference Register, New York City Business Directory under automobiles:

“Barnes-Curtiss Co., 147 W. 99th.”

The firm disappeared from the list of active automobile body builders shortly afterwards. A 1922 article in the Times lists Thomas A. Williams as the proprietor of 147 West Ninety-ninth Street, his line of work unknown.

Henry Burr Barnes Jr., died November 20, 1951, in Gettysburg, Pa. after a long illness. His obituary from the 1951-1952 Yale Obituary record follows:

“HENRY BURR BARNES, B. A. 1893. Born September 15, 1872, Stonington, Conn., died November 20, 1951, Gettysburg, Pa. Father, Henry Burr Barnes, 1866, a publisher, A.S. Barnes & Co.; editor, International Review, director, American Book Co. Mother, Hannah Elizabeth Williams Dixon.

“Yale relatives include Charles P. Williams, 1862 (great uncle); William P. Dixon, 1868, William D. Barnes, 1880, Ephraim W. Dixon, 1881 (uncles), Marshall J. Dodge, 1898 (brother-in-law); Courtlandt Dixon Barnes, '02, Thomas Sloane Barnes, '10 (brothers), many cousins.

“Everson's School, New York City. Oration and dissertation appointments, Yale Union, treasurer, Y.M.C.A. Junior year, Students' Conference, Northfield, 1892, editor, Yale Daily News, Senior year, University Club, He Boule; Psi Upsilon, Scroll and Key.

“Student, Columbia Law School, 1893-94, travelled in Europe, 1894-95; student, Columbia Law School, 1895-97; LL. B. 1897; admitted to New York Bar, 1897, with Miller, Peckham & Dixon, New York City, 1897-1911, partner, Moen & Dwight, 1911-28, vice-president and director, Barnes Real Estate Assn., secretary and treasurer, 1911-16, president and treasurer, H. B. Barnes Real Estate Corp.; vice-president, Yale Leasing Corp., 1916-17, member, Workshop Committee of New York Assn. for the Blind, Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, vice-president, South Harlem Neighborhood Assn., chairman of the Board of Deacons and secretary, Men's Bible Class Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, government appeal agent, Local Board for Divisions No. 147 and No. 164, New York City and State, 1917-28, moved to Stonington, Conn., 1933, deacon, Congregational Church, Stonington, Conn., 1936; moderator, New London Assn. of Congregational Churches and Ministers, 1939; presented Yale Library with a set of bound copies of International Review for the years which his father was editor, 1940; returned to New York City, 1943, member, East Side, Y. M. C. A., Republican Club of Fifteenth Assembly District, Reform Club, University Club of New York, Phi Delta Phi, American Bar Assn , New York City Bar Assn., Philharmonic Society, League to Enforce Peace; Yale Club.

“Married March 27, 1911, New York City, Mabel Irving Jones, daughter of Edward Renshaw Jones and Mary Elizabeth Baldwin. Children Henry Burr, Jr. (B. S. Harvard ‘33); Edward Jones (B. S. Harvard '39), Alfred Smith.

“Death due to a prolonged illness. Buried in Gettysburg, Pa. Survived by wife and three sons.”

Alfred Loomis Curtiss preceded his partner in death, passing away on June 29, 1942, The New York Times reporting:

“CURTISS – Alfred Loomis, son of the late Henry Wheeler and Addie Beers Curtiss, on June 29,1942, at his home, 137 East 66th St., in the sixty-eighth year of his age. Services at St. Bartholomew’s Chapel, Park Ave. and 51st St. Wednesday, 10 A.M. Kindly omit flowers.”

© 2012 Mark Theobald -







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

James T. White - The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol IV, pub. 1895

H.L. Motter - The International Who’s Who In The World: 1912, pub. 1912

The Decennial Record of the Class of 1896, Yale College, pub. 1907

1910-1915 Obituary record of graduates of Yale University. Pub 1915

1951-1952 Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale University. Pub. 1969

 A. S. Barnes - Seventy-five years of book publishing, 1838-1913, pub. 1913

Charles Burr Todd - A general history of the Burr family in America : with a genealogical record from 1570 to 1878, pub. 1878

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