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Blue Ribbon Body Co.
Blue Ribbon Body Co., 1917-1925; Blue Ribbon Body Corp., 1925-1930; Bridgeport, Connecticut & Broadway at W. 57th St., New York, New York;  Schutte-Blue Ribbon Body Corp., 1926
Associated Firms
Blue Ribbon Horse and Carriage Co., 1902-1913; Blue Ribbon Auto & Carriage Co., 1913-1917; Blue Ribbon Garage, 1917-1950s; Locomobile

Blue Ribbon Body Co. is best known for their production bodies built for their Bridgeport neighbor, Locomobile from the teens through the mid-twenties. 

The firm was founded by Edward A Godfrey (1863-1947), a carriage builder originally from Westport, Connecticut. Godfrey moved to Bridgeport in the 1880s and apprenticed at a number of the city’s numerous carriage builders. In 1902 he formed his own firm, the Blue Ribbon Horse and Carriage Co. establishing a factory and wareroom on Cannon St. with backing from George H. Woods, of Bridgeport’s People’s Saving Bank and Henry Carstesen. As the automobile increased in popularity, Godfrey reorganized the firm as the Blue Ribbon Auto and Carriage Company to better reflect the firm expertise in automotive coachwork. Godfrey served as the firm’s president and George H. Woods, its secretary/treasurer.

From its very beginnings, Blue Ribbon produced fine carriages and horse-drawn hearses, so it came as no surprise when they entered the auto hearse age in 1911. Both hearse and ambulances were offered on their own assembled chassis and later on Packard, Cadillac, Willys-Knight and other high quality chassis.

Early on they became one of Locomobile’s production body builders, and were dependent on the Bridgeport automaker for the bulk of their business during the teens and early twenties as was the Bridgeport Body Co. (1910-1924), another local firm that produced bodies for Locomobile.

On July 17, 1913, the firm purchased the former Fairfield & Holland Ave factory of the Bridgeport Vehicle Company a defunct Locomobile body builder. Bridgeport Vehicle was formed by Harry D. Miller after the turn of the century to build closed carriages and early automobile bodies. In 1910 the firm moved to a new factory at the junction of Water Street and South Street. The three-story 88x160, brick building was built at a cost of about $60,000. The firm folded three years later and their original Fairfield Ave factory was sold to the Bellamore Armored Vehicle & Equipment Co. of New York. Named after British-born armor engineer David H. Bellamore, the firm built a patented armored truck designed to transport bank notes and other securities in complete safety, but business did not live up to expectation and the firm failed in 1913. The Fairfield Ave property next became the home of the Blue Ribbon Auto & Carriage Co.

The 1915 Bartlett Electric - made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - featured limousines bodies from Blue Ribbon, and in 1920, Blue Ribbon was selected to be the principal coachbuilder for the FRP and Porter, two luxury chassis built by the American & British Mfg. Co. in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Of the 29 Porters known to have been built, 12 featured Blue Ribbon bodies.

Blue Ribbon maintained an office and showroom in the heart of New York’s automobile row at the corner of Broadway and W.57th St (1790 Broadway & 250 W. 57th St.) and exhibited a number of bodies at the 1919 New York Automobile Show which was held at the 69th Regiment Armory (Twenty Sixth St & Lexington Ave).

After Locomobile’s 1921 bankruptcy, Blue Ribbon kept busy producing funeral cars and other commercial bodies. Some production body work for Locomobile resumed after Billy Durant revived the firm, and the firm also built small runs of taxicab bodies for New York City operators. Between 1924-25 Blue Ribbon built the bodies for the “Traveler” cab, built by the Taxicab Mfg. Co. of New York.

On May 23, 1925 the Bridgeport Telegram ran a full page display ad placed by F.P Merritt & Co. 25 West 43rd St, New York offering $175,000 in 6% first mortgage bonds and $125,000 in 8% cumulative preferred stock in the new Blue Ribbon Body Corporation.

At that time the firm’s customers included Locomobile, Cadillac, Packard, Franklin, Hupmobile and other leading manufacturers. The increase in capitalization was for additional working capital to provide for expansion enabling the company to handle a larger volume of business. The offering reassured prospective subscribers that the original founders of the business remained its largest stockholders and would continue to control the management.

The Officers were as follows: President, W.B. Hurlburt; Treasurer, E.A. Godfrey; Secretary, H.G. Tousey; Assistant Treasurer, F.A. Cate. The board was made up of E.A. Godfrey president, Blue Ribbon Body Co., Bridgeport, Conn., W.B. Hurlburt Mgr. Locomobile Co., New York, Geo. H. Woods President, Bridgeport Savings Bank, Bridgeport, Conn., and F.P. Merritt, President, F.P. Merritt & Co., New York, the firm that was selling the new securities.

The main Blue Ribbon plant was located at 283 Fairfield Ave., fronting 186 feet on Fairfield Ave, 401.8 feet on Holland Ave and 113.8 feet on Mt. Grove St. The modern brick factory had 90,000 feet of floor space and occupied a 1¾ acre parcel. The firm’s corporate headquarters and vehicle showroom was located down the street at 1830 Fairfield Ave.

Throughout the teens and twenties, Edward A. Godfrey operated a second business called the Blue Ribbon Garage, in a portion of the factory. The Blue Ribbon garage offered complete automobile repairs and refinishing, sold commercial bodies and Arcadia-brand trailers and offered select pre-enjoyed luxury automobiles for sale.

Blue Ribbon’s president, W.B. Hurlburt, was also an executive at Locomobile and the Bridgeport automaker used a portion of Blue Ribbon’s Office building as a Locomobile showroom.

An ad in the Bridgeport Telegram dated 11-17-1925 announced:

“The Connecticut Locomobile Company announces the opening of a retail salesroom in the Blue Ribbon Body building at 1726 Fairfield Avenue, this city, where Junior Eight models will be on display; as soon as production permits, the new model 90 will also be shown. – The Connecticut Locomobile Company, H.K. Jameson, manager.”

In the summer of 1926, representatives of the Schutte Body Corp. a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, auto body builder entered into negotiations with Blue Ribbon’s directors. Charles E. Schutte, the firm’s owner, hoped to purchase Blue Ribbon’s entire Bridgeport operation, renaming it the Schutte-Blue Ribbon Body Corp. Blue Ribbon’s board

Four minority stockholders in the Schutte Body Co stopped the takeover when they discovered that the Schutte-Blue Ribbon Body Co. planned on closing the Lancaster plant following the takeover. Fearing a loss of their $200,000 investment, they strongly objected to the winding up of the affairs of the Schutte Body Co. and the transfer of its assets to the new company, and through their counsel they petitioned the Pennsylvania Dept of Banking who arrested both Schutte and his treasurer, George Fritsch for stock fraud.

Apparently the Shuette Body Corporation’s permit to sell stock in Pennyslvania was revoked the previous year due to a previous sale of the firm’s shares through misrepresentation. Consequently the current sale of stock to finance the Shuette-Blue Ribbon Body Corp. was in clear violation of Pennsylvania statutes.

In commenting on the merger from the viewpoint of the Blue Ribbon Body Company, its attorney William H. O’Hara said. “When the Schutte Blue Ribbon Body Company was organized we were asked to sell, named our price which was accepted, and the matter would have been settled sometime ago had not a few of the small stockholders of the Schutte Body Company been dissatisfied with the plan to close the plant in Lancaster.”

Whether Schutte & Company were guilty of the charges, adverse publicity doomed the takeover. Within the year the Schutte Body Corp was out of business and Blue Ribbon was looking for tenants. They found one later that year when a portion of the factory was leased to a new startup headquartered in Manhattan. 

Charles E. Schutte and his Schutte Body Company are sometimes confused with Robert Schuette, an early Rolls-Royce Distributor in Manhattan that was bought out by Rolls-Royce in 1925-26 at the same time the automaker purchased Brewster & Co. The two last names are spelled differently and the men are totally unrelated.

The H. F. Holbrook-Henry Brewster Corporation, a partnership created by Henry Brewster and Harry F. Holbrook to produce high-end cus­tom bodies for Metropolitan New York customers was organized in 1927. Holbrook served as the firm’s salesman while Brewster served as designer and body engineer. They built a striking Mercedes-Benz Town Car that appeared on the Mercedes-Benz stand at that fall’s New York Auto Salon and are also known to have bodied a Bugatti. However 1927 was not the best time to be entering the coach building business (see Waterhouse & Co.) and the new firm failed to attract enough orders to turn a profit. Only 8-10 custom bodies emerged from the Bridgeport plant and within a year the H. F. Holbrook-Henry Brewster Corp. withdrew from coach building.

Blue Ribbon’s founder, Edward A. Godfrey, was now 65 year old, and he had grown tired of the body building business. A skeleton crew continued to build a handful of hearse and ambulance bodies through 1930, the last year they were listed in the White-Orr New York City business directory. Under new ownership, the Blue Ribbon Garage managed to stay in business into the late forties. Godfrey refocused his efforts on real estate and philanthropic pursuits and passed away on December 7, 1947 after a short illness. He was 84 year old.  

© 2004 Mark Theobald -







"The Locomobile" Automobile Quarterly Vol 19, No 2

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

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

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

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