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Bridgeport Vehicle Co.
Bridgeport Vehicle Company, 1906-1911; Bridgeport, Connecticut
Associated Firms
Hincks & Johnson

The Bridgeport Vehicle Company was a short-lived automobile body builder who supplied small number of custom bodies to Bridgeport residents in addition to fullfilling contracts for the manufacture of production bodies for its Bridgeport neighbor, Locomobile.

Initially established as an automobile garage, the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. entered into the manufacture of automobiles bodies after a fire destroyed Bridgeport’s Hincks & Johnson carriage works in April of 1906. Hincks & Johnson’s management elected to withdraw from business and a core group of their body craftsmen went to work for the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. At the time of the fire Hincks & Johnson were constructing coachwork for Locomobile, and the contracts were fulfilled at the Bridgeport Vehicle Company’s facility.

The Bridgeport Vehicle Co. was formally organized on February 14, 1906, with an authorized capital of $50,000, its officers: Harry D. Miller, President and Treasurer; Herman F. Brandes, Vice President; George C. Miller, Secretary; and A.W. Knapp, superintendent.

The formation of the firm was announced to the trade in the March 28, 1906 issue of The Horseless Age:

“The Bridgeport Vehicle Company, Bridgeport, Conn.; To manufacture automobile parts. President and treasurer, Henry D. Miller, 20 shares; vice president. H.F. Brandes, 10 shares; G.C. Miller, 10 shares.”

The April 5, 1906 issue of The Motor Way provided additional details as follows:

“The officers of the Bridgeport Vehicle Company which was recently organized with a capitalization of $50,000 in Bridgeport, Conn. are H.D. Miller, president and treasurer; H.F. Brandes, vice president; George C. Miller, secretary; A.W. Knapp is superintendent. The concern will build motor car bodies.”

Its president, Harry D. Miller, was born in New York in 1858 and after he completed his primary education he attended the Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey. He married Ida F. (b. 1858 in NY) and to the blessed union was born three children George C.; Roland V.G.; and Lois C. Miller.

Vice-president, Herman F. Brandes, was born in September 1863 in Germany, emigrating to the United States at the age of 9 in 1873. He was apprenticed to a machinist, with the 1900 US Census listing his occupation as foreman in a machine shop. In 1886 he married Carrie ??? (b. Sept. 1863), and to the blessed union were born three children, Paul H. (b. Jul. 1893), Lena A. (b. Jan 1887) and Bertha (b. May 1888) Brandes.

(The Bridgeport Vehicle Co. was unrelated to two following automobile-related firms bearing the name Miller, that were organized at much the same time; Miller Motor Car & Supply Co., Bridgeport (capitalized at $7,000 and organized Jan. 19, 1905) and Miller Garage Co., Inc., Bridgeport (capitalized at $35,000 and organized Dec. 27, 1905). Located at 554-556-558 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport, the latter firm was an early distributor who sold Aerocar, Rapid, Glide, and Maxwell automobiles. On May 21, 1907 the Miller Garage Co. changed its name to the Miller Motor Car Company.)

The September 1, 1907 issue of the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal included a picture of an attractive body built for a Bridgeport businessman on a Locomobile chassis:

“Limousine body made by the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. for Mr. E.G. Burnham of the firm of Eaton Cole & Burnham, Bridgeport, Conn.

“Bridgeport Automobile Bodies

“The Bridgeport Vehicle Body Co., Bridgeport, Conn., was formed over a year ago by Mr. Harry D. Miller, and seven practical body makers who have been connected with one of the largest carriage manufacturing concerns in the State of Connecticut. The company builds a line of high-grade Limousines, Landaulets, Victorias and Touring bodies of every description.

“They make a specialty of limousine and touring, car body work. The bodies are constructed of selected, thoroughly seasoned stock and are assembled by skilled workmen. The painting may be of any combination of colors; upholstering may be of morocco, satin or broadcloth. The bodies are furnished with an equipment usually found in high-grade work, such as clock, toilet case, card case, megaphone or speaking tube, roll up silk curtains inside, sliding or revolving seats, dome electric light, etc. All outside fittings are of best quality brass. Inside appointments may be of brass or silver finish. Side lamps wired for electric lights are furnished, if desired. The body is supplied with storm front, folding into top when not in use.

“The bodies are made in both wood and aluminum. This concern has also a special top department where they build tops to order; also, wind shields, slip covers, lamp covers, etc.”

The ‘one of the largest carriage manufacturing concerns in the State of Connecticut’ mentioned in the article refers to Hincks & Johnson, a well-known Bridgeport heavy carriage manufacturer that was winding down its operations at the time, having suffered a devastating fire the previous April that was mentioned in the May 1906 issue of Carriage Monthly:

“Serious Fire Loss.

“The carriage factory of Hinks & Johnson, Bridgeport, Conn., was destroyed by fire April 9th; loss estimated at $50,000. The damage was confined entirely to the portion of the plant devoted to manufacturing all kinds of vehicles, and the flames did not reach the large repository south of the shops where some $50,000 worth of finished vehicles were stored. The loss is covered by insurance.”

Bridgeport Vehicle’s Harry D. Miller sent out periodic press releases that were more often than not would end up in the industry’s trade journals. The following appeared in consecutive issues of MoTor (February and March 1908):

“The Bridgeport Vehicle Co. of Bridgeport, Conn., has inaugurated a novel plan for caring for the cars of the patrons of its garage department. In the circular sent out by H.D. Miller, the president of the company, he offers to take entire charge of the inspection of the car, going over it thoroughly at least once a month, keep it in repair and commission, and charge the nominal fee of $75 a year per car, payable semi-annually in advance. This service will include, besides this inspection, all repairs necessary between inspections. New parts will be supplied at factory cost.”

The Trade Literature Received column of the March 1908 issue of MoTor:

“Bridgeport Vehicle Co., Bridgeport, Conn. A mailing card ‘Seasonable Suggestions No. 3’ calling attention to Bridgeport tops and wind shields.”

The firm’s listing in the 1908 International Motor Cyclopedia follows:

“Bridgeport Vehicle Co., South Ave. and Water St., Bridgeport, Conn. Mfrs., dealers and jobbers; automobile bodies, wood and metal tops, slip covers, tool boxes, wind shields, lamp covers, fenders, hoods. Harry D. Miller, Pres. and Treas.; H.F. Brandes, Vice Pres.; Geo. C. Miller, Sec. Cap. $50,000. Est. March 1, 1906.”

The December 31, 1908 issue of the Boston Evening Transcript announced the construction of a new steel and brick factory, although the address given was of the existing factory (the new one was built near State St. at the intersection of Holland and Fairfield Ave.’s):

“Bridgeport Vehicle Co. Enlarging

“Bridgeport, Conn. Dec. 31 (Special) – The Bridgeport Vehicle Company, manufacturers of automobile bodies, has broken ground for the erection of a brick and steel factory at the junction of Water Street and South Avenue. The structure will be of brick, three stories, 88 by 160 feet. About $60,000 will be expended in construction and equipment, and the present capacity of the company’s quarters will be more than doubled.”

The following item published in the January 14, 1909 issue of The Automobile erroneously states the firm was ‘one of the largest of the fine coach builders, no doubt a reference to Hinks & Johnson, which was corporately unrelated, although they shared many of the same employees:

“Body Builders Prosperous. — The Bridgeport Vehicle Company, one of the largest of the fine coach builders, which made Bridgeport, Conn., famous for this kind of work, has recently turned its attention to the construction of automobile bodies. So successful has it been in this line that the plant at Water street and South avenue has been outgrown. To provide for present and future needs ground has been broken at Fairfield and Holland avenues for a three-story brick building 88 by 160. This handsome structure is expected to be completed, ready for occupancy, July 1, when it is expected that the present force of seventy men will be doubled. The officers of the company, with a showroom for the displaying of six cars, will be in the Fairfield avenue side of the building. The concern will install its own power plant and an elevator. The officers of the company are: President and treasurer, Harry D. Miller; vice-president, H. F. Brandes; secretary, George C. Miller.”

The May 1909 issue of Metal Industry infers that the firm would be manufacturing aluminum-clad composite automobiles bodies in their new factory:

“The Bridgeport Motor Vehicle Company are just about to enter their four story brick building on State street in this city. Hitherto they have made nothing but wooden bodies for automobiles. The plan is under consideration to manufacture aluminum bodies. President Harry D. Miller declines as yet to make a statement on the subject.”

Much of the firm’s coachwork was destined to remain in the immediate area, a sued example appearing for sale in a classified ad published in the August 5, 1911 issue of the ACA ‘The Club Journal’:

“756 — Seven-passenger, front-door, limousine body, built in fall of 1910 by Bridgeport Vehicle Co.; used three months ; trimmed dark maroon cloth. Owner will consider reasonable offer; original cost about $1500. May be seen at the Engineering Department of the Warner Bros. Co., Bridgeport, Conn.”

The Warner Bros. the article refers to was the Bridgeport-based corset manufacturer, not the famous Hollywood movie studio which wasn’t formally organized under that name until 1918.

The March 1911 issue of The Hub reveals that Bridgeport Motor Vehicle Co. had been experiencing financial problems since the summer of 1910 and that it was now in the hands of its receiver, John T. King:

“Harry D. Miller, trustee, has brought action against the Bridgeport, Conn. Vehicle Co. to foreclose on mortgages. The first paper is dated June 9, 1910 when the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. borrowed $7,500 from the plaintiff for which he took the company's note secured by a mortgage on property.”

By that time the firm’s factory had been put up for sale by the receiver causing Miller to attempt to protect his sizeable investment before it was sold off. Much to his chagrin, John T. King had completed negotiations with the Bellamore Armored Car and Equipment Co. of New York who purchased the former Bridgeport Vehicle plant in January of 1912.

Although the sale was approved by the receiver and the bankruptcy judge, the Miller family (Harry D. and his son, George C. Miller) continued to bring actions against anybody and everybody involved in the bankruptcy proceedings, the February 22, 1912 issue of The Motor World reporting on one of their lawsuits:


“Builders of Armored Car Find Little Peace in Bridgeport—Miller Wants Its Factory Deeded Back.

“One more of a series of actions which have been brought against the Bellamore Armoured & Equipment Car Co., has been filed by George C. Miller, one of the stockholders of the Bridgeport Vehicle Co., whose plant was taken over by the Bellamore concern, which set out to make an armoured or burglar-proof, car for use by banks and similar institutions. Miller asks the court to require the Bellamore company to deed back the property to the Bridgeport Vehicle Co., and to cancel the deeds which the company now holds, he also asks damages to the amount of $7,500. He charges that the Bellamore concern acquired the property through the illegal action of two stockholders, Allan W. Terry and James W. Horton, and that the Bridgeport Vehicle Co.'s property is valued at $130,000, while the Bellamore company is ‘without financial responsibility,’ and was organized solely to exploit certain patent rights held by David H. Bellamore.

“Harry D. Miller also has brought action against the company, seeking to reopen the judgment discharging the receiver. Miller claims that he was promised 10 per cent, commission on all orders he secured and that there is a balance due him of $750. The former receiver, John T. King, claims that he settled in full with Miller when he was discharged and that if anything is due Miller must look to the Bellamore company for relief.”

Another suit was highlighted in the April 25, 1912 issue of Motor Age:


“Bridgeport, Conn., April 20—Harry D. Miller, of this city, formerly president of the Bridgeport Vehicle Co., which passed through bankruptcy and is now known as the Bellamore Armored Car and Equipment Co., has brought suit for $50,000 damages against the Bellamore company. He alleges that in a civil suit now pending before the superior court the defendant company has libeled the plaintiff. The document in question is the defendant's reply to a suit brought by Mrs. Ida E. Miller against the company to recover a certain car alleged to be owned by her. The answer sets forth the allegations that Miller and his son, George C., conspired together, manipulated the books, misappropriated funds and concealed said misappropriations, all of which forced the firm into bankruptcy.”

It’s not clear if production of armored cars commenced at Bellamore’s Bridgeport facility, although production of Locomobile bodies is thought to have continued for a couple of months, the June, 1912 issue of Banker’s Magazine inferring that Bellamore had taken over the factory:


“The Bellamore Armored Car and Equipment Co., Fifth av., New York, has recently purchased a complete factory at Bridgeport, Conn., a cut of which is shown herewith, in which it will manufacture its armored cars for banks besides bodies of all kinds for automobiles. The Bellamore Co. has recently sent one of its armored cars to the Spanish Bank of Cuba and will install several more cars for use by the Havana banks at an early date. The car purchased by the First Mortgage Guarantee and Trust Co of Philadelphia has given complete satisfaction and has resulted in a large increase in the business of that institution.”

Coincident with Bellamore’s taking title to the Bridgeport plant the February 1912 issue of The Carriage Monthly announced that Harry D. Miller had taken a position with another Bridgeport automobile body manufacturer:

“Harry D. Miller, formerly the head of the Bridgeport Vehicle Co., Bridgeport, Conn., which has discontinued business, has associated himself with the Blue Ribbon Carriage Co., which concern is indeed fortunate in securing his able services. Mr. Miller is well known as a salesman of exceptionable ability and is very popular with those with whom he has done business in the past, so that additional introduction is superfluous.”

It is believed that while under Bellamore's control the Bridgeport factory continued to produce production bodies for Locomobile, although concrete confirmation is lacking. Although the firm's armored car was well publicized at the time of its creation, the publicity failed to bring in additional orders, in late February of 1913 the receivers were called in, the March 1, 1913 issue of Automobile Topics reporting:

“Armored Car in Hands of Receiver

“Upon application of three of its smaller creditors, whose claims aggregate less than $600, Judge Hand, of the United States District Court, on Wednesday, February 26, appointed Job E. Hedges receiver for the Bellamore Armored Car & Equipment Co., of Bridgeport, Conn. The company has offices at 258 Fifth avenue, New York City. Its assets are given as $147,813, but a considerable part of this amount is said to be of only nominal value; the liabilities are said to be in excess of $150,000, the exact amount being unknown. The assets include the factory at Bridgeport, assessed at $64,000; machinery and plant, $19,950; tools and equipment, $4,828; lumber and other raw materials, $31,498; merchandise in process of manufacture, $14,890; accounts, $12,000, some of which are doubtful or uncollectable; and office furniture. $647. The receiver is under a bond of $20,000, and has authority to continue the business for sixty days and to borrow $3,000 on receiver's certificates to pay current expenses.

“The Bellamore Armored Car & Equipment Co. was incorporated under Delaware laws in July, 1910, with a capital stock of $100,000; it never was rated in Bradstreet's or Dun's. Its product consisted of steel armored motor cars for banks and paymasters, the chassis for these cars being made for the company by several of the automobile companies. It took over the plant of the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. and for a time seemed to have a bright future. Litigation over mortgages on the factory, however, and lack of sufficient working capital hampered its production to such an extent as to cause its present embarrassment. David H. Bellamore is president, and David G. Bellamore, treasurer.”

The “Minor Business Troubles” column of the April 10, 1913 issue of Motor Age provided the dollar amounts the firm included in its filing:

“The Bellamore Armored Car & Equipment Co., of New York City and Bridgeport, Conn., which was the object of a petition in bankruptcy last month, has filed its schedules in the Federal court in New York City. They show liabilities of $103,020 and nominal assets of $217,658. Among the creditors are: Bronx National Bank, of New York City, $19,286; City Savings Bank, of Bridgeport, $24,000; H. D. Miller, trustee, $7,500; Horton & Terry, $5,000; Standard Oil Co., of Bridgeport, $281.”

The April 26, 1913 issue of Automobile Topics reported on the results of a meeting of the firm’s creditors:

“Bellamore Creditors Hold Meeting

“At the meeting of the creditors of the Bellamore Armored Car & Equipment Co., of 258 Fifth avenue, New York City and Bridgeport Conn., the liabilities of the company were stated to be $103,020 and the assets $217,658. Job E. Hedges who had been appointed receiver has been elected trustee under a bond of $15,000.”

A concurrent issue (April 1913) of the Automobile Trade Journal stated the former Bellamore plant already been sold:

“Bellamore Armored Car & Equipment Company's plant at Fairfield and Holland Avenues, Bridgeport, Conn., has been purchased by the Blue Ribbon Auto & Garage Company. The new owners will take possession September 1st, when a large addition will be erected.”

The August 1913 issue of The Horseless Age provided additional details of the purchase:

“Blue Ribbon Auto and Carriage Co. to Move Into Larger Plant

“The trade will be interested in the recent purchase by the Blue Ribbon Auto and Carriage Co., Bridgeport, Conn., of the large and modern factory and equipment formerly operated by the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. and the Bellamore Armored Car and Equipment Co. The extensive additions and alterations planned will make this one of the most complete and best equipped auto body and carriage plants in the East. As soon as these changes can be made the company will move to the new building, located at Holland and Fairfield Avenues.

“With the greatly improved facilities of the new plant, the work can be handled more promptly and in many cases more economically than ever before. At the same time, the increased light and space, the convenient arrangement of the various departments, and expert supervision will insure the maintenance of that high standard of workmanship for which the Blue Ribbon organization has long been famous. The company will adhere strictly to its settled policy of first-class work at moderate prices.

“Carriage and wagon building and repairing will be done in a separate department of the new factory, specially arranged and equipped for this work. The aim in this department, as well as in the automobile body departments, is to execute every job in a manner to secure the complete satisfaction of every customer.

“For the convenience of customers in New York City and vicinity, the Blue Ribbon Carriage Co. will continue its New York office at 1790 Broadway, in the United States Rubber Co.'s building. The office is in charge of Giles H. Dickinson.”

It turns out that while he was still in charge of the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. Harry D. Miller executed a number of additional mortgages on the property in addition to his own, and in August, 1913 the holder of those notes filed suit against both the Bridgeport Vehicle Co, and the Blue Ribbon Auto & Carriage Co., the August 27, 1913 issue of the Horseless Age reporting:

“Sues Bankrupt Concern for Note.

“Proceedings have been instituted in the Civil Superior Court in Bridgeport, Conn., by Edward K. Nicholson, of that city, against the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. and the Blue Ribbon Auto & Carriage Co., for foreclosure on a note and possession of property.

“The plaintiff claims that on January 1, 1909, Dolisca F. Terry loaned the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. $2,000 and the note which the defendant gave was payable on demand. On July, of the same year, James W. Horton loaned the defendant $3,000, the note being payable on demand. It is further claimed that Horton guaranteed Dolisca F. Terry the $2,000 she had loaned the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. and prior to June 9, 1910, she assigned her note to Horton, making $5,000 in all that Horton had loaned the company.

“On June 9, 1910, the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. by its agent, Harry D. Miller, executed a note and mortgage to James W. Horton for $5,000. On May 19 of this year Horton assigned the note to the plaintiff. The latter further claims that in January, 1912, the board of directors of the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. made or attempted to transfer the property to the Bellamore Armored Car and Equipment Co. On February 26 of this year the company was adjudicated a bankrupt, and Job E. Hedges, of New York, was appointed trustee. On June 13, 1913, he sold to the Bridgeport Auto and Carriage Co. all of his interests as trustee of the Bridgeport Vehicle Co.”

The Blue Ribbon Auto & Carriage Co. felt slighted after the preceding article was published, prompting the following explanation which appeared in the September 10, 1913 issue of the Horseless Age:

“Details of Bridgeport Vehicle Co. Law Suit.

“In our issue of August 27, under head of "Sues Bankrupt Concern for Note," we reported the institution of a suit against the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. and the Blue Ribbon Auto and Carriage Co. Fearing that the headline might cause someone to infer that they were bankrupt the Blue Ribbon Auto and Carriage Co. have sent us the following details regarding their connection with the suit, which we are glad to publish:

“The Bridgeport Vehicle Co. was in bankruptcy and receivers' hands some time in 1910 and 1911, and sold all their rights, title and interest, in their factory, plant and property of every description to the Bellamore Armored Car and Equipment Company in January, 1912. The Bellamore Company conducted the business for about a year, and sometime in February, 1913, they were adjudicated as bankrupt, and Job E. Hedges, of New York, was appointed trustee. Sometime in June, 1913, the United States District Court, with the confirmation of all the creditors, sold the equity in this property through Trustee Hedges to the Blue Ribbon Auto and Carriage Co. for cash, they assuming all liens against the property, but not including any unsecured claims. Since taking possession, the Blue Ribbon Company have paid off one mortgage of about eight thousand dollars and paid up back interest and taxes. The mortgage in question had been in dispute by the officials of the former Bridgeport Vehicle Company for some time prior to the transfer of the property. The Blue Ribbon Company stand ready to pay this mortgage, and have the money in the bank for that purpose, as soon as the courts decide the exact amount, if any, is due.”

The January 3, 1914 issue of Automobile Topics reported the surprising news that Harry D. Miller had been appointed the receiver for the Bridgeport Vehicle Co. despite the fact that the firm’s assets had been sold off two years earlier:

“Receiver for Bridgeport Vehicle

“Harry D. Miller has been appointed receiver for the Bridgeport (Conn.) Vehicle Co., under a bond of $1,000, with instructions to wind up the affairs of the company. The concern manufactured automobile bodies in its plant on Fairfield avenue, and was sold later to the Bellamore Armored Car & Equipment Co., which is now insolvent. The property is in the hands of another company. The receivership proceedings were instituted by J. W. Horton, A. W. Terry, S. McKenna, Harry D. Miller and George C. Miller, as stockholders of the company. H. D. Miller was president of the company before its sale to the Bellamore concern.”

The Blue Ribbon Auto & Carriage Co., and its successor, the Blue Ribbon Body Co. resumed the manufacture of Locomobile bodies and remained profitable into the late teens. Harry D. Miller, Bridgeport Vehicle’s former president, remained convinced that there was money to be found, and according to the May 18, 1918 issue of the Bridgeport Telegram, once again sued to recover his lost assets:

“Miller Again Acts to Get Receiver for Vehicle Firm; Claims Right to Have Stock Appraised — Decision Is Reserved.

“On the ground that he is entitled to have the value of his stock in the Bridgeport Vehicle company appraised, Harry D. Miller, former president of the concern, asked Judge Kellogg in the Civil Superior court yesterday to appoint a receiver for the concern. He was represented by Attorney Thomas M. Cullinan, who contended that Miller, as a minority stockholder, was entitled to have his interests protected.

“Other Receivers Discharged.

“Attorney James A. Marr, representing the Vehicle company, said Miller had previously brought numerous suits because of the company's tangled affairs and that none of these actions had resulted in victory for Miller. He said that Miller and John T. King had acted at various times as receivers for the company. Both had been discharged and Attorney Marr contended there was no need for a new receiver.

“The Bridgeport Vehicle company was located in 1911 at Fairfield and Holland avenues but when it went into the hands of a receiver in 1912 the company's assets were sold to the Bellamore Armored Car and Equipment company of New York. Although there has been a great deal of litigation regarding the Vehicle company, its affairs have never been wound up. So it still exists in name, if in nothing else. Judge Kellogg reserved decision on the motion.”

Miller spent the next decade in court suing persons connected with the failed Bridgeport Vehicle Co., its successor, the Bellamore Armored Car & Equipment Co. and its successor, the Blue Ribbon Body Co. Miller also tried to institute foreclosure proceedings on the factory of the Blue Ribbon Body Co. All of his numerous lawsuits were unsuccessful, and on numerous occasions the court forced him to pay the attorney’s fees of the people he dragged into court.

© 2012 Mark Theobald -







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

George Curtis Waldo - History of Bridgeport and Vicinity Vol. I & Vol. II, pub. 1917

Samuel Orcutt - A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport, Vol. I, pub. 1886

Patrick Robertson – Robertson’s Book of Firsts, pub. 1911

Winfield Scott Downs - Municipality of Buffalo, New York: a history, 1720-1923, Volume 3, pub. 1923

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