Briggs Carriage Co. - 1876-1923 - Amesbury, Massachusetts
Around 1903, Locomobile awarded the Briggs Carriage Co. (no relation to Detroit's Briggs Manufacturing Co.) the contract for a certain new style of body. Briggs subcontracted the wood framing to Currier-Cameron, the result being that Locomobile was more than satisfied, with the job. Soon other auto manufacturers sought out Amesbury carriage-makers to build bodies for them, and by 1920 there were eight coachbuilders and two medium-sized auto-body producers in Amesbury.
The Briggs company, like so many other early car builders, was originally a builder of wagons, coaches and carriages. It had been started in 1866 at Amesbury, Massachusetts, by Richard F. Briggs.
In 1889, the firm decided to enter the growing market for streetcars. A completely new, two-story factory was built for their construction, and George Fowler was hired away from the J.G. Brill Company to be foreman of the car shop. Bodies would be produced in the carriage shop. Production began in 1890.
During the next dozen years, a great many cars were produced, mainly for New England traction companies. Cummings has a great deal to say about the various individual orders and the cars involved.
Among the proudest cars produced by Briggs were two single-truck parlor cars and a double-truck parlor car. These cars were produced mainly for the use of railroad officials, but were generally available for charter.
Around the turn of the century, streetcar business slowed, and Briggs began building automobile bodies for the Locomobile Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut. A three-month strike, coupled with a dearth of streetcar orders, convinced the company to halt streetcar production in 1903. That business was effectively willed to the Southern Car Company at High Point, North Carolina, when Brigg’s principal owner, Edward R. Briggs, was involved in its establishment, becoming its first Secretary-Treasurer.
Eventually, two body building companies of the town, descendants of the great carriage factories, accepted an order for automobile bodies. These concerns were jointly arranged in such an agreement that one firm was to design and build the bodies, and the other was to paint and trim them. Thus in April of 1898, the first production automobile body was built by the Currier Cameron Co., and finished by the Shields Carriage Co. This body was built for the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. of Newton, Mass., being powered by an early steam unit. It was a one-seater runabout vehicle which could easily accommodate two passengers, being similar to the old Victoria carriage. Underneath this body was placed the steam engine with its cylindrical boiler and burner. About ten such bodies were built in accordance with the first contract.
The firms of Currier, Cameron Co. and Shields Carriage Co. continued for two years to be the only local auto body makers in production. Employing together about eighty hands, the concerns at this time were finishing fifteen bodies per week for the Stanley Co. which represented a value of two hundred to three hundred dollars per day. All of the bodies were open steam runabouts and were all very similar to each other, except for some new invention that might have been added to better the machine’s mechanism or appearance.
In February of 1900 a representative of a leading chassis manufacturing company came to Amesbury and contracted with the only two body builders of the town for twenty finished bodies per week. The order was for three styles, namely victorias, open runabouts and roll-ups. This order was not for the Stanley Steamer bodies but Locomobile bodies at a time when this machine was making its reputation as one of America’s finest automobiles.
The ordinary order for fifteen bodies per week for Stanley, plus twenty more, a week for Locomobile, necessitated an immediate increase in production by the Currier Cameron Co. and Shields Carriage Co., but it was found that they could not turn out the required number of bodies for both chassis makers, and a third carriage firm was given about one quarter of the order. With the addition of the Briggs Carriage Co. into the auto body business of the town, a second jointly arranged agreement was drawn up. John Currier, of Currier Cameron Co., agreed to give Richard E. Briggs of Briggs Carriage Co. one-quarter of the contract for the framing and finishing of the Locomobile bodies if Mr. Briggs would paint, trim and top all of the Locomobile bodies that were built by Currier Cameron as the Shields firm could manage only the Stanley Steamer bodies. The Briggs Carriage Co. continued to manufacture in combination with the Currier Cameron Co. many of the Locomobile bodies that were built in Amesbury, although some were made by the firm of James N. Leitch. The number of production bodies that the Briggs Co. built per week in accordance with the firm's first agreement in 1900 was never greatly increased as the company held to the manufacture of High Point wagons, and to the building of electric street railway cars until its liquidation shortly after 1910.
John Bartley - Amesbury as a Body-Building Center – April 13, 1943 – Collection of the Amesbury Public Library
The Briggs Carriage Co. was organized in 1859. It has been an important factor in the carriage industry under the management of J. W. and Richard Briggs. They built their own plant on the margin of Clark's Pond, consisting of one large four story wooden building, and three additional brick factories added in later years. So successful was the firm that they cleared a large section of land near their works and erected thirty five dwellings for the accommodation of the mechanics employed by them. The two brothers have each passed "over the river." James, the elder, died in 1891. Richard, the active business partner, died in the full tide of prosperity in 1894, loved and honored in the trade and in the community. The business established by them remains a lasting monument of their skill and financial ability, and is continued by the sons of J. W. Briggs.
To Richard Briggs is due the added industry in 1889 of the manufacture of electric cars, which has been quite successfully prosecuted under the present management of his nephews and his namesake, Richard.
related to the Southern Car Company -
The Southern Car Company was organized at High Point, North Carolina, in 1904 as a successor to the Briggs Car Company of Amesbury, Massachusetts. Edward R. Briggs, the principal of that company, became Secretary-Treasurer of Southern.
Southern built streetcars and interurbans. It apparently never built cars for steam railroads.
One authority says the Briggs influence can be seen during Southern’s first few years in the design of their single truck closed body cars and their single truck open cross bench cars; even to the point of using images of Briggs cars in Southern’s advertising. Single truck cars of the Salisbury & Spencer Railway of North Carolina built before 1906 are said to be typical examples.
Southern built 10 all-steel double-deck cars for Capitol Transit of Washington, DC, which are considered outstanding, and reportedly built New Orlean’s first steel cars (#400-449) in 1914.
Though most of its production was used in the south, it also supplied railways in New York and in Puerto Rico.
The company went out of business in 1917, probably bruised and
battered by the combination of the long depression years that followed
the 1907 stock market crash, declining orders for streetcars, and the
imminent entrance of the U.S. into the war in Europe that would become
the 1st World War.
Unrelated to the Briggs Manufacturing Company, this "Carriage Hill" company built bodies for the early Locomobile steam cars as well as later gas-engined Locomobiles from 1898 until their demise in 1920.
The Briggs Carriage Company
By O. R. Cummings
A Forgotten Industry is the history of three streetcar builders, the Newburyport Car Manufacturing Company of Newburyport and the Ellis Car Company and the Briggs Carriage Company of Amesbury in the northeast corner of Massachusetts Essex County. All three ceased production prior to 1905 and so completely have they been forgotten that any mention of them today to Newburyport and Amesbury residents supposedly knowledgeable about local history frequently is greeted by a blank stare and sometimes a "Huh!"
The Newburyport concern was the oldest, being organized in late 1887 by Edward P. Shaw, better known as E. P. Shaw, a Port City man who was one of New England's most active street railway promoters and contractors during the last decade of the 19th Century. The Ellis Car Company came into being in 1889 while the Briggs concern started building streetcar bodies a year later. Products of all three companies enjoyed fairly wide distribution, particularly in New England, but were also sold to many horse and electric railways outside the six-state area. As best can be determined. none of the companies ever constructed any steam railroad rolling stock.
While Ellis was forced to quit as a result of a fire in April 1894, the Newburyport Car Manufacturing Company and Briggs flourished until shortly after the turn of the century when they started to encounter really stiff competition from such major New England builders as the Laconia (N.H.) Car Company Works, the Wason Manufacturing Company of Springfield, Mass. and the Osgood Bradley Car Company of Worcester, Mass. All three of these were capable of large scale production and able to offer prices which Newburyport and Briggs simply could not match. Briggs ceased building streetcars in 1903, and Newburyport followed suit early in 1904.
No physical traces of either the Newburyport or Ellis plants exist today but all four buildings in the Briggs Carriage Company complex still stand and are used for a variety of purposes. Fortunately, there are numerous pictures, and two cars built by Newburyport and one outshopped by Briggs are preserved at trolley museums in Maine and Quebec. No Ellis-built cars or car bodies are known to exist.
Except for some hand-written lists of streetcars manufactured by Briggs from 1890 through 1893, no records or documents of any of the Newburyport and Amesbury streetcar builders are known to exist. However, historical data about all three appear in issues of the Street Railway Journal, a trade publication which first appeared in 1884 and was known as the Electric Railway Journal from 1908 through 1931. Feature articles about the Newburyport, Ellis and Briggs companies appeared in the magazine soon after they began production and thereafter there were frequent news notes about orders received by all three. The American Street Railway Investments manual, issued annually by McGraw-Hill from 1894 to 1914, listed all street railways in the United States and Canada and frequently identified the builders of their rolling stock.
The basic material for this story was researched separately but cooperatively by Gerald F. Cunningham, a native of Haverhill, Mass., and 0. R. Cummings, formerly of Newburyport. After the former's death in May 1990, all of his notes were turned over to the latter by Mrs. Cunningham. Additional research in the files of the Newburyport Daily Herald, the Newburyport Daily News, the Amesbury & Salisbury Villager and the Amesbury Daily News at the public libraries in Newburyport and Amesbury was undertaken by Cummings, who compiled the tentative lists of streetcars produced by each builder. Corrections and additions will be welcomed.
Most of the illustrations herein are from the collections of the Messrs. Cunningham and Cummings, who obtained the photos from a variety of sources over a long period. Some were furnished by the late Charles D. Haseltine of South Portland, Me., the late Richard L. Wonson of Fall River, Mass., the Manchester Historic Association of Manchester, N.H. and the Public Service Company of New Hampshire. Others came from the Ould Newbury Historical Society of Newburyport, the late Carl L. Smith of Charlton, Mass., John D. Rockwell, Jr. of Middleboro, Mass., the late Charles C. Holt of Saugus, Mass., the late Charles A. Brown of Sutton, Mass., the late Charles A. Duncan of Danvers, Mass., the late Harold D. Forsyth of Marblehead, Mass., the late Russell Goodall of Sanford, Me., the late Dr. Frederick N. Sweetsir of Merrimac, Mass. and the Howell Sell collection at Railways to Yesterday, Rockhill Furnace, Pa.
A FORGOTTEN INDUSTRY
Amesbury Streetcar Builders
The Briggs Carriage Company
1890 - 1904
By O. R. Cummings - June 1994
Printed and sold by
THE EARLY YEARS
Amesbury's second streetcar builder, The Briggs Carriage Company, had its modest beginnings in 1866 when Richard F. Briggs started building so-called "jump seat" carriages in a small wood frame building at 99 Friend Street. His business grew rapidly and in 1874 he purchased the brick mill building of adieu & Clark on the south side of i edarStreet, about opposite Poplar Street. Z. F. Briggs & Company was organized it about the same time and the enterprise .vas expanded to include the manufacture )f both carriage pans and bodies. An additional building on the south side of ::edar Street was erected in 1882 and another was constructed on the north side of Cedar Street, about opposite the present R Street, in 1887. The firm became known as the Briggs Carriage Company at the same time, incorporation underthat name following in 1894 after the death of the founder.
Whether the entry of W. G. Ellis & Sons into the streetcar building business influenced the action is unknown but at some time during 1889 Briggs Carriage Company officials decided to seek a share of what appeared to a lucrative and growing market. A new two-story brick factory was erected at the northwest corner of Cedar and Poplar streets and once this was complete and equipped with machinery in 1890, Briggs began soliciting rolling stock orders from street railways.
The Street Railway Journal of August 1890 said that the Briggs car factory was 60 by 220 feet in area and that its two floors were connected by an elevator. It added that the woodwork was produced in the carriage factory nearby and noted that George Fowler, formerly with the J. G. Brill Company of Philadelphia, was foreman of the car shop and that the very .first order received by Briggs was for four 8-bench open cars, Nos. 26-29, from the Manchester Street Railway, which operated an extensive three-foot gauge horsecar system in New Hampshire's Queen City. The magazine said the cars were handsomely painted, the groundwork of the seat end panels being Concord green with colored border and bright trimmings, and that their interiors were finished in cherry and ash.
Produced by Briggs for the Manchester Street Railway in later years were eight 16-foot closed horsecars, Nos. 30 37, in 1891-92; two 10-bench open horsecars, Nos. 38 and 39, in 1893 and seven 10-bench open electric cars, Nos. 76-82, and a luxurious parlor car, the City of Manchester, in 1897. The parlor car will be described in some detail later in the chapter. When the Manchester company electrified and standard-gauged its system in 1895-96, Nos. 26-39 had to be modified extensively so new trucks could be attached and motors and other electrical equipment installed.
Once Briggs advertisements started appearing in trade publications, orders began to pour in and in June 1891 the Street Railway Journal reported that the company was very busy and that its factory showed signs of great activity. Among cars shipped in 1891 were one 16-foot closed car and six 8-bench opens to the East Side Street Railway of Brockton; one 18-foot closed car to the Thomson-Houston Electric Company for operation in Whitinsville, Mass.; four closed and 11 eight-bench opens to the Allentown & Bethlehem Rapid Transit Company in Pennsylvania; five 16-foot closed and four 8-bench opens to the Brockton Street Railway and one 9-bench open car to the Waterville & Fairfield Railway & Light Company in Maine. Unlike Ellis, Briggs had no convenient railroad siding and the streetcar bodies had to be trucked to the Amesbury freight yard of the Boston & Maine to be loaded for shipment.
Received in 1891 was an order for the initial rolling stock of the Rockland, Thomaston & Camden Street Railway in Maine's Knox County. This consisted of three 20-foot closed cars and six 10bench opens which were shipped in 1892. Ten more open cars were shipped to Allentown that year; two open cars each were built for the Cottage City Street Railway of Martha's Vineyard and the Winnipeg Electric Street Railway of Manitoba. Canada and four 10-bench opens went to the Natick (Mass.) Electric Street Railway. Ten 16-foot closed cars were constructed for the Interstate Street Railway of Providence, R. I. and other shipments included five closed cars for the Montreal Street Railway, one 8-bench open to the Marlboro Street Railway, one 18-foot closed car to the Augusta, Hallowell & Gardiner Railroad; two 18-foot closed cars to the Mousam River Railroad of Sanford, Me.; a double truck freight car to the Thomson-Houston Electric Company for the Rockland, Thomaston & Camden, two closed cars for the Norwich Street Railway and seven closed cars to the firm of Shaw & Ferguson.
Among cars shipped in 1893 were a 20-foot closed combination passengerbaggage car and three more closed cars and four opens to the Rockland, Thomaston & Camden; a 20-foot closed car to the Waterville & Fairfield Railway & Light Company; four 10-bench opens to the Concord Street Railway in New Hampshire; six 8-bench open cars to the Aurora (Ill.) Street Railway; six 18-foot closed cars to the New London Street Railway and three 18-foot closed and three 10-bench open cars to the Norwalk (Conn.) Tramway. Also known to have .been produced in 1893 were four 10bench opens for the Plymouth & Kingston Street Railway and a 20-foot closed combination passenger-baggage car for the Haverhill & Amesbury Street Railway.
Little information is available about Briggs shipments in 1894 but among them were another 20-foot closed car for the Waterville & Fairfield and four 10bench open cars for the Calais (Maine) Street Railway. Produced in 1895 were one 20-foot closed car and two 10-bench opens for the Norway & Paris Street Railway in Maine's Oxford County and four 13-bench open, two 14-bench open and sixteen 20-foot closed cars for the Brockton Street Railway. Deliveries in 1896 included two 20-foot closed cars, a 20-foot combination passenger-baggage car, four 10-bench opens and a double truck box freight car to the Somerset Traction Company of Skowhegan; two 10-bench opens to the Biddeford & Saco Railroad and one 20-foot closed and two 10-bench opens to the Brunswick Electric Railroad, all Maine properties, and three 20-foot closed cars to the Chester & Derry Railroad in New Hampshire. Two 20-foot 2-inch closed car bodies. Nos. 50 and 84, went to the Union Street Rail way of New Bedford in 1897.
The combination passenger-baggage cars produced for the Rockland, Thomaston & Camden and Haver-hill & Amesbury Street Railways and the Somerset Traction Company were essentially identical except for roof type. The body of each was divided by a bulkhead into a passenger compartment, which had two longitudinal seats, and the baggage section, which had a large sliding door on each side. All three initially had open platforms at the ends.
The RT&C car was conveyed about 1900 to the Norway & Paris Street Railway, which sold it a year later to the Augusta, Hallowell & GardinerRailroad. It subsequently became the property of the AH&G's successor, the Augusta, Winthrop & Gardiner Street Railway, and was destroyed by fire in Augusta in 1907. The H&A car is known to have been retired prior to 1909 but the fate of the Somerset Traction car is not recorded.
Developed by Briggs about 1895 was an attractive new design of 20-foot vesti- .buled closed car. The first versions featured a rectangular monitor roof with a gracefully curved top, convex-concave panel sides, seven drop-sash windows on each side, a single sliding door in each body end bulkhead and vestibules with three drop-sash windows at the ends and either a single-leaf swinging door or a two-leaf folding door on each side. There was a single fixed step at each door. Some of the cars had two longitudinal seats while others had 10 reversible transverse and four short longitudinal seats, the seating capacity for either arrangement being 28. The interiors were heated and lighted by electricity and pictures show that many had incandescent electric headlights permanently mounted on the dashers.
Companies purchasing cars of this design included the Somerset Traction Company, the Norway & Paris Street Railway, the Waterville & Fairfield Railway & Light Company, the Benton & Fairfield Railway, the Portsmouth, Kittery & York Street Railway, the Lewiston & Auburn Horse Railroad, the Brunswick Electric Railroad and the Lewiston, Brunswick & Bath Street Railway in Maine, the Exeter Street Railway in New Hampshire, the Chester & Derry Railroad, plus the Amesbury & Hampton, the Norton & Taunton and the Plymouth & Sandwich Street Railways in Massachusetts. The LB&B, A&H and P&S cars had steam coach instead of monitor roofs. A 25-foot double truck model was also available and at least one was purchased by the Norton & Taunton.
Try as it might, Briggs was unable to obtain any orders from either the West End Street Railway or the Boston Elevated Railway, possibly because its bid prices were higher than those of other builders. In a move to demonstrate to the Elevated the high quality of its products, two sample 25-foot vestibuled closed cars were shipped to Boston about 1899 for tests on the surface lines of the BERy. Whether they actually were purchased by the BERy is uncertain but the two bodies were sold in November 1900 to the Waterville & Fairfield Railway & Light Company for$2,759. They became W&F Nos_ 13 and 14; were revamped for oneman operation by the Waterville, Fairfield & Oakland in Railway in 1922 and were retired nine years later.
Briggs may not have scored in Boston but two of the largest orders ever received by the company came in 1899 from two properties later absorbed by the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Rapid Transit Company. Built for the Brooklyn City Railroad were 25 open cars of the 13-bench type, eventually BRT Nos. 675-699, while produced for the Nassau Electric Railroad were fifty 13-bench opens (later BRT 850899) and 25 double truck closed cars with eight windows on each side, which be came BRT 2175-2199. All were of Brook lyn rather than Briggs design and some of the opens lasted until 1934, the closed cars being retired during the 1930-33 period.
The American Street Railway hrnest ments manual of 1900 reported that among other owners of Briggs cars were the Amherst & Sunder-land Street Railway in Massachusetts, the Dunkirk & Fredonia Railroad of New York, the Stamford Street Railroad in Connecticut. There may well have been more but, in many cases, the manual listed only quantities of cars owned and gave no further details.
During most horsecar era street railways generally operated open cars during the summer and closed cars in the fall, winter and spring but after tamed lightning succeeded hayburners as motive power, many companies found it very expensive to own and maintain rolling stock designed only for seasonal use. At an early date streetcar designers began developing cars which could be converted from closed to open (and vice versa) as the weather dictated and in 1896 the fledgling Duplex Car Co. of New York City obtained patents for a type of fully-convertible trolley. The car had curved sliding panels of a type similar to those found on a roll-top desk and each panel, which had a curved plate glass window near its top, could be pushed upward into a roof recess when it was desired to convert the car from closed to open. A single running board was provided on each side. While the earliest cars had open platforms, it was not long before vestibuled types were produced and these usually had a single fixed step at each vestibule door. Due to their unique shape, they were commonly referred to as "barrel cars."
Because the Duplex Car Company (which maintained a Boston office for a time) had no plant of its own, it arranged for them to be produced by different builders, including the Jackson & Sharp Company of Wilmington, Del. and the Briggs Carriage Company, both being permitted to use their own roof and vestibule designs. What may have been the first Duplex car ever built was demonstrated in Concord, N.H. in December 1896 and a December 27 newspaper story about the trials was illustrated by a crude drawing which showed that it eight panels on each side, open end platforms, transverse seats and double trucks. The car was purchased about 1898 by the Concord Street Railway, on which it became No. 29, and it was in regular use until the tracks of the Concord system were rebuilt and widened from three-foot to standard gauge in 1903. The car had vestibules in its last years of operation and a picture suggests that these vestibules were of Briggs manufacture.
Duplex cars were available in both single truck and double truck versions. Briggs is known to have produced single truck cars for the West Roxbury & Roslindale Street Railway in Massachusetts and the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway. Both had 21 ft. 8 in. bodies, measured 32 ft I in. long overall and 8 ft. 8 in. wide. Each had nine panels on each side and 16 reversible transverse seats accommodating 32 riders. The Somerset Traction Company and the Templeton (Mass.) Street Railway each owned one double truck car and the Dover, Somersworth & Rochester Street Railway of New Hampshire and the Bellows Falls & Saxtons River Street Railway of Vermont each owned two. Four were acquired by the Waterville & Oakland Street Railway of Maine and while the builder of eight owned by the Honolulu (Hawaii) Rapid Transit & Land Company is uncertain, all had some distinctive Briggs characteristics. Another was purchased by the Nelson (British Columbia) Electric Tramway Company.
There was one major trouble with Duplex cars (at least in New England) and that was the tendency of their side panels to become distorted and stick in wet or damp weather, making it virtually impossible to lower them on a rainy day .or raise them when sunny skies returned. As early as 1911 the DS&R removed the running boards on its two cars and made the sliding panels fast so they could not be moved. Somerset Traction riveted steel plates to the sides of the car to eliminate the convertible feature. Insulation was provided so the carcould easily be heated in winter.
The West Roxbury & Roslindale car subsequently became the property of the Old Colony Street Railway and its 1911 successor, the Bay State Street Railway, and was scrapped in 1919. That on the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury still was on the property when rail service ended in 1926. The Dover, Somersworth & Rochester was motorized in 1926 and the Somerset Traction Company was abandoned two years later. The Templeton Street Railway car became the property of the Northern Massachusetts Street Railway in 1913 and some of its body parts are preserved at the Seashore Trolley Museum. As for the eight Honolulu cars, their monitor roofs were removed about 1920 and about 1926 the sliding panels and windows and the running boards were removed and the sides were enclosed with heavy wire screening. All were scrapped in 1934.
The first of two luxurious parlor cars produced by the Briggs Carriage Company was the City of Manchester, Manchester, built in 1897 for the Manchester Street Railway. Measuring about 30 feet long overall, it had two eight-observation platforms, a 14foot enclosed center section and a rectangular monitor roof. There was ornamental wrought iron grillwork on the platforms and the interior of the center section was finished in mahogany and oak and had quartered oak flooring. Draperies were provided at the beveled plate glass windows and small cupboards in each corner (for the storage of edibles and potables) had plate glass mirrors on their doors. Furnishings included a number of wicker and leather chairs which could be moved about on a thick carpet. In short, it was a Victorian parlor on wheels? Two fixed seats were provided on each platform, which was protected by spring roller curtains and the roof end windows were etched with the name of the company.
Delivered in Manchester on August 13, 1897, the City of Manchester initially was painted royal blue and cream and had gold leaf trim and lettering. It rode on a four-wheel truck purchased from the Peckham Truck Company and was equipped with General Electric motors and controllers. According to a newspaper description of the car when it arrived in the Queen City, the truck was nickel plated but pictures show no such embellishment.
Acquired primarily for the use of Manchester Street Railway officials, notably its president Charles Williams, the City of Manchester could be hired (initially for $5 daily) by small private parties who wished to charter something more elegant than an ordinary street car. It was a familiar sight on Queen City streets until the World War I years, then gradually fell into disuse. Stored for a long period in one of Manchester Street Railway's operating carhouses, it made its last trip on September 6, 1929 when it ran to the end of the Valley Street line, back to downtown Manchester and then out on the Massabesic Lake line to the Lake or Youngsville storage barn. Here it reposed until 1938 when its body was sold to a private party for use as a playhouse for his children. In 1952 the body was purchased by a member of the New England Electric Railway Historical Society and moved to the Seashore Trolley Museum. It has since been restored to as near its original condition as possible and is operated at the museum from time to time. It has been returned to Manchester twice for display during special events and attracted numerous admirers on both occasions. It is the only Briggs-built car known to exist today.
Similar to the City of Manchester was the single truck parlor car Lawrence built by the Newburyport Car Manufacturing Company for the Newport & Fall River Street Railway in 1898. It was nearly 34 feet long overall and its 18-foot closed section had four instead of three windows on each side. Painted brown with gold trim, it became No. 2697 of the Old Colony Street Railway in 1901 and during World War I it was used to spread the wheat conservation message of the U. S. Food Administration on tours throughout .much of eastern Massachusetts. After the conflict ended, the car was placed in storage in the Portsmouth carhouse of the former N&FR and was scrapped after vandals extensively damaged its body.
Two years after the City of Manchestermade its debut, a double truck version was produced for the Lewiston, Brunswick & Bath Street Railway in 1899. Costing $7,000 and named the Merrymeeting, it was 40 feet long overall, there being a 10-foot platform at either end and a 20-foot closed section in the center. As on the Queen City car, the end platforms were enclosed by ornamental wrought iron grillwork, the platform floors being covered with rubber matting. The car had a steam coach roof and there were olive green plush draperies at the windows and a matching velvet carpet on the floor of the closed section which was provided with movable easy chairs and four tables for use by card players. A cupboard at each end had plate glass mirrors on the doors and one held an ice water tank. The interior finish was of mahogany and the exterior of the car was painted olive green with straw trim, Merrymeeting appearing in gold on the convex panels of the closed section. It rode on Peckham trucks; was equipped with Westinghouse motors and controllers and had both hand and air brakes, the compressor for the latter being axle-driven.
Delivered to the LB&B at Bath, the car made its first trip from the Shipbuilding City to Lewiston on May 13, 1899 and carried a party of company officials and invited guests. The Lewiston Evening Journal of that day said passengers reported that the car "ran like a boat, without a jar and with a bird-like velocity." Like the City of Manchester, it was available for charter by private parties and one of these was aboard on July 10, 1900 when the Merrymeeting ran away on Main Street, Lewiston, after its brakes failed. As it moved downgrade, its speed steadily increased and when it hit a switch at the north end of the North Bridge across the Androscoggin River, it split the switch and continued broadside across the span to Court Street, Auburn, where it finally halted. There were no injuries to any of the passengers and no collisions with other vehicles and once the brakes had .been repaired at the LB&B's Lewiston carhouse, the special party continued to its destination.
The LB&B was succeeded in 1907 by the Lewiston, Augusta & Waterville Street Railway and on September 14, 1908 the Merrymeet-ing made the first trip over the LA&W's new line from Lewiston to Winslow via Gardiner, Augusta and East and North Vassalboro. General Manager Harry Ivers and other railway officials were aboard when the car left Lewiston about 4 p.m. ind headed for Winslow. Because trolley wires had not yet been strung between Augusta and East Vassalboro, the parlor car had to be towed over this part of the line by a small steam locomotive normally used to draw construction trains. With the state Railroad Commissioners aboard, the car left Winslow at 1 p.m. the next day and arrived in Augusta in the late afternoon. After an overnight stay at the Augusta House, the party continued onto Lewiston. Regular trolley service between Lewiston and Winslow was inaugurated on November 24, 1908, a two-hour headway being maintained until December 1 when hourly service was substituted.
It was the custom of the Railroad Commissioners to inspect all trolley I ines in the state annually and during both the LB&B and LA&W they were figuratively wined and dined on the Merrymeeting. The parlor car also carried many charter parties, favorite destinations of which included New Meadows Inn in West Bath and Tacoma Inn between Lewiston and Gardiner.
But, like the City of Manchester, the parlor car was little used after World War I and it was scrapped in 1923 by the Androscoggin & Kennebec Railway, LA& W successor in 1919. Pictures show that in later years the car rode on Laconia trucks, was equipped with a motor-driven compressor, and was painted in a livery much simpler than the original.
THE LAST YEARS
By the end of the 19th Century the carriage business was beginning to decline and in 1900 the Briggs Carriage Company started building bodies for the Locomobile Company of Bridgeport, Conn., which had begun producing steampropelled automobiles in 1899. After a strike beginning on January 1, 1903 and lasting three months, Briggs officials formally decided to halt streetcar production (they had no orders anyway) and to concentrate on automobile bodies and horse-drawn wagons.
Four Duplex double truck convertibles were on hand when streetcar building officially ended. These were shipped to the Waterville & Oakland Street Railway in Maine in early June 1903. As one of them was being moved to the Amesbury freight yard on June 8, its roof struck a trolley wire of the Haverhill & Amesbury Street Railway on Elm Street, causing the wire to fall to the ground in a shower of sparks and producing a short circuit. Until a wire crew arrived to make repairs, the Duplex couldn't be moved but eventually it reached the freight yard and was started on its way to Maine. The four cars became Nos. 2 even through 8 on the Waterville and Oakland, and were Nos. 20-23 of the Waterville, Fairfield & Oakland after 1911.
The Briggs streetcar business effectively was turned over to the newly-organized Southern Car Company of High Point, N.C. (Edward R. Briggs was Southern's first secretary-trcasurer) which continued production until 1917. The Briggs influence naturally was very strong in Southern's earliest cars and, indeed, Southern used pictures of Briggs cars in its initial advertising in trade publications. As best can be determined, Southern sold cars to only two New England railways, the Norwich & Westerly Railway and the New London & East Lyme Street Railway, both in Connecticut, but its products enjoyed wide distribution in other states, particularly those below the Mason-Dixon line.
Shortly after the Southern Car Company went out of business, Perley A. Thomas, a former employee, purchased the High Point plant and organized the Perley A. Thomas Car Works. It built streetcars for many U. S. cities, including New Orleans, La., until 1930 when production ended. The company then turned to the bus manufacturing field and it is still in business today (1993), specializing in school buses with all-steel bodies. Perley Thomas cars remain in operation today in the Crescent City, where are run on both the St. Charles Street route and .the new Waterfront tourist trolley line, while others have been preserved at trolley museums, including the Seashore Trolley Museum and the Connecticut Electric Railway Museum of East Windsor, Conn.
As for the Briggs Carriage Co., it sold its car building plant to the F. S. Merrill wheel "manufactory" in May 1903 and the building still stands. Last occupied by Eastern States Distributors Inc., it was vacant in May 1993. A structure immediately to the west, used by Briggs to store completed streetcars, carriages and wagons pending shipment, was occupied for many years by the Henschel Corporation and now houses ARC Technologies and DM Precision Tool Sharpening.
Of all these manufacturers during this period of years the firm of Currier Cameron Co. built the largest number of wooden automobile bodies, reaching in 1906 the high peak of twenty-five per week. The executives, John Currier and C. D. Cameron, employed ninety hands in 1907, with cash sales during that year amounting to more than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. This business establishment occupied two three-story factories at the corner of Elm and Cedar Streets. Many types of style bodies were built by this concern for different chassis manufacturers, although more than sixty percent of their business was done for the Stanley and Locomobile Auto Co.
Cabriolets, open and closed limousines, fallen top Broughams, Rockaways, touring bodies, roadsters, runabouts, coupes, five-seater coaches and buckboards were among their specialties. Their bodies were mounted on Pope Robinson, Maxwell, Briscoe, Stanley Steamer, Mobile Steamer, Stevens-Duryea, Orient Buckboard, and Locomobile chassis.
As before stated in joint combination with the Currier Cameron Co. were the firms of Shields Carriage Co. and Briggs Carriage Co. The former was made up of successors to John H. Shiels and Co., being now composed of J. Woodbury Currier, Nathaniel W. Currier and George E. Collins. Occupying two factories on Carriage Avenue, they employed six blacksmiths, twelve painters and fifteen trimmers. The latter firm of Briggs Carriage Co., which occupied a long four story body-building factory on Cedar Street, employed forty hands in their body shop. Though engaged in a diversity of industries which kept the number of their production bodies at a minimum, the company completed work of the highest quality as their body workers were well regarded as being highly skilled in this mechanic art.
For More Information Please Read:
John Bartley - Amesbury as a Body-Building Center – April 13, 1943 – Collection of the Amesbury Public Library
Orra L. Stone - History of Massachusetts Industries Vol I-IV - Boston, MA, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1930
Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists ISBN 8096897403
Cunningham, Gerald F. & O.R. Cummings. A Forgotten Industry ... Newburyport and Amesbury Streetcar Builders ... The Newburyport Car Manufacturing Co. The Ellis Car Company. The Briggs Carriage Company. _____ : , Harold E. Cox, 1995.
Cummings, O.R. A Forgotten Industry; Preface and History of the Briggs Carriage Company, Amesbury, Massachusetts. 1994. Online at http://www.hampton.lib.nh.us/hampton/history/trolleys/aforgottenindustry.htm
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