Bronson Carriage Co. - 1851-1923 - Lockport, New York
|Ira Bronson founded the Ira Bronson Carriage Company in Lockport
in 1851. His family was originally from Connecticut. He was born in 1815 in Oneida Country, New York State, the son
of Captain Levi and Martha Wilcox Bronson and the grandson of Levi Bronson.
Ira Bronson started his wagon making business at his home on West Main Street, which is now West Avenue. In the 1860's the company moved to a frame building which had been built on the Court House Square in 1823 as the First Presbyterian Church in Lockport. In 1830 the Presbyterians built a new brick church on Church Street and the old church became a Female Seminary. It was then moved to the east end of the present West Avenue Park and became the home of the Ira Bronson Carriage Company.
In 1868 Ira and Mary J. Bronson's son, Ira Adelbert, became a partner in the firm and it became Bronson & Son. Ira Adlebert married Nettie Marvin of Lockport on July 20, 1870, and they lived at 169 West Main. His father was living at 94 West Main St.
In 1875 the old frame building on West Main burned and a new carriage factory was built on Transit and New Main Street, a building which would later become the Park Hotel. By 1880 the business had increased so much that the building was enlarged and was now listed as "Ira Bronson & Son, carriage manufacturers; 1, 3, 5, New Main, comer Transit." Their carriages were rated the best in the county and some were in the Paris World Exposition in the 1890's.
Styles of carriages included the Dexter Buck Wagon with leather upholstering and the Dexter Queen which had a collapsible roof, both styles with a single seat. There was the Phaeton and the two-seated Phaeton with the seamless rood, upholstered in leather or broadcloth, with or without side curtains. Also advertised were sleighs - the two seated Portland with mohair upholstery and the single seat Portland, in two styles, livery and speeding sleigh, upholstered in silk or mohair plush with moquett rugs. Horse racing was unrestricted and the speeding or racing sleighs were used for races out East Avenue and Walnut Street. Bronson & Son also built the chassis for the fire engines in Lockport.
When Ira died on Dec. 8, 1891, his son, 1. Adelbert Bronson, continued the carriage making business in the building at 1, 3, 5, and 7 New Main (Park Avenue corner of Transit), and lived at 114 West Main Street (West Ave.). In 1893 Sylvester Marvin Bronson, and the son of 1. Adelbert and Nettie Marvin Bronson, became an apprentice in the business. He lived with his father at 114 West Avenue until he married Emma K. Huber on Sept. 1, 1897, and the newlyweds moved to 251 Grand Street.
In 1900 Sylvester and Emma Huber moved to New York City but by 1902 they were back in Lockport, living at 320 West Ave. Sylvester was back building carriages with his father. Also in 1902 a daughter, Lillian Bronson, was born to Sylvester and Emma Bronson. Lillian Bronson attended the West Avenue Elementary School and the Lockport Union High School, graduating in 1921.
By 1910 a big change had been made - the automobile was beginning to replace the horsedrawn carriage, and Sylvester decided to also make the change. In 1910 he changed to the automobile business but his father, Ira continued to work as a carriage dealer until 1916 when he retired. Ira Adelbert Bronson continued to live at 114 West Avenue until his death on Dec. 1, 1921. His Widow, Bertha W. Bronson, moved to 44 Park Place where she died in 1950.
In 1919 Sylvester M. Bronson had an automobile repair business at 3 Park Avenue and was still living at 320 West Avenue. Daughter Marjorie, a stenographer, was living with her parents at 320 West Avenue. However, while Lillian was attending Lockport Union School she had been in a play directed by her English teacher, Miss Amanda Fisher, and, with the encouragement of Miss Fisher, Lillian began a career in movies and television that lasted more than 50 years.
Lillian Bronson studied dramatics at Byrn Mawr in Pennsylvania, then went to the University of Michigan. She acted first in plays on Broadway, then began a career in the movies. She was in more than 80 feature films including films such as "Camille" with Lillian Gish, "Lean Harvest" with Leslie Banks, "The Hucksters" with Clark Gable, "Spencer's Mountain" with Henry Fonda, "Family Honeymoon" with Claudette Colbert, "The Next Voice You Hear" with James Whitmore. Her work in television included the role as Fonzi's grandmother on "Happy Days." Lillian Bronson died Aug. 3, 1995, at Laguna Beach, California.
Sylvester M. Bronson continued in the auto repairing business until 1923.
Bronson built bodies for the Covert Car, their Lockport neighbor, from 1904-11.
By Clarence "Dutch" Adams
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