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Brownell & Burt
Brownell & Burt, 1875-1932; Taunton, Massachusetts
Associated Firms
George L. Brownell; Brownell, Ashley & Co.

Daniel L. Brownell and George H. Burt were the founders of Taunton's largest carriage maker, Brownell & Burt.

Daniel L. Brownell and his uncle George L. Brownell (b. Jul. 1823-d.Jan 13, 1903) not only shared a surname and a profession, but were also well-known builders of horse-drawn hearses. Although their businesses were not directly related, they were located less than 25 miles away from each other in Bristol County, Massachusetts, Daniel in Taunton, and George in New Bedford which is located 23 miles south of Taunton.

Our subject shared his given name with his grandfather, Daniel Brownell, who was born on Mar 14, 1782 in Little Compton, Newport County, Rhode Island. He died on May 6, 1833 in Little Compton, Newport County, Rhode Island. His parents were George and Elizabeth (Peckham) Brownell. To the blessed union was born 5 children; Frederic R, Leonard F., Andrew P., Elizabeth, and George L. Brownell. (Leonard F. married on Oct. 17, 1844)

Leonard Frank Brownell was born on May 20, 1813 to Daniel and Hannah (Allen) Brownell, his profession, bootmaker, according to the 1870 US Census. Leonard’s brother was George L. Brownell, the famous New Bedford carriage, hearse and bicycle manufacturer.

Daniel L. Brownell was born Oct. 22, 1852 to Leonard F. and Mary A. (Howland) Brownell in Westport, Bristol County, Mass. His siblings included Charles, (b. April 26, 1847); Georgeanna (b. 1850) and George F. (b. July 9, 1857)Brownell.

Daniel L. Brownell married Abby A. White (daughter of Holden & Amy S. White of Westport, Mass.) on October 16, 1876. The marriage record lists his occupation as mechanic. To the blessed union was born a single child, Eugene Howland (b. Jan 1, 1880) Brownell. Eugene went to work for his father, the 1900 US Census lists his occupation as woodworker. In 1906 Eugene married Ella W. (??) and to the blessed union were born three daughters; Evelyn N. (b. 1909); Eugenia (b. 1912); and Elizabeth (b. 1917).

George H. Burt, Daniel L. Brownell’s partner, was born in Taunton, Mass. on May 31, 1854 to Allen B. and Phebe (or Almaria) Burt. The birth record lists his father’s profession as machinist although later census records list him as a farmer. George’s siblings included: Maria A. (b.1851); Angenette (b. 1853) George H. (b.1854 – our subject); Alice M. (b.1864); Charles A. (b.1867); and Walter E. (b.1869) Burt.

On Jan 13, 1883 George married Ella Regina Gegenheimer (b. Aug. 25, 1853 in Saco, York County, Maine - could be Aug. 25, 1851). Confirmed by 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 US Census which list George H. Burt and his wife Ella R. Burt.

Little is known about Daniel L. Brownell, prior to his forming the partnership with Burt, but do to the fact hearses were the firm’s specialty, it’s likely he learned the trade under his uncle in nearby New Bedford. No information could be located concerning George H. Burt’s education, but it is confirmed that the two formed a partnership and entered into business at 20-22 Broadway, Taunton, Bristol County, Massachusetts during 1875.

The 1878 Sampson, Davenport & Co. Taunton, Mass. Directory includes the following entries:

“Brownell, Daniel L. (Brownell & Burt G.H.) carriage manufs. 20 and 22 Broadway; house 8 Union.
“Burt, George H. (Brownell & Burt, 20 and 22 Broadway) boards Walker corner Glebe

Under ‘Carriage Manufacturers’; ‘Carriage Repositories’; ‘Harnesses (dealers)’

“BROWNELL & BURT, 20 and 22 Broadway (see outside back cover).”

D. Hamilton Hurd’s History of Bristol County, Massachusetts., pub 1883 indicated the partners had relocated to 10-12 Washington St., corner of Hodges:

“Brownell & Burt, a young enterprising firm in the manufacture of carriages employ a capital of $10,000 and have a spacious manufactory on Washington Street.”

George’s younger brother, Walter E. Burt, also worked for the firm as a carriage trimmer.

According to the April 1924 issue of the Automobile Trade Journal:

“Brownell & Burt, Inc., Taunton, Mass., came into the selling end of the business in 1900, because they were making bodies for the Eclipse Automobile Co.”

Amesbury’s Currier, Cameron, and Company also supplied coachwork for the steam-powered Eclipse which was built in Boston from 1899 through 1902.

The partners added automobile sales to the mix in 1907, the 1908 International Motor Cyclopedia noting they were distributors of the Lambert automobile, a mid-priced friction drive automobile produced in Anderson, Indiana.

The May, 1909 issue of the Hub indicates the firm was producing a delivery truck, although the manufacturer of the powertrain is not mentioned:

“Proud of Its First Baby - A handsome new motor delivery van is fast approaching completion at Brownell & Burt's carriage manufacturing plant at Taunton, Mass. The vehicle is run by a powerful motor and is the first of its kind that has been constructed in that vicinity.”

The May, 1911 issue of Carriage Monthly makes note that the partners were now distributing the EMF/ Flanders automobile:

“Brownell & Burt, Taunton, Mass., have added an additional story to their smith department building which will be used as an automobile repairing shop. This firm reports business rushing in both automobiles and carriages. Some time ago the agency for the EMF and Flanders automobiles was secured and a goodly number of sales are being made. Established in 1875, Brownell & Burt have kept fully abreast of every development in the vehicle business from that time until the present.”

Federal Trucks were added to their new vehicle mix in November of 1912. The December 6, 1913 issue of Automobile Topics indicates they were also manufacturing closed bodies for regional distributors of the Ford Model T:

“TAUNTON, MASS. — Brownell & Burt, of this city, have finished an order for a dozen Sedan bodies for the Providence branch of the Ford company. There is a considerable demand for this style of body in New England, and Brownell & Burt are making a specialty of it.”

By 1917 they were listed as Taunton’s Studebaker distributor and with space becoming limited, they purchased a plot across the street where construction of a new garage commenced as reported in the ‘Contract Awarded’ column of the November 10, 1917 issue of American Contractor:

“Public Garage. $15,000 1 sty. 49’ x 158’, Washington St., Taunton. Priv. plans. Owner: Brownell & Burt, 19 Washington St., Taunton. Gen. contr. let to Joseph A. Glenn, Fall River, Mass. Fdn in.”

The new garage allowed for the construction of much larger vehicles and by the late teens they introduced a full line of commercial bodies which included hearses, ambulances, delivery trucks and buses as evidenced by the July 15, 1919 issue of the Commercial Car Journal:

“Special Bus Body by Brownell & Burt

“This illustration shows a special bus body job built by Brownell & Burt, Taunton, Mass. This company suggests the following rule for obtaining the length of the body for the chassis. Obtain the distance from the back edge of the steering wheel to the rear axle, subtract 22 in. for driving space and the upholstered seat back, add one half of what you have left to the whole and you have the loading space. For example if you have 48 in. after deducting the seat space of 22 in., add 24 in. making 72 in. load space.”

One surviving Brownell & Burt-built coach is mounted on a 1921 Ford Model T chassis. The white mosque-decked children's hearse looks as if it may have been transferred from an earlier horse-drawn vehicle and features elaborate curved rear windows.

Their listing in the A.E. Foss’ 1921 Somerset, Dighton, Swansea, Seekonk and Rehoboth, Massachusetts directory follows:

“Brownell & Burt, Inc. Ford Sales and Service 8-12 Washington Street, Taunton, Mass.”

April 1924 issue of the Automobile Trade Journal:

“Brownell & Burt, Inc., Taunton, Mass., came into the selling end of the business in 1900, because they were making bodies for the Eclipse Automobile Co. They had been making carriages since 1875. The first advertisement was an exhibition at the Bristol County Fair in 1900. In 1906 they sold Lambert Friction Drive cars and later the EMF, then Studebakers and in 1913 became exclusively Ford.”

They also produced modern coachwork for used chassis as evidenced by pictures of a circa-1927 limousine-style hearse mounted on an older Lincoln chassis whose oversized tires and artillery wheels gave the car an unusual appearance. In 1928 they built an ambulance for the Salem, Massachusetts Police Department, this time on a brand-new 150" Rudge wire-wheel equipped Lincoln chassis.

Lincoln was a favored chassis as Brownell & Burt had been Taunton’s authorized Ford distributor since 1913. In September of 1925 Lincoln introduced a 150” Model L commercial chassis which was subsequently adopted for professional car use by Dietrich, Eureka, A.J. Miller, Langerquist and Brownell & Burt.

Their listing in the 1928 Neo-Techni Research Corp.’s Engineers Annual follows:

“BROWNELL & BURT, INC. (Hearse bodies, ambulance bodies, commercial bodies, general repairs, including metal work, blacksmithing, woodworking, trimming and painting; Ford Sales & service.) Gen. Offices, Taunton. Mass. Plant, Taunton, Mass. Pres., Daniel L. Brownell; V. Pres., E.H. Brownell; Treas., George H. Burt; Gen. Supt., E.H. Brownell; Sales Mgr., Elmer Sault; Pur. Agt., E.H. Brownell; Supt. Mch. Shop, Mortimer B. Dean.”

Tragedy struck in February of 1932 as reported by The Standard:

“Cars Burn in Taunton Blaze

“Taunton, Mass., Feb. 19 — A three- alarm fire of unknown origin this noon damaged the three-story frame building of Brownell & Burt, Inc., at 10 Washington street, causing a loss that may total $40,000. Twelve cars that were being repaired were destroyed, but all of the cars in the firm’s salesrooms on the first floor were moved from the building by the firemen. The blaze started in the paint shop on the third floor. The loss on the building is estimated at $40,000.”

The fire ended both the firm’s coachbuilding and automobile sales activities.

A kind reader named Glenn Suneson sent in two photos of an early automobile registered to Eugene H. Brownell. He writes:

“The 023 Mass tag is a dealer tag and was issued to Eugene H. Brownell in 1903. Eugene is the son of Daniel L. Brownell one of the founders. I have also included another picture since the driver is the same and is believed to represent the company.”

© 2012 Mark Theobald -

Appendix 1

Their relationship between the two Brownells (George L. and Daniel L.) is outlined in Benjamin Franklin Wilbour’s 1967 history of Little Compton (LC), Rhode Island, ‘Little Compton Families’ as follows:

“(61) DANIEL (6) BROWNELL [George(5 ), Stephen (4), George (3), Thomas (2), Thomas (1)], born in LC 14 March 1782, died there 6 May 1833. He married 11 Nov. 1810 HANNAH ALLEN, daughter of David and Elizabeth (Butler) Allen, born 11 March 1780, died in LC 29 Dec. 1848 ae 69. Children: (81) i. Frederic F., b. 15 Sept. 1811; (82)ii. Leonard Frank, b. 20 May 1813; (83) iii. Andrew P., b. 26 Jan. 1815; iv. Elizabeth, b. in 1818, d. 23 May 1836; v. George L. b. 15 July 1823, d. 13 Jan 1903, carriage manufacturer.

”(82) LEONARD FRANK (7) BROWNELL [Daniel (6), George(5 ), Stephen (4), George (3), Thomas (2), Thomas (1)], born 20 May 1813. Residence: Westport and LC. Occupation bootmaker. He married MARY A. HOWLAND on 17 Oct. 1844. Children: i. George Frank, b. in Westport 9 July 1858; d. in Westport 12 Nov. 1922 ae 64; ii Charles, b. in LC 26 May 1847; d. 14 April 1915 ae 67; iii Daniel L. b. Westport 22 Oct. 1852, d.????; iv Georgeanna, b. 1850”







International Publishing Co. - Leading Manufacturers and Merchants of Eastern Massachusetts, pub. 1887

D. Hamilton Hurd - History of Bristol County, Massachusetts., pub. 1883

Zeph. W. Pease & George A. Hough - New Bedford, Massachusetts: its history, industries, institutions, and attractions. Pub. 1889

B.F. Wilbour - Little Compton Families, pub. 1967

George H. Dammann and James K. Wagner  - The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury, pub. 1987 

David V. Herlihy – Bicycle, The History, pub. 2004

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