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Currier, Cameron & Co.
Currier, Cameron & Company, 1887-1923; Amesbury, Massachusetts
Associated Firms
J.H. Sheils Co., Shields Carriage Co.

Currier, Cameron & Co. is best remembered for the production bodies they built for Locomobile and the Stanley Motor Car Co. The firm was closely associated with the Shields Carriage Co. which was owned by members of the Currier family. 

The roots of the firm can be traced to the Amesbury, Mass. carriage building firm of Cameron & Trefetheren, which was founded by Colin D. Cameron and Daniel Trefetheren in 1880. The firm employed 18 hands and produced both carriage bodies and gear in a Friend St. shop leased from F.D. Parry, a well established Amesbury builder. 

Trefetheren sold his interest in the firm to James Drummond in 1881, and the firm was reorganized as Cameron & Drummond. The firm’s business grew and two additional partners, John Currier and Charles Goss, joined the firm in 1882. The firm relocated to the Colchester Mill building on Elm St, and was reorganized as Currier, Cameron, Goss, Drummond & Co. 

Goss & Drummond retired in 1887, and the firm’s name was shortened to Currier, Cameron & Co. Horace J. Batchelder, of Merrimac, Mass. became associated with the firm at the same time. 

The firm’s founding partner, Colin D. Cameron, retired in 1895 but the firm of Currier, Cameron & Co. had become well-known and the remaining partners, John Currier and Horace J. Batchelder, wisely elected to continue using the name.

The firm specialized in wholesale bodies and carriage gear, and at the turn of the century employed as many as 85 hands.

The Currier family was one of Amesbury’s oldest families and three of its members were involved in the carriage industry in the late 19th century. The Currier Carriage Co. was formed in 1888 by two brothers, Eben M. Currier & J. Woodbury Currier. J. Woodbury was unhappy working with his brother and in 1890 he sold him his share in the business and along with George E. Collins, purchased the business of J.H. Shiels and Co., a well-respected Amesbury carriage builder. 

The new partners decided to change the name of the firm to the Shields Carriage Co. The new name conveyed the good will garnered by the firm’s founder yet made a more recognizable moniker. 

John H. Shiels was a partner in one of Amesbury’s best known carriage manufacturers, the Walker & Shiels Carriage Co., which was founded in 1870 by Shiels and George T. Walker. When John Hume, the eldest son of James Hume, the founder of the Hume Carriage Co., retired in 1884, his brother, William H. Hume, assumed control, taking in John H. Shiels and George T. Walker Sr., as partners a year later. In 1888 a fire destroyed nineteen carriage plants in Amesbury, including three buildings used by Hume.

The great fire occurred on Maundy Thursday, April, 5th, 1888 on Amesbury’s "Carriage Hill," and destroyed 9 of the town’s carriage factories. The Fitchburg Sentinel covered the event over a two day period:

"Swept by Flames

"Haverhill, Mass., April 6. – The little town of Amesbury, eleven miles northeast of here, the largest carriage manufactory in the world and home of the poet, Whittier, suffered terrible loss by fire last night, which has nearly wiped out the entire business portion and telegraph office. The fire broke out at 4 o’clock in the afternoon in the large factory of the Babcock Carriage Company and as the town is near the coast the heavy northeast wind prevailing swept the flames before it with irresistible force. There has for years been a squabble between the adjoining towns of Amesbury and Salisbury over the subject of annexation, and as a result both towns have neglected their municipal equipments awaiting the consolidation, and so there was no adequate fire department. Before aid was received the flames jumped from the burning Babcock Works to the post office, and twenty minutes later it, along with the telegraph office, was in flames. Word had to be sent by train to Haverhill, Lawrence and Newburyport asking for aid, which did not arrive on the scene till long after dark. By that time eight factories, aggregating over a million capital, were in flames, along with some twenty dwellings, and innumerable other stores and building were gutted.

"A cold rain prevailed at the time, which undoubtedly saved the entire place. Some hundred families are homeless. The day being a fast day was a legal holiday, so there was no work going on, and the sacred character of the day was sadly broken up. 

"Amesbury, Mass., April 7 - Over a score of buildings were eaten away by the fire of Thursday night, as most of the carriage factories included several structures. The losses are roughly as follows: F.W. Babcock & Co., $200,000; A.N. Parry, $50,000; J.H. Clarke & Co., $50,000,  Hume Carriage Co., $50,000; C.N. Dennett, $75,000; M.M. Dennett, $40,000; Lambert Hollander, $20,000; N.H. Folger, $75,000; J.F. Chesley and Fannie Brown $2,000; Frank Sands and Mrs. Sands $3,000; Wingate Morse, $1,500; James Hume, houses $1,000; John Hume & Son, $5,000. The insurance is about $850,000 and the fire is believed to have been of incendiary origin."

In 1887, John H. Shiels became dissatisfied with his partners and sold his share in Hume creating his own carriage-building concern, J. H. Shiels and Co. In 1898, George T. Walker also left Hume to organize his own firm, the Walker Carriage Co.  Walker conducted business in Amesbury until 1903 when he moved to the neighboring town of Merrimac (formerly West Amesbury). His son, George T Walker Jr., would go on to head the Walker Body Co., a large Merrimac firm that supplied production bodies to the H.H. Franklin Co. of Syracuse, N.Y. 

The Shields Carriage Co. decided to concentrate their efforts on carriage painting and trimming as there was a surplus of locally-built bodies in-the-white. They soon developed a working relationship with Currier, Cameron & Co. an Amesbury body builder that was owned by John Currier, a cousin of J. Woodbury’s. 

J. Woodbury Currier was Shields president, and George E. Collins, its general manager. Currier’s son, Nathaniel W., soon joined his father in the firm which by the turn of the century occupied two separate Carriage Ave. (now Main St) factories and employed six blacksmiths, twelve painters and fifteen trimmers. 

In April of 1898, Currier, Cameron & Co. became the first Amesbury carriage builder to build an automotive body. The Stanley Motor Carriage Co. of Newton, Massachusetts, commissioned them to construct ten bodies for its new steam-operated automobile. As was their practice at the time, Currier & Cameron constructed the coachwork and subcontracted the painting and trimming to the Shields Carriage Co. 

The bodies built for Stanley were made completely of wood, utilizing thin-walled paneling affixed to a sturdy ash framework. The body was a single seat runabout with a steam engine and boiler installed horizontally underneath the bodywork that could easily accommodate a passenger sitting next to the driver.

Stanley was pleased with the firm’s work and Currier, Cameron & Co /Shields Carriage Co. 80 craftsmen produced fifteen runabouts per week through 1900. 

Currier, Cameron & Co.’s work did not go unnoticed, and in February of 1900, the Locomobile Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut gave them a contract to produce 20 bodies per week in three varying styles; a runabout, a Victoria and a roll-up. The Locomobile was also steam-powered and used an engine licensed from their competitor, The Stanley Motor Carriage Co. of Newton, Massachusetts. 

The Shields Carriage Company was unable to keep up with the increased business for Locomobile, so an agreement was reached between Currier, Cameron and Richard E. Briggs whereby his firm agreed to paint and trim all of the the Locomobile bodies in return for a quarter of the overall Locomobile contract. 

Sales of the new steam-powered Locomobile exceeded the firm expectations and a fourth Amesbury builder, the James N. Leitch Carriage Co., was soon contributing to the Locomobile body program. Briggs was the largest of the four firms, but couldn’t dedicate more space as their various factories were busy building their patented High Point wagons and interurban railway cars which debuted in 1889.

At the turn of the century Briggs’ body works employed forty hands and occupied a narrow four story structure on Cedar St. As time went on, Briggs became one of Locomobile’s production body builders and continued to build bodies for the Bridgeport automaker into the early twenties.

Currier, Cameron & Co. was Amesbury’s largest producer of wooden automobile bodies, reaching a peak of twenty-five per week in 1906. The following year, the firm enjoyed a record year, with total sales in excess of $250,000. Work for Stanley and Locomobile accounted for 60% of the firm’s business, which by that time occupied two three-story buildings in the old Colchester Mill which was located at the corner of Elm and Cedar Sts.

90 hands were busy producing cabriolets, open and closed limousines, tourers, roadsters, runabouts fallen top Broughams, Rock­aways and coupes for Briscoe, Locomobile, Maxwell, Mobile Steamer, Orient Buckboard, Pope Robinson, Stanley and Stevens-Duryea chassis.

Both Currier, Cameron and Briggs Carriage began manufacturing aluminum-clad bodies sometime around 1910, and by 1915 Currier, Cameron & Co. employed 90 hands producing 30 bodies per week.

Both Currier, Cameron and Briggs depended on the Locomobile and Stanley for the bulk of their business, so Locomobile’s 1922 bankruptcy and the plummeting sales of the overpriced gasoline-powered Stanley caused the owners of both firms to withdraw from business in 1923.

Biddle & Smart Co. was busy producing production bodies for Hudson, and Currier, Cameron & Co.’s large "Colchester Mill" on Elm Street was acquired for use as an additional unit for metal work, wood work and painting.

Briggs Carriage Co.’s owner, Richard E Briggs, also retired in 1923, and according to an article in Autobody Magazine, “…is disposing of his plant and equipment. He will not "join the navy and see the world” but he will retire after 47 years of carriage, streetcar and motor-body build­ing, and take a trip around the world.” 

© 2004 Mark Theobald -







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

Amesbury as a Body-Building Center – Autobody Magazine, October 1923

Kit Foster - The Stanley Steamer: America's Legendary Steam Car

Pamela Mutch Stevens – History of Amesbury, Mass., pub. 1999

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