For well over a half century the highly
respected firm of Duhamel
& Singer, and its successor, H. Duhamel & Sons Co. served as
premier source for high class carriages and funeral vehicles. They
made the transition to motorized hearses, albeit in a small way,
the late 1930s as a full service auto body repair facility.
The firm was founded by a French Canadian
immigrant named Hilaire (aka
Hilary) Duhamel (wife Mary) who learned the trade from his father Isaac
Duhamel, a well-known wagon builder/blacksmith who was born in St.
County, Quebec – a small community located 35 miles east of Montreal in
According to the 1851 Census of Canada East (Quebec), Canada West, New
Brunswick and Nova Scotia, our subject, Hilaire Brasseur Duhamel, was
born in July
1840 in St. Hyacinthe County, Quebec to Isaac H. and Louise (Maurier)
Mary and Hilaire B. Duhamel's union was
blessed with the
birth of one daughter and five sons, three of whom (Louise, Nazaire and
later occupied positions of importance in the firm. The 1910 US Census
year of immigration as 1862 and he's listed in the 1866 IRS Tax
for New York City as follows:
"Hillary Duhamel 201 3d street factory –
The 1869 New York City Directory list him as
"Duhamel Hilaire, smith, 1594 Third av."
Shortly thereafter he entered into a
Medartus (aka Medard) Singer (b. Oct. 15, 1834 - d. Oct. 5, 1895) a
Bavarian-born carriage maker, who's listing in the 1867-68 New York
"Medard Singer (coach mkr) h. 171 Allen"
Medartus Singer was born October 15, 1834 in
Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, to Johannes and Marianna [Klotz] Singer.
1872, his occupation on the application being 'carriage maker', his
Christy St. Witness was Carl Ernd Schwarnd, whose occupation was also
carriagemaker. Singer married Magdelena - aka Lena - (Roth) and their
blessed with the birth of two children; a daughter, Pauline (m.
Brighton - b.
1869 – d. 1924) and son, Albert (b. 1889) Singer.
The 1876-1877 Brooklyn Directories list
Singer as follows:
"Medartus Singer, carriagemkr, h. 196
The 1878 Brooklyn Directory officially
partnership for the first time, however it is believed they joined
several years earlier:
"Medartus Singer, carriagemkr, h. 89 Wythe
"Duhamel & Singer, carriage makers,
The 1880 annual census of factory
inspections in New York
State provides the following statistics for the partnership:
"Duhamel & Singer, of 169 Clymer
hands, pay nearly $10,000 for salaries and wages, and produce annually
Ironically, one of the Northeast's most
builders, James N. Brewster, of Brewster and Co., lived down the street
foot of Clymer St. in the Abraham A. Remsen farmhouse from 1850-1870.
Clymer Street was named for George Clymer,
signer of the
Declaration of Independence. Constructed of hewn timber in 1759, the
Remsen farmhouse stood back from the road near the end of
the street. Having
heard that the houses on the Isle of Cuba were painted a blue color,
to paint the cedar shingles blue, which contrasted nicely with the
vine that covered most of the house (which was torn down in 1879
room for a factory).
The Duhamel family's (& Singer's)
listings in the1881-1884
Brooklyn Directories follow:
"Hilary Duhamel (carriage mkr) 169 Clymer,
"Isaac H. Duhamel (wagon bldr) h. 25
"Duhamel & Singer (Hilary Duhamel
Singer) carriage mkrs, 169 Clymer
"Medard Singer (carriage mkr) 169 Clymer
By that time Duhamel & Singer
for their elaborate funeral coaches, one of which was pictured in the
1882 issue of the Hub:
"No. 8. FULL-SIZE HEARSE.-Scale, one-half
"We are indebted to
Messrs., Duhamel & Singer, of
Brooklyn, N. Y., for permission to publish this design, which not only
represents an individual pattern built by them, but also illustrates in
general way, so far as the shape of the body and moldings is concerned,
leading and representative pattern now popular in New York, Newark, etc.
"It will be seen, by reference to fashion
previously published in The Hub that, until a few years
side moldings of Hearses were commonly given a multiplicity of corners,
and angles. This tendency led to a reaction, the result of which we now
the endeavor to avoid all superfluities and to return to plain styles.
glasses shown in our cut have six corners each, and the lines of the
are as little swept as a long body will permit of without giving an
stiff appearance. Another advantage of this finish is, that the drapery
displayed to good advantage, and we notice that most of those firms who
specialty of fine Hearses pay much attention to artistic and tasteful
trimmings, which indeed most attract the eye of the general public. The
driver's-seat shown in our cut is original with Messrs. Duhamel
Singer, and is also used by them on Coaches. It is claimed that,
represented on paper, this boot does not appear to so good advantage as
vehicle itself (which we can readily understand), but that customers
approve of it.
"Dimensions.—The principal dimensions
follow: Width of body, 39 in. Wheels, 3 ft. 5 in. and 4 ft. 1 in. Hubs,
3/8 x 8 in. Spokes, 1 ½
in. Rims, 1 3/4 x 1 ½ in.
Tire, 1 ¾ x ¾ in.
Axles, 1 ¾ in. Springs, 5 plates, 1 3/8 in."
The firm's lsitings in the 1885 Brooklyn
"Hilary Duhamel (carriage mkr.) 169
h. 25 Gwinnett
"Duhamel & Singer, carriage mkrs, 169
"Medard Singer (carriage mfr) 169 Clymer
Singer's listing in the 1887-1888 Brooklyn
"Medard Singer (carriage mfr) 169 Clymer
A reference to the firm made in the July
1, 1889 issue
of The Hub indicates the partnership was dissolved:
"Trade Booming - H. Duhamel & Co., 171
Brooklyn, N.Y., formerly Duhamel & Singer, report trade booming.
behind on their ordered work owing to the continual increase in their
The firm are building quite a number of fine coaches of the latest
order and claim that their work is much sought after."
Although Duhamel's address remained the same
Clymer) the 1889 Brooklyn Directory lists a different business address
Singer, 245 Fourth Ave., which was approximately 4 miles southeast in
Slope section of Brooklyn:
"Medart Singer, carriages, 245 4th ave.,
The 1890 Brooklyn Directory indicates that
Singer had taken
in a partner named Christian Danzer:
"Christian Danzer, carriagemkr, 245 4th
av, h. 632 President
"Singer & Danzer, wagonmfrs, 245 4th av
"Medart Singer, carriages, 245 4th ave.,
h. 619 President st."
The 1891-1894 Brooklyn Directories indicate
the partnership between Danxer and Singer was short-lived, and Medartus
Singer passed away on October 5, 1895:
"Christian Danzer, Blacksmith, 333 Nevins,
"Medart Singer, carriagemkr / wagonmkr,
h. 619 President st."
Two years prior to Singer's death,
relocated his business to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, the
issue of The Hub reporting:
"H. DUHAMEL, formerly
of Duhamel & Singer, has just completed his handsome
carriage factory at Wallabout and Middleton sts., Brooklyn, N. Y.
one of the best equipped in that city. The dimensions are 65 x 70 feet,
stories high. Mr. Duhamel has a good reputation for turning out first
heavy work and in visiting the works some nice specimens were seen on
(127 Wallabout Street runs between Middleton
St. and Lee
Hilaire Duhamel produced some of Brooklyn's
equipages, and is recorded as having graduated from the Carriage
Technical School in 1899. Duhamel's work continued to be featured in
coachbuilding trades (The Hub and Carriage Monthly), with one handsome
being offered in the August 1899 issue of the Hub:
"WORKING DRAFT OF HEARSE.
"Scale, 3/4 inch to the foot.
"Designed by H. Duhamel.
"The working draft given this Month is
of a hearse
of modem design and finish, from a design by H. Duhamel, an 1899
the Carriage Builders' Technical School, from which hearses have been
H. Duhamel, of Brooklyn, New York. The proportions and general features
hearse are strong recommendations, and reflect credit upon the designer
builder. Fig. 1 shows the side elevation, giving location and form of
boot, front and back end extensions of the body, the layout of the
draping of the curtains, and location of the urns. Fig. 2 shows one-
of the front end of the body, with corner and center lights and short
the boot outline being shown by dotted lines. Fig. 3 shows the half of
end, with doors, center pillar, and rear suspension. The pillars are
"The dimensions of the body are: Length of
from toe-board to back of moldings, 11 ft. 6 in. Height, 3 ft. 9 in.
from bottom of sill to crown point of the roof, 3 ft. 9 in. Extreme
outside of moldings on the top, 4 ft.
"Width of table, in. Length of table, 6
Height of body from the floor, 33 in. Pillars, 4'/2 x 2 in. Top
moldings, 6 in.
square. Bottom moldings, 51/2 x 2 in. Sweep of back end, 131/2 in.
14 in. Urns, 111/2 x 5½ in. square. Width across the front of the boot,
Wheels, front, 36 in. and 46 in. Hubs, 71/2 in. long, 61/4 in.
of felloes, 1/4 in. Tread of felloes, 1% in, Spokes, 1% in. Number of
twelve and fourteen. Tires, rubber, 13/4 in.
"Springs, front, 37½ in. long from center
four plates, 1½ in. steel, 101/2 in. open over all; main plate No. 2,
plates 2, 2 and a, clipped on. Back springs, 37½ in. long, center to
111/2 in. open over all; 11/2 in, steel; main plate No. 2, other plates
and 3. Back cross spring, 38 in. long from center to center, 3½ in.
11/2 in, steel, four plates; main plate No. 2, other plates Nos. 2, 2,
Axles, full Collinge, for 5½ in. hub. Fifth wheel, 20 in, in diameter.
ft. 8 in.
"Seat rail, handles, pole crab,
bands, cap and rollers and pins on the table hand plated, as are also
"Painting with a set of black pillars and
are made changeable.
Trimming: Draperies, broadcloth of black,
white and purple.
The best of white trimming leather for the seat. The moldings and
The 1906 Trow Directory of Directors in the
City of New York
indicates his sons had joined him in the management of the Wallabout
"DUHAMEL, HILARY, 127 Wallabout
Street, Brooklyn. H. Duhamel & Sons, President,
Treasurer and Director.
"DUHAMEL, L. J., 127 Wallabout Street,
Brooklyn. H. Duhamel & Sons, Director.
"DUHAMEL, O. J., 127 Wallabout
H. Duhamel & Sons, V. Pres. and Dir."
The October 1, 1912 edition of the Brooklyn
announced the passing of the firm's founder at the age of 71:
"DUHAMEL – On Sunday, September 29, 1912
N.J., HILAIRE DUHAMEL, aged 71 years. Funeral from his late residence,
St., on Wednesday, October 2, at 9 a.m.; thence to the Church of St.
Ellery St., near Nostrand Av., where a solemn mass of requiem will be
for the repose of his sole. Interment in St. Joh's Cemetary."
His obituary in the October 2, 1912 edition
of the New York
Times mentions he was a manufacturer of automobiles, no doubt referring
firm's early motorized funeral cars:
"Hilaire Duhamel, of the firm of H.
manufacturers of automobiles in Brooklyn, died on Sunday at Lakewood,
aged 71. He left five sons and a daughter."
His deather occurred in time to be mentioned
in the October
1912 issue of Carriage Monthly:
"Hilaire Duhamel, long identified with the
industry in Brooklyn, N.Y., died September 29th at Lakewood, N.J. to
resort he had gone seeking a renewal of his health. Mr. Duhamel was
Montreal, Can., but went to Brooklyn 46 years ago where he founded what
then a carriage but now an automobile factory under the firm name of H.
The November 1912 issue of the same
publication carried a more
"The Late Hilaire Duhamel In the October
number of this
journal we published a brief announcement of the death of Hilaire
president of H.Duhamel & Sons, automobile body
builders, Brooklyn, N. Y. Hilaire Duhamel was long… (text missing)"
The business continued to be listed in the
business directories, its entry in the 1915 edition of the Trow
Directors in the City of New York being:
"DUHAMEL, LOUIS 127 Wallabout St Brooklyn;
& Sons, Sec & and Dir.
"DUHAMEL, NAZAIRE 127 Wallabout St.
Duhamel & Sons, Pres., Treas., and Dir.
"DUHAMEL, OMAIRE J. 127 Wallabout St.
Duhamel & Sons, V. Pres. and Dir."
An obituary in the June 1916 issue of the
Hub mentions that Charles
H. T. Gerstenberg, another early Brooklyn coach builder, got his start
Duhamel & Co.:
"Charles H. T. Gerstenberg, one of the
manufacturers in the eastern district, died May 23, after a brief
his home, 96 Taylor street, Brooklyn, N. Y. Mr. Gerstenberg
to Brooklyn from Manhattan 40 years ago and became identified
the carriage manufacturing business as a member of the firm of H.
Duhamel & Co., in Clymer street. Later he branched out for
had a factory in Bedford avenue. A few years ago he went back to Clymer
and remained there until his death. Lately he had confined himself
the making of automobile bodies. He is survived by his widow and two
The December 10, 1924 edition of the New
York Times included
the obituary of Nazaire J. Duhamel which indicates the family firm was
involved in producing automobile bodies:
"NAZAIRE J. DUHAMEL, member of the firm of
H. Duhamel, Sons, automobile manufacturers at 127 Wallabout
st., Brooklyn, died at his home, 44 Sherman Street, Brooklyn,
The Dec. 4, 1928 edition of the Brooklyn
reported on his brother Omaire's passing:
"OMAIRE J. DUHAMEL, on Dec 3, 1928,
E. (nee Brennan) and father of J. Omer, Kevin, Stephen and Lucille.
Funeral from his late residence,
234 Seeley St., on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 9:30 am, then to the R.C.
Church of the
Immaculate Heart of Mary, where a solemn requiem mass will be
Interment at St. Johns Cemetery."
The firm's listing in the 1933 Brooklyn
to list the firm as automobile manufacturers, so it's likely a few
being constructed at that late date, but I've found no pictures to
corroborate the listing:
"H. Duhamel & Sons, (NY cap. $25,000),
Louis J. Duhamel,
pres.-treas; Kevin F. Duhamel, v-pres.; Jos. Omer Duhamel, sec.; auto
Louis J. Duhamel's (b. Aug. 7, 1883) WWII
dated 1942, lists his employer as Rittberg & Vetter, 355 Butler
Brooklyn, New York and I could locate no listings for H. Duhamel &
after 1939. During the 1940s and 1950s 127 Wallabout was home to the
Hardware Corporation, manufacturers of commercial refrigerator
property was later acquired by the Sonabend-Katz, Inc., a real estate
and it was eventually razed to make way for the Bnos Spinka Elementary
which occupies the property today.
Interestingly a modern-day Connecticut
service started by Joseph O. and Peter J.
to have direct ties with H. Duhamel & Sons, however, their website
mention how they're connected:
© 2015 Mark
Theobald for Coachbuilt.com