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Fulton & Fickling, 1902-1905; Auto Cover & Top Mfg. Co., 1905-1906; Fickling & Co., 1906-1910; New York, New York; and 1907-1910, New Haven, Connecticut; Fickling Enameling Corp.,1914-1918; Enameling & Stamping Corp., 1918-1920; New York City & Long Island City, New York.
Associated Firms
Holbrook Co.

Although he's almost entirely unknown today, during the early part of the 20th century W.I. Fickling supplied wholesale coach work and automotive accessories to Manhattan's automobile dealers and later pioneered the baking of enamel finishes on both wood and metal bodywork, supplying short runs of baked enamel sheet metal parts to the regions automobile manufacturers.

William Irvine Fickling was born in Washington D.C. on 1876 to Charles Hollingshead and Ida Elizabeth (Rodier) Fickling, his father being one of the Capitol region's best-known real estate agents and investors. After a public education he attended Georgetown University, receiving his A.B. (bachelor of arts) in 1894, followed by an LL.B. (bachelor of laws) from Georgetown's Law Department in 1897.

William Irvine Fickling and his younger brothers, William Webb (b.1881-d.1939), Frank Gordon (b.1889), John Sotheron (b.1893-d.1966) and Charles H. jr. (b.1892-1939) were all automobile enthusiasts and during the early part of the 20th century either owned, worked at, or managed a number of auto-related businesses, most of which were run by their older brother William Irivine.

Amongst William Irvine Fickling's early automobile-related endeavors was an automobile parts and accessories superstores, whose star employee, Henry F. (Harry) Holbrook, would become associated with a long list of auto-related firms either as president, vice-president, manager, or secretary-treasurer as follows:

Auto Cover & Top Co., 1905-1906; Fickling & Co., 1906-1908; Holbrook-Singer Co.,1908-1910; Holbrook Co., 1910-1913; Enameling & Stamping Corp. of New York 1918-1920; Perfect Body Corp., 1920-1921; H.F. Holbrook Co. 1921-1922; Associated Motor Industries 1922-1923; National Motors Corporation 1923-1926; H.F. Holbrook & Henry Brewster Co. 1926-1928; W.A. Riddell Co., Bucyrus. Ohio 1928-1937.

Fickling's given name was William Irvine, although many news articles list it as William Irving. He married Mae Frances (Grant) (b. 1887) in New Rochelle, New York in September of 1906. His listing in the 1909 edition of Who's Who in New York City and State Vol. IV, follows:

"FICKLING, W. Irvine:

Manufacturer; b. Washington, D. C, 1876; B. Charles H. and Ida E. (Rodier) Fickling; grad. Georgetown Univ., A. B., 1894, Law Dep't. same, LL.B., 1897; m. New Rochelle, N. Y., Sept., 1906, Mae Frances Grant. Engaged in mf'g automobile bodies and equipment and establishing agencies throughout the country. Formed the Auto Cover and Top Mf'g Co., 1905, succeeded, 1906, by Fickling & Co. (Inc.), of which is pres, and treas. Incorporated N. Y. School of Automobile Eng'rs, 1905. Democrat; Catholic. Mem. Southern Soc. of N. Y. Clubs: Motor, N. Y. Athletic, Coupon, Confederate Veterans. Columbia Yacht. Residence: 524 Riverside Drive. New York factory: 154-156 E. 57th Street; Body factory, New Haven, Conn."

December 24, 1902 Horseless Age:

"Fickling & Fulton, 248 West Fifty-fourth street, have secured the New York agency for the Covert motorettes and touring cars, and have organized a branch of their business to fill orders for automobiles of all makes. They state that they also have the facilities for building cars to order."

January 28, 1903 Horseless Age:

"FICKLING & FULTON, of New York, sales agents for the Covert motorettes, made up their display out of two carriages of this make. The smaller vehicle was equipped with a high speed vertical motor of 3 horse power, air cooled cylinder and water cooled head. Two forward speeds, but no reverse, are provided. All the machinery being on the running gear and the body being very light, only light springs are required. The little carriage had four elliptics of but one leaf each.

"The other machine was larger and of a different type. Its engine was of the de Dion pattern, rated at 5 horse power, and had been placed under a bonnet in front. The change speed gear was of the planetary variety, and provided two speeds forward and a reverse. A hinged wheel, with direct arm to the steering link, constituted the steering device. A foot brake and a hand brake were also provided. The weight of this bevel gear driven car was said to be 650 pounds, and the tank capacities 6 and 4 gallons of gasoline and water respectively. Both machines were equipped with thermo-siphon circulation."

Located at 248 W. Fifty-fourth St., the firm marked the first business venture of W. Irvine Fickling and Robert E. Fulton.

The November 14, 1904 edition of the Horseless Age announced the appointment of Fulton as manager of the recently-established Manhattan branch of the Pope Motor Car Company of Toledo, Ohio. Located on Broadway between Fifty-fifth and Fifty-sixth streets it served as the Eastern distributor of Pope-Waverley, Pope-Tribune, Pope-Hartford and Pope-Toledo automobiles.

Although Fulton was forced to resign from the Fulton & Fickling partnership, he joined his former partner in a new enterprise, an automobile accessory outfit first announced in the July 1905 issue of Motor Age:

"New York — Auto Cover & Top Mfg. Co., capital $15,000. Incorporators W. Irving Ficklin, Thomas H. Ray and J. Day Lee.

"New Alliance in Gotham — Percy Owen and Robert E. Fulton, managers respectively of the New York branches of the Winton and Pope companies, and W. Irvine Fickling have just formed the Automobile Cover & Top Mfg. Co., with headquarters at 148 West Fifty-sixth street, New York. They are handling the Gabriel horn, a new cape cart top and slip covers."

The August 2, 1905 issue of the Horseless Age included a few additional details:

"The Automobile Top and Cover Manufacturing Company, of which W. Irvine Fickling, Percy Owen and Robert E. Fulton are directors, has been organized, and are using the building at 148 West Fifty-sixth street, New York city, for the manufacture of limousine bodies, tops and upholstery work. They have the agency for Gabriel horns."

The May 18, 1905 issue of Motor Age:

Garage Chauffeurs' School—The Pope Mfg. Co. is to establish in connection with its New York branch a chauffeurs' school. Instructors from the factories where the various types of Pope cars are made will be In charge, and no man who cannot pass an examination will be recommended as a chauffeur. There will be frequent lectures and the demonstrations of cars and their various parts. A nominal fee will be charged each man with a view of keeping out undesirable drivers. The idea originated with Robert E. Fulton, the assistant manager of the garage, and was quickly indorsed by the officers of the company.

Fickling's interests also included the education of new mechanics and the August 23, 1905 issue of Horseless Age announced the creation of his own automobile school:

"New York School of Auto Engineers, New York.—Capital, $25,000. Incorporators, William Irving Fickling, Clarence McMillan, Ralph H. Higgins."

The firm's listing in the 1908 Motor Cyclopedia indicated two of Fickling's business partners, Percy Owen and Robert E. Fulton were also involved in the school:

"New York School of Automobile Engineers, Inc.—146 W. 50th St., New York City. Practical instruction in the care and operation of automobiles. Cap. $25,000. Robert E. Fulton, Pres.; Percy Owen. Vice-Pres.; M. S. Gilmer, Treas. and Business Mgr.; Roger B. Whitman, Sec. and Technical Director. Faculty: Engine Dept., Julius C. Liebhardt, M. E. Ignition Dept., Philip K. Stern, E. E., M. E. Transmission Dept.. Rudolf Grissman, M. E. Construction and Shop, Albert Capetillo. Special instructors for owners, Albert Trica, B. S.; G. Rudolph Ruckert, M. E. Road instructors, Matthew Farrell and Fred Kowsky. Designers' Course, E. Favary, M. E., E. E."

The January 10, 1906 Horseless Age listed the directors of the Auto Cover and Top Company in its listing of New York Auto Show exhibitors:

"Auto Cover and Top Company; W. I. Fickling, R. E. Fulton, Percy Owens, H. D. Cashman, H. J. Kelleher, L. C. Chase, Charles Alheim, Edward Yonkers, William Anderson, H. F. Meyers, Sylvester James, I. L. Bowden."

The January 25, 1906 issue of the Automobile included a description of Fickling's exhibit at the show:

"Automobile Cover & Top Mfg. Co.—A most attractive exhibit was a rich wine colored extension top shown on a lemon yellow and black striped Pope-Hartford body. The covering of the top was a very fine texture imported mackintosh waterproof cloth, while the bows and joints were covered with red leather; sockets and buttons were polished brass. An interesting feature was red leather cover slips for protecting the roll of the upholstery over the edges of the body. A more serviceable top on similar lines to the foregoing, but covered with a gray mackintosh that would not show dust and rain spots, was also shown. The bows were of hickory in the natural finish. As Eastern distributing agents for the manufacturers, the company displayed Gabriel horns in different sizes and styles, supplemental spiral springs for use at the ends of the rear spring horns, and a compact wine cabinet, with ice compartment, to be carried in the car."

The April 4, 1906 Horseless Age reported that Fickling had relocated to a new quarters:

"The Automobile Cover and Top Manufacturing Company is moving into larger quarters at 154 East Fifty-seventh street, New York city, where 20,000 square feet of floor space will be available. W. Irvine Fickling and Geo. R. Spinning have purchased the interest of Percy Owen and Robert E. Fulton."

Business must have been good as the June 27, 1906 Horseless Age announced that Fickling had bought out Spinning as well:

"W. I. Fickling has purchased the entire interest of the Automobile Cover and Top Manufacturing Company, 154 East Fifty-seventh street, New York. The plant is being enlarged to accommodate painting and repair jobs on automobiles, together with all kinds of limousine, tonneau and automobile body work."

The September 6, 1906 issue of The Automobile indicates Fickling had a much larger plan in store for Manhattan's new automobilists:


"If plans already well under way do not fall through, New York will soon have an automobile mart. Interested in the idea are W. I. Fickling, E. R. Lozier, S. H. Elliott and Harry V. Kibbs, who have secured an option on a building at Broadway and Sixty-second street, which was built on speculation as a garage and automobile saleshouse, and is handsomely designed and entirely fireproof. The only thing necessary to insure the plan being carried out is a sufficient number of applications for space. An automobile mart established in Boston has proved very successful, and there is no apparent reason, the promoters of the New York plan state, why a local mart should not be even more successful, the field being more extensive."

Many of Fickling's business partners were well-known early automobile men, in particular, Percy Owen and Robert Edison Fulton.

Born in Oswego, New York on January 19, 1875, Percy Owen (b.1875-d.1956) entered the automobile business as manager of the Winton Motor Carriage Co.'s Manhattan factory branch in 1899, after several years working for the Globe Rutgers Fire Insurance Co. The Manhattan branch is credited with being the first gasoline automobile dealership in New York City, a number of electric automobile dealerships having preceded it. He was a member of the US Winton team (Owen, Alexander Winton and Barney Oldfield) that competed in Ireland's 1903 Gordon-Bennett Cup race, and in 1906 left the employ of Winton to become Eastern sales manager of the Aerocar Co. of Detroit. In partnership with his friends W.I. Fickling and Robert E. Fulton he helped found the New York School of Auto Engineers and the Automobile Top and Cover Mfg. Co. He imported the Italian-built Bianchi automobile as Percy Owen Inc. during 1907 and 1908 and helped found the New York Automobile Trade Association, serving as its president for a number of terms. He also served as treasurer of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers, and from 1908-1910 served as vice pres. and gen. manager of Carl H. Page & Co., the Manhattan Chalmers distributor. In 1910 he was appointed the eastern sales manager of the Chalmers Motor Co., and in 1912 became Chalmers general sales manager. In 1915 he became vice-president of the Saxon Motor Car Co., and between 1916 and 1924 served as president of the Liberty Motor Car Co., of which he was a major investor. After a short stint working for the U.S. Dept of Commerce working under future US. President Herbert Hoover, he accepted a position as director of foreign sales for Dodge Brothers in 1925, retiring from the automobile business in 1926 to enter other fields of business where he was equally successful. He passed away in 1956 after retiring as president of Michigan Bakeries a Grand Rapids-based wholesale bakery.

(Percy Owen was unrelated to Ralph & Raymond Owen, the proprietors of a number of early automobile agencies in Manhattan, and later on the manufacturers of the Owen Magnetic automobile.)

Robert Edison Fulton's automotive career would eclipse that of Fickling's, culminating in the presidency of the sales organization of the Mack Truck Company. Born October 4, 1878 to Robert A. and Anna Louisa (Cowell) Fulton, Robert's father owned a well-known grocery store at 1550 Broadway (William A. Fulton, Grocer, formerly Fulton & Bookstaver). His father died in 1891 and his activities during the next decade are unknown, but in 1902 he joined an acquaintance, W. Irvine Fickling, in establishing a Manhattan sales branch for the Covert automobile, as Ficking & Fulton. In 1904 he became manager of the Pope Manufacturing Co.'s Manhattan branch. After parting ways with the Pope organization Fulton served as manager of the Mercedes Import Co. after which he became associated with C.P. Coleman who had purchased the rights to manufacture the Swiss-built Saurer truck under license. When production began at the firm's Plainfield, New Jersey factory in 1911 he joined the Saurer Motor Company as salesman. The banking house of J.P. Morgan, heavily invested in both the Saurer and Mack Brothers Motor Car Co., spearheaded a merger of their two truck manufacturing holdings on September of 23, 1911 creating the International Motor Truck Company, which was capitalized at $2.6 million.

As sales manager (1911-1913) and vice-president of sales (1913-1922), Fulton coordinated the sales campaigns of both Saurer and Mack from 1911 to 1922 when the firm was reorganized as Mack Truck Inc. As president of its associated distribution arm, International Mack Truck Co., Fulton directed the sales of Mack Trucks up until his retirement in 1935. In 1925 he joined William Brewster, president of Brewster & Co., as a director of the Rolls-Royce of America, Inc. Fulton passed away on April 30, 1938. Robert E. Fulton Jr., one of Fulton's two sons with his wife Hannah L. (Travis) Fulton, had a successful career as an inventor, his most notable creations being the skyhook and the Airphiban flying car (1946).

Despite sharing a surname, Robert E. Fulton was unconnected with the Fulton Motor Truck Company, 1917-1923, a Farmingdale, Long Island manufacturer of 1½ ton motor trucks founded by William Fulton Melhuish, Jr., as the Clyde Motor Truck Co. in 1915. It's further surprising as W. Irvine Fickling served as manager of the Fulton Motor Truck Co.'s, Manhattan Branch from 1918 to 1922.

The August 30, 1906 Motor Way described Fickling's new operation:

"The entire interest of the Automobile Cover and Top Mfg. Co. Inc., at 154 East Fifty-seventh street, New York, has been purchased by W. Irvine Fickling and will be conducted under the new name of Fickling & Company, Inc., with office and factory at the same address. The capacity of the plant been greatly enlarged to permit of the building of limousine and tonneau bodies and automobile tops. The company is also eastern distributors for Gabriel horns, Foster shock brakes, Supplementary spiral springs and Harroun auto wipers."

Fickling's listing in the 1908 edition of the Motor Cyclopedia mentions a factory in New Haven Connecticut in addition to his Manhattan warerooms:

"Fickling & Co., Inc.—154 E. 57th St., New York City. Factory, New Haven, Conn. Mfrs. and agents for limousine, landaulette and runabout bodies, cape cart, Victoria and canopy tops, slip covers, motor boat tops, wind shields, tops recovered, extra and folding seats, foot rests and coat rails, lamp covers, dust shields, tire covers, painting bodies, upholstering, iron and steel work, trunk carriers, tire irons, lamp brackets, wheels repaired, battery and tool boxes, auto fenders, auto relief springs, "Fickling" ignition and lighting system. Capital, $15,000. Est. 1905. Successors to Auto Cover & Top Co., September, 1906. W. Irvine Fickling, près, and treas.; W. W. Fickling, sec; Henry F. Holbrook, mgr.; C. J. Donovan, head of trimming dept.; W.С. Clark, head of paint shop; G. Smith, head of woodworking dept.; S. Hainpold, head of upholstery dept.; Mr. Byrnes, head of blacksmith dept."

"Fickling, W. Irvine.—Pres, and treas. Fickling & Co., Inc., 154 E. 57th St., New York City.

"Fickling, Wm. Webb.—Sec. Fickling & Co., Inc., 154 E. 57th St., New York City."

It's interesting to note that W. Irvine Fickland served as a judge in the 1903 and earlier class of the New York Automobile Trade Association's 1908 Automobile Carnival.

Holbrook resigned as manager of Fickling & Co. in early 1908, joining forces with John (Jack) Graham, Charles A. Singer Jr. and David J. Levett to produce high-grade custom-built bodies for the Manhattan distributor of the Simplex and Palmer-Singer Automobile which was owned by Charles A. Singer Jr. and Sr.

Located at 509-15 W. 56th St., New York, New York, the Holbrook-Singer Co.'s organization was reported in the February 19, 1908 issue of the Horseless Age:

"Holbrook-Singer Co., Larchmont, Westchester County, N. Y.—Capital, $15.000. Directors. Henry F. Holbrook, 58 West Fifty-ninth street: Charles A. Singer, Jr., and David J. Levett. Larchmont, N. Y. To manufacture motors, vehicles, etc."

After Holbrook left, Fickling moved to a larger 6-story brick structure located at 304-06 W. 49th St. and brought in two experienced automobile men, C. Royce Hough and D.W. Gluck, to help run the business. The December 2, 1908 Horseless Age stating:

"Fickling & Co., manufacturer of automobile bodies and equipment, nave recently leased the large seven story building at 304 and 306 West Forty-ninth street, New York, where several new departments will be added."

"C. Royce Hough, formerly factory manager of the Pope Manufacturing Co., Indianapolis, Ind., and later sales manager of the Motor Car Co., of Washington, D. C, has accepted a position as general manager of Fickling & Co., New York."

The Real Estate Transactions column of the December 6, 1908 New York Times reported:

"The Gross & Gross Company has leased for G. Waldo Smith to Fickling Co. the entire building 304 and 306 West Forty-ninth Street a term of years."

Additional details were published in the December 12, 1908 issue of the New York Times:

"The seven story building at Nos. 304, 306 West forty-ninth street has been leased by Fickling & Co., Inc., manufacturers of automobile bodies. The firm has several new departments in its new quarters. To its staff have been added as general manager C. Royce Hough, formerly factory manager of the Pope Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis, and as sales manager D.W. Gluck, for several years with the Packard Motor Car Company of New York."

The managerial change was reflected in Fickling & Co.'s 1909 listing in the Motor Cyclopedia:

"Fickling & Co., Inc.—304-06 W. 49th St.. New York City. Factory, New Haven, Conn. Mfrs. and agts. for limousine, landaulette and runabout bodies, toy tonneaus, touring cars, cape cart, Victoria and canopy tops, slip covers, motor boat tops, wind shields, tops recovered, extra and folding seats, foot rests and coat rails, lamp covers, dust shields, tire covers, painting bodies, upholstering, iron and steel work, trunk carriers, tire irons, lamp brackets, wheels repaired, battery and tool boxes, auto fenders, auto relief springs. "Fickling" ignition and lighting system. Capital, $15,000. Est. 1905. Successors to Auto Cover & Top Co.. September. 1906. W. Irvine Fickling. Pres. and Treas.; M. G. Fickling, Secy.; S. H. Elliott, Director; C. Royce Hough. Gen. Mgr.; D. W. Gluck. Sales Mgr.; C. J. Donovan, Foreman trimming dept.; W. C. Clark, foreman paint shop: J. A. Fitzsimons, Foreman woodworking dept.; S. Hainpold. Head of upholstery dept.: Ed. Yunkers. Head of blacksmith dept."

A small display ad in the December 26, 1909 New York Times follows:

"LIMOUSINE and Landaulet Bodies. Immediate Deliveries, "FICKLING COMPANY, 304 West 49th."

A little over a month later the Fickling Co. was in the hands of a receiver as reported in the February 10, 1910 issue of Motor World:

"Fickling in Receiver's Hands. Bankruptcy proceedings have been brought against Fickling & Co., of New York City, manufacturers of automobile tops, bodies and equipment, Judge Adams appointing William Henkel, Jr., as receiver. The liabilities are estimated at $18,000, of which $9,000 is unsecured, and the business assets at $29,000, consisting of plant, $20,000; accounts, $4,000, and good will $5,000. The petition alleges that the corporation is insolvent and that it transferred all its outstanding accounts to the Northern Bank of New York. It also is alleged that the bank has taken possession of the assets on a chattel mortgage of $8,500, has closed up the stock room and has prevented the taking of materials for the factory to complete contracts amounting to $6,000. Judge Adams issued a restraining order against the bank from interfering with the possession of the receiver, as the bank had posted notices of the sale under the chattel mortgage and W. I. Fickling, the president of the concern, stated that the company would suffer irreparable loss if the sale took place."

The receiver's fear that material might be exiting the stock room was well-founded as two of W. Irvine's brothers had recently established their own automobile supply houses. William Webb Fickling in Philadelphia and Frank G. Fickling in Washington D.C.

The July 16, 1910 issue of Automobile Topics announced the grand opening of Frank G. Fickling & Co.:

"Frank G. Fickling, who has been connected with the National Electrical Supply Company, in the automobile supply department, will on August 1 open a general supply store at 1112 14th Street, N. W. The new firm will be known as Frank G. Fickling & Co. and will handle a complete line of automobile accessories."

May 4, 1911 Washington Post classified:

"Accessories and Supplies of all kinds. Frank G. FICKLING Co., 1112 14th st. N.W. Phone N. 3825."

The February 22, 1912 issue of Motor World reported:

"Frank G. Fickling, formerly of the Frank G. Fickling Co., and W. W. Fickling, of Philadelphia, have formed a partnership and opened salesrooms at 1401 I street N. W., Washington, D. C, where they will deal in accessories."

While his brother ran their own firm Frank opened a competing firm across town as recorded in the September 26, 1912 Motor Age:

"Washington, D. C—The National Auto Supply Co. has opened a store at 1530 Fourteenth street, N. W, with Frank G. Fickling as manager."

March 16, 1913 Washington Post:

"Frank Fickling has been appointed manager for the local branch of the Motz Tire Company, which has located at 1012 Fourteenth street northwest. Mr. Fickling is well known to the Washington automobile trade, having been engaged in the accessory business here for several years past. The new branch will be formally opened with a complete stock of Motz tires this week."

Following W. Irvine Fickling's 1910 bankruptcy the firm's spacious facility was leased to the W.A. Wood Automobile Mfg. Co. of Kingston, New York, the importer of the British-built Commer Car Truck. According to the October 1910 issue of the Commercial Vehicle the firm hoped to produce 1 to 6 ton Commer trucks in a leased Kingston, New York factory:

"For the present the machines sold will be imported from the works of Commercial Cars, Ltd., England, until the company is in a position to ship American-built machines from Kingston."

William A. Wood had recently become well-known in Manhattan automobile circles as he had announced the introduction of Guy Vaughan's "Try-out" car and had recently purchased some of the assets of Wyckoff, Church & Partridge, Manhattan's Stearns, Commer and DeCauville distributor.

Manufacture of the 'American' Commer never materialized and Kimes & Clark question whether series production of the Vaughan commenced, although a few test cars were produced between 1910 and 1912. In 1911 William A. Wood reorganized the W.A. Wood Automobile Mfg. Co. as Wycoff, Church & Partridge Inc., and the resulting firm was declared bankrupt in 1912.

The former Fickling & Co. building on West 49th Street was subsequently taken over by the Orchard Spring Water Co. the century-old garage at 304-06 W. 49th St. currently houses a rental car office and parking garage.

Fickling did not stay with the building, having found a job as a Reliance salesman as reported in the March 3, 1910 issue of Motor World:

"W. I. Fickling, who has long been identified with the automobile trade, has returned to the commercial vehicle end of the business and is now assistant sales manager for Reliance gasoline wagons and trucks with the Rainier Motor Truck Company, at Broadway and Sixty-fourth Street, New York."

The Rainier Co. later the R.& L. Co., 1880 Broadway, also distributed the Garford and Willys trucks.

Although the Holbrook Company enjoyed much success in the custom body field, after five years in business its founder and namesake Henry F. Holbrook parted ways with the firm, selling his shares to the partners and returning to his native England where he served as a gunner in the Royal Flying Corps.

Holbrook had served as the firm's salesman and designer and when he left the void was filled by a succession of talent who included Paris-born coachbuilder, Leon Rubay, who worked for the firm for a couple of years between stints with Rothschild & Co., White and his own Cleveland, Ohio Company.

In the meantime Holbrook's friend and former employer W. Irvine Fickling had formed a new organization, the Fickling Enameling Corporation, which was organized under the laws of New York State on November 14, 1914. His partners in the enterprise were two of his younger brothers, John Sotheron (b.1893-d.1966) and Frank Gordon (b.1889) Fickling – W. Irvine, pres.; J. Sothern, vice-pres. & superintendent; and Frank G., sec.-treas.

The November 5, 1914 issue of the Automobile reported:

"Fickling Resigns—W. Irvine Fickling, for the past 4 years sales manager of the R. & L. Co., New York City, Eastern distributors of Garford trucks, has resigned and will shortly make an announcement of a new connection."

That announcement appeared in the December 16, 1914 issue of the Horseless Age:

"Fickling Enameling Plant.—The second floor of the building at Webster and Second avenue, Long Island City, N. Y., has been leased by the Fickling Enameling Co., which will maintain an automobile body and general enameling plant on the premises, which provides over 20,000 square feet of floor apace."

The 'News and Notes of the Automobile Trade' column of the March 21, 1915 New York Times made mention of the firm's new Radio-enameling process:

"A direct effort to give more efficient service to car owners who desire to refinish their vehicles has been made by the Fickling Enameling Corporation, Long Island City. The process used has been called the Radio by this concern, and by it complete automobiles can be japanned in three days."

The process was explained in further detail in the April 8, 1915 issue of Iron Age:

"A Rapid Enameling Process

"An enameling process, the distinctive feature of  which is a quick-drying secured by heating the objects treated in large ovens under a relative high percentage of humidity, has been perfected by the Fickling Enameling Corporation, Long Island City, New York. By this method, known as the Radio-enameling process, an automobile can be refinished in three days.

"After the initial enamel has been applied by either dipping or spraying, the parts are placed in these specially constructed ovens and dried under a uniform temperature and humidity. Thermostatic control keeps the temperature between 110 and 120 deg. F., and water control on a diaphragm regulates the humidity at a point about 40 per cent, of saturation. Where the character of materials allows, the temperature is increased to as much as 200 deg. The final enamel is subjected to a similar baking at a slightly lower temperature.

"Drying in the ovens under the constant relation of temperature and moisture and the use of water-washed air are said to secure more lasting enamel than is possible by ordinary air drying. Keeping the outer surface green permits the inner layers to dry and set, thus securing a hard and enduring foundation. When dried in the open air, the surface becomes hard, while the under coatings may be green for some time. On automobile hoods this results in sweating. W. I. Fickling, president of the corporation, is of the opinion that the Radio method will have wide industrial uses because of the time saved in drying. One oven 19 ft. 6 in. x 42 ft. is in use at present and Mr. Fickling holds that the method would be efficient with even a larger oven."

The May 19, 1915 issue of the Horseless Age announced that Fickling had taken over the plant of the Dunlop Wire Wheel Co.:

"Fickling Takes Over Dunlop Enameling Plant.—The Fickling Enameling Corp., of Long Island City, N. Y., have purchased the enameling plant of the Dunlop Wire Wheel Co., said to be one of the most modern establishments of its kind in the United States. The Fickling Corporation are prepared to continue the service formerly supplied by the Dunlop company."

A New York Tribune display ad dating from September 8, 1915 is transcribed below:

"Automobiles Japanned in 3 Days

Fickling Enameling Corp., 2d and Webster Av. Long Island City. Telephone Astoria 1476

"Japanning of every character. All Colors."

Business increased to the point where additional manufacturing capacity was required and the November 13, 1915 issue of the Automobile announced a 25,000 sq. ft. plant expansion:

"Fickling to Add 25,000 Sq. Ft.

"Long Island City, N. Y., Nov. 13— The Fickling Enameling Corp., this city, is enlarging its plant by the addition of 26,000 sq. ft. to accommodate its assembling plant, and the wood-working, metal-stamping and upholstery departments, to take care of several large contracts recently received from manufacturers."

The firm's listing in the 1917 New York city business directory follows:

"FICKLING ENAMELING CORPORATION, W Irvine Fickling Pres; J Sothoron Fickling V-Pres; M. G. Fickling Sec and Treas; Enameling, Japanning Metal Work. Automobiles japanned 2d and Webster Avs L I City Tel Astoria 1474, 1475, 1476."

The May 13, 1917 issue of the Automobile revealed that some of the firm's excess capacity would now be used to store automobiles:

"Fickling Adds Storage Department

"New York, April 30—The Fickling Enameling Corp., Long Island City, has added to its plant a department for the storage of cars and bodies. Following are the rates: Closed cars, first month $12, additional months $8.50; touring cars and runabouts and chassis, $10 and $7.50; closed bodies, $8 and $6.50; touring bodies, $6.50 and $5. These prices include jacking up cars and supplying covers."

The January 17, 1918 issue of Automotive Industries / The Automobile announced that W. Irvine's brother, William Webb Fickling was now involved with the Fulton Motor Truck Co.:

"W. W. Fickling, formerly connected with the Olds Motor Works, Lansing, and later with the Cadillac Motor Car Co. and the Garford and Gramm-Bernstein companies in the truck field, has joined the forces of the Fulton Motor Truck Co., Farmingdale, Long Island, N. Y."

After a four year hiatus from the automotive industry Henry F. Holbrook returned to the United States in mid-1918 in order to join his friend and former employer's Long Island City body building and Japanning business. The May 23, 1918 issue of Automotive Industries/The Automobile reported on the firm's reorganization:

"Fickling Enameling Reorganized

"LONG ISLAND CITY, N. Y., May 21 —The Fickling Enameling Co. has passed out of existence and has been succeeded by the Enameling & Stamping Corp., organized with a capital of $200,000. W. Irvine Fickling will be president of the new company, and H. F. Holbrook, formerly associated with the Holbrook company, manufacturer of bodies, will be secretary and treasurer."

April-May 1918 issue of The Metal Record and Electroplater indicate his wife Mae Frances, was involved in the enterprise:

"The Enameling & Stamping Corporation of New York, Brooklyn, has been incorporated, with a capital of $200,000 by H.F. Holbrook, W.I. and M.F. Fickling, 600 West 116th Street to manufacture enameled ware, etc."

The May 1, 1918 edition of The Horseless reported that W. Irivine Fickling had joined his brother at the Fulton Motor Truck Co., the Manhattan sales headquarters of the Fulton Motor Truck:

"Carl H. Page and W. Irving Fickling are associated with Norris Mason in the New York Fulton Truck Company recently formed to handle the Fulton Truck made by the Fulton Motor Truck Company, Farmingdale, L.I."

They also printed a retraction related to the firm's sales manager, Norris Mason, who like Fickling, had long been a fixture in Manhattan automotive circles:

"Norris Mason is sales manager of the New York agency of the Fulton Motor Truck Company instead of for the company itself as stated in the last issue of The Horseless Age. W. F. Melhuish, Jr., is president and sales manager and H. J. Flint is assistant sales manager."

The June 28, 1918 Motor Age announced the reorganization of Fickling Enameling Corp. as Enameling & Stamping Corp. of New York:

"Enameling Works for Service to Makers—

"The Enameling & Stamping Corp. of New York has established in Long Island City what are said to be the largest enameling works in the East devoted exclusively to the service of manufacturers for work of this character. The company has purchased the plant of the Fickling Enameling Corp. and is now equipped for enameling of every character and in all colors. One of the quantity-production contracts now in progress is the enameling of 2,500,000 pieces. W. I. Fickling is president and associated with him is H. F. Holbrook, formerly president of the Holbrook Co."

Henry F. Holbrook was listed as the firm's secretary and treasurer. The August 1, 1918 issue of Aviation reported on the firm's progress in rustproofing metal:

"A Rust Proofing

"The increased cost of galvanizing and other processes of rust-proofing and the unsuitability of galvanizing or other metal as a coating for metal parts which must be inspected rigidly for defects before assembling and constantly reinspected during use, has turned attention strongly to the safety transparent, rust-proof and acid-proof finish which has been developed by the Enameling & Stamping Corporation of New York. It is said that no defects in metal can possibly be concealed by it when baked in its transparent form. Various Government and airplane manufacturers are carrying out tests of this finish. As a priming finish it grips the pores of the metal so closely that no scraping or cutting can alter the rustproof effect, unless the metal itself is cut away. The rustproof finish also is being applied in many cases with pigment, of all colors, in it. As it costs considerably less than porcelain enameling, it is expected to displace that finish for many articles. It is, in fact, less expensive than galvanizing or tinning under present conditions."

Coinciding with the reorganization of the Fickling Enameling Corp. as the Enameling & Stamping Corp. was W. Irvine Fickling's appointment as sales manager of the Fulton Motor Truck Co.'s Manhattan sales office which was announced in the May 1, 1918 issue of Horseless Age:

"Carl H. Page and W. Irving Fickling are associated with Norris Mason in the New York Fulton Truck Company recently formed to handle the Fulton Truck made by the Fulton Motor Truck Company, Farmingdale, L.I."

Despite sharing a name, Robert E. Fulton was unconnected with the Fulton Motor Truck Company, 1917-1923, a Farmingdale, Long Island manufacturer of 1½ ton motor trucks founded by William Fulton Melhuish, Jr., as the Clyde Motor Truck Co. in 1915. Fulton Motor Truck Co.'s Hempstead Turnpike plant would later house the Fairchild and later on the Grumman aircraft manufacturing facilities.

The Enameling & Stamping Corp. of New York must have been very short-lived and by early 1920 Henry F. Holbrook, Fickling's partner, had gone back in business with the Singer's forming the Perfect Body Corporation in early 1920. The 'Commercial Leases' column of the May 8, 1920 New York Times reported:

"Leo Schloss leased for the Theodore Klein Construction Company, to the Perfect Body Corporation, H. F. Holbrook, President, a subsidiary of the Singer Motor Car Company, the one story building on Madison Avenue between 136th to 137th Streets covering an area of 40,000 square feet."

Within the year the Perfect Body Corp. had been dissolved and on April 5, 1921 Henry F. Holbrook had incorporated the H.F. Holbrook Company with the New York Secretary of State as a Foreign Business Corporation.

No more was heard from the Enameling & Stamping Corp. of New York after its 1918 organization, and Fickling concentrated his activities to truck and automobile sales as recorded by the July 13, 1919 issue of the New York Times:


"The Hollier "Six," five-passenger touring type, 116-inch wheelbase. The local agency has just been taken by W. Irvine Fickling and Norris Mason of the New York Fulton Truck Company."

W. Irvine Fickling made a number of trips to Havana during 1917 and 1919, and his name is conspicuously absent from the automobile trades after 1920. He and his wife Mae, and daughter Elizabeth are included in the 1920 US Census as resident of Westchester County, New York, but within the year had relocated to Miami, Florida. The purpose was to join his brother-in-law Leonidas Beatie Southerland, the spouse of his sister Ida, in a new real estate venture, the Fickling-Southerland Realty Corp. Fickling served as president, L.B. Southerland, vice-president, secretary and treasurer.

The Fickling family's fortune had been founded upon real estate so it's not surprising, W. Irvine returned to the profession of his father after he relocated to Miami, which was in the midst of a real estate boom. Located in Miami's historic Congress building, the firm was reorganized following the death of Southerland becoming Fickling Properties. Although it's now headquartered in Macon, Georgia the firm is still in business as Fickling & Co.

An entry at dating from 2001 indicates Elizabeth Frances Fickling (b. Aug. 23, 1907) had a child in 1931 that was ultimately named after her father, William I. Fickling. The story of how he got his name is interesting. His great-granddaughter Elfriede Hutwelker writes (edited for continuity):

"I am the great-granddaughter of William Irvine Fickling. He was married to Mae Frances Fickling, whose only child, my grandmother Elizabeth Frances Fickling, was born in New York City on August 23, 1907. She married three times. My grandfather was Roy D. Cone, her other two husbands were named Leroy Wakefield and ? Jones. When she filed for her Social Security number in 1936 she was living at 431 Rivo Alto Island, Miami Beach, Florida and working for Fickling Properties Inc., 1414 Congress Bldg., Miami Florida.

"Elizabeth Frances Fickling married Roy Davis Cone, and their son, Roy William Cone, was born on August 4, 1931. Shortly thereafter a divorce and bitter custody battle ensued resulting in my father being adopted by his maternal grandfather (my grandfather, William Irvine Fickling) and his name changed to William Irvine Fickling."

I couldn't locate an obituary for W. Irvine Fickling, but perhaps a family member might be so kind as to forward that information to me.

© 2011 Mark Theobald -






Fickling Enameling Corp


Book of Florida, pub 1925

Hardin Davant Hanahan - A place in history: the Davant Family, pub 1972

John William Leonard, Lewis Randolph Hamersly & Frank R. Holmes - Who's who in New York City and State, Volume 4, pub 1909

Eugene W. Lewis - Motor Memories: A Saga of Whirling Gears, pub 1947

Robert Edison Fulton Jr. - One Man Caravan, pub 1937
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