Alphabetical Index|A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M|N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z


quicklinks|buses|cars|designers|fire apparatus|limos|pro-cars|taxis|trailers|trucks|woodies

Glesenkamp Co.
L. Glesenkamp 1875-1880; L. Glesenkamp & Son 1880-1890; L. Glesenkamp, Sons & Co.  1890-1903; L. Jr. & J.A. Glesenkamp & Co 1903-1916, L. Glesenkamp Co. 1916-1920 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Associated Builders
West & Blatchett 1847-1852; C. West & Co. (#1) 1852-1875

L. Glesenkamp Sons & Co. was the successor to C. West & Co. and located at 75, 77, and 79 Liberty Street (re-numbered in 1885 as 317, 319, 321, and 323 Liberty) with offices and a wareroom at 92 Penn Ave. (re-numbered in 1885 as 318-320 Penn.) 

Columbus West (b.1818-d.1880) was born in 1818 in Maryland. After he completed an apprenticeship with a local coachbuilder he worked for various vehicle makers in the east, eventually making his way to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania where in 1847 he established a carriage works with a Mr. Blatchett at 194 & 195-197 Penn Ave. West & Blatchett’s factory was located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Fort Duquesne business district, on what would become some of the most valuable land in Modern Pittsburgh.

Fort Duquesne (originally called Fort Du Quesne in honor of the governor-general of New France) was a fort established by the French in 1754 at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers.

The blessed union of Columbus West and Troy, New York native, Catherine Edell (b.1815-d.1903), produced 2 sons, James W. and John, who by 1860 had joined their father’s business.  Columbus West’s younger brother Lafayette F. West (b.1826) moved to Pittsburgh to join his brother’s firm, eventually establishing his own Pittsburgh butcher shop.

Soon after their 1848 arrival in New York City, two young German brothers, Louis J. (b.1826-d.1898) and William Glesenkamp (b.1831- d.1906), were scouted by a Columbus West associate and soon relocated to Pittsburgh. The Glesenkamps were born in Belm, in the kingdom of Hanover, Germany. Louis J. Glesenkamp’s first name is often mis-spelled as Lewis. William Glesenkamp was already a Pittsburgh native by 1850, and was included in that year’s census as a blacksmith.

In 1852 Louis J. Glesenkamp bought out the interest of Mr. Blatchett, and West & Blatchett was reorganized as C. West & Co., C. West and L. Glesenkamp, proprietors.

In 1854 the firm was awarded a certificate for Best Rockaway Buggy by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society at the group’s annual exhibition and in 1859 Columbus West was commissioned to either build or procure a steam fire engine for the city’s Eagle Fire Company.

By 1860 Louis’ younger brother William Glesenkamp was placed in charge of the firm’s smithworks. A period text advertisement follows:

“GLESENKAMP, L. & WEST, C. - C. West & Co - MANUFACTURERS OF Carriages, Rockaways, Buggies. Sulkies AND SLEIGHS, No. 197 Penn Street, Pittsburgh, Pa.”

The Wests and Glesenkamps were all listed in the 1860 Pittsburgh directory as follows:

Glesenkamp Louis, C. West & Co. home at 213 Penn
West & Co., carriage manufacturers, 194 Penn
West Columbus, of C. West & Co., 18 Hay
West James W., coach painter, 18 Hay
West John, painter, 230 Penn
West Lafayette, of C. West & Co., 195 Penn

Both the Hay St. and Penn St. numbers refer to the same group of buildings. Hay St. was renamed Fourth St. sometime before 1872.

In 1866 the City of Pittsburgh acquired the C. West & Co. factory in order to construct the new Mercantile Library Hall. A new factory was constructed by the partners in 1867 at 75-79 Liberty St. (re-numbered in 1885 as 317, 319, 321, and 323 Liberty), just one block away from the freight offices of the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1868 an office and wareroom were built just behind the Liberty St. factory at 92 Penn Ave. (re-numbered in 1885 as 318-320 Penn).

When Louis Glesenkamp bought out the interests of Columbus West when he retired in 1875, Louis’s brother, William, along with Columbus West’s son, Edward M. West, re-established the firm at 63-64 Duquesne Way (renumbered in 1885 as 420-422 Duquesne Way). The building was acquired from James Hutchinson and was located a couple of blocks away from the L. Glesenkamp works at the southwest corner of Duquesne and Evans alley, between Fourth and Fifth Sts. The firm went by various names including C. West & Sons, C. West & Co.

For a number of year’s immediately following the sale, Louis Glesenkamp advertised that L. Glesenkamp was the successor to C. West & Co., which caused some confusion, as C. West was still in business, albeit at a new address. ]

One of Louis Glesenkamp’s sons, John W. Glesenkamp, served as an apprentice coachbuilder in his father’s shops, but chose not to enter the firm. Instead he became partners with a former New Yorker named James W. O’Neil, in the Monongahela House Stables, which were formerly run by J.P Hanna. Doing business in the style of J.W. O’Neil & Co., Glesenkamp and O’Neil had twenty stalls full of fine horses as well as a stock of coaches, hacks, carriages, phaetons and buggies. They were well-known dealers in horses and also supplied metropolitan funeral directors with vehicles and horses for funerals.

L. Glesenkamp & Co. received a number of awards at the 1882 Pennsylvania Exposition:

"Pennsylvania Agricultural Society. – 1882 Annual Report
Exhibition of 1882.
CLASS 73—Business Vehicles.

L. Glessenkamp & Co., Pittsburgh, close carriage, folding top, Bronze medal.
L. Glessenkamp & Co., collection of close carriages, folding tops, Silver medal.
L. Glessenkamp & Co., collection of phaetons, &c., Silver medal.
L. Glessenkamp & Co., collection of buggies, Bronze medal.
L. Glessenkamp & Co., collection of two-wheeled vehicles. Silver medal.
L. Glessenkamp & Co., sleighs, one and two horse, Bronze medal.
L. Glessenkamp & Co., sleighs, one and two horse, Diploma.

L. Glesenkamp and Thomas S. O’Neil were listed as partners in the firm of L. Glesenkamp Co. in the 1880 Pittsburgh City Directory. Also listed was William Glesenkamp, of C. West & Co. which was now a totally separate firm, located at 63-64 Duquesne Way (renumbered in 1885 as 420-422 Duquesne Way). By 1890 the Pittsburg directory listed Thos. S. O’Neil separately:

“THOS. S. O'NEIL & Co., Manufacturers and Dealers in OF EVERY DESCRIPTION. HARNESS, LAP ROBES, HORSE BLANKETS, Etc., Etc. 5821 to 5825 PENN AVENUE, EAST END.”

Some confusion arises from the fact that Pittsburgh re-numbered Penn Ave and Liberty St. in 1885. Consequently the post 1885 address of 318-320 Penn Ave. used to be 92 Penn Ave. The same goes for 319-323 Liberty St which used to be 75-79 Liberty St. prior to the change.

Sometime prior to 1890 the firm started building funeral coaches, and their 1890 directory advertisement stated the fact:

“L. Glesenkamp, builders of funeral cars and Berlin Coaches.”

The June 1908 issue of the Hub ran a picture of an Elaborate Funeral Car with Brake and Ornamental Boot that was built by the firm and the Carriage Monthly occasionally included renderings of the firm’s funeral coaches as follows:

December 1884 issue, Plate No. 66. Five-Glass Landau.
December 1884 issue, Plate No. 69. Skeleton Wagon.
June 1885 issue, Plate No. 18. Hearse.
August 1898 issue, Plate No. 22. Rockaway.
January 1892 issue, Plate No. 73. Hearse.
February 1891 issue, Plate No. 81. Adult Funeral Car.
March 1903 issue, Plate No. 673. Funeral Car.

From 1883 to 1886 C.H. Vorhees (born 1852, Detroit, Michigan) held the position of draftsman and superintendent of L. Glesenkamp, Sons & Co. Prior to the appointment Vorhees had worked for Brewster & Co., Charles S. Caffrey Co., Holcomb Bros. and Henry Killam & Co. After his stay at Glesenkamp, he worked for the Kalamazoo Buggy Co. and for C. R. & J. C. Wilson, Detroit, Michigan. In September, 1896, he was engaged with the La Porte Carriage Co. as superintendent and draftsman, and was still there in the early 1900s.

L. Glesenkamp & Son were exhibitors at the Pittsburgh Point Exhibition Halls' premiere in 1889. ‘Industries and wealth of Pittsburgh and Environs’ published in 1890 gave the following description of the Glesenkamp works:

“The factory is four stories in height, and 75x100 feet in dimensions, while it is fully equipped with the latest improved machinery and appliances run by steam power. Upwards of 150 skilled hands are here employed in the manufacture of the finest lines of buggies, phaetons, coupes, Victorias, broughams, coaches, surreys, “T” carts, etc.

"Quality has ever been the first consideration, and the firm use the finest of materials only, while they have become nationally famous for originating the most artistic styles of fine carriages, elaborately finished, and in every way representative of the carriage maker’s art. The leading citizens of Pittsburgh use vehicles of their manufacture exclusively, while the firm supplies the best class of trade throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, and throughout Pennsylvania generally. Mr. L. Glesenkamp is one of the acknowledged experts in his branch of trade, the representative thereof in western Pennsylvania, and the firm is to be congratulated upon the large measure of success attending its ably directed efforts. Mr. J.A. Glesenkamp is a most efficient office man, while Mr. L.  Glesenkamp, Jr., (another son) who acts as superintendent, is a valued assistant to his father in the sops, and the concern is the best managed carriage factory we have ever inspected.”

Joseph A. Glesenkamp was born in Pittsburgh in 1862, to Louis and Mary Riley Glesenkamp. After a public education he attended Newell's Institute and graduated from Duff's College in 1880 after which he entered his father's business, thoroughly acquainting himself with all aspects of the firm. He was subsequently made a partner and the firm was reorganized as L. Glesenkamp & Son. Following the prolonged 1897 illness of his father he took over the day-to-day management of the firm aided by his younger brother, Louis Glesenkamp Jr.

Louis Glesenkamp Sr., the founder of the firm bearing his name, passed away after a prolonged bought of respiratory failure on Saturday, May 21, 1898. The following obituary appeared in the June 1898 issue of Carriage Monthly:

“Louis Glesenkamp, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, head of the carriage manufacturing house of L. Glesenkamp, Sons & Co., died after a week’s illness at his home, 4816 Liberty avenue, Pittsburg, on Saturday, May 21st. He was born in Belm, Hanover, January 7, 1826, and learned the trade of carriage building in his native town. He came to New York in 1848, and made that city his home for some months. He came to Pittsburg, where he has lived ever since. He was there but a short time when he saw an opening for fine carriage work, and offered his services. He soon became recognized as the most advanced and skillful workman in the carriage craft in Western Pennsylvania. It is said of him that in his early carriage building, he executed some jobs the like of which has never since been attempted or accomplished.

“In 1853, he opened an establishment of his own, which soon became noted for the excellence and originality of work turned out. He showed not only workmanlike skill, but remarkable business ability, and soon established a large and prosperous carriage building establishment. He was married in 1852, and is survived by a widow and six children. Two of his sons now control the business. Mr. Glesenkamp, though an old man, was very active and paid strict attention to business, seldom missing a day at his desk. During his career as a carriage builder, he brought to this city much work which had been done abroad. His work was known far and wide for originality of design and excellence of execution in all the finer details of work. He established a standard of excellence, which has remained ever since as a model for others. His life was lived not merely to make money and do work, but to achieve a high ideal in his craft. This he has nobly done, and with a modesty of demeanor that won for him hosts of friends. Thus passes away another of the old time carriage builders, whose memory will remain long. His work is his most fitting gift to his craft.”

The July 1898 issue of the Hub also covered the sad event:

“Louis Glesenkamp, the oldest carriage manufacturer in Pennsylvania, and the head of one of the old business firms in this city, died on May 21 at his home, 4816 Liberty avenue. Mr. Glesenkamp has been ailing for several years with asthma, but had not at any time been in a serious condition. For the past eight months, however, he had been confined to the house, yet he attended to every detail of his business, and was not taken dangerously ill until last Tuesday. He was compelled to take his bed, and it was then that his family began to fear for his life. He gradually became weaker, and on Thursday it was seen that he could not live much longer. Yesterday he slowly sank until death came at just 7 o'clock.

“Louis Glesenkamp was widely known in all parts of the State. He was born in Belm, in the kingdom of Hanover, Germany, Jan. 7, 1826. He received his education there, and then learned the trade of carriage building. Mr. Glesenkamp came to America in 1848. He remained in New York for a few months, and then moved to Pittsburg, where he opened a carriage factory and where he resided up to the time of his death.”

Another Hub article also dating from July, 1898 dealt with the Glesenkamp estate:

“Pittsburg‑‑The will of Louis Glesenkamp, the well known Pittsburg carriage builder, was filed for probate on May 25. The estate is valued at $100,000. Mary Glesenkamp, wife of the testator, is bequeathed the household goods, and insurance policy for $10,000 and the real estate on Liberty avenue, Twentieth ward, she now has possession of. In addition to this the wife is bequeathed the testator's interest in the firm of Glesenkamp Sons & Co., she having the right to continue in the business or dispose of her interest as may suit her. In the event of the wife's desire to sell her interest it is directed that Joseph Glesenkamp, a son, be given the first chance to purchase. Real estate on Liberty and Penn avenues, Twentieth ward, now occupied as a carriage factory, valued at $75,000, upon which there is a mortgage of $30,000, is bequeathed to his sons Joseph and Louis Glesenkamp.  If the sons decline to accept the mortgage, the real estate shall be sold, and the proceeds of the sale shall be counted in as part of the estate for general distribution. To Mary Glesenkamp, a grand-daughter, is left $1,000. The residue of the estate is to be divided into six equal parts. One part is to be used in the purchase of a house for Catherine Glesenkamp, a daughter‑in‑law, and her children. The other parts are to be divided among Mrs. Sarah O'Neil, Mrs. Mary J. Carr, Mrs. Amelia Skelly, daughters, and Joseph and Louis Glesenkamp, sons. The latter are appointed executors.”

A little more than a year after Louis Glesenkamp passed away, a major fire destroyed his Liberty St. factory.

A Period account:

“Fire In Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh. Pa,. July 18. - The carriage factory of L. Glesenkamp & Son at Third and Liberty streets was destroyed by fire Tuesday night. Loss, $60,000, well covered by insurance.”

The firm’s office and wareroom on Penn Ave were spared, but the blaze totally destroyed the firm’s 319-323 Liberty St. factory which housed the woodwork, ironing and varnishing departments. The insurance money was used to re-build the factory and William B. Scaife & Sons, were awarded a contract to construct a steel frame building to house a new boiler which supplied steam heat and power to the rebuilt Glesenkamp works. Louis Glesenkamp’s widow, Mary died on February 2, 1902, giving James A. and Louis Jr. complete control of the firm.

For many years L. Glesenkamp & Co. owned two railcars that were used to transports raw materials to and finished carriages from their Pittsburgh factories. A description of the cars from the 1904 Official Railway Equipment Register follows:


“Cars operated are marked "Glesenkamp Carriage Line," and numbered 320 and 325

“The dimensions are as follows: Car 320, height from top of rail to top of running board. 13 ft. 10 ½ in.; height from top of rail to eave, 13 ft. 2 ½ In.; width over eaves, 9 ft. 7 ¼ in.; length (outside), 40 ft.. 10 In.; end door, 8x9 ft.; side doors, 7x9 ft.; Car 325: height from top of rail to top of running board, 13 ft. 10 in. ; height from top of rail to eave, 13 ft. 2 ½  in.; width over eaves, 9 ft. 8 In.; length (outside), 40 ft. 10 In.; end door, 8x9 ft. ; side doors, 7x9 ft.

Report movements and mileage, and send remittances to L. Glesenkamp, Sons & Co., Pittsburgh, Pa. Return cars to Pittsburgh & Western Division B.&O.R.R.. Allegheny Yards when empty. Load clean freight only.”

In 1909 the Glesenkamp brothers announced they were spending an additional $15,000 to modernize the Liberty St factory. At the 4th annual Pittsburgh Automobile Show, which was held at Duquesne Gardens beginning March 26, 1910, the firm displayed examples of the automobile coachwork. A regional newspaper stated:

“The displays of bodies were live centers of interest Saturday night, for two local firms, L. Glesenkamp & Sons Co., and the E.J. Thompson Co.”

The July 1912, issue of the Commercial Vehicle, contained the following announcement:

“A Complete Funeral Car

“A NOVEL funeral car has been completed for J. J. Flannery & Bro., Pittsburgh, Pa. The chassis is a Packard with a special body built by Glesenkamp Sons & Co., Pittsburgh. It is a single-unit vehicle having a compartment for the driver, one immediately in rear of it for the casket and the major part of the vehicle a carriage with accommodation for thirty-two persons. There is a fourth compartment for flowers, which is located above and in rear of the chauffeur's space. The vehicle is intended to serve as a complete funeral car.

“The body, finished in dark panels with blank moldings, has the usual carriage finish. The chassis color is azure blue. The interior is oil-finished mahogany, the seats are upholstered in dark blue leather and the sides of the interior is the same leather.

“The vehicle is lighted throughout by electricity and carries electric fans and telephone system connecting with the various compartments. Special fixtures include washstand, water coolers, etc.

“The chassis was planned specially for the particular job and is shod with solid rubbers all around, single tires in the front and duals in the rear. There are three side entrances, one for each of the different compartments of the vehicle.”

A number of firms built funeral omnibuses in the early days of the motorized coach and more often than not they were one-off vehicles built on commercial truck or bus chassis manufactured by commercial vehicle body builders, and not regular professional car manufacturers.

Known manufacturers include:
1910 - Fred Hulberg - New York, NY
1912 - L. Glesenkamp Sons & Co.- Pittsburgh, PA
1915 - J.C. Brill – Philadelphia, PA  
1918 - Fifth Avenue Coach Co – New York, NY
1919 - Fitzgibbon & Crisp - Trenton, NJ
1920 - William Merz - Philadelphia, PA
1982 - Airstream-GMC Funeral Coach

Unfortunately the debut of the Glesenkamp Funeral Omnibus did not result in additional orders and the increasing popularity of popular priced automobiles brought the firms carriage building business to a crawl.

By 1916 L. Glesenkamp Co. had sold its Liberty St factory to the Pennsylvania Railroad and relocated to 6118 Station St. at Collins Ave. An advertisement in the 1917 Pittsburgh Jewish Community Book follows:

“Automobile Painting & Varnishing, New Tops, Curtains and Seat Covers. Celluloids and plate glass put in curtains. Quality 50 Years Ago, Quality To-Day”

The 1918 City Business Directory continued to list the firm under Automobile Painting, but it’s likely Glesenkamp did not survive the Depression of 1919-1920, as it was noticeably absent from subsequent editions of the Pittsburgh Directory.

Joseph A. Glesenkamp is listed in the 1922 Pittsburgh City Directory as a manufacturers’ agent with an office at 603 Wabash Building, an 11-story Beaux-Arts building that housed the Wabash Terminal Train Station on the ground floor which was located across the street from the old Glesenkamp factory at the corner of Liberty Ave and Ferry St. (formerly Stanwix St.). Louis Glesenkamp Jr.’s listing gave his occupation as automobile salesman with a business located at 317 Chislett St.

© 2004 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to Thomas A. McPherson






John Newton Boucher, John Woolf Jordan - A Century and a Half of Pittsburg and Her People‎. pub 1908

The Book of Prominent Pennsylvanians – Leader Publishing Co. pub 1913

George Henry Thurston - Pittsburgh and Allegheny in the Centennial Year. pub 1876

George Thornton Fleming - History of Pittsburgh and environs, from prehistoric days to the beginning of the American revolution Vol. 5. pub 1922

Industries and wealth of Pittsburgh and Environs. pub 1890.

Automobile Quarterly‎ - Vol. 36 No. 3 pp37

The Professional Car (Quarterly Journal of the Professional car Society)

Thomas A. McPherson - American Funeral Cars & Ambulances Since 1900

Carriage Museum of America - Horse-Drawn Funeral Vehicles: 19th Century Funerals

Carriage Museum of America -  Horse Drawn - Military, Civilian, Veterinary - Ambulances

Extended Auto Warranties
Are you paying too much? Make sure your auto warranty covers your entire vehicle.

Car Shows
State by State directory of car shows; includes new car shows and classic auto events.

Auto Buying Guide
Paying too much? Use this step by step guide to help get the best deal on your next car.

Car Books, Models & Diecasts
Your one stop shop for automotive books, models, die-casts & collectibles.


Submit Pictures or Information

Original sources of information are given when available. Additional pictures, information and corrections are most welcome.

Click Here to submit pictures or information

Pictures Continued


quicklinks|buses|cars|designers|fire apparatus|limos|pro-cars|taxis|trailers|trucks|woodies

© 2004-2012, Inc.|books|disclaimer|index|privacy