William Mansfield Healey was born
in Massachusetts in the 1840s to Samuel & Mary Thayer (Mansfield) Healy. In
1861 Healey enlisted in the Army of the North and attained the rank of
Colonel before being sidelined in 1863.
Healey attended engineering
school in France and following apprenticeships at a number of New York
coachbuilders, he became associated with the celebrated New York firm of
Loos & Williams, which was founded in 1849 as Williams & Dingel. At New
York’s 1850 American Institute Fair the firm was awarded a Gold Medal for
their carriage display. About 1860 C. Loos bought out the interest of Dingel,
and the firm became known as Loos & Williams. The firm operated from a large
factory at 223-225 West 96th St. and this is where Colonel Healey became
involved in the business of carriage building.
Loos and Williams parted company in 1881, and Colonel Healey joined
Williams in the new firm of Healey, Williams & Co. The firm maintained a
repository at 1658 Broadway (between 51st and 52nd Sts) and built a new
6-story factory on West 43rd St.
Below is a description of the new Healey & Williams factory that was
published in the September, 1884 issue of the Hub, the era’s most popular
trade magazine. It may give readers additional insight into how a
custom-built carriage or auto body was made, as the process was almost
“The new factory of Messrs. Healey, Williams & Co., on West
Forty‑third‑St., New‑York, the characteristic features of which are
indicated in the accompanying pen sketches, commends itself as one of the
most modern and convenient in its arrangements, and includes features which
are likely to be quite new to many of our readers.
“This is a representative city factory of large dimensions, in which
special attention has been given to economizing ground‑space, and gaining
the maximum degree of light. We beg, however, to suggest that any of our
readers who contemplate building a small factory, or one to be located in a
village where ground space is of secondary consequence, will not for these
reasons consider our description of this factory irrelevant to their needs;
for the general principles involved in the construction of modern American
carriage factories are substantially the same in all cases, whether the
factory be large or small, metropolitan or suburban, including the following
as leading requisites, namely: (1) arrangement of the different mechanical
departments in such a manner that there shall be economy of time and labor
in passing carriages through the works; (2) suitable stairways and
elevators; (3) ample provisions against fire; (4) the admission of all
possible daylight, and its introduction at the points where it is most
needed, especially over the anvils of the blacksmiths, whose work demands
good light quite as much as that of other mechanics, but whose wants in this
respect are too seldom respected; (5) the most perfect possible arrangement
for accommodating the painters and varnishers, including a location exempt
from dust, jar, smoke and interruption by callers, suitable light, heat and
ventilation, and provisions to exclude dust and flies; and (6) an ample and
attractive show‑room, in which fine vehicles, as an article of luxury, may
be displayed to the best possible advantage.
“All the above conditions have evidently been duly weighed and attended
to by the designers of this six‑story brick building, completed in April
last, which was planned and supervised in every detail by Mr. Healey, of the
firm, and which includes the latest and most approved machinery and
labor‑saving appliances of every kind. The consideration of the details of
such a city factory cannot but prove more instructive than that of numerous
smaller or suburban shops, as it naturally embraces all the requisites of
the latter, besides many others of less or greater consequence, which depend
upon the limitations of confined area and interruption of light caused by
“The plot of ground which the builders had at their disposal in this
instance, measured 100 feet front by 115 feet 5 inches deep, surrounded on
three sides by buildings. It was requisite, therefore, to depend for light
on windows front and rear; and, owing to the high price of real estate and
the growing requisites of the business, it was deemed advisable to occupy
the entire ground space. “The first point to which we desire to call
attention is the admirable manner in which the space was utilized without
prejudice to the question of light.
“The building is divided at the center by a heavy fire‑wall, with two
twelve‑foot openings on each floor, fitted with heavy iron doors. By closing
these doors complete separation of the two halves of the building may be
effected, making each as distinct as if it were under a separate roof; and
the proprietors have made it an imperative rule that all these fire‑doors
shall be closed every night. The engine, boilers, elevator, and all power
machinery are confined to the Eastern division of the building, thus largely
reducing the danger of loss in case of fire.
“A steam elevator, 14 x 7 3/4 feet, with a lifting capacity of 5,000
lbs., runs from the basement to the roof. An attachment is added so that it
can be worked by hand in case of accident or when the steam is off. This
attachment was devised by Mr. Healey, and is very simple, consisting of a
spurred wheel affixed to the end of the direct working shaft, and operated
by an endless chain belt and double cranks. It can be attached or detached
in a very few minutes, and is both simple and effective. So far as we are
aware, this is the first arrangement of the kind that has ever been used in
connection with a power elevator, and it will doubtless prove very handy in
“There are two stairways, one of which runs up the face of the elevator
shaft, and thus economizes floor space; the second is located against the
west wall. These two stairways, in addition to two iron fire‑escapes on the
rear exterior wall, insure ample means of egress in case of fire.
“A brick chute, built in the central wall of the building, supplemented
by an iron door on each floor, furnishes convenient means of disposing of
shavings, rubbish and sweepings, which are thus easily conveyed to the
basement, and each day fed to the boilers.
“The provisions against fire include a large iron water‑tank, located
just under the roof, which is supplied by a force‑pump from the engine‑room,
and leads water to every story, together with the Harden hand‑grenades
(glass balls filled with chemicals), which are placed within convenient
reach of the workmen, and numerous iron water‑buckets. Running water is
found on every floor, and water‑closets and urinals on each alternate
“We will now briefly describe each separate story, together with such
special machinery and labor‑saving devices as seem most likely to interest
“The basement is 13 feet in height, with excellent light throughout,
introduced from bulkhead windows in front, a glass dome at the rear, and
light‑shafts at the sides. Reference to the front elevation, Fig, 1, will
show the manner in which light is introduced from above, all along the front
of the basement; while Fig. 2 shows that at the rear, where the iron‑work is
forged, direct daylight from a glass dome, 20 x 90 feet, is introduced to
every blacksmith's forge and anvil and every fitter's bench.
“The floors of the basement are made perfectly water‑tight, by 5 inches
of concrete, covered by 2 inches of Portland cement; while steam coils
insure warmth and dryness, and two shafts, containing six windows on each
floor, furnish further light and ventilation from the two sides.
“Two steel boilers, of 50 horse‑power each, together with the coal and
oil vaults, are all located outside the building and under the sidewalk,
thus economizing ground space in the basement, and largely avoiding dust and
danger from fire.
“The engine is a 50 horse‑power prize engine, bought at the last American
Institute Fair, made by the Lambertville Engine and Machine Works, of
Lambertville, New Jersey. It is simple, compact, supplied with a patent
automatic cut‑off, and can be worked from 1 to 50 horse‑power as may be
desired, thus economizing steam. This engine is located under the driveway,
in close proximity to the boilers.
“The smith‑shop will accommodate 18 forges, which are blown by steam.
Those now in use are of iron, and made after a special pattern designed by
Mr. Williams, of the firm. The distinguishing characteristics of the design,
are as follows; each one is complete in itself, including the fire bed, coal
and water boxes and smoke bonnet, and it is portable. Special attention was
paid to the flues, which are 12 x 14 inches, carefully lined up on the
inside, So that a perfect draught is obtained, and little or no smoke enters
“A gas tire‑heater is to be used. A lead bath had been thought of for
this purpose, but, after careful investigation, the idea was relinquished on
the ground of expense in daily heating it. With a large and uniform number
of tires to he heated daily, the firm think the lead bath would prove both
effective and economical; but the gas heater has the special advantage of
being always ready for immediate use, while all expense attending that use
ceases the moment the work is completed.
“A clever device for saving labor in drilling tires, forms a noteworthy
feature of this department. The wheel is suspended, and made to revolve in
the course of the operation of drilling, thus avoiding the laborious
operation of lifting the wheel on and off the supporting arms, as is
necessary with other drills. This was devised by Mr. Healey. The above,
together with other power drills, emery wheels, lathes, etc., constitute the
machinery of the smith‑shop.
First of Ground Floor.
“The ground floor is mainly devoted to the office, stock‑room and
carriage wareroom. All the front windows on this floor are of double‑pane
plate glass, as shown in Fig. 1.
“Near the entrance is a Buffalo Scale Co. scale, with a capacity of five
tons, which is utilized for weighing not only the carriages constructed, but
all coal and materials bought by weight. Adjoining this is the
washing‑platform, which is made with double flooring, seamed and calked. All
the floors in the building are of Georgia pine, laid transversely, with
tarred paper between the two.
“The stock‑rooms, 12 ˝ x 60 feet, is conveniently fitted up with shelving
and tables, and in this is kept all the small stock. Speaking tubes connect
the office with each mechanical department in the works, and there is also
telephone connection by private wire with the firm's repository, at Nos.
1476 and 1478 Broadway, near the corner of 42nd‑street.
“The wareroom occupies one‑half of this floor. It is finished with
Georgia pine, oiled and shellaced, giving a plain but cleanly appearance,
and one appropriate to the business. The shades are of Holland, sage
colored, and suspended on automatic spring rollers.
“The carriage entrance, shown at about the center of Fig. 1, is provided
with a single door, 11 feet wide by 12 feet high, and weighing 900 lbs.,
which is suspended by balance weights on pulleys; and it can be raised as
easily as are ordinary windows, and on the same principle. This is a great
convenience in the ease of so large an opening, besides affording economy of
space; and it is the first instance, we believe, in which such an
arrangement has been applied to the door of a carriage factory.
“The second floor is divided into a trimming and a finishing department,
and includes few noteworthy features beyond convenient arrangement of the
benches and the usual working appliances.
“Carriages for the repair department are unhung and stripped on this
second floor, which contains one hundred and twenty separate compartments in
which are placed the cushions, carpets and movable articles belonging to
each vehicle, and numbered according to that corresponding with the vehicle
to which they belong. This system not only economizes time and prevents
mistakes, but is an actual necessity in a business of this kind and size,
where from three to four hundred second‑hand vehicles are unhung each year.
“The body, gear and wheel‑makers occupy the third floor, which is amply
supplied with convenient machinery, including a band‑saw jointer,
splitting‑saw, and several small machines for shaping and dressing. On this
floor, also, is the drafting room, which is 20 x 25 feet, and provided with
double‑faced swinging blackboards, shelving, etc.
“This third floor also contains an iron hot‑box for drying joints before
gluing, a steam glue‑pot, and a gas panel‑bender.
“The fourth floor is mainly devoted to seasoning and storing timber and
working the same, and contains a capacious steam dry‑room, a hub-boxing
machine, the largest cylinder planer yet built, and a large stock of timber
in various stages of seasoning.
“The dry‑room, 14 x 20 feet, is furnished with the latest conveniences
for seasoning timber, including the coil system of steam heating, a cold air
pipe near the floor, and a 6‑inch exit pipe.
“The fifth floor is mainly devoted to the painting of gears, and also
contains the color‑mixing room and stock‑room for colors.
“This upper floor is entirely devoted to the painting and finishing of
bodies, and is particularly noteworthy for its convenient arrangement and
perfection of details.
“The body varnish‑room, 25 feet square, is partitioned off from the body
paint‑room, and has six windows, four of which have a northern exposure and
two an easterly exposure, affording excellent light. The gear varnish‑room
is of similar size, and has a northern and western exposure.
Both these varnish‑rooms are provided with fibrous ventilating screens,
furnished by the Protective Ventilator Co., of New York city; and rubber
weather‑strips are introduced around the windows and doors to prevent dust
and draughts of air.
“The floors of both are laid with Wootton's concrete, and there are
drains at the corners connecting with the main sewer, to prevent the
accumulation of water.
“The walls and ceiling are plastered, and have a hard finish. There are
no cupboards in either room, nor in fact anything to accumulate dirt or
dust. The clothing of the workmen is contained in closets outside. Leading
off from the body varnish‑room is a dark room, 12 x 20 feet. Bodies are
passed into the former direct from the hands of the rubber; and, when
finished, these are immediately rolled into the dark room to dry. The latter
has rolling doors leading into the main floor, and from this dark room the
varnished work passes on to the finishing‑room and to a lifting arrangement
designed for the application of wheels, which is an ingenious contrivance,
by which one than man easily elevate any carriage body, while the wheels are
brought from the opposite room and placed under the body.
“A new and novel feature of this factory, showing further attention to
economy of space, is the roof, which is partly floored over, and directly
reached by the elevator, so that the largest carriage can be raised to the
roof and the same utilized for drying purposes, especially in the painting
“The history of the business concern occupying this model factory well
deserves extended notice; but in this connection we will only say that the
house was established in 1849 by Mr. William Williams, who is probably the
oldest active carriage‑builder now doing business in New York City. He
possesses a gold medal which was awarded to his work by the American
Institute Fair, of this city, as early as 1850, and he has held an Honored
place among New York's leading carriage‑builders ever since that time. The
specialty of the house is medium and heavy work of the finest grades, mostly
to order, including chiefly gentlemen's driving phaetons, victories,
cabriolets, coupes, broughams, landaus, coaches, etc. Their repair business
is also large, and they enjoy the reputation of having no superiors in this
line of work. For convenience and economy, their new work and jobbing are
divided into two distinct departments, with different corps of workmen, in
all shops excepting the painting.
“Their repository on Broadway is one of the most attractive in this
country. In outward appearance it resembles a bank. It is 60 feet front by
110 feet deep, four stories high, and accommodates about one hundred and
forty vehicles. The interior finish is plain and neat, the walls being
painted in neutral tints, such as pearl grays, the object being to avoid
reflection of colors on the varnished surfaces. The same idea is carried to
the ceilings and the window shades, which are also in gray. Utility, rather
than show, has evidently been the aim of the firm in both factory and
repository. The repository office bears the same marks of simplicity in its
finish, but includes all the best modern appointments."
In 1886, Healy bought out his partner and the firm was reorganized as
Healey & Co. which Col. Healey proudly advertised was originally founded in
1849. Healey was on of the few American builders to exhibit in Europe, and
the September 1889 issue of Carriage Monthly included a description of the
exhibit that earned Col. Healey a gold medal and decoration of the Legion of
Honor at the Paris Exposition of 1889:
“In the United States section of the Exposition in Paris, but two
carriage‑builders exhibited a variety of styles, the largest being that of
Messrs. Healey & Co., of New York, who had on display seven carriages and a
sleigh, all of which attracted considerable attention, particularly the road
wagons with stiff poles; a noteworthy fact is that this house made the
largest display, all of the largest houses of Paris showing but five styles
each. Their exhibit was as follows: two‑passenger sleigh, Sedan brougham,
one‑man road wagon, two‑passenger road wagon, leather top landau, surrey
phaeton, cabriolet, and a C‑spring Victoria.
“The sleigh attracted much attention, being extremely well finished. The
upper side quarters had well designed scrolls; wire screens were on the
front of the runners, and the footman's saddle pleased the foreign
“The brougham is original, its form and details differing entirely front
the others on exhibition. The coupe pillar has one width from the top to
within 6 inches of the bottom door line, ending with a well formed scroll at
the front. The deep door frame of 28 inches indicates deeper panels for the
next season than on the regular styles of broughams, the latter being made
but 24 to 25 inches in depth. The side quarters are 14 inches deep, while
the most, previously given, has been but 12 ˝ inches. The door windows are
very small, and an entire change from the present fashion. The shape of the
boot is almost the same as the Barker style. The suspension as usual, with
the exception of full elliptic springs back and wooden pump‑handles.
“The road wagons were of the latest style, and suspended on side‑bars;
both were constructed alike, excepting that the one carrying but one person
was made very light and neat, while the two‑passenger one had the ordinary
dimensions. These vehicles attracted more attention from visitors than all
the mail coaches; the fine workmanship and rare finish of all the details
were greatly admired, and gave the impression to all that for light work the
United States could not be excelled, and had reached a standard of
“A very pleasing design was shown in the landau with leather top, an
original American style, made but for few years past, only one of the sane
pattern being shown, in the French section.
“The sides of the body of the surrey phaeton were molded, and partly
rounded, and it had stick seats with center rail, both rails being bent. The
top rails were trimmed with a very light roll, sidebar suspension and
regular cross spring, two perches and half fifth wheel.
“The cabriolet differs slightly from the regular style, having a full
panel, divided with a horizontal molding, and the upper panel molded with
four moldings. There was an entire change in the style of the boot from
those shown in the French section, it being of the antique pattern. The
suspension front is with full elliptic springs, and back elliptic scroll
springs, the lower front end fastened to the body. The fenders front and
back showed a change from those in fashion at the present time.
“The Victoria, suspended on eight springs with rumble, is of the latest
style, and only differed from those in the French section in minor details."
Justus Vinton Locke (1864-1925) was one of the many future automotive
body builders who would apprentice in the shops of Healey. After graduating
with an engineering degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, Locke
was apprenticed at Healy & Co. eventually becoming Demarest & Company’s New
York City branch’s superintendent after which he founded Locke & Co in
The first automobile body known to have been built by Healey was an
enclosed coupe built for a front-wheel-drive electric prototype designed by
W.H. Douglas of Belleville, New Jersey.
For the next ten years, Healey built a small number of front-wheel-drive
electric cars based on the Douglas electric. Total production is unknown,
but the numbers were small as only 20 Healey automobiles were listed in
1914’s "Who’s Who In the Automobile”, and all of them in New York City. Among the
famous owners of Healey electrics were John D. Rockefeller Sr., and Mrs.
George S. Bowdoin, whose husband was the former director of New York’s
Guaranty Trust Co, and a partner in J.P. Morgan. After Inglis M. Uppercu
purchased the firm in 1923, he utilized old pictures of Healey
front-wheel-drive electric coaches in his advertising.
Healey was one of five metropolitan New York firms who built bodies for
the luxurious Simplex & Crane Simplex automobiles of 1907-1919. They also
built bodies for Christie, Cadillac, Falcon, Locomobile, Packard, Singer and
Healey’s 1915 listing in “Who’s Who in New York” noted the following
"Brig.-general. N. G. N. Y. 1897-1899; president of Healey & Co., Director
of Hudson Trust Co., Hudson Safe Deposit Co., Chevalier Legion d’Honneur of
France; member Sons of Revolution, G. A. R., N. Y. Historical Society, New
England Society, New York Chamber of Commerce. Clubs: Army and Navy, Union
Early on Healey developed a good working relationship with Inglis M.
Uppercu, the New York City Cadillac distributor. Uppercu had purchased the
New York Cadillac agency in 1908, and by the middle teens, his Detroit
Cadillac Motor Car Co., was Healey’s largest customer. J.R. MacLachlan was
manager of Uppercu’s custom body department and both he and Grover C.
Parvis, who held the same position with New York City’s Packard distributor,
often designed the bodies they ordered. For example, MacLachan is credited
as the designer of a Cadillac Type 61 woodie built by Healey in 1921. Many
Healey-built Cadillacs were town cars and limousines, many of which featured
Rolls-Royce style radiators designed to disguise the chassis true identity.
Healey’s exhibit at the 1916 New York Salon was described by a New York
“The Locomobile Company shows a gun-boat roadster, body by Healey,
finished in aluminum wither green stripes and green upholstery. It had low,
flat lines, broad at the cowl and tapering to the rear seat, a four
passenger. The windshield is twelve inches high."
Healey bodies were well-known for their elegant and unusual interiors,
and they were proponents of the beamed ceiling, which was simply a roof
whose framework was left exposed. The beams were sometimes left in their
natural finish, but more often than not, it was stained or painted to match
the car’s upholstery, and was sometimes wrapped in upholstery thereby
creating an unusual three-dimensional effect. At the 1921 New York Salon,
Healey showed a Stevens-Duryea whose rear quarter panels included inset
diamond-shaped mirrors over the vanity cases.
At the same show, they also exhibited a center-door sedan on a Falcon
chassis. The Falcon was a short-lived high-class light car designed and
built by the Moller Motor Company of Lewistown, Pennsylvania, a firm
unrelated to the M.P. Moller firm of Hagerstown, Maryland.
In 1920, Walter M. Murphy, the Pasadena, California coachbuilder, raided
Healey & Co., hiring away George R. Fredericks, Healey’s assistant general
manager, body engineer Charles Augustus Gerry and a number of the firm’s
skilled craftsmen, including Christian (Chris) Bohman who would later found
Bohman & Schwartz in the 1930s. The intricate interior paneling and woodwork
found in Murphy's town cars and limousines were created by some of the very
same craftsmen who had fabricated Healey’s renowned interiors years
Inglis Moore Uppercu, (1877-1944) not only owned one of the country’s
largest Cadillac distributorships, he was also one of America’s aviation
pioneers. Born in North Evanston, Illinois, on September 17, 1877, he moved
to New York City in 1888. After attending the Polytechnic School of
Brooklyn, he studied law at Columbia University before embarking on a career
in the automobile industry. After brief stints with the Duryea Automobile
Co. and the Neostyle Co., he established the Motor Car Co. of New Jersey in
1902, where he sold Autocars, Cadillacs and Packards to residents of the
metropolitan New York City area.
With a proven track record, he bought out the New York City Cadillac
dealer in 1908, and reorganized as the Detroit Cadillac Motor Car Co. At the
same time Uppercu made an investment in the Boland Aeroplane and Motor Co.
of Keyport, New Jersey, eventually becoming its president and chairman when
its founder, Frank E. Boland, died in a 1913 aviation accident. Uppercu
reorganized the firm in 1914, renaming it the Aeromarine Plane and Motor
On the strength of orders from the US Army and Navy, a new factory was
constructed in 1917 adjacent to Raritan Bay in Keyport, New Jersey. During
World War I, Aeromarine made observation planes for the Army Signal Corps
and trainers for the Navy.
When the war ended, the US military was stuck with $4 million worth of
surplus aircraft which were offered to Uppercu for pennies on the dollar.
Uppercu had no problem unloading them to the era’s infamous rum runners and
barnstormers, and kept a number of Curtiss F5L and Curtiss HS2L flying boats
which he converted into luxurious civilian airliners. An Aeromarine flying
boat made the first at-sea Air Mail delivery in 1919, when it dropped a bag
of mail on the deck of the White Star Line’s Adriatic.
In 1919, using the Hudson River mooring berth for Uppercu's yacht, the
Seven Seas, Uppercu began offering sightseeing tours of New York City in a
few of the renovated Curtiss flying boats. Soon after, Uppercu bought an
existing Key West, Florida flying boat operator and formed the Aeromarine
West Indies Airways, an Aeromarine subsidiary serving commercial passenger
and mail routes in the Caribbean. The firm was reorganized as Aeromarine
Airways and within the year, scheduled service commenced between Key West,
Havana, Miami, Palm Beach, Bimini and Nassau.
summer, some of Aeromarine’s flying boats moved northward, offering
sightseeing tours and schedules flights between Manhattan, Atlantic City and
the Hamptons. A westward route to Cleveland and Detroit was added, as was a
direct flight from Manhattan to Havana which was affectionately called “the
Highball Express," by its Prohibition-Era passengers.
Aeromarine established ticket offices in Cleveland, Detroit, and Miami,
and operated air terminals at Key West and New York City, where it was
located on the Hudson River adjacent to the Columbia Yacht Club at 82nd
Street. Healey & Co. furnished Aeromarine with bus bodies for the Packard
and Cadillac-chassised vehicles that shuttled passengers between the firm’s
ticket offices, airfields and mooring berths.
Due to constant
exposure to sea water, the Curtiss aircraft’s wooden hulls aged prematurely,
and Aeromarine Plane and Motor Company introduced an all-aluminum flying
boat in 1923. Unfortunately the Navy wasn’t in the market for any new boats
and the craft’s high price-tag made it too expensive for most civilian
Unfortunately Aeromarine’s excellent safety record was shattered in
January 1923 when an engine failed on one of their Curtiss airliners between
Key West and Havana. 4 wealthy Cuban nationals were killed and the resulting
bad publicity forced the once-promising enterprise into bankruptcy. What
remained of Aeromarine Airways was sold in January 1924 and Uppercu formed a
new firm with aircraft designer, Vincent Burnelli, called the
Uppercu-Burnelli Airplane Co.
Healey’s last Salon appearance was at the 1923 New York Salon, and soon
afterwards Colonel Healey decided to retire from the body building business
and sold it to Uppercu, his largest customer. Uppercu relocated Healey’s bus
building operations to Aeromarine’s Keyport, New Jersey factory and
reorganized the firm in 1924 as the Healey-Aeromarine Bus Co. with
headquarters in Nutley, New Jersey. What remained of Healey’s custom
automobile body business was integrated into Uppercu’s Detroit Cadillac
Motor Car Co. which was reorganized as Uppercu Cadillac Corp in 1925. By
that time Uppercu operated two Manhattan dealerships, the first at Broadway
and 62nd St. the second at 70 Columbus Ave.
Healy-Aeromarine Bus Co. operated at least through 1926, and was also
known to have built some professional cars on Cadillac & Packard
chassis, but by 1928, the firm was known as the Aeromarine Starter Corp., so
further manufacture of buses or hearses is doubtful.
Inglis M. Uppercu is personally responsible for the survival of the
original prototype 1893 Duryea automobile that can be seen at the
Smithsonian Institution. Brothers Charles and Frank Duryea built the first
gasoline powered car in America in 1893 out of an old horse-drawn buggy into
which a 4-hp, single cylinder gasoline engine was installed. It didn’t run
very well and was only driven a couple of times before the brothers put it
into storage and forgot about it. In 1920, Uppercu discovered the
whereabouts of the vehicle, and realizing its importance, purchased it, and
donated it to the United States National Museum, which is now called the
In 1931, Uppercu sold Cadillac dealership group to General Motors’
Cadillac Motor Car Division, and retired from the automobile business to
spend more time on his yacht, the full-rigged clipper, Seven Seas. However,
he continued to dabble in the aviation business (1929 -Cadillac Aircraft
Corp.) until 1936 and remained active overseeing his vast holdings in the
mining and exploration business until 1938. Now a millionaire, several times
over, he retired to New York City and passed away on April 7, 1944. He was
survived by his wife, the former Ella Krueger, and five daughters.
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