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Lomberg Auto Body Mfg. Co.
Lomberg Auto Body Manufacturing Co., 1915- 1920, Joliet, Illinois
Associated Builders
Markin Auto Body Corp., Checker Cab Mfg Co.

The Lomberg Auto Body Manufacturing Co. of Joliet, Illinois was organized in the late-teens by a Russian immigrant named Abraham (Abe) Lomberg (1883-1951) to manufacture automobile bodies for the region’s numerous automobile manufacturers.

The history of Commonwealth can be traced to the DeSchaum Motor Syndicate of Buffalo, New York which was founded by William A. Schaum in 1908. The firm’s ‘Seven Little Buffaloes’ 2-cylinder high-wheeler became the DeShaum Motor Buggy in 1909. After an announced relocation to Hornell, New York the firm was reorganized as the DeShaum-Hornell Motor Car Co. However DeShaum, changed his mind and relocated to Ecorse, Michigan in 1910 where he began making a new vehicle called the Suburban. The following year the firm was reorganized as the Suburban Motor Car Company, but following a 1912 scandal involving missing funds, Schaum resigned and was replaced by Randall A. Palmer, the former secretary of the CarterCar Motor Car Corp. Palmer reorganized the firm as the Palmer Motor Car Company in 1913, and the following year entered into a partnership with the Partin Mfg. Co. of Chicago, Illinois, becoming the Partin-Palmer Motor Car Co. Its products were now called Partin-Palmers and the firm relocated to Rochelle, Illinois. Unfortunately the numerous reorganizations and renamed products culminated in the firm’s 1915 bankruptcy.

Charles C. Darnall, Partin-Palmer’s former sales manager, gained control of the firm and reorganized it as the Commonwealth Motors Corp. Darnall had been long associated with the automobile industry. In the early 1900s he had served as general manager of the Palmer-Darnall Co., a Bloomington Illinois auto manufacturer that was founded by his brother, W.C. Darnall, and two other investors; J. A Cooper and H. M. Palmer (unrelated to Randall A Palmer). To differentiate the Commonwealth from the hundreds of other low-priced assembled cars, Darnall came up with the phrase ‘The Car with the Foundation’ and set about beefing up the vehicles nickel-alloy steel chassis using 5” flanges and heavily gusseted crossmembers. Darnall’s marketing scheme proved successful and the firm gained a foothold with their $995 Commonwealth 40hp touring.

Commonwealth relocated to Joliet, Illinois in 1919 and the car’s sturdy reputation resulted in sales to a number of Chicago taxi operators. Later that year they introduced their Mogul Taxi, a purpose-built vehicle utilizing the sturdy Commonwealth frame and purpose-built bodies provided by another Joliet firm, the Lomberg Auto Body Mfg. Co.

The Lomberg Auto Body Manufacturing Co. was organized in the late-teens by a Russian immigrant named Abraham (Abe) Lomberg (1883-1951) to manufacture automobile bodies for the region’s numerous automobile manufacturers. In order to produce the number of bodies needed by Commonwealth for their new Mogul taxi, Lomberg was forced to seek additional capital, which was supplied by another Russian immigrant named Morris Markin. Markin was a successful Chicago clothier who had amassed a small fortune providing uniforms to the US Army during World War I.

Markin was born into poverty in the western Russian city of Smolensk in 1893. After a minimal public education he found work in a local clothing factory and by the age of nineteen had become foreman of a trouser manufacturer’s sewing department. Faced with a bleak future in Czarist Russia, Markin accepted an invitation from an uncle in Chicago to emigrate to the United States. He used his savings and booked passage on a steamer bound for New York’s Ellis Island, arriving in 1913.

Upon his arrival in Chicago, he found work as an assistant tailor and soon became a skilled tailor. Following the death of his employer, he was put in charge and eventually purchased the business from the tailor’s widow. Within the year, he had accumulated enough spare earnings to finance the emigration of his immediate family to the United States, and found them positions in Chicago’s growing garment industry. He eventually entered the ready made suit and pants business with one of his brothers and by the time World War I rolled around, he received a lucrative contract to supply uniforms for the US Army.

When the war ended, Markin was flush with capital, and began to invest in a number of Russian-owned local businesses, one of which was Abe Lomberg’s Auto Body Company to which he loaned out $15,000. Unfortunately for Lomberg, the expected sales of Commonwealth’s Mogul taxis fell far short of expectations and by the end of 1920, Lomberg could no longer keep up with the monthly payments and surrendered ownership of the firm to Markin.

As the nation fell into the post-war recession of 1920-21, things looked bleak for both Lomberg Body and Commonwealth, and production fell to less than 10 completed vehicles per week. Luckily Commonwealth received a substantial order from the Checker Taxi Company in late 1920 just as Commonwealth’s creditors were closing in. The order kept the receivers at bay for a number of months, but by late 1921, Commonwealth Motors Corp. was finally forced into bankruptcy.

The shrewd Markin completed a number of legal maneuvers in rapid succession in order to protect his body building investment. In late 1920, he had reorganized the Lomberg Body Company into the Markin Body Company, and following Commonwealth’s bankruptcy, had made an offer to exchange shares in the Markin Body Corporation for the assets of the now bankrupt auto manufacturer.

Markin had somehow managed to get the assets of the Markin Body Company assessed for $182,703 which was most likely many times greater than the firm’s actual value, which gave him an extraordinary share of the firm’s stock. However, it looked good to Commonwealth’s receivers, and as it was the best, and most likely the only, offer presented to for Commonwealth’s assets, it was accepted in October of 1921. After waiting a few months for the dust to settle, Markin merged the two firms, and reorganized them as the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company in May of 1922.

For more information on Checker, please see its entry in the encyclopedia.

Abe Lomberg, Markin’s former business partner, kept a low profile following the failure of his body company, and remained in Joliet, eventually establishing his own car dealership. However his quite life changed forever in 1933 when his daughter Diane became involved with a small-time Russian bootlegger and gangster named Sammy Taran who was active in an around St Paul, Minnesota during Prohibition. Taran came to the attention of the public following a daring April 4, 1933 holdup of the First National Bank of Fairbury, Nebraska which netted him $150,000 in cash and securities. Taran and his henchmen exited the bank shielded by six hostages and escaped behind with their Tommy guns blazing.

While Taran was hiding out in Chicago, he met Abraham Lomberg’s daughter Diane, and the two were married on June 4th 1933, and Taran was apprehended the very next day. Joseph Simon, the husband of Diane’s sister Kate, had been followed after cashing one of the stolen $1,000 Liberty Bonds, which led police to a Chicago hotel were the two men were staying with the Lomberg girls.

Taran was extradited to Nebraska and eventually convicted of the $150,000 robbery, as well as kidnapping the six hostages and firing upon officers of the law. Following his release from prison, Taran relocated to Florida where he formed Taran Distributing Co., the firm that fronted for the mobs ‘juke box’ rackets in the late 40s and early 50s.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -






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