John Beecraft* McFarlan
was born in London, England on November 7, 1822 to James and Ann (Beecraft)
McFarlan. A Scotsman by birth, James McFarlan moved to London where he was
engaged in the textile trade as a manufacturer of silk.
(*McFarlan's middle name, taken from his mother's surname, is normally
given as Beecraft, however a handful of sources use Becraft, and Beecroft.
The family normally used Beecraft and John B. McFarlan's son and namesake,
John B. McFarlan II, also used Beecraft, so that's how it's presented here.)
In 1831 the McFarlans boarded a sailing ship and emigrated to the United
States, establishing a farm on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Hamilton County,
Ohio. Reared on the family farm, John was apprenticed at age 18 to the firm
of John C. Miller and Sons, Cincinnati, as a carriage blacksmith.
After he completing his apprenticeship McFarlan opened a small chop of
his own in the village of Cheviot, afterward and now known as Westwood, a
suburb of Cincinnati, and while there married Hamilton County, Ohio native
Lydia C. Jackson (b. Dec. 4, 1822 – d. Dec.1906) on October 16, 1845.
In late 1849, the couple moved to Cambridge City, Wayne County, Indiana,
conveying his goods and chattels by canal boat, and there established a
carriage-manufacturing plant. The 1850 US census lists his home as
Cambridge, his occupation, blacksmith.
While in Cambridge John and Lydia's union was blessed by the birth of the
first four of their seven children: Clara (b.1847 – d. 1854), Maria (b. 1850
– d. 1928); Charles E. J. (b. 1853 – d. 1920) and James Edward McFarlan (b.
1856 – d. 1929).
In 1856 the McFarlan clan left Cambridge and moved to Connersville,
Indiana, an early logging boom town located 15 miles directly south of
Cambridge on the Whitewater Canal. While in Connersville the last three of
their children, William W. (b. 1859 - d. ?); Lucy (b. 1863 – d. 1865) and
John Beecroft II (b. 1866 – d. 1953) McFarlan were born.
(William W. McFarlan (b. 1859) is sometimes excluded from the family
history and may have been a cousin. However, he's always listed as a
director in the carriage works and also served on the board of the family's
various Connersville-based enterprises. The 1920 US Census lists him as
resident of Colorado and he is not buried in the family's Connersville
The production of buggies and wagons became a major industry in
Connersville in the years after the Civil War. Before the War not a great
deal was done in the way of carriage manufacturing until 1851 when William
P. & Andrew Applegate began the same branch of business on Central Avenue
near Fifth Street and the firm carried on extensively until in 1870, when
owing to the death of William P., the shop was sold to Henry & Swikley and
they in a short time to J. B. McFarlan. The Applegates worked on an average
of from ten to fifteen hands the year through.
About the time the Applegate firm commenced business, a firm under the
title of Ware & Veatch opened up a carriage manufactory on Sixth Street near
the Hydraulic. The firm lasted several years, when Charles Veatch
became the proprietor, and the business stopped prior to 1857.
The firm of Drew & McCracken also opened for business in the early 1850's
on Sixth Street between Grand and Central. McFarlan first acquisition was
the Ware & Veatch works which shared a factory with another carriage builder,
Drew & McCracken. Within the year McFarlan had taken over both firms, and
consolidated their operations with that of Henry & Swilky under the McFarlan
Carriage Co. style.
He subsequently added unto his shops, until they composed quite a cluster
of large buildings, situated on either side of Sixth Street just west of
Central Avenue, on which is also a portion of the works. The McFarlan
Carriage Company, comprising J. B. McFarlan, Sr., J. B. McFarlan, Jr.,
Charles E. J. McFarlan, William W. McFarlan, and James E. McFarlan was
formed in 1883. At the time they employed seventy-five men the year round,
turning out hundreds of carriages and buggies a year.
McFarlan remained in the 6th and Central factory for thirty years, but in
1886 the need for room to expand the carriage operation forced him to look
for a new factory site. McFarlan's initial success in consolidating a number
of small carriage firms under his control in 1856-57 led him to attempt a
similar move in 1887 when he formed the Connersville Industrial Park.
McFarlan's industrial park was built on 82 acres of farmland irreverently
referred to as "John McFarlan's Corn Patch" by the locals. He intended to
attract manufacturers and suppliers of carriage and buggy equipment to the
park and thereby lower his own costs while providing a steady market for
McFarlan's was the first carriage-related firm erected, a massive 275 by
60 foot four-story structure fronted on Mount Street opposite Columbia. The
main building was connected to wings that were situated at right angles to
the ends of the main structure and parallel to each other, the first 60 x
150 feet, the second 60 x 190. A newer brick building, 60 x 110 feet, four
stories high, was added at a later date and connected with the main
structure, the entire plant covering approximately 5 acres.
Initially the site of the park had two advantages which made it
attractive to manufacturers, and McFarlan added a third. The Whitewater
Canal, begun during the nationwide canal building boom of the l830s, reached
Connersville in 1845. The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis
Railroad (later the Central Indiana Railroad), which reached Connersville in
1850, formed the northern boundary of the park. Both provided inexpensive
transportation of bulky items, and the railroad tied Connersville to the
national market. McFarland himself provided the park's third incentive –
inexpensive fuel. He founded the Connersville Natural Gas Company in 1889,
providing the park with a pipeline that ran northwards towards recently
discovered gas fields in and around Carthage, Indiana.
While his own factory was being completed, McFarlan began approaching
regional firms engaged in the manufacture of carriage parts and accessories
and asked them to join him. The following descriptions are excerpted from a
circa 1960 US Parks Service study of the site compiled by historians Robert Rosenberg
and Donald Sackheim. The numbers next to the entries correspond to the map
of the industrial park pictured to the left.
#1 - Connersville Furniture Co., established in 1832, was the first
factory in the park. Initially it was located in a 50' x 150' building on
the east side of Illinois Street near the intersection of Mount Street. The
location was important since the company's first product--black walnut
bedroom suites-- was machine produced using power drawn from the canal. In
1832 an addition to the plant was built across Illinois Street. Francis M.
Root, organizer of the Roots Blower Company, was the first president of the
#2 - McFarlan Carriage Co.
#3 - Connersville Natural Gas Co.
#4 - Ansted-Higgins Spring Company, established in the park in 1891, was
the first business enterprise of L.W. Ansted in Connersville. Ansted, who
later organized five plants for the manufacture of automobile parts, located
his spring plant along Columbia Avenue just north of Mount Street. The
original structure was 180' x 230'. In 1895 the spring company was merged
with an axle works, and the name was changed to the Ansted Spring and Axle
#5 - Connersville Furniture Co.
#6 - The Connersville Blower Company, was located on Columbia Avenue near the
Mount Street Intersection. The building was approximately 600' x 100'. John
B. McFarlan, its first president, apparently helped organize the enterprise in
order to compete against Roots Blower Company, another Connersville
#7 Ansted Spring & Axle Co.
#8 - The Munk and Roberts Furniture Company factory, (later the Rex Wheel
Works, aka Connersville Wheel Works, and later the Rex
Buggy and Rex Mfg. Co.), erected a four-story structure in 1878 and a
five-story brick factory in 1883 near the intersection of Western Avenue on
the east side of the canal and 15th Street. Apparently it was built on the
site to make use of water power, as did the Connersville Furniture Company
on the east side. The Rex Buggy Company purchased the former Munk & Roberts building in
1898. The Company, incorporated on 11 November 1898, manufactured Rex and
Yale buggies. In 1916 the company changed its name to the Rex Manufacturing
Company, and with the passing of the buggy era, the company began the
manufacture of tops and enclosures for automobiles.
#9 - The George R. Carter Company was located on the
northeast corner of 16th and Kentucky. The Carter Company manufactured
upholstery goods for the carriage trade and the automobile companies. It
became a division of the Vogt Manufacturing Corporation of Detroit on
January 1, 1929. The Connersville Casket Company took over the building on May
#10 - The Indiana Lamp Company, another Ansted-owned parts factory established
in 1904, initially was located immediately north of the Ansted Spring and
Axle Company at Columbia and Mount Streets. In 1916 the plant was moved to
the Ansted factory block to the north of 18th Street. It manufactured
headlamps for buggies and automobiles.
#11 - Triumph Safe & Lock Co.
#12 - The Central Manufacturing Company, incorporated by Ansted in 1898, was
organized to manufacture vehicle woodwork. In 1903 it began the manufacture
of automobile bodies. The first plant, located at 123 West 7th Street, was
destroyed by fire in 1905 and in 1906 a building 620'x 60' was erected north
of 8th Street bordering the canal. In 1907 the company began manufacturing
metal auto bodies and a building 142' x 76' was constructed in 1908. An
addition 236' X 76' was built on the north side and in 1910 another addition
240' X 76' was built on the south end. In 1912 an addition to the south end
192' x 76' brought the entire length of this single building to 810' x 76'.
In 1913 a blacksmith shop, 150' x 40', and a building 240' x 60' were built
for the metal buggy and press departments. By 1915 the firm had 150,000
square feet of space.
#13 - The Lexington Motor Company, first housed in a barn in Lexington,
Kentucky, was established in 1909 by Kinsey Stone, a local promoter and
horse racer. In 1910, after a discussion with a group of Connersville
businessmen, Stone moved his company to more suitable quarters at l8th and
Columbia in the Connersville Industrial Park. With the help of his chief
engineer, John C. Moore, Stone developed the Lexington automobile. The
company was plagued by financial problems and in 1913 the Lexington Motor
Company was acquired by E.W. Ansted. The manufacture of the Lexington
Automobile formed the backbone of the Ansted automobile empire. The
automobile underwent several model changes and numerous engineering
improvements while the various components - frame, top, woodwork, body, and
engine block were manufactured in Ansted owned subsidiary plants. In 1914,
the firm was changed to the Lexington-Howard Company. The Howard
Distributing Company requested the manufacture of a large six cylinder
touring car, the Howard, and when it was discontinued after 8 months the
name of the firm was changed back to the Lexington Automobile Company.
#14 - Hydro Electric Co.
#15 - Lexington Motor Co.
#16 - Indiana Lamp Co.
#17 - Lexington Motor Co.
#18 - Central Manufacturing Co.
#19 - Lexington Motor Co.
#20 - Ansted Engine Co.
#21 - Stant Manufacturing Co.
#22 - E.L. Cord Co.
The U.S. Automobile Corporation, formed during the fall of 1919, was a
$10 million preferred stock corporation which acted as a holding company for
various Ansted-owned enterprises: the Ansted Engine Company, the
Connersville Foundry Corporation, and the Lexington Automobile Corporation.
The property of the Lexington Automobile Company, along with the Ansted
Engineering Company, went into receivership in April 1923. The Lexington
Automobile factory was finally sold to Bigger and Better Connersville, a
civic group, in November 1926. After a series of corporate moves the plant
was bought by the Auburn Automobile Company in 1927.
The factory changed substantially during the lifetime of the Lexington
Automobile Company. The original brick and frame two-story structure, built
in 1910, was on the northeast corner of Columbia and l8th Streets. A small
40' x 32' addition was added to the north end of the structure and in 1911 a
21' x 125' wood-framed addition to the plant was joined northwest of the
original structure. Two factories were erected north of the original one: a
structure in 1913 and a large 900' x 100' building in 1919.
Another Ansted enterprise, the Hoosier Casting Company, was organized in
1915 to manufacture engine blocks and other medium-weight cast products. The
foundry was located at 18th and Columbia Streets in a building taken over
from the Connersville Fireproof Safe Company.
The Ansted Engine Company was organized in April 1913 when the Ansted
family acquired the Teter-Hartly Motor Corporation of Hagerstown, Indiana.
Maintaining the Hagerstown operation, the company built a new plant in
Connersville north of the Lexington Automobile works. The firm manufactured
automobile engines until it went into receivership in 1926.
Many of the large automobile factories in the Connersville Industrial
Park were acquired by E.L. Cord's Auburn Automobile Company in the late
1920's. Following the sale of Cord's Interests in Connersville, many of the
plants that had been constructed for automobile production were converted to
general industrial use. The industrial park, which had begun with the infant
automobile industry, acquired a diverse nature as the industry matured.
John Beecraft McFarlan, Jr., (b. 1866 – d. 1953) was born on November 7,
1866, son of John B. and Lydia C. (Jackson) McFarlan. Upon completing the
course in the Connersville public schools the junior John B. McFarlan
entered Miami University, at Oxford, Ohio, and after a course of two years
there became engaged with his father in the business of manufacturing
buggies at Connersville; was presently made a partner with his father in
that business and remained thus connected until the time of his father's
death. On October 12, 1910, John B. McFarlan was united in marriage to
Nellie B. Brown, who was born and reared in Connersville, daughter and only
child of George M. and Ada (White) Brown, both of Connersville, and to the
blessed union was born a son, John B. McFarlan III (b.1918 – d.2004). In
addition to his association with his father's firm, John B. McFarlan Jr.
served as president of the People's Service Company of Connersville, as well
as secretary of the McFarlan Realty Company.
Charles E.J. McFarlan was born at Cambridge City, in the neighboring
county of Wayne, Indiana on December 1, 1853, to John B. and Lydia C.
(Jackson) McFarlan. At the age of three his parents moved from Cambridge
City to Connersville. As a boy he learned the trade of carriage painter,
meanwhile pursuing his studies in the local public schools, and upon
completing the course there took a course in the old Chickering Institute at
Cincinnati. Upon his return from that institution he engaged in the
boot-and-shoe business at Connersville, in association with D. H. Sellers,
but about three years later disposed of his interest in that business and
entered his father's carriage factory, presently becoming a partner with his
father in that business and was actively connected with the same until 1913.
On November 10, 1880, at Connersville, Charles E. J. McFarlan was united
in marriage to Ella S. Hughes, who was born and reared in that city,
daughter of Dr. S. W. and Ann (Hall) Hughes, natives of Virginia and
prominent residents of Connersville, where Doctor Hughes was engaged in the
practice of medicine until his death in 1865.
To their blessed union was born, a son, Alfred Harry McFarlan, who would
later head the great Connersville enterprise bearing his family name. In
addition to his tenure at the carriage company, Charles E.J. McFarlan served
as secretary and treasurer of the Connersville Natural Gas Company,
continuing that position with the Peoples Service Company iuntil his death
in 1920. When the McFarlan brothers and their sister, Maria J. McFarlan,
formed the McFarlan Realty Company at Connersville, Charles E. J. McFarlan
was elected vice-president of the same.
Alfred Harry McFarlan was born in 1881 to Charles E.J. (1853 - 1920) and
Ella Hughes McFarlan (1850 - 1933). After a public education he attended
Depauw University In Greencastle, Indiana, graduating in 1902. He
immediately embarked upon a career at the family's carriage business where
he learned all aspects of the firm, which prepared to take over the
enterprise following the 1908 death of his grandfather, John B. McFarlan,
the firm's founder and president. Harry, as he was called, spearheaded the
development of the firm's first motor vehicle and after its successful
introduction led the reorganization of the firm as the McFarlan Motor
Company. He married Jessica Meharry Manlove (b.1881-d.1965) and passed away
on December 1, 1937 in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona.
September 17, 1896 Cambridge (IN) City Tribune:
"Connersville News: In some parts of Wayne county our Popocratic friends
are circulating the report that J.B. McFarlan and sons, L.T. Bower and
Charles Mount have flopped to free silver. Those who know these gentlemen,
are acquainted with the efforts they are making for a return to the
prosperity of 1892, through the Republican idea of sound money, protection
and reciprocity, can, in Borne degree, imagine to what lengths these
fellows are going in their efforts to build up some standing for their cause
on a basis of falsehood."
An 1898 history stated the firm employed 400 hands and had an annual
capacity of 12,000 vehicles. The firm's products were distributed across the
country and included numerous factory branches, chief among them two
warerooms located in Council Bluffs, Iowa and Kansas City, Missouri. The
firm's carriage tags read "New York Grade," McFarlan Carriage Co.,
After his 1902 graduation from DePauw University in Green Castle,
Indiana, Alfred Harry McFarlan, the son of Charles E. J. McFarlan and thus
the founders' grandson joined the family business. His graduation coincided
with the production of the firm's first automobile bodies which were
furnished to a large number of regional manufacturers for the next 25 years.
Known customers included Auburn, Duesenburg, H.C.S., Lexington, Locomobile,
Marmon, Premier and Stutz.
September 24, 1905 Washington Post:
"S.G. Runkle, of Logansport, Ind., president of the McFarlan Carriage
Company, of that point, one of the greatest carriage factories in North
America, is at the National."
November 29, 1906 issue of The Automobile:
"INDIANA GAINS TWO MORE AUTO MAKERS.
Connersville, Ind., Nov. 26.—With two large companies incorporated here
within the last week, this city promises to become known as an automobile
center within the near future. There are also several concerns here that
manufacture accessories and parts.
The Connersville Motor Vehicle Company has a capital stock of $50,000,
all subscribed by local capitalists. The company will manufacture
automobiles, engines, street sweepers, and farming implements, and will have
a large and modern factory. Those who are interested in it are J.B.
McFarlan, Sr., J.B. McFarlan, Jr., C.E. McFarlan, J.H. Morrison, and
Another new concern is the Ray Motor Company, which has a capital stock
of $100,000. The men behind the company are Rowan Ray, I. F. Geary, J. J.
Maloney, L. D. McCall, and W. S. Calder. Both companies will be ready for
operation early in the coming year."
At the time of his death John B. McFarlan was president of the McFarlan
Carriage Co., the Connersville Blower Co., the Connersville Natural Gas Co.,
the Connersville Land and Improvement Co., the Fayette Banking Co., and the
McFarlan Building Co.
Following John B. McFarlan Sr.'s death in 1909, his grandson, Harry
McFarlan, the son of Charles E. J. McFarlan, assumed management of the
McFarlan Carriage Company. Under Harry, the company diversified: it began
manufacturing automobiles in 1909 and during the next 18 years produced fire
trucks, patrol cars, funeral cars, ambulances and limousines.
The McFarlan was a luxury automobile owned by celebrities of the day such
as William Desmond Taylor, Wallace Reid, Fatty Arbuckle, Paul Whiteman, Jack
Dempsey and Virginia governor E. Lee Trinkle. Al Capone bought a McFarlan
for his wife, Mae, in 1924 and bought a second one in 1926.
Silent heartthrob Wallace Reid ordered two McFarlans, unfortunately he
died before taking delivery of the second one which was snapped up by
disgraced silent movie star, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, who was now directing
films as William Goodrich. The Reid/Arbuckle car, a 1923 McFarlan Model 154
TV-6 Knickerbocker Cabriolet, survives and can be seen at the Nethercutt
Collection/Museum in Sylmar, California.
Other McFarlans can be seen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of
Fame Museum, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and the National
Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. According to Keith Marvin, one of the
authors of 'What Was The McFarlan?' (pub. 1967), only 19 McFarlans are known
The first mention of the vehicle in the trades appeared in the July 7,
1909 issue of the Horseless Age:
"The McFarlan Company, Connersville, Ind., are building models of a
touring car and a roadster, to sell at about $2,500."
In an ironic tragedy, the founder of the firm, John B. McFarlan, passed
away roughly one month after his grandson, Alfred Harry McFarlan,
announced the debut of the firm's first automobile.
The September 1909 issue of the Hub carried the senior McFarlan's
"John Becraft McFarlan.
"John Becraft McFarlan, 86 years old, founder and president of the
McFarlan Carriage Company and a resident of Connersville, Ind., for more
than half a century, died August 15 following a brief illness.
"Mr. McFarlan was born in London, England, November 7, 1822. He came with
his parents to America in 1831, and lived on a farm near Cincinnati until he
became of age. He took employment in a carriage factory in Cincinnati, and
afterward engaged in the carriage repair business on a small scale. He moved
to Connersville in 1856, and started what is now the McFarlan Carriage
Company, a large concern employing several hundred men and making a product
which is sold the world over. At the time of his death Mr. McFarlan was
president of the Connersville Blower Works and a large stockholder in the
Krell AutoGrand Piano Company. Mr. McFarlan was married to Miss Lydia C.
Jackson in Cincinnati, October 16, 1845. Seven children were born to them,
five of whom survive, and all of whom live in Connersville. As a token of
respect all the banks and principal places of business in Connersville were
closed the day of the funeral."
(Alfred) Harry McFarlan chose to present the firm's first automobile to
the public with some fanfare by testing them on the Indianapolis racetrack
over the 1910 Labor Day weekend, finishing third and fifth, and fourth and
fifth, in two races held the year before the inaugural 1911 Indianapolis
500. It was an impressive first outing and cars began to sell in small
numbers, about 200 a year, which was all that Harry could build from the
The September 7, 1910 Indianapolis Star published the results of the
McFarlan's September 6th outing:
"200 MILES WITHOUT A STOP
"200 miles in 183 minutes and 15 seconds, running 17 miles for every
gallon of gasoline consumed. This Wonderful Showing of the $2,000 McFarlan
Six in the 200-mile race for cars up to 600 cubic in. piston displacement at
the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Monday was the Feature Performance of the
"Of the twelve cars entered in this long, grueling race, seven failed to
finish. Of the two McFarlans, No. 23, driven by Barndollar, finished third,
the only car in the race that did not stop. No. 24, driven by Clemens,
stopped once and finished fifth. Both cars finished in as good condition as
when they started, without change of tires.
"Cars of only one make finished ahead of the McFarlan, and they are cars
of higher power and higher price, the McFarlan having the smallest piston
displacement of any of the starters.
"In the free-for-all handicap the McFarlans finished first and third,
again proving their superiority. There is no greater test for an automobile
than extreme speed sustained. If there be weaknesses in construction or
material they will be exposed. Monday's races proved the McFarlan the
greatest of automobile values.
"McFarlan Motor Cars are made by the McFarlan Motor Car Company of
Connersville, for fifty-four years builders of pleasure vehicles, every one
of them of the highest class.
"McFARLAN SIX SALES Co., Distributors, 23-25 E. OHIO ST. INDIANAPOLIS"
May 21, 1911 Logansport Journal:
"McFARLAN CARS TO RACE
"Indiana Autos Plan Big Season For 1911 Over Country.
"Two new speed creations which will cut quite a figure in the 1911
Automobile racing season, according to the plans of the makers, are the big
and little "6" made by the McFarlan Motor Car Co., of Connersville, Indiana.
These two cars, built exactly alike in all details except for size, will be
campaigned over the racing circuit this year, the Big 6 taking part in the
events for the larger class, and the Little 6 in the class in which it is
eligible. Both of them are entered in the 500-mlle International Sweepstakes
Races to be held over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, next Memorial Day."
Piloted by Mel Marquette, the McFarlan racecar competed in the first two
official Indianapolis 500-mile races, finishing 25th in the 1911 event and
19th in the 1912 contest.
November 15, 1911 Indianapolis Star:
"APPELLATE COURT, ABSTRACTS AND ACTIONS.
—Damages on Contract—Default of Both Parties,— 7168.
The McFarlan Carriage Company vs. the Connersville Wagon Company, Henry
C.C., Affirmed, Myers, J. In an action for breach of contract, where it was
shown that the parties agreed to a sale of 10,000 sets of buggy wheels to be
delivered by the defendant, but that after 6,000 sets had been delivered
wheels went up $1.10 per set in price, whereupon the plaintiff ordered 2,000
sets of the order delivered., but the defendant delivered only 600 sets. The
plaintiff refused to give his note in settlement for the partial delivery of
600 in settlement of deliveries as provided by the contract and sued for
damages for breach of contract. The court holds that the partial delivery
and failure to fill the order was not a repudiation of the contract. That
each party being in default on the contract, neither party could bring suit
on the contract as he could not show performance on his part."
March 24, 1912 Indianapolis Star:
"McFarlan Shows Starter and Pump in Operation
"The McFarlan 'Six' Sales Company occupies a space of 1,500 square feet
at the show with an especially interesting exhibit of both pleasure cars and
trucks. The exhibit consist of six models of self-starting McFarlan 'six'
cars, with self-starter and air pump in actual operation so that all those
who wish to see these latest appliances for automobiles may do so. In
addition to the abovementioned equipment, McFarlan 'six' cars are equipped
with all the latest refinements and are built by a firm that has been
building pleasure vehicles for sixty years, the McFarlan Motor Car Company's
activities having been centered on the building of six-cylinder cars ever
since they entered the business of automobile manufacturing several years
"The truck exhibit consists of four models of the famous Whitesides truck
which earned such an enviable reputation on last year's Four-States tour,
where it acted as official baggage car and finished the run with the
pleasure cars daily. The models shown are of 1,500, 2,000, 2,500 and
4,000-pound capacity, ranging in horse power from thirty to forty-five."
June 14, 1912 Indianapolis Star:
"Indiana cars in the 1912 Four-States Tour passed the forty mark
yesterday when the two entries of the McFarlan Motor Car Company were
received by Secretary Ward. More entries are expected, and it is said that
more than fifty cars will face the long trip. The entries will close
Saturday at midnight and Secretary Ward at present is making a tour of the
state impressing that fact on the Indiana manufacturers."
January 10, 1914 Indianapolis Star:
"BUILDINGS ORDERED RAZED.
"Connersville Fire Chief Receives Instructions About Two Old Structures.
"CONNERSVILLE, Ind., Jan. 9.—Fire Chief Edward Hassett has received a
letter from State Fire Marshal W.E. Longley notifying him that two old and
dilapidated two-story buildings in the business district must be razed at
once. For several years they have been considered fire-traps and a few
weeks ago the fire marshal made an inspection at which time they were
adjudged unsafe. The McFarlan Carriage Company occupied the buildings for
many years and it was there the first McFarlan buggies were manufactured,
more than thirty-five years ago."
October 11, 1914 Atlanta Constitution:
"COURTNEY-FIELD CO. READY FOR BUSINESS.
"Experienced Auto Men Are Southern Representatives for McFarlan Motor
Company. In selecting its southern representatives, no happier choice could
have been made by the McFarlan Motor company than in placing its agency in
the hands of the Courtney-Field Motor company.
"These two wide-awake and experienced automobile men have opened their
place of business on West Harris street, opposite the Capital City club, and
are prepared to make things interesting for prospective auto buyers.
"H.S. Courtney, of the firm, is an Atlanta man who has traveled the
southern states for twenty years, and numbers his friends by the scope of
his acquaintance. His partner, Alexander C. Field, is from New York city,
and has been in the automobile business for a number of years, holding
responsible positions with several of the largest factories.
"That the Courtney-Field Motor company will be a successful acquisition
to the motor field of the south is the prediction of the many friends of
these two gentlemen."
January 17, 1815 Indianapolis Star:
"Nobby Tread Tires Enable Fire Wagon to Go Fifty Miles an Hour With Load
"CONNERSVILLE'S NINETY-HORSE-POWER TRUCK.
The Connersville, Ind., fire department's ninety-horse-power motor wagon
is shown in the picture above. In construction it is practically identical
with the pleasure cars made by the McFarlan Motor Company, its builders.
Upon the recommendation of the McFarlan Motor Company's engineers, the car
was equipped with "Nobby Tread" tires. It is capable of fifty miles an hour
under its full load. This enables the fire department to reach the farthest
limit of fire protection in less than three minutes from the firehouse. The
manufacturers say they do not consider solid tires suited for this type of
apparatus. They have decided that "Nobby Treads" are the correct tire for
speed, safety and low cost."
March 8, 1916 Boston Globe:
"McFARLAN SIX SOLD VERY QUICKLY
"W.A. Lutz of the McFarlan sales force is at the show. The McFarlan
factory is located at Connorsville, Ind., and is operated by the McFarlan
Motor Company. Mr Lutz says "The Boston Auto show is the finest retail show
in the country." This is his first visit to the Boston show, and he is very
much impressed with the class and quality of the men and women who are in
attendance, he has followed the auto shows for eight weeks straight.
"Frank P. Anthony, the manager of the Boston branch, is pleased beyond
description at the interest displayed in the piece de resistance of the
McFarlan exhibit, and thinks it is the real feature of the whole big show.
This car, which is of a very handsome blue shade, is fitted with a
detachable sedan top.
"It so caught the fancy of L. E. Griffin, a well-known merchant of this
city, that he bought it just as soon as he saw and learned the price. He
will have it on the streets of this city on Sunday morning, bright and
early, for it goes immediately into his possession"
In 1917, the name of the firm was changed to the McFarlan Motor Car
Company, and while the firm specialized in custom cars and trucks, it also
produced a line of medium-priced automobiles and manufactured auto bodies
for other firms.
March 4, 1917 Boston Globe:
"LONGER WHEELBASE IN LATEST McFARLAN
"The McFarlan Motor Company offers the result of another year's tireless
effort to produce a high powered, six-cylinder motor car of the highest
efficiency, greatest dependability and the most correct design.
"Following their rigid policy of improving motor car construction
wherever possible, but of adopting no change that has not been under close
observation for many months, the McFarlan engineers have felt that they
could best serve the public by directing all their thought, care skill, and
energy to one chassis. It is sold here by the Anthony-Pilling Company.
"The new features incorporated in the McFarlan for the coming season will
include a longer wheelbase, the McFarlan cradle spring suspension, improved
body designs and some wonderful, though simple, improvements in motor
"Pronounced among these features are the new valve setting and the
combustion chamber, maintaining the highest efficiency known to any type of
motor and at the same time minimizing service and the number of moving
"Perfection in motoring depends upon an instantaneous getaway without
shock or vibration, the ability to climb hills without resorting to the
gear shifting lever and maintaining high speeds for the straightaway without
signs of stress from the motor or the necessity of overgearing the powerline.
The McFarlan fills every requirement.
"The McFarlan body designs which have been much sought for many years,
are more distinctive than ever before.
"For the coming season are offered the most correct design for every
requirement, both in closed and open touring models.
"The most discriminating taste is used in designing and selecting not
only the lighting fixtures and prominent features for the car, but the
locks, door handles and plates are designed differently for each individual
"The company offers you every possible range in color combinations, both
in painting and upholstery."
March 12, 1922 Boston Globe:
"MCFARLAN SETS REAL HIGH STANDARD
"Safety, dependability, power, speed, comfort and beauty! These are the
six standards set by the McFarlan Motor Corporation, represented here by P.
P. Anthony, in designing and building its 1922 models, which include 10 body
styles to meet every possible purpose; four open and six closed types.
"All McFarlans are powered with the twin-valve six motor, carrying an
S.A.E. horsepower rating of 48.5, but which the company announces actually
develops 120-horsepower. The motor is cast in two blocks of three cylinders
each, with 4½ inch bore and 6-inch stroke. To assure complete combustion,
two full ignition systems are installed, one on opposite sides of the
combustion chamber, from a magneto, and the other on the intake valve side
from the battery. Fuel is fed through a Rayfield carburetor, and lubrication
through force feed only. The crankshaft is hollow to assure proper
lubrication to all the bearings. Fuel is supplied to the carburetor through
a Stewart vacuum feed system from a 26-gallon gasoline tank on the rear. A
honeycomb radiator, through which the water is kept moving by a centrifugal
shaft system pump, provides the cooling system.
"Other mechanical specifications include a pressed carbon steel frame,
eight inches deep, lubricated by pressure cups; multiple disc dry plate
clutch, sliding gear transmission with adjustable Timken roller bearings,
full floating rear axle with spiral bevel driving gears. The wheelbase is
140 inches, and wood, disc or wire wheels are supplied, with cord tires all
over. McFarlan cradle type springs are used on the rear and semi-elliptic on
the front. A power tire pump is mounted on the transmission.
"In the open body types there are the sport touring, built for four
passengers, but carrying an emergency seat folded into the rear cowl;
seven-passenger touring, seven-passenger California and the sport roadster,
with double auxiliary seats folded into the rear deck. Other mechanical
specifications in closed cars include the seven-passenger sedan,
five-passenger Knickerbocker, cabriolet, four-passenger sport sedan with two
emergency seats folded into the front partition; five-passenger limousine,
four-passenger coupe and five-passenger town car."
In a 2001 interview with Ellie Swain, former Connersville resident
Charles McNaughton reminisced about his experience as a drafting intern at
the McFarlan Motor Co.:
"Charles McNaughton (CM) – I knew that I had a lot of drawing experience,
by having worked at the McFarlan Motor Car Company in Connersville,
Indiana. I don’t know whether you heard about that or not, have you?
"Ellie Swain (ES): Uh-huh
"CM: Well the McFarlan Motor Car Company made one car a day, that’s all
they turned out. While I was a senior in high school they called Bill Crone
who was my drafting teacher. They asked him to send out a student for a
drafting job and he sent me out because I was his number one student, he
said. He sent me over there and I worked on the McFarlan. Now the head
designer needed an assistant because he was a drunkard and he was gone a
lot. He would tell me what to do and I’d just draw it up. I had a drawing
board about 8 by 15 feet that hung on the wall, the T-square would hang down
on the board and I’d draw that car full size on that space. That’s the way
they did it.
"ES: Now tell me when this was.
"CM: This is 1922, I graduated from high school in ’23. It was right in
"ES: In that period.
"CM: Yeah. I was about 18 then. I just loved that job. We designed
cars for movie stars and celebrities. We didn’t have a direct railroad
train from Chicago down to Connersville, they’d come in to Richmond. My job
was to go to Richmond, pick up these celebrities and bring them back to
Connersville to get their cars. So I met several, but I think the most
outstanding were Paul Whiteman, Jack Dempsey, and Wallace Reed who was a
movie star in those days, and Fatty Arbuckle. Paul Whiteman had an open top
McFarlan, full size car. He had parked it in Indianapolis at the Circle
Theatre, and the crowds came around. They had never seen a car like that.
The police made him move it because the traffic was jammed up. Here’s what
I remember, but the biggie was the gangster in Chicago. Al Capone wanted a
car special. He wanted bullet proof glass; he wanted steel plates in the
side—bulletproof; he wanted a machine gun turret in the back; and he wanted
a turret in the bottom, so he could drop nails and tacks and bits of glass.
He also wanted to do 90 miles an hour. Well our car would do 90, (and the
police in Chicago could only do 60) and we turned this out for him. I went
to Richmond to meet the henchman he had sent down to pick it up. I’ll never
forget. He gave me a price list that looked like a laundry list. For
breaking a guys knee, it was maybe $100 and breaking his arms $150 and on
down the list. At the bottom, I’ll never forget, they’d kill a man for $500
and that was their price list for services rendered.
"A lady from Cleveland had a prize dog, (she had just won a national
contest in New York) and she wanted a roadster designed so the dog would
have a platform right in back of the front seat. So we designed this car,
and it cost $18,000 then. We designed it just for that dog with a
comfortable padded space with a little fence around it. That was a little
different than most cars.
"The drafting that I had at McFarlan Motor Company set me up pretty good
for drafting at Illinois Architectural School, because mostly what you do is
draw. What I’m saying, I got along fine there. When my advisor told me
that I should get out of architecture, and get something else. I looked
around and found that teaching drafting was the best thing to salvage all
the training that I’d had. I went into teaching and came out as a
vocational teacher, since I’d had all this practical drafting. Then my
first job was at Richmond High School."
Copyright 2001 Ellie Swain (Transcription of Interview with Charles
McNaugton – Class of '28; University of Illinois Student Life 1928-1938 Oral
History Project, Muncie, Indiana June 16, 2001)
McFarlans were known as "the most expensive car made in the US" and "the
American Rolls-Royce" during the 1920s, a tribute shared by the Cunningham,
a similar-appearing luxury car built in Rochester, New York, whose history
mirrors that of the McFarlan.
One magnificent McFarlan Town Car displayed at the 1923 Chicago Auto Show
had gold-plated interior and exterior hardware and reportedly cost $25,000.
In a 2010 interview with 104-year-old former Connersville resident Wilbur
David "Pete" Rigor, reporter John Estridgem states:
"He remembers some gangsters from Chicago who came down to pick up a
specially made McFarland automobile from the Connersville factory.
"'They ordered it trimmed in gold,' Rigor said. 'I stood in front of
post office watched it go by. People lined up to watch it go by.'"
By 1925 the McFarlan Motor Car Company offered 2 distinct lines with a
total of 26 different models ranging in price from $2,000 to $10,000.
McFarlan built at least one hearse on a 1925 TV Six chassis. It was built on
a Twin Valve 140" wheelbase chassis with a huge six-cylinder engine of 572
1/2 cubic inches. The McFarlan TV Six motor had 24 valves (4 per cylinder)
and a triple ignition system (3 spark plugs per cylinder). Ambulances,
Funeral Cars and Fire Trucks were available on special order according to
their advertisements in the funeral trades.
On August 8, 1928 bankruptcy was declared and roughly one year later, on
August 1, 1929, the factory was sold to the Auburn Automobile Company. The
Auburn Company used the factory for storage space for its unfinished
April 8, 1928 Billings Gazette:
"Auburn Body Plant Booms Indiana City
"Connersville, Ind., April 7 – (Special) – With the Local Auburn
Automobile company plant unit under steady production here and with
associated industries following the trend, this city has joined in the
general prosperity that is weeping the country, started primarily by the
boom in the automobile industry.
"More than 1,000 employees have been added to the pay rolls of the Auburn
body and trim plant, the Central Manufacturing company and the McFarlan
Motor company in the last few weeks. Additional employees are being put on
"The Central Manufacturing company and the McFarlan Motor company, also
local concerns, are producing bodies for the finishing unit and are working
"Thousands of dollars have been spent here by the Auburn company in
rebuilding the plants of the Ansted Manufacturing company and the Lexington
Automobile company which were purchased late in 1927, and turning them into
the finishing plant, which now is one of the most modern painting and trim
factories in the automobile industry.
"This new finishing plant contains 3,500 feet of line or track upon which
the bodies are placed and move through the various processes of sanding,
painting, drying and finishing. These processes, including drying, have been
reduced to 23 hours.
"In this period each body receives seven distinct coats of paint,
innumerable sandings, and polishings, is electrically wired, upholstered,
glassed and inspected.
"Results of this taking over the idle plants of the Ansted Manufacturing
company and the Lexington Motor company several months ago by the Auburn
Automobile company were awaited with interest by the city and when
announcement was made by E.L. Cord, president of Auburn, that a large body
finishing plant would be put in operation, it was seen that the purchase
would play a vital part in the industrial prosperity of Connersville and
"Capacity of this plant is 125 bodies daily and it will assist materially
in relieving the production strain on the main plant of the Auburn
Automobile company in Auburn, Ind."
June 22, 1928 Oakland Tribune:
"Receiver Appointed For Auto Company
"INDIANAPOLIS, June 22 (AP) - Raymond S. Springer, of Connersville, has
been appointed temporary receiver for the McFarlan Motor corporation of
Connersville. Hyatt Frost, an attorney for the company, said the failure was
due to the absence of Harry McFarlan, president, who has been ill for the
past four years and to the recent death of Burt Barrows, vice-president.
They were the principal owners. Appointment of a receiver followed, the
filing of a petition by Attorney John W. Kern, in behalf of two Indianapolis
and a Yale, Mich., firm. The company will complete a $40,000 contract for
bodies during the next 20 days, it was reported."
June 26, 1928 Warren (PA) Morning Mirror:
"RECEIVER FOR McFARLAN MOTOR
"INDIANAPOLIS, Ind .— R.S. Springer, of Connersville, Indiana, has been
appointed temporary receiver for McFarlan Motor Corporation, of Connersville."
Alfred Harry McFarlan, the man most responsible for the fabulous McFarlan
automobiles, passed away on December 1, 1937 in Phoenix, Maricopa County,
Arnheim, Marvin & Blommel's 1967 book 'What Was the McFarlan?' states
that 18 McFarlans remain. At least two pre-Model J Duesenbergs are known to
survive with McFarlan coachwork. The first, a 1927 Duesenberg Model Y
Phaeton, chassis no. 912, engine No. 1594; the second a 1927 Duesenberg
Model X Boat Roadster, chassis no. D96E. The latter boattail speedster,
which was built for Chicago businessman and Duesenberg Race Team sponsor
Arnold Kirkeby, clearly influenced the Auburn designers who introduced a
very similar-looking body the following year. A handful of Duesenberg
boattailed speedsters were reportedly built for the Model X/Y chassis, with
coachwork supplied by both McFarlan and its neighbor, the Central
Manufacturing Co. Both firms also supplied the speedster bodies that
appeared on the 1928 Auburn.
In July 2009 Carbon Motors, a small automotive manufacturer founded by
former Ford Motor Co. executive William Fontana Li in 2003, purchased a
factory adjacent to the Connersville Industrial Park and expects to
manufacture purpose-built police cars in the facility starting in 2012.
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com with special thanks to Keith Marvin