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Quinsler & Co., 1884-1911; George W. McNear, 1911-1915; Boston, Massachusetts; George W. McNear, 1915-1927; George W. McNear Inc., 1927-1932; Egerton B. McNear Inc., 1932-1949; McNear Body Co., 1949-1955; Foreign Motors, 1949-1954; Foreign Motors Inc., 1954-1975; Boston, Massachusetts; Foreign Motors West, 1970-present; Natick, Massachusetts

Associated Builders
J.P. Emond, 1860-1870; Emond & Quinsler, 1870-1889; J.P. & W.H.Emond, 1889-1908; Chauncey Thomas & Co.

George W. McNear is best-known for his work on Rolls-Royce chassis, most of which were commissioned by Rolls-Royce Inc.’s factory branch in Boston. McNears coachwork could also be found on numerous Classic era chassis including Cadillac, Duesenberg, Lincoln, Locomobile, Packard and Pierce-Arrow.

The firm also bodied numerous non-classics including Auburn, Cadillac, Chandler, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Hudson, Marmon, Packard, Pierce-Arrow, Premier, Revere and Simplex; and for a number of years constructed small numbers of buses and commercial vehicle bodies.

As did most builders, McNear offered numerous auto accessories including seat covers, windshields, storm fronts, replacement convertible tops and interiors and custom-made all-weather or ‘California’ tops. George's son Egerton marketed a line of trunk racs and was an early producer of armored cars.

McNear was a continuation of the firm of Quinsler & Co., a firm originally founded in 1870 as Emond & Quinsler. Quinsler’s first factory was located at 1624 Washington St. on the corner of W. Concord St. near the present day Boston Medical Center.

Born in September, 1844 to two German immigrants living in Canada named Johanas and Anna Quinsler, George J. Quinsler was apprenticed to a Boston carriage builder, after which his great skill came to the attention to another Canadian-born coachbuilder named Joseph P. Emond, (b. 1835) who brought him into his long-established firm, making him a partner sometime around 1870.

The 1866 Sampson, Davenport & Co. Roxbury (Mass.) Directory lists Joseph P. Emond, carriage painter, Felton place, house 4 Regent pl. An article in the July 1911 issue of Carriage Monthly confirms that Joseph P. Emond started his business prior to the start of the Civil War:

“Celebrates Fifty Years in the Trade

“Leonard B. Nichols, president and treasurer of the carriage and automobile building firm of Chauncey, Thomas & Co., Inc., Boston, Mass., recently observed the fiftieth anniversary of his entrance into the business. He first began as a carriage painter in the shop of J.P. Emond, of Roxbury. This gentleman is still alive, and together with his wife, was the guest of Mr. Nichols and his family on the occasion of the anniversary. They enjoyed an automobile ride and had dinner at Mansfield.”

Joseph P. Emond was born in 1835 in Quebec, Canada to Joseph and Elizabeth Emond and after a public education made his way to Boston, where he was apprenticed to one of the city’s numerous carriage builders.

By the time the Civil War started he had established his own carriage works, and in 1870 entered into a partnership with George J. Quinsler. Joseph P. Edmond married Elizabeth A. Woodman at about the same time he established his carriage works and to the blessed union was born a son, William Homer Emond, who was born in Roxbury, Suffolk County , Massachusetts on November 29, 1861.

Joseph P. Emond’s first wife, Elizabeth A. (Woodman) Emond passed away while William H. was a youngster and he subsequently married Mary E. Baker (daughter William M. and Sarah T. Baker) on August 7, 1871 in Boston. His occupation was listed as carriage mfr. on the marriage certificate and his son William H. Emond was 9 years old at the time.

George J. Quinsler was married in Boston in October 11, 1876 to Antonia G. Marten (b. April 1852) and to the blessed union were born Geneveve M. (b. Aug. ,1880) and Phillips B. (b. Aug., 1888) Quinsler.

The partner’s carriage factory was located in the Boston, Massachusetts borough of Roxbury at the corner of Williams and Washington Sts. The 1875 Boston directory lists the firm as Emond & Quinsler.

One of their two exhibits won a Bronze Medal at the 1874 Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association Exhibition, which was held at Faneuil and Quincy Halls, Boston during September & October 1874:

“65. Emond & Quinsler, Boston, Mass. — One Open Wagon. —Neat and showy.

“66. Emond & Quinsler, Roxbury P. O., Mass. —Top Buggy. — Of the Goddard pattern; a nice carriage, showing fine workmanship, good proportions and style. Bronze Medal.”

During the 1870s the Goddard pattern buggy, a drop front 4-wheel buggy designed by Boston’s Thomas Goddard, 146 Federal St., Boston (1861 address), was the most popular vehicle of the day, replacing the pre-Civil War two-wheeled chaise. An apprentice of Boston’s Walter Frost (b.1796), Goddard enjoyed an enviable reputation, and his hand-made buggies took a full three to six months to be completed, the majority of that time spent on their exquisite paintwork. Goddard’s vehicles were considered to be the best of the best, and priced accordingly. Born in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts on July 13, 1805 to William and Sarah (Warner) Goddard , he died in Boston on February 19, 1894 aged 88 years.

Goddard retired in 1872, and Joseph F. Pray (b.1832-d.Mar. 6, 1904) purchased his business and with it the right to produce the ‘Goddard pattern’ buggy. At the time, Pray Bros. Carriage Works was one of Boston’s leading vehicle constructors, have been founded by his father, Joseph C. Pray (b.1810-d.Dec. 4, 1890) in, 1845, whom he succeeded in 1863. By 1870 the number of Boston carriage builders numbered close to 50, and almost every one of them offered some type of Goddard buggy. Pray continued to employ most of Goddard’s staff, and soon erected a handsome brick manufactory in Boston’s South End at the corner of James and 32-36 East Concord Sts., built with the financial assistance of his brother, Benjamin (b.1839) who had become a successful commission merchant. Although it was extensively remodeled into 26 condominiums in 1987, the Pray Bros. factory still retains most of it original looks.

The July 1880 issue of the Harvard Register included the following Emond & Quinsler display ad:


“1858 & 1878 Medal awarded for Goddard Pattern Buggy at the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association. Corner of Washington and Williams Streets, BOSTON.”

George J. Quinsler left the partnership at the end of 1883, establishing Quinsler & Co. at 26-34 Cambria St., just across the street from the present-day Berklee College of Music. Joseph P. Emond not only retained the partner’s 2113-2115 Washington St. factory, but kept the trade name until 1889 when his son, William H. Emond, became a partner.

During the fall of 1884, the two firms bearing Quinsler’s name competed against each other at the annual Mass. Charitable Mechanic Association Exhibition which was held at the Huntington Ave. and Newton St. Exhibition Building, Boston during September & October 1884. Their three entries follow:

“44. Emond & Quinsler, 2113 Washington St., Boston.— Goddard-Pattern Buggy, Brougham, Double Sleigh, Two-Seat Wagon (with original design in back of front seat), Top Box Buggy, and Phaeton. — All of good workmanship and style. Diploma.

“83. Emond & Quinsler, Boston. — Trotting Wagon, weighing only eighty-five pounds; two Goddard Buggies, Beach Wagon and Double Sleigh. — Good style and workmanship. Special diploma, affirming award of Bronze Medal made at a former exhibition, for continued excellence.

“208. Quinsler & Co., 26 Cambria Street, Boston.— Carriages, including very light Goddard Buggy, Extension Front Brougham, Stanhope D Sleighs, etc. Silver Medal.”

As late as June 1888 Emond continued to use the Emond & Quinsler trade name as shown by the following display ad in that month’s issue of the Boston Journal of Health:

“EDMOND & QUINSLER manufacturer of Fine Carriages

“GOLD MEDALS BY THE Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association 1878 & 1881 Awarded for Goddard Pattern Buggy. 2113 & 2115 Washington Street, Boston, Telephone 4582.2”

The 1890 edition of Clarke’s Boston Blue Book lists a J.P. Emond on Centre St., next to the Dorchester Industrial School (incorporated ‘for the purpose of training to good conduct, and instructing in household Iabor, destitute or neglected girls.’), in the southern Boston borough of Dorchester.

William H. Emond was married in Boston on October 29, 1891 to Hortense E. Shaw (b. 1867 in Roxton Falls, Conn. to William & Elizabeth Shaw). Unfortunately Hortense contracted cerebral Meningitis in July of 1893 and within the week was dead, passing away on July 16, 1893 at the age of 26. Emond remarried in Boston on Nov. 1, 1898 to Bessie L. Wood (daughter of Lyn P. and May E. (Jack) Wood.

The Emonds also constructed automobile bodies and were listed under the Auto Advertisements: Bodies and Body Parts heading in the March, 1907 issue of the Carriage Monthly. William was active in the Carriage Manufacturers Association, and in 1905 was elected secretary of the organization.

Although William H. Emond’s star was rising, his family’s business was failing, with the July 1908 issue of Carriage Monthly reporting on their pending bankruptcy:

“J. P. & W. H. Emond in Bankruptcy.

“Joseph P. Emond, Boston, and William H. Emond, Newton, Mass., doing business as J. P. & W. H. Emond, carriage builders, Roxbury, Mass., have filed a voluntary petition in bankruptcy. Each of the partners also filed individual schedules. The total liabilities are $10,252.50, all unsecured. It is said there are no assets. A note for $2,500, held by Edward H. Valentine, Chicago, appears as a liability of the firm's and in each of the individual's schedules. The debts of the firm amount to $3,600.80; Joseph P. Emond, $2,536, and William H. Emond, $4,106.70. The firm are well known in the trade, but of late years have not turned a sufficient profit on the business they have been doing.”

The bankruptcy proved to be a blessing for all involved, Joseph retired and William took a job as a body engineer and designer with the H.H. Franklin Mfg. Co. of Syracuse, New York.

A classified ad in the December 7 & December 10, 1889 Boston Evening Transcript follows:

“For Sale: One second-hand Paris Brougham, Two Second-hand Coupes, One Depot Carryall - made by Joseph F. Pray. Also a few new Old Comfort Sleighs, Trotting Sleighs and Goddard Buggies. Quinsler & Co., 26 to 30 Cambria Street, Back Bay”

George J. Quinsler’s business expanded after leaving Emond & Quinsler, enabling him to pursue other activities. Quinsler and his wife Antonia were keenly interested in the history of old Boston and in 1892 purchased the city’s oldest known house. Built in 1651, the James Blake House was restored by the Quinslers and then sold to the city of Boston in 1895 who turned it into a museum.  Today, it’s one of Boston’s oldest known buildings and is the only surviving example of West England country framing in the United States.

A temporary strike at the Quinsler plant made headlines in the July 29, 1893 issue of the Boston Daily Globe:

“Strikers Position Upheld; Carriage Makers Indorse the Action of the Employes of Quinsler & Co.

“Carriage Makers Indorse the Action of the Employes of Quinsler & Co. The strike of the carriage makers employed at the factory of Quinsler & Co. last Monday was discussed at the meeting of Carriage Makers' Union 9, in Caledonian hall last evening. The strikers state at the meeting that their wages were deducted for half a day in consequence of the Saturday half-holiday, and the reason given was that the men at the factory of Chauncey Thomas & Co. had been reduced for the loss of the half- day. This statement was denounced as untrue by the men of the Thomas factory, who state that they were receiving the same wages as before the adoption of the half-holiday. It was voted in view of this statement to indorse the stand taken by the men who went on strike.”

The strike in the Quinsler plant soured relations between the owner and his employees so Quinsler began looking for a partner that would allow him to slowly withdraw from the firm’s management. The April 1895 issue of The Hub reports his success:


George W. McNear, formerly with Chauncey Thomas & Co., carriage builders, of Boston, Mass., has left that firm to become a partner in the firm of Quinsler & Co., also of Boston. Mr. McNear has earned a good reputation as a designer and draftsman, and his long experience with so eminent a house, as that of Chauncey Thomas & Co. fits him well for the new position. The Hub extends congratulations, and most hearty wishes for his success as a builder.”

A Trilby Park Wagon built by Quinsler was pictured in the July 1895 issue of the Hub, its description:

“TRILBY PARK WAGON. Designed by Quinsler & Co., Boston, Mass. SCALE, 1/2 INCH TO THE FOOT.

“Fashion Plate No. 165 represents a neat design for a park wagon. It sets rather high. The rail on the front seats gives it a good appearance when driven by a coachman. It can be used as a private vehicle.

“The construction is the same as any ordinary cut-under four-passenger carriage. As will be noticed, the back seat is made with a rail and spindles. The general appearance of the carriage is pleasing, and, as the combinations of lines are new, will bespeak for it a favorable reception by buyers of fine vehicles.

“Dimensions of Woodwork.—Body: Width across top, 32 in.; across bottom, 29 1/4 in. Width of seat across top, 40 in.; across bottom, 36 in. Width across bracket of boot, 31 in. Wheels, plain. Height, front, 38 in.; rear, 44 in. Hubs, length, 6 1/2 in.; at center, 3 1/4 in.; front end, 3 in.; back end, 3 1/8 in. Size of spokes, 1 1/4 in. Number of spokes, 14 and 14. Stagger, 1/4 in. Depth of rims, 1 1/4 in. Tread of rims, 1 in. Depth of bands, front, 1 1/4 in.; back, 3/4 in. Distance between center of axles, 69 in.

“Dimensions of Ironwork.—Springs: Front, 36 in. long between centers of heads, with 7 1/2 in. opening on main leaf. Width of steel, 1 1/2 in. Number of plates, five. Thickness, Nos. 2, 2, 2, 3, and 3. Back, 35 in. long, with 8 in. opening on main leaf. Width of steel, 1 1/4 in. Number of plates, four. Thickness, Nos. 2, 2, 3, and 3. Axles, front, 1 1/8 in.; rear, 1 1/8 in. Tires, 1 in. by 1/4 in. Fifth wheel, 14 in. diameter. Track, outside, 4 ft. 4 in.

“Painting.—Body, green; slats, light vermilion; molding, black. Gear, green, light red stripe.

“Trimming.—Green cloth, made in blocks, finished with black leather welts. Brass plated.”

To clear up the confusing McNear family genealogy it must first be stated that at that time there were a lot of George W. McNears whose paternal ancestry can all be traced back to a Scottsman named John McNear. He emigrated from northern Scotland in 1725, settling in the Province of Maine, where he became prominent in the Indian wars and was noted for his bravery during the troublesome Colonial times.

John McNear’s grandson, Captain John McNear, was born to his seafaring father (also named John) in Edingberg, Sweden on March 6, 1777 (he was lost at sea on or about October 1, 1829) who had 12 children with his wife Elizabeth (aka Betsy) Erskine (b.1783 in Bristol, Maine), a sister of Colonel Erskine, one of the first settlers of Pemaquid, Maine.

Two of their sons (Baker & John) spawned multiple generations of George W. McNears.Captain John’s son, Baker McNear (b. 1808-d. Aug. 31, 1887) was the grandfather of coachbuilder George W. McNear (b. 1861-d.1931).

Captain John’s son, John (b.????), also a sea captain, was the father of California-based shipping and grain magnate George W. McNear (b. 1837-d.1910), who was often referred to as ‘The Pacific Coast Wheat King’.

The George W. McNear of our story was named after his great uncle, George W. McNear (1), Baker McNear’s brother, who was born on January 18, 1813. He died in Boston at Captain Baker McNear's home March 26, 1842.

Various US Censuses provide a brief chronology of his direct ancestors and early life:

The Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts 1850 US Census states that Baker McNear, occupation Mariner, was born in Bristol, Maine in 1808. His father was John McNear, born in Edingberg, Sweden and his mother was Elisabeth Erskine born in Bristol, Maine. Baker’s wife Mary Cook was born in Massachusetts in 1817 (1815), and died on December 29, 1899 in Watertown, Mass. Four children were born to Baker and Mary as follows: George W. McNear (b. 1836 in Mass.) ; Charles H. McNear (b. 1840 in Mass.); Emily McNear (b. Jan. 6, 1847 in Chelsea, Mass.); Mary McNear (b. 1838 in Mass.) Their son George W. McNear (b.1836) married Marie Brown (b.1840 in England) sometime around 1860.

The 1860 US Census lists Baker McNear’s residence as, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, but no information for either George W. or his newlywed wife are included, and it is assumed they may have gone to England to get married and were absent at the time of the census. For reasons that have yet to be uncovered the McNears relocated to Missouri after their marriage.

George W. McNear (our subject) was born in Eagleville, Harrison County, Missouri during July, 1868 to George W. and Maria (Brown) McNear. Eagleville was a small farming hamlet located 15 miles north of Bethany, the county seat about halfway between Kansas City, Missouri and Des Moines, Iowa.

By the time of the 1880 US Census, 12 yo. George W. McNear was living with his widowed mother and his paternal grandparents; Baker & Mary McNear, in Watertown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. After school the mechanically-inclined youngster tried his hand at handyman, teamster and according to one account, acted as a messenger for Cambridge resident Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the most popular poet of the day, which indicates he must have moved to Boston.

Shortly thereafter McNear was apprenticed to Boston's famous carriage builder Chauncey Thomas & Company where he learned the carriage trade from the ground up. Numerous talented individuals worked their way through the Thomas shops in a large part due to his close association with the Carriage Builders National Association, who’s Manhattan-based Technical School for Carriage Draughtsmen and Mechanics provided him with a steady supply of talented energetic craftsmen and engineers. Famous Thomas employees included brothers’ Charles A. and Fred Fisher (auto body mfrs.), C.A. Willey (paint mfr.), Frank W. Tucker (tire distributor), Oscar H. Schildbach and George W. McNear.

Apprenticed to the Thomas works in 1880, McNear embarked upon a course of study at the CNBA school, and in 1892 became Thomas’ chief engineer and his renderings and body drafts were often featured within the pages of the carriage trades.

In 1895 he left the Thomas works, entering into a partnership with George Quinsler, a well-known builder located at 26-34 Cambria St. in the Back Bay section of Boston, the April 1895 issue of the Hub reporting:


“George W. McNear, formerly with Chauncey Thomas & Co., carriage builders, of Boston, Mass., has left that firm to become a partner in the firm of Quinsler & Co., also of Boston. Mr. McNear has earned a good reputation as a designer and draftsman, and his long experience with so eminent a house, as that of Chauncey Thomas & Co. fits him well for the new position. The Hub extends congratulations, and most hearty wishes for his success as a builder.”

During this period Chauncey Thomas & Co. was also involved in the construction of the Holtzer Electric automobile, whose history can be found HERE.

At that time, George J. Quinsler, of Quinsler & Co., was looking to retire from the business, and an arrangement was made in 1905 whereby McNear became Quinsler’s chief draftsman and designer as well as a part owner of the firm.

McNear married Lilly (aka Lillie) Cousins on June 14, 1893 in Boston, Massachusetts. Lilly was born in Massachusetts in December 1868 to Leonard and Sarah (Egerton) Cousins.

The 1900 US Census reports that George W. McNear lived in Newton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts with his wife Lilly and two sons, Egerton Baker McNear (b. April 11, 1894) and George Rodger McNear (b. July 9, 1897) aka G. Rodger McNear.

Quinsler was assigned two US Patents:

Speaking Tube Apparatus - US Pat. 277508 – Filed October 14, 1882 - Issued May 15, 1883

Vehicle - US Pat. 689123 - Filed Sep 23, 1901 - Issued Dec 17, 1901

In partnershops with Geroge W. McNear Quinsler was awarded three patents:

Buggy Top Side Light: US Pat. 607705 - Filed May 14, 1898 - Issued Jul 19, 1898

Rubber Tire for Carriage Wheels: US Pat. 628284 - Filed Oct 28, 1898 - Issued Jul 4, 1899

Hansom Cab: US Pat. 638141 - Filed Aug 18, 1899 - Issued Nov 28, 1899

An advertisement in the November, 1899 issue of the Horseless Age announced that Quinsler & Co. had built 20 hansom cab bodies for the Electric Vehicle Company, the producers of the Columbia Electric and was “prepared to execute any kind of automobile bodywork”.

Apparently their Back Bay customers were purchasing automobiles with some frequency as Quinsler decided to build their own automobile in 1904. Called the Quinsler, it was a small 2-seat runabout with a removable dickey seat, powered by a 7-h.p. DeDion 1-cylinder gasoline engine that sold for $950.

McNear was well-known Boston automobilist and in 1906 was elected president of the Bay State Automobile Association as reported in theNovember 24, 1906 issue of Automobile Topics:

“The Bay State Automobile Association has elected George W. McNear a director to fill the unexpired term of E.A. Gilmore, resigned.”

McNear served as president of the Bay State Automobile Assoc. until 1916 when he resigned to become president of the Massachusetts State Automobile Association (Massachusetts chapter of the American Automobile Association), which had an office at 93 Massachusetts Ave., rm. 220, Boston, Mass. He later served as president of the Vehicle Manufacturers' Association of New England.

The 1906 Boston Automobile Show brochure included a striking Packard limousine designed by McNear and after 1911, the firm’s advertisements read: "George W. McNear, successor to Quinsler & Company."

The February 11, 1909 issue of Motor Age reported on Quinsler's withdrawal from the firm:

“Buys Out Partners — George W. McNear, one of the prominent members of the Bay State A. A. of Boston, has bought out the interests of his partners in the firm of Quinsler & Co., a firm that makes bodies for motor cars. Mr. McNear has been a partner with the concern for 14 years.”

The March, 1909 issue of Carriage Monthly also covered the dissolution:

“The partnership heretofore existing between George J. Quinsler and George W. McNear, Boston, Mass., has been dissolved by mutual agreement. The business hereafter will be conducted by Mr. McNear under the name of Quinsler & Co., and all bills due to or from the co-partnership will be settled by him.”

The McNear family lived at 191 Auburn St., Newton, Massachusetts at the time. In addition to automobiles, McNear was also involved in the building and maintaining motor yachts. A surviving advertisement reveals they were also dealers for Ralacco Marine Engines, which was a popular engine constructed by the S.M. Jones company of Toledo, Ohio.

Within two years of McNear taking over Quinsler & Co., he renamed the firm, as reported in the July 1911 issue of Carriage Monthly:

“George W. McNear, who succeeds Quinsler & Co., Cambria St., Boston, Mass., has changed the firm name to his own, and the business will hereafter be known as that of George W. McNear. This is an old-established carriage plant, running now on runabout, touring car, limousine, and landaulet bodies and tops. Mr. McNear informs us that business is good in his line.”

McNear was included in a tour of the Boston Automobile Show which appeared in the March 17, 1915 issue of the Boston Daily Globe:


“George W. McNear Has Been Very Successful In This Line—Specimens at Show.

George W. McNear has some admirable specimens of body building in the Motor Show on cars exhibited in various spaces. For several years he has been designing and building bodies until his work is now recognized as among the highest type in the country.

“He is one of the pioneers in the industry, and the high place he occupies among the local trade is evidenced by the fact that when the well-known Bay State A. A. was looking for a president last Fall, the choice fell upon him, and the decision to elect him was unanimous. Under his regime, the organization has grown wonderfully and its membership will shortly be doubled.”

A large McNear display ad accompanied the following item in the March 5, 1916 Boston Sunday Globe:


“George W. McNear is one of the best known men in the motor industry. He has been identified with the building of bodies for many years, and he has established a big business in that line. Some of the finest bodies that one sees on our streets are the product of his plant.

“That he is held in high esteem by the motorists is shown by his election as president of the Bay State A. A. Under his regime he has succeeded in getting the members enthusiastic so that they have built the club up until now it is a very formidable body. His good work was appreciated and a few weeks ago he was reelected for another term. In addition to his interest in motoring he is a well-known yachtsman and his powerboat is one of the finest in the Eastern waters.

“Mr. McNear's headquarters on Cambria St. is one of the oldest established places of business in the city.Before he made motor bodies he was making coaches and carriages, and some of the latter made some years ago are still in service, and they look as well as ever.”

Another McNear ad appeared adjacent to the following article published in the March 3, 1918 Boston Globe:

“McNear Builds Some Admirable Bodies

“One of the big trends in motor designs these days are the custom bodies, and there is a big demand for them. Many motorists want to have the bodies on their cars conform to their own Individual tastes, and so they merely order a chassis. Then they select a body builder to finish the work. And in Boston the man that many turn to is George W. McNear. He has a plant on Cambria St. where he is able to do the finest work.

“In the show there are bodies on some of the cars that were constructed by Mr. McNear. They are not surpassed by any bodies made elsewhere. Mr. McNear is one of the prominent men in the industry being president of the Massachusetts State A.A.”

The May 3, 1918 Boston Globe announced McNear’s purchase of the former Holtzer-Cabot Electric Co. factory, 14-18 Station Street,, a four-story yellow brick structure located across the street from the Brookline Railroad depot:

“Large Sale of Property in Brookline

“An important transaction involving mill construction property, one of the largest closed in Brookline for a long time, has just been effected through the office of Poole & Bigelow. This concern sells for the Holtzer-Cabot Electric Company of Roxbury its large parcel on Station St., the purchaser being George W. McNear. There are several modern mill buildings, having a total floor area of 45,000 square feet, occupying 17,400 square feet of land. The parcel, which is assessed for $56,500, was sold for a price much in excess of the assessors' value. The land is rated at $18,000. It is the intention of Mr. McNear to move his business from Cambria St., Back Bay, to this property and occupy after extensive improvement.”

The new factory allowed the firm to branch out into the lucrative commercial body business and the firm is knonw to have built parlor cars, school buses and delivery trucks for many area governments, schools and businesses.

McNear's Station Street shops employed an average of 20 hands who utilized the one of the two interconnected four-story buildings for storage and maintenence, the other for manufacturing. In large metropolitan areas such as Boston and New York City wealthy customers who didn't have room to construct a garage kept their carriages and autombiles at a centrally-located garage, where they coulod be accessed when needed. The purchase of the freight-elevator-equipped Holtzer-Cabot factory allowed McNear to operate their own garage, which provided a steady income for the firm. Surpisingly it is believed that only  20 full-time employess worked at the firm, despite it's rather expansive 45,000 sq. ft. facility, half of which was reserved for their garage service.

Although only one McNear-bodied Duesenberg Model A is known to have survived, a number of Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts remain. According to restorer Roberto Verboon, Rolls-Royce’s Springfield, Massachusetts records reveal that between 1923 and 1928 McNear constructed the coachwork for 12 new and 2 used (or re-bodied) Springfield-built Silver Ghosts (441HH, 68JH, 136JH, 181KF, 159JH, 239KF, 315LF, 441MF, S109ML, S161ML, S280PK, S323PL, S387RL, 417XH) and a single Springfield Phantom (S442FL).

Most of the listed cars were sold through the Boston Rolls-Royce distributor and a large number of them were the attractive 2-door fixed-head coupes (aka Doctor’s Coupe) that McNear specialized in. Only four McNear-bodied Rolls-Royces are thought to survive, one is a late 1924 Doctor’s Coupe (315LF) owned by the Verboon family in the Netherlands, another is on an earlier 1923 chassis (136JH). John deCampi’s ‘Rolls-Royce in America’ lists 5 known McNear bodies on Springfield Rolls-Royce chassis.

McNear’s listing in the 1923 Boston directory lists George W. McNear as proprietor; Egerton B. McNear, general manager; F.W. Chandler, purchasing agent; and George Royce, body superintendent.

Little evidence remains of McNear's commercial body work save for a pair of small items that appeared in a couple of issues of Bus Transportation. The September, 1922 issue included a picture and small description of bus body the firm constructed forGeorge E. Marsters, Inc., 248 Washington St., Boston, Mass., a well-known Boston ticket agent and tour operator who claims to have originated the all-expense paid motor coach tour:

“Limousine Tours to Montreal

“Marsters Travel Tours Runs Special Bus from Boston on Long Distance Trips for Sightseeing.

“Motor transportation has taken a long step forward this year in the construction at Boston of a special car for sightseeing travel over long distances. At an expense of close to $12,000, George E. Marsters had a touring limousine constructed which he has christened Mohawk. This made its first trip out of Boston on July 9, and has been so successful that Mr. Marsters is considering the construction of two more in time for the opening of the touring season next year. Scheduled trips between Boston, Mass. and Montreal, Que. and Boston and Albany, N.Y. were announced this year up to September, and trips have been planned to the White Mountains in September and October, extending to Gettysburg and Washington, D.C., and the car is booked to capacity for each trip already. In December the car will go to Florida for the season there.

“This touring limousine, affording travel over the roads in the greatest comfort, is built for eighteen passengers. In the automobile field it corresponds to the Pullman cars for railroad travel and in the absence of any lettering has all the appearance of private motoring. The chassis is a White Model 50. Dual wheels are used on the rear ensuring ease in riding and freedom from skidding.

“A special body was designed by George McNear of Brookline, Mass. to obtain the maximum of space and comfort, and one of the accomplishments is the designing of easy entrances to the two compartments riding over the rear wheels. Those compartments may be entered with the same ease as any of the other seats on the car, heretofore deemed almost impossible. Another feature is the suit case compartment in the rear which has spaces for 14 suit cases and hand baggage, protected from both dust and water, and so placed that it does not obstruct the view through the rear end of the car. The body is built of 14 gauge aluminum throughout. The seats, upholstered in leather and designated by gold leaf numbers, are long enough to seat comfortably four passengers each. Large plate glass windows, mechanically operated, add grace and beauty to the long limousine and enable all the passengers to enjoy the scenery along the route. The weight of the car is about 10,000 pounds.

“So far as the operation of this car is concerned, the company will run it only on standard highways and boulevards. It makes frequent stops at designated hotels en route and stops at least two hours for dinner. The trips are regular between Boston and Albany via the Mohawk trail, connecting at Albany with the Hudson steamers to and from New York. On the trips between Boston and Montreal also it passes through the Mohawk trail, whence the name of the car, and goes to Saratoga Springs, Lake George, Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks and Ausable Chasm, connecting at Montreal with St Lawrence River steamers for Quebec.”

The April, 1923 issue of Bus Transportation includes additional details of Marster’s Mohawk buses, which were built upon a purpose-built White Model 50 bus chassis, which came with a 198-in. wheelbase, 50-h.p. four-cylinder engine and $4,950 price tag:

“The Mohawk Bus

“The ‘Mohawk’ buses consist of a unique limousine type body, built by George W. McNear, Brookline, Mass. So far; three of these touring limousines have been delivered, and it is said that the Marsters Touring Agency is considering the purchase of two more. The body is of entirely original design and patents covering many of its features have been applied for.

“The chassis of the Mohawk is the standard White Model 50, with minor alterations made by the body builder. It is pneumatic-tired throughout, with Miller cord tires 36x6, dual in the rear. The lines of the top of the radiator were slightly altered to conform to the hood design and the gasoline tank was shifted to a position under the driver's seat. Rolls-Royce type lamps were used for headlights and cowl lights. In the body design Mr. McNear has gone the limit in providing Pullman-like accommodations and luxury for passengers. The frame itself is of Western ash, such as is used for the highest class limousine work, and is covered with 14-gage sheet aluminum.”

The Larz Anderson Museum of Transportation in Brookline, Massachusetts has a McNear-bodied 1926 Lincoln enclosed limousine, that the Anderson’s named “The Emancipator”. Painted battleship grey, the car’s coachwork and interior have been untouched since it was delivered to Larz and Isabel Anderson in 1926.

There’s currently a McNear-bodied 1926 Duesenberg Model A 4-passenger Victoria Coupe for sale for $325,000. Car #D63C, engine #1479, it was previously owned by longtime ACD Club member Victor Benischek, who believed it was the second body on the chassis. Finished in green with Black wings the car has a green leatherette roof with a matching interior. Its interior’s most distinctive feature is its coffered wood ceiling, which was McNear trademark.

George W. McNear Inc. was formally incorporated in February 1927 with George W. McNear, President and treasurer and his son Egerton B., Vice-President.

Some confusion arises from the spelling of Egerton Baker McNear’s given name. Early is his life familial records list it as Egerton, although later business records and advertisements list it as Edgerton. It’s likely he preferred the more common spelling and stuck with it.

A demand for custom bodies dwindled in the early days of the Depression, McNear looked for other revenue streams related to metal working and fabrication. On September 6, 1928, shortly after the introduction of the Ford Model A,Egerton B. McNear submitted a patent application for an Automobile Trunk Rack, which was assigend US Pat. No. 1718205 on June 18, 1929.

Marketed as the Macrac Trunk Rack for Fords, McNear put together a double-sided brochure and advertised the luggage racks via ‘Ford Dealer & Service Field’ magazine.

They also formed a subsidiary, the Homeservice Electric Company, in order to market a line of electric cabinet heaters as announced in the January, 1931 issue of Electrical Merchandising:

“Homeservice Room Heater

“A new form of steam heat, in which electricity replaces such fuels as coal, gas or oil, is furnished by the ‘Elektra-Steem’ ‘steam heating plant on wheels’ offered by the Homeservice Electric Company, Division of George W. McNear, Inc., Brookline, Mass.

“Gas or oil is furnished by the ‘Elektra-Steem’ steam heating plant on wheels. This heater is entirely portable, being mounted on heavy swivel castors. In standard size, a 1,250 watt heating element is employed, operating from the ordinary house circuit.

“In the "Electra-Steem" heater, a fin-type radiator is filled with steam from a small quantity of water in the boiler, in which boiler an electric heating element is sealed. Radiator and boiler are contained in an attractively-designed cabinet and are placed a short distance above a floor opening, so that the layer of cold air lying next the floor is drawn into the cabinet. The cabinet is so constructed that heat escapes only through the grille supplied for that purpose.

“A three-heat switch is incorporated in the heater. Turning the switch to ‘high’ gives full volume of heat in a few minutes, it is explained, and when full steam pressure has developed, the switch is turned to second heat, using one-half the wattage of the element for ordinary room requirements. The overall length of the cabinet is 31 in., height,  271 in., depth, 101 in. A choice of three finishes is offered: Walnut, antique ivory or olive green. Special finishes to harmonize with any interior are also available.”

On April 12, 1931 the firm's namesake and founder passed away leaving his son Egerton B. to face the Depression alone. The Automobile reported:

“George W. McNear

“BOSTON, April 13— George W. McNear, one of the pioneer custom body builders, died suddenly last night at his home here. Mr. McNear came here at an early age from Bethany, Mo., where he was born. He started to learn the carriage business with one of the Boston companies around 1900. Then he went into business for himself and built up a fine clientele. He had a plant at Brookline, Mass.”

The firm's custom body customers all but disappeared during those dark years but Egerton managed to survive by building commercial bodies and repainting existing coachwork.

McNear offered an ‘armored bullet-proof car’ to Massachusetts law-enforcement agencies during the mid-1930s. A surviving brochure states:

“The inset shows a cut of the latest type of armored bullet proof cars for police work, banks, and transportation of money, which is beinf delivered to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for use by the State Police, under the Deptarment of Public Safety. These cars are so equipped that performance is up to standard – speed and acceleration and roadability are undiminished. Bullet proof glass, bullet proof steel and the latest type of gun port are employed.

“All specifications and equipment herein offered have been tested for the Commonwealth by Mr. J.A. Crooke, of Boston, and Mr. McNear, under the supervision of Captain Van Amburgh, state ballistic expert.

“Confidential reports of these tests are available to all police departments, and we will cooperate with you to any extent in fulfilling any specifications required. These cars are expected to withstand withering machine gun fire and afford an exceedingly high percentage of safety to the police officers engaged in coping with the modern criminal. Under present conditions they are considered to be units of cital; necessity.

“Edgerton B. McNear, Body Builder (formerly George W. McNear, Inc.) 17 Station Street – Tel. BEAcon 1673 – Brookline, Mass.”

During the Depression the firm eeked out a living repairing and refinshing automobile and truck bodies. Occasional custom body building or more often than not, re-building or re-bodying, made up a small portion of their work prior to the start of the Second World War. Three examples from that time survive; a 1934 Ford V8 Town Car, a 1936 Pierce-Arrow Deluxe Eight and a 1940 Packard 160.

In 1936, Emily Sears Lodge (1906-1992), the wife of US Senator and 1960 Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. (1902-1985), commissioned McNear to transfer the limousine bodies from their worn-out chassis which had originally been owned by her father, the prominent Boston physician Henry F. Sears.

Robert P. Sands, a one-time owner of the 1936 Pierce-Arrow, believes that the Vestibule Limousine body on his vehicle originally came from Dr. Sears' 1917-1918 Stearns-Knight, while Karl S. Zahm believes the Town Car body on the 1940 Packard that he once owned came from Sears' 1924 Locomobile. Both cars are pictured to the right.

A letter from Zahm follows:

"Enclosed is a photo of the (1940 Packard), a car that I owned from during the early to mid-1960s. At the time I acquired the car, it had approximately 41,000 miles on the odometer.

"According to information I received from the car's three previous owners, the original owner had been a woman in Brookline, MA by the name of Sears. Previous to this Packard, she'd owned a 1924 Locomobile town car. As the latter was quite long in the tooth by 1939, her chauffeur suggested the purchase of a new car. Inasmuch as Ms Sears was hesitant about parting with her much loved town car, arrangements were with Egerton B. McNear to save the coachwork by removing it from the chassis. Of necessity, the body would be altered somewhat so as to fit the slightly wider Packard chassis. Ms Sears' chauffeur had been instrumental in the selection of a Model 160, a car that would be easier to drive and far more maneuverable in city traffic than the larger Model 180.

"After the body's removal, the original windshield assembly together with the cowling to which it was attached was split and widened. The cowling was re-skinned in aluminum and solid brass spacers were used to widen the free-standing two-panel windshield. Nearly all of the upholstery was replaced with fabrics of the same color, weave and pattern as previously employed. The two windows in the rear doors were raised and lowered by fabric straps as is the division partition's glass so as to replicate the original as much as possible. New pull-down silk shades were installed in the tonneau and the original Dictaphone was rewired. Ms Sears insisted upon retaining the roll-up fabric tendalet over the driver's compartment rather than the far more convenient pullout type common to most then new formal cars. Also retained were the loop-type rear door handles. To access the driver's compartment, one must reach over the sill to unlatch the doors as there were no handles on the exterior. New side curtains with isinglass windows were fabricated for the front doors and the fixed front seat was reupholstered in genuine leather having the same color and grain as the original. The only concession to modernity made by Ms Sears was an under-the-floor rear compartment heater. Attached to the windshield frame on the driver's side was the Locomobile's original solid brass framed mirror. The car was painted the same deep maroon as was Ms Sears' Locomobile with muted red striping. The Sears family crest was reapplied to the rear doors just below the sill. A conventional Packard trunk rack is mounted over the fabric-covered spare tire at the rear of the car. Attesting as to the source of this conversion, a small plate was attached to the lower right side of the cowl that read, "Egerton B. McNear... Brookline, Mass."

The photo of the Sears Packard to the right was taken in 1965 in Rockford, IL on the occasion of Zahm's sister's wedding. By the end of the decade, the firm, now known only as Egerton B. McNear, had moved one block away to much smaller quarters at 20 Webster Place with a listing in the Brookline business directory under auto body repair. A surviving court case provides detail of the firm's activites immediatly after the war:

“A favorable employment security merit rating enjoyed by an individual operating a business was not transferred to either of two corporations which he established to take over the business on January 1, 1947, and which operated it until their dissolution on July 17, 1947, because neither of the corporations succeeded to the whole of their predecessor's employing enterprise.”

"Prior to January 1, 1947, Egerton B. McNear, the plaintiff, as an individual, operated a business which consisted of selling and servicing automobiles and repairing automobile bodies. Because of favorable experience, he was entitled to a reduced contribution rate of one half of one per cent.

"This action of contract was brought in the Municipal Court of the City of Boston (October 25, 1948) under the employment security law, G. L. (Ter. Ed.) c. 151A, Section 18, as appearing in St. 1941, c. 685, Section 1, to recover alleged overpayments of contributions made by McNear Body Co. Inc. and McNear-Nash, Inc., between January 1, 1947, and July 17, 1947, amounting to $1,352.39. After a finding for the plaintiff, the Appellate Division dismissed a report, and the Director of the Division of Employment (City of Boston) appealed. The original order of Appellate Division was ultimately reversed (on September 18, 1951) and McNear was forced to pay the difference ($1,352.39).

"For the purpose of separate accounting between his selling and his servicing and repair work, he established on December 31, 1946, the two corporations hereinbefore named, which thereafter from January 1, 1947, until July 17, 1947, conducted the business as successors to McNear and with 'no substantial change in the nature of the business.' McNear and his wife subscribed equally to all the stock subscribed for in each corporation, except one share subscribed for by their son. In each corporation McNear was president and his wife was clerk. The two corporations paid at a higher rate than that at which McNear had previously paid until they were dissolved on July 17, 1947, after which McNear again carried on as an individual the business of both corporations."

As indicated above, McNear became Brookline’s Nash distributor, establishing McNear Nash Co., Inc. at 25 Harvard St., a storefront located around the corner from its new 20 Webster place workshop. McNear Body was subsequently disbanded and its assets reorganized as Foreign Motors, which now concentrated on imported cars.

The second quarter 1948 issue of Antique Automobile included an article describing the Antique Automobile Show that was held in conjunction with the 1948 New York Auto Show. McNear exhibited a restored 1902 Rambler at the event which was presented with a 2nd place trophy in the Finest Job of Restoration by Other than Owner (One Cyl.) category.

During the early 1950s Foreign Motors sold and serviced new and used Allard, Rolls-Royce and Bentley motorcars. The picture of the Lagonda included on this page was photographed by Allen Handy in front of McNear’s Brookline garage.

In 1954 McNear reorganized Foreign Motors as Foreign Motors Inc. and moved into a spacious showroom and garage (built in 1922 for the Fisher-Hill Realty Co.) located at 1686 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton (Boston). Additional franchises were added and at the time of their withdrawal from business held franchises for Bentley, BMW, Citroen, Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce automobiles.

In May of 1970 Foreign Motors Inc. established a satellite branch, Foreign Motors West, on Rte. 9 in Natick, Massachusetts. During the late 1970s the Boston branch was discontinued (became Vintage Motor Cars Inc.) but Foreign Motors West survived and remains in business as an employee-owned multi-franchise European luxury car dealership with branches in Natick, Sudbury and Wayland, Massachusetts.

Prior to his success as a comedian, Jay Leno worked for Foreign Motors’ Boston branch on Commonwealth Ave. In his 1996 autobiography ‘Leading With My Chin’ Leno relates that when he first applied for a job there, he was told there were no openings. Undaunted, he showed up the following Monday and started washing cars anyway, and was subsequently hired as a detailer. Leno’s column in the November, 2007 issue of Popular Mechanics stating:

“Years ago, I worked for a new car dealership called Foreign Motors of Boston doing new car prep and light maintenance. The ‘Foreign Motors’ moniker might seem odd today, but back in the late 1960s/early 1970s there weren't many stand-alone import car dealerships, the exception, of course, being Volkswagen. Foreign Motors carried Bentley, Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce, as well as an eccentric French automobile called the Citroen Sport Maserati, better known as the Citroen SM.”

© 2012 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to Roberto Verboon, Karl S. Zahm and Robert P. Sands


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W.E. Gosden - Economical Aristocrat: A 1934 Ford Town Car by McNear - SIA #132 Nov-Dec 1992

John Webb De Campi - Rolls-Royce in America

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

Marc Ralston - Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - There Is No Mistaking a Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

Hugo Pfau - The Coachbult Packard

James Birtley McNair - McNair, McNear, and McNeir Genealogies, Volume 1, pub. 1923

Peter Stott - A Guide to the Industrial Archeology of Boston Proper, pub. 1984

J. P. Munro-Fraser - History of Sonoma County [Cal.], pub. 1880

Thomas Jefferson Gregory - History of Sonoma County, California, pub. 1911

Roberto Verboon - The History of 315LF & George W. McNear, The Flying Lady, Nov. /Dec. 2011 issue

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