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


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

New Haven Carriage Co.
New Haven Carriage Co., 1886-1924; New Haven, Connecticut
Associated Builders
Frederick A. Holcombe, 1838-1870; Holcomb Bros., G.F & H.S. Holcomb Bros. & Co., 1870-1886

The New Haven Carriage Co. is best known today as the manufacturer of semi-custom production bodies for Locomobile, Marmon and Rolls-Royce. Their first automobile body dates from 1896 and early on they made production bodies for the Columbia Electric, one of the country’s first successful electric vehicles.

The firm can be traced back to Frederick A Holcombe (1807-1886), a New Haven County carriage builder that started his own firm in 1838 in the small town of Brandford, (now Branford) Connecticut. Two of his sons, George F. (b1835) and Harry S. (b1846-d1902), joined him in the family business and the firm prospered during the war. Following the retirement of their father in 1870 the brothers relocated to New Haven where they established a carriage works under Holcomb Bros., G.F & H.S. At the end of the decade business had increased so much that a repository was established in California. During the 1880s, the firm was reorganized as Holcomb Bros. & Co. and finally as the New Haven Carriage Co in 1886.

In 1891 a new modern factory was erected at the corner of Water & Franklin Sts. and by 1894 the firm employed 400 hands. On June 17, 1897 it was incorporated as The New Haven Carriage Company, a foreign Corporation organized under the laws of Connecticut, with capital stock of $200,000. The officers were as follows: George F. Holcomb, President and Treasurer; Harry S. Holcomb, Vice President, and William Hooker Atwood, Secretary.

New Haven Carriage Co.’s specialty were high-grade sporting and pleasure carriages and the firm’s secretary, William Hooker Atwood made numerous trips abroad, enlisting dealers in Europe, the Caribbean and South America. The firm became one of New Haven’s largest employers and its president, George F. Holcomb was elected mayor of New Haven.

New Haven had many distinguished designers and future body builders on their staff at various times, such as William Hooker Atwood, A. Gravel, Paul W. Steinbeck, Hermann A. Brunn and Collis O. Beck.

At the age of sixteen, Hermann A. Brunn started working as an apprentice at his uncle's carriage works, Brunn Carriage Mfg. Co. in 1890. He was sent to Andrew F. Johnson’s carriage design and drafting course in New York City, and interned at the H.H. Babcock Co., of Watertown, New York, and the Andrew J. Joyce Carriage Company in Washington, D.C. He eventually made his way to the New Haven Carriage Co., New Haven Connecticut, where he worked alongside William Hooker Attwood, an old school carriage maker who was well known for his exceptionally comfortable and tasteful closed coaches. While in New Haven he also helped design and assemble bodies for the Columbia Electric Car which were built at the New Haven Carriage Co.

At the request of his uncle, Herman A. Brunn, now 30, left his promising job with New Haven Carriage Company in 1905 and returned to Buffalo to assume the position of superintendent of his uncle's carriage shop.

Hermann's previous work on the Columbia Electric was essential to the design and execution of his uncle’s debut of the 1906 Brunn Electric, but he soon found that he and his uncle did not see eye to eye regarding the great future of the automobile - he being enthusiastic about automobiles and his Uncle Henry not. “Uncle Henry said this noisy, greasy, smelly thing would never last” recalled Bunn in a 1933 speech. Consequently he left with a few other workers in 1908 and established Brunn & Company.

New Haven’s William Hooker Atwood was a strong traditionalist, trained in the European School of carriage design. An article in the November 4th, 1957 issue of Time magazine quoted him:

‘“Mr. Maxim,” asked New Haven Carriage-Maker William Hooker Atwood in 1896, “do you want this carriage to look like a Western buggy-maker's job or do you want it to be a gentleman's carriage?” Answered Hiram Percy Maxim, builder of the Mark I Electric Phaeton: “Like a gentleman's carriage, Mr. Atwood.”’ (At the time, Hiram Percy Maxim was the chief designer of the Pope Manufacturing Company’s gasoline-powered Columbia Automobile)

New Haven Carriage Co built the bodies for the experimental carriage built by Springfield Cornice Work’s Hinsdale Smith in 1896. The vehicle was powered by an American gasoline engine that delivered power to the rear wheels via Smith’s own transmission via chain drive. Additional prototypes were built in the next few years that were fitted with Smith’s novel spring-plate gasoline engine which was sometimes referred to as the Smith Spring Motor.

By 1901, the city directory noted that the New Haven Carriage Company was manufacturing automobiles as well as “fashionable carriages”. Following the death of Harry S. Holcomb in 1902, T.C. Bracken took over as the firm’s Vice-President and Secretary.

New Haven Carriage was indirectly involved in the scandalous Electric Vehicle Company combine of 1899 which was financed by a group of New York and Connecticut millionaires and industrialists headed by John Jacob Astor, William C. Whitney, George H. Day, Philip T Dodge, Albert A Pope, Col. George Pope, and Isaac L Rice.

An article in the June 14th, 1900 New York Times announced:

“Negotiations are said to be under way for the purchase of the New Haven Carriage Company and the Columbia Automobile Company of Hartford, by the Electric Vehicle Company of New York. The recent extra issue of $6,000,000 by the Vehicle Company, it is said, will be used to pay for the two companies as well as for others which will be taken into the big combination. The Electric Vehicle Company already owns a part interest in the New Haven Carriage Company.”

An 1899 article in ‘The Automobile’ reported that New Haven Carriage Company had received a very lucrative contract from the Electric Vehicle Company, one-half (2,100 bodies) of an order for 4,200 electric automobile bodies. "No such contract as this was ever made before…" The other half of the contract was awarded to the Columbia Automobile Company of Hart­ford, The Electric Vehicle Company’s automobile building subsidiary.

The Electric Vehicle Co. had its roots in the Electric Carriage and Wagon Co. of New York and the Pope Motor Carriage Co., a subsidiary of the Pope Manufacturing Co., a successful Hartford, Connecticut bicycle manufacturer. The firm was founded in 1876 by Albert A. Pope and got into the car business in the late 1890s. Columbia produced both electric and gasoline powered automobiles and the Electric Vehicle Co.’s William C. Whitney had the forethought to purchase George B Selden’s patents in 1899, two years before its electric vehicle business started to flounder in 1902.

The Electric Vehicle Co. successfully sued the Winton Motor Carriage Co. in 1900 for infringement of the Selden patent and most of the country’s remaining automobile manufacturers agreed to pay them royalties under the Selden patent claim. One notable exception was Henry Ford, who refused to acknowledge the validity of the patent and along with four other manufacturers fought the suit, eventually winning on appeal in 1911. By that time, the Electric Vehicle Company had long since filed for bankruptcy and the Columbia Automobile Co. went out of business the following year.

Although the New Haven Carriage Co. had once been part of the Electric Vehicle Co. combine, it survived the bankruptcy and continued to build carriages and automobile bodies into the early teens. They specialized in custom-built closed body styles and built some series customs for Marmon and Locomobile in the mid-to-late teens.

By the early 20s New Haven Carriage Co. and the Blue Ribbon Body Co. were largely dependent on the Locomobile Company for their livelihood. Following Billy Durant’s  takeover of the firm in 1922, new orders from the Bridgeport, Connecticut automaker failed to materialize. The firm stayed in business building a small series (71 bodies in total) of semi-custom bodies for Rolls-Royce between 1921 and 1923, but when the Springfield automaker opened their own coachworks in 1923, New Haven’s owners decided to call it quits.

On July 14, 1924, the New Haven Carriage Company announced it had closed its doors and was liquidating. New Haven’s chief designer Collis O. Beck became head of Rolls-Royce’s Waltham Ave. body department and went on to work for Brewster when it was absorbed by Rolls-Royce of America.

R.T. Bulkeley, a reporter for Hearst’s International News Service reported on the closure:

“We are too far from the center of the auto industry.” Say the owners, who have plenty of money, aren’t greatly in debt, and find themselves ready to retire from active business. The concern has been going along swimmingly of late years, building special bodies for high-grade cars and upholstering other bodies to special order. “Every time a woman has a new gown she wants her car upholstered to match” – so the tale ran in company circles until just lately.”

© 2004 Mark Theobald - 






A Bibliography of the History and Life of Utica - Utica Manufacture and Industry: Willoughby Company pp187

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

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

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

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


Submit Pictures or Information

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

Click Here to submit pictures or information

Pictures Continued


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

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