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D.P. Nichols & Co.
Nichols & Thomas, 1851-1859; West Newbury, Mass.; 1859-1862; Roxbury, Mass.; Scott & Nichols, 1862-1866; Roxbury, Mass.; D.P. Nichols & Co. 1866-1909; Boston, Massachusetts; D.P. Nichols Company 1909-1912, Cambridge, Mass. Branches in Chicago, Ill.; New York City; Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
Associated Builders
Chauncey Thomas & Co. 

Although they’re unknown today, just over 100 years ago Boston’s D.P. Nichols & Company was one of the country’s largest producers of heavy commercial carriages. The firm’s hansom cabs, herdics, Berlines, charabancs, and horse-drawn omnibuses were favored by commercial liveries throughout the northeast, and Nichols operated factory-run warerooms in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. from the early 1880s up until the start of the First World War.

D.P. Nichols also produced coachwork for Boston’s early imported automobile dealers, but unfortunately most of that work is undocumented. It is recorded that they manufactured the coachwork for Frayer-Miller autocabs, (aka Nichols Frayer-Miller) in collaboration with Columbus, Ohio’s Oscar Lear Automobile Co., and served as the northeastern distributor of Frayer-Miller commercial vehicles.

Daniel Pillsbury Nichols was born in Amesbury, Essex County, Massachusetts on January 19, 1829 to Daniel and Mary Jane (Pillsbury) Nichols. His father, Daniel Nichols (b. 1801-d.1885) a son of Stephen and Marsha (Robinson) Nichols of Amesbury, Mass., was a silver plater by trade, and after moving to the community of West Newberry (aka West Newbury), served as its postmaster.

West Newbury is located 40 miles north of Boston across the Merrimac River from West Amesbury (later renamed Merrimack), 4 miles west of Newburyport near the border with New Hampshire.

Daniel Nichols married Mary Jane Pillsbury (b. Aug 26, 1806) on December 25, 1827, and to the blessed union was born four sons and two daughters. The eldest, Daniel Pillsbury Nichols, is the main subject of this biography. The second son, Stephen Nichols, born in 1831 died suddenly in Haverhill, Mass. during 1847. Mary Jane Nichols, the third child, was born in 1833. She married Chauncey Thomas, who was involved with her older brother, Daniel P., in the Nichols & Thomas carriage works of West Newbury. Their fourth child, David Lowell Nichols, born in 1836, also learned the carriage trade and was later involved with his brother’s carriage works. The fifth child, Leonard Bailey Nichols, born May 28, 1843, was also brought up in the trade, and after working for his brother’s carriage works aligned himself with Chauncey Thomas following the partners’ split eventually becoming president of the firm upon its namesakes’ retirement. A sixth child, named Susan, died young, with no further information available.

As more ornamental work was used then than now, the business of silver plating was at that time, and for many years afterwards, a quite important adjunct to the manufacture of carriages. As a trained silver plater, Daniel P. Nichols’ father, Stephen, was certainly engaged in the manufacture of carriages, most likely in cooperation with Michael Emery, an early West Newbury vehicle manufacturer.

After a public education in the schools of Newbury, Daniel was apprenticed to a local carriage builder, and after serving as a journeyman with a number of the region’s vehicle manufacturers, returned to West Newbury where he joined his younger brother Daniel L., in establishing his own carriage works.

The manufacture of carriages was begun early in the century by Michael Emery of West Newbury who learned his trade in Newburyport. At one time Newbury, Newburyport and West Newbury were considerably engaged in the business but in some unaccountable way their industries gradually drifted across the river to Amesbury, which by the start of the Civil War had become the carriage building center of the country.

During his sojourns as a journeyman, Daniel P. Nichols had become friends with a talented carriage designer named Chauncey Thomas, who agreed to move to West Newbury to form a partnership in the style of Nichols & Thomas.

Chauncey Thomas was born in Maxfield, Penobscot County, Maine, on May 1, 1822, to Prince and Mary (Webb) Thomas, two recent inhabitants of the Pine Tree state, having left their home state of Massachusetts in 1919. Chauncey Thomas spent his early life on his father’s farm, where he attended the local schoolhouse when convenient.  In 1837 the 15-year-old was apprenticed to Whiton & Badger, ‘chaise makers’ of Bangor, Penobscot County, Maine, a significantly larger community located 40 miles south of Maxfield on the banks of the Penobscot River. The conditions of his apprenticeship were to work twelve hours a day for board and clothes, with an occasional dollar or two on holidays for spending money, and to receive instruction for one term at the Apprentices' School in Bangor.

Just prior to Stephen Badger’s 1844 retirement, 19-year-old Chauncey Thomas embarked upon a full winter’s course of study at the Bangor Apprentices’ School after which his former employers procured him a job with the respected Boston carriage builders, Slade & Whiton. The Apprentice’s school was the forerunner of today’s vocational schools, and years later Thomas helped establish the Carriage Builder’s National Association, which established its own educational facility in Manhattan which was called the Technical School for Carriage Draughtsman and Mechanics.

Thomas was a skilled artist and draughtsman, and was eventually placed in charge of producing the working drawings for the woodwork and blacksmith departments as well as creating renderings of the finished product for the firm’s customers.

Shortly after he was placed in charge of Slade & Whiton’s body construction, he suffered a terrible knee injury which forced him to recuperate at home for an extended period of close to 24 months. While he convalesced he embarked upon a course of study in astronomy, geometry, trigonometry, algebra and surveying, and spent his free time working with pencil and paper, honing up his skills as an artist. During his recuperation, he contemplated becoming a full-time artist, but once he was returned to good health the desire to create vehicles out of wood and steel proved stronger and in 1851 he relocated to West Newbury, Essex County, Massachusetts, entering into a partnership with Daniel P. Nichols to be conducted in the style of Nichols & Thomas.

Thomas stayed with the Nichols brothers on their father’s farm during which he became enamored with their younger sister, Mary, whom he married in 1854. Thomas’ partner, Daniel P. Nichols, married Carrie G. (Lloyd) only daughter of Almon J. Lloyd of Blanford, Hampden County, Massachusetts on June 2, 1857.

The 1855 (taken Sept 4th, 1855) Massachusetts State Census lists Daniel P. Nichols (age 26), David L. Nichols (age 22) occupation: carriage manufacturers, on the farm of their father Daniel (52 yo) and Mary J. Nichols (49 yo). Down the street lived Henry D. Lay (30 yo) who was listed as a carriage maker.

The same census lists Chauncey Thomas address as West Newbury, Essex county, Mass. His age is 32, his occupation, carriage manufacturer. Also listed was his wife Mary J. (Nichols), age 22 (b. in West Newberry, Mass.), and an 8-month-old daughter named Mary E. Thomas. A second daughter, Helen N. Thomas, was born in 1863 and a son, Chauncey Thomas (jr.),followed in 1866.

Daniel P. Nichols and Chauncey Thomas’ carriage works put out numerous award-winning carriages. A Nichols & Thomas ‘buggy wagon’ received a bronze medal at the 1856 Charitable Mechanic’s Association exhibition in Boston. Nichols & Thomas exhibited at the 1857 Essex County (Mass.) Cattle Show where they were awarded a premium along with Amesbury’s Sargent, Gunnison & Co. At the 1858 Essex County Agricultural Association Exhibition they were awarded a $10 premium for a ‘four-wheeled chaise.’

During 1859 Nichols and Thomas relocated to Roxbury, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, a large Boston suburb, located in the south west portion of Boston’s historic Back Bay district. The move is confirmed by the 1860 US Census which lists Daniel P. Nichols as a resident of Ward 3, Roxbury, Mass. With the start of the Civil War, Nichols & Thomas’ business picked up, and the firm built a few orders of carriages, ambulances and wagons for the Military.

An August, 1862 patent filing confirms both Thomas and Daniel P. Nichols, still partners at the time, were both residents of Roxbury, Massachusetts. Thomas’s original Patent No. 18,254 dated September 22, 1857 for an improvement in carriage props, was reissued Patent number: RE 1,331 on Aug. 26, 1862. Although originally filed by Thomas singly, it was reissued to Thomas and Daniel P. Nichols.

During the next decade Daniel P. Nichols would become involved in a half-dozen partnerships, most of which were located in Roxbury. The only knowledge we have of these firms is their listings in the Boston and Roxbury business directories.

Samson, Davenport & Co.’s 1866 Roxbury Directory lists Scott & Nichols (John A. Scott & D.P. Nichols) carriage builders, Warren corner Zeigler. John A. Scott was a well-known carriage blacksmith whose biography appeared in Richard Herndon & Edward Bacon’s ‘Men of progress: one thousand biographical sketches and portraits of leaders in business and professional life, Commonwealth of Massachusetts,’ published in 1896:

“John Adams Scott of John A. Scott & Son carriage builders, Boston, is a native of Nova Scotia; born in Windsor, Hauts County, October 20, 1827; son of John and Elizabeth Dill Scott. His father was a native of Halifax and his mother of Windsor, and his grandparents on both sides were of Edinburgh, Scotland. He was reared on farms and educated for the most part in the district school. His mother dying when he was eight years old and the family being broken up, he lived till his fifteenth year on the farm of his father's only sister, attending school during the winter months and upon her death he went to work upon another farm employing his earnings for two years to the cost of finishing his education. In April, 1846, he came to Boston working his passage on a sailing vessel and apprenticed himself to Aaron E. Whittemore of Roxbury, whose shop was on the corner of Warren and Dudley Street where the Hotel Dartmouth now stands, to learn the carriage smith's trade and spring making. Here he remained for two years employing his evenings in the study of book keeping, arithmetic and writing. His employer failing in business he spent the next two years working as a journeyman in Roxbury and Dorchester. Then in October 1851, he entered business for himself in the same shop in which he learned his trade and he has continued on the same street and near the site of the old shop ever since. His works have been repeatedly enlarged and he has for some time been a leading member of the trade. He was president of the National Carriage Builders Association in 1891, and is now (1894) president of the National Carriage Exchange... He was married September 17, 1848, to Miss Sarah Sargent Long of Chester, N.H. They have had three daughters and two sons; Mary Elizabeth, Mildred Orn, Jessie Fremont, John Franklin and William Jackson Scott. The eldest daughter Mary died in September 1874, and Mrs. Scott died December 24 1889.”

Adams, Sampson & Co.’s 1858 Roxbury Business Directory lists John A. Scott under ‘carriage smith and spring maker’, Dudley st., corner of Warren, house at 51 Dudley.

Chauncey Thomas & Co. lists 1862 as the year of their founding, so it can be assumed D.P. Nichols joined John A. Scott at the same time. I couldn’t locate any Roxbury directories for 1859-1865, but Perry’s 1865 Boston Directory lists Chauncey Thomas, carriagemaker, foot of Chestnut, house in Roxbury. A short history of the Thomas works confirms that Thomas constructed his first vehicles in an old boathouse located between Chestnut and the banks of the Charles River, within a few yards of where he later constructed his permanent manufactory at 101-103 Chestnut St.

The 1865 Massachusetts State Census lists Chauncey Thomas residence as Roxbury, Ward 04, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, his occupation, carriage manufacturer. Beside Chauncey and his wife, Mary J. Thomas, two children were listed, Mary E. (10yo) and Helen N. (2yo) Thomas. A son, Chauncey C. Thomas, (aka Chauncey Thomas jr.) was born soon-after on July 6, 1866. He passed away on Dec. 17, 1888 at the age of 22. According to his death certificate, he died of phthisis (Greek for wasting away or atrophy, typically caused by consumption or tuberculosis).

The 1869 Sampson, Davenport & Co. Boston Directory no longer lists John A. Scott as a partner of Nichols, however another carriage builder, Bradford Perry, appears to have replaced him as a partner. Perry’s personal listing infers that he’s involved with D.P. Nichols: “Bradford Perry (D.P. Nichols & Co.), carriage builder, 118 W. Brookline, h. 697 Tremont.”

Nichols’ factory was a 60 ft. x 80 ft. three- story wooden structure located at No. 118 to 124 West Brookline St. The 1870 Boston directory Bradford Perry in parentheses next to D.P. Nichols & Co. which indicates he was involved with the Nichols works either as an investor, or property owner.The same directory also lists Bradford Perry, carriage maker, at 90 W. Brookline St.

Bradford B. Perry was born in 1819 in Maine, married to (marriage #1) Sarah A.Perry and (marriage #2) Harriet G.F. Perry Children were Sarah H., Thomas B., Joseph, and Helen Perry.

Perry is listed in George Adam’s 1852 Massachusetts Register and State Record and Business Directory under carriage and coach builders at 3 E. Dover st, Boston, Suffolk County. Adam’s 1855 Directory lists him at 917 Washington st.

Sampson, Davenport & Co.’s 1872 Boston Almanac and Business Directory lists D.P. Nichols & Co., (Sears, Emond, &; Nichols) at 118 West Brookline & 1785 Washington, house 59 Alpine. The same directory lists Sears, Emond, & Nichols (Henry C. Sears, Joseph P. Emond, and D. P. Nichols) at 1785 Washington. It also includes Bradford Perry, carriage maker, located at 90 W. Brookline St., although it appears he’s no longer interested in Nichols’ carriage works.

One of Nichols’ new partners was Henry Clinton Sears who was born on February 11, 1832, to Chauncey and Polly (Howland) Sears in Lenox, Mass. He married Fannie Elizabeth Clark on December 26, 1861, in New Bedford, Mass. and to the blessed union was born two daughters, Florence May and Ethel Craig Sears. He died on January 22, 1890 in Roxbury, Mass.

The other partner was Joseph P. Emond, who would shortly become a partner of George J. Quinsler, another highly respected Boston builder who would later partner with George W. McNear.

D.P. Nichols entered a number of vehicles in the 1874 Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic’s Association Exposition which were held at Boston’s Faneuil and Quincy Halls in September and October 1874, and were awarded a bronze medal for a Physician’s Carrosselet:

“321 - D.P. Nichols & Co., Boston, Mass. Physician's Carrosselet. This carriage has the comforts of a coupe or landaulette, furnishing protection from the weather, can be easily changed from a closed to an open carriage, is of light weight and is furnished with pockets for instruments medicines etc. Strong and well constructed. Bronze Medal.”

Although it appears they were no longer working together, Nichols and Chauncey Thomas, continued to share intellectual property as evidenced by US Pat. 159,717, an improvement in carriage flap fasteners - filed Dec. 22, 1874 and issued Feb. 9, 1875. The patent was awarded to Thomas and William K. Parker, but assigned to Thomas, Daniel P. Nichols and Leonard B. Nichols. Leonard B. Nichols, Daniel P. Nichols younger brother, was now in charge of Chauncey Thomas’ paint department, and within the year would become a partner.

Perry’s 1875 Boston Directory lists Chauncey Thomas & Co. and D.P. Nichols & Co. as before, but reveals 2 new firms, Emond & Quinsler (Joseph P. Emond and George J. Quinsler) located at 2 Williams st., corner of Washington; and Sears & Nichols (Henry C. Sears & D.P. Nichols) at 1785 Washington. Leonard B. Nichols is listed as a carriage painter, boards at 62 W. Cedar. Also listed were Almon Nichols, carriage painter and C.C. Nichols, carriage trimmer. A new listing was that of J. Cushing Thomas, carriage maker, Chauncey Thomas & Co., house at 18 Centre (which coincidentally was also the home of Chauncey Thomas).

An 1876 design patent (US Pat. D9652 - filed Oct 10, 1876, issued Nov 21, 1876) lists Daniel P. Nichols and Henry C. Sears as designers, with no assignation. A later Sears patent (US Pat. 264901 - filed Jun. 3, 1882, issued Sep. 26, 1882) was assigned to D.P. Nichols & Co., although others after that time were not reassigned.

The Nichols factory was destroyed by fire on Sunday afternoon, April 20, 1879. The fire was initially reported at 0:30 p.m. by a policeman from call Box #93, and its entry in the Boston Fire Department’s annual report follows:

“No. 118 to 124 Brookline St. Three stories high, size 60 X 80. Material wood. Owned by D.P. Nichols & Co. Loss on building, $4,868. Insurance on building, $5,600. Occupied by D.P. Nichols & Co. as carriage factory. Loss on contents, $1,900. Insurance on contents, $2,000. Occupied by J. Hawthorne as storage for coaches. Loss on contents, $1,390. Insurance on contents, $1,500. Occupied by several parties. Loss on contents, $2,500. Originated on 1st floor. Extended to entire building. Cause supposed incendiary. First company at fire Hose No. 5. First water Hose No. 5. Force under command of Chief Engineer Green. Number of engineers present, 5. Companies present; Engines Nos. 3, 10, 13, 22, 23; Hook and Ladder No. 3; Hose Nos. 5, 7; Chemical Engine No. 2. Damage to building: totally destroyed. Confined to building. Extinguished by regular force”

Nichols rebuilt the factory, replacing it with a 4-story fire-resistant brick structure, and would remain there for the next thirty years.

Nichols became one of the country’s premiere builders of Hansom Cabs, a vehicle designed by a British architect named Joseph Aloysius Hansom in 1834. Hansom’s registered 'Patent Safety Cab' featured a suspended axle and large diameter wheels which allowed passengers a significantly easier access to the vehicle. It was improved upon during the subsequent years and by 1885 had reached its final stage of development.

Old photographs of New York City, Boston, Chicago and Washington show numerous Hansom cabs which were primarily used as a vehicle for hire, being the direct predecessor of the motorized taxi cab, which began to replace it in the late 1890s. A surprising numbers of the cabs pictured were built by Nichols, who by 1890 was the nation’s largest builder of Hansom Cabs.

D.P. Nichols & Co. won a silver medal for one of its Hansoms at the 1884 Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic’s Association Exposition which was held during September and October, 1884, in the new Mechanic’s Building which was located at the corner of Huntington Ave. and West Newton St., Boston, as follows:

“188 - DP Nichols & Co Boston Two Victoria Hansoms and one Two Wheeled Hansom with many improvements. A very superior carriage of excellent style good material and first class workmanship Silver Medal.”

A List of premiums awarded by the Pennsylvania State Agricultural Society’s Thirty Second Annual Exhibition, Philadelphia, PA., held September 6-18, 1886 included a Nichols’ Hansom Cab:

“D.P. Nichols, Boston, Mass., four-wheeled Victoria hansom, Diploma. D.P. Nichols, Boston, Mass., improved hansom and cab, Worthy.”

By that time D.P. Nichols was a nationally known producer of a wide assortment of heavy carriages; their products line including Herdics, omnibuses, Hansom cabs and coaches. Their vehicles were popular with large fleet operators and by 1890 they had established warerooms in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. The firm’s Philadelphia warerooms circa 1884 were located at the southeast corner of Broad & Cherry streets. The Washington satellite was located at 1018 Connecticut Ave., and its Manhattan wareroom at 1605 Broadway although it later moved uptown to W. 49th St. and eventually 289-241 West 47th St.

The July, 1904 issue of the Carriage Monthly reported on Nichol’s exhibit at the St. Louis’ Worlds Fair:

“An exhibit by DP Nichols & Co Boston Mass consisting of a hansom is part of the Amesbury and Merrimac exhibit. The hansom is of latest style is intended for private use though its attractiveness has induced some of the best liveries to secure one or more. It is known as the Edgewood hansom.”

By that time D.P. Nichols had established a satellite factory at 5-11 Edgewood Street, in Roxbury. Located on the corner of Edgewood and Warren Sts. in Roxbury, the building was approximately 2 ½ miles southwest of the Brookline St factory. Advertisements reveal they continued to use both addresses through 1909-1910.

1905 Display advertisement from the Official Programme of Exercises and Illustrated Inaugural History Commemorating the Inauguration of President Theodore Roosevelt as President of the United States:


Following his father’s retirement, Wendell L. Nichols took over as president of D. P. Nichols & Co.

Nichols & Co. displayed a Clark Steam Car (Edward S. Clark mfr.) at the 1906 Boston Automobile Show, held at the Mechanic’s Building.

March 8, 1906 issue of Motor Way:

“Makes Cars to Buyers Order

“Automobile bodies made to order is the specialty of D.P. Nichols & Company of West Brookline street, Boston. The concern which occupies a four story building also does an extensive repairing business.”

The April, 1907 issue of the The Commercial Vehicle announced the introudction of the Nichols Frayer-Miller Hansom cab:


“The gas engine hansom cab here illustrated is being used daily at Dakota Station by Mr. Crawford who is getting much satisfaction from it. The car attracted much interest at the December automobile show in New York where it was exhibited by the Oscar Lear Automobile Company of Columbus O., the builders. The body was built by D.P. Nichols & Co. of Boston who have a branch office on West Forty ninth street, New York. They are to market the vehicle which will be known as the Nichols Frayer-Miller hansom cab.”

The vehicle was pictured in a number of the automotive trades, the April 6, 1907 issue of Automobile Topics reporting:

“Ready to Market Gasolene Motor Cabs

“For some little time the Oscar Lear Automobile Co. has been working on the problem of producing motor cabs and as a result of its efforts one of the vehicles was shipped to New York and has for some two months past been in operation in this city. The motor is the regular Frayer-Miller 24 h.p. four cylinder engine cooled by forced draft through air jackets. D.P. Nichols & Co. and the Oscar Lear Automobile Co. have secured patents on this form of hansom cab as applied to gasolene and steam automobiles and it is the purpose to manufacture them for public service use in considerable quantities. The cabs will be known as the Nichols Frayer-Miller hansom cabs and will be marketed by D.P. Nichols & Co. who are large manufacturers of hansom cabs coupe and other horse drawn carriages.”

The April 16, 1907 issue of the Horseless Age provided the best description:

“The New Frayer-Miller Gasoline Hansom.

“An innovation in the way of a cab has been recently introduced into New York by the Frayer-Miller Automobile Company who have constructed a four-cylinder air-cooled gasoline cab which follows very closely the general arrangements of the ordinary hansom as shown in the accompanying photo. This vehicle has been on trial for some two months by the Dakota Stables, Seventy-fifth street and Broadway, New York city. As far as we know this is the first gasoline cab to be used in this country. It will be known as the Nichols Frayer-Miller and will be marketed by D.P. Nichols & Co., manufacturers of cabs, coupes and other carriages.

"The driver's seat, as will be seen from the photo, is at the rear allowing an unobstructed view to the occupants. The machine is a regular touring car chassis with the exception of special arrangements which have been designed and patented for the purpose of controlling the engine and change speeds from the elevated seat. The rig weighs complete 2,700 pounds has an 86 inch wheel base tread and is equipped with 32 x 3 1/4 inch solid tires which, it will be noticed, are very large for a vehicle of this weight.

"The motor is the regulation 4-cylinder air-cooled 24 horse power type and is controlled by spark on a steering wheel with which the machines will ultimately be fitted - the experimental car shown has a lever control.

"The greatest deviation the regulation chassis is the use of Pleukharp two speed rear axle construction which was described in The Horseless Age in our issue of January 30, 1907. The high gear ratio is 7 ½ to 1 and the low is 15 to 1, and the maximum speed is in the neighborhood of 20 miles, the low speed will run as high as 10 miles. This will prevent drivers from running at a speed which would be damaging to the mechanism owing to the use of solid tires and yet makes it possible to speed up sufficiently, even on the low gear, when negotiating crowded streets.

"Full elliptic springs are used at the rear and semi elliptic at the front. It is stated that the vehicle in question is in service from fifteen to seventeen hours a day and averages from 40 to 50 miles. From 16 to 17 miles per gallon of gasoline can be obtained and it is claimed a gallon of cylinder oil will last for 200 miles running. The car has been operated for the last two months by a former electric cab driver.”

The June 1, 1907 issue of the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal provided a few more details:

“The Nichols Prayer-Miller Hansom Cab.

“D.P. Nichols & Co., 1605 Broadway, N.Y., have designed the gasoline hansom cab here illustrated and in conjunction with Oscar Lear Automobile Co., whose chassis is used, are offering the cab to the trade. The motor is a regular 24 H.P. Frayer-Miller. The wheel base of the car is 84 inches and the tread 56 inches. The wheels are 32 inches in diameter and fitted with Firestone solid tires. The motor has a 4 1/16 inch bore and is of the 4-cylinder type, cooled by forced draft of air thru jackets surrounding the cylinders. The car weighs 2900 lbs. and carries 2 passengers besides the driver. They are at present using the axle made by the Direct Drive Axle Co. of Columbus, Ohio and giving two speeds forward and the reverse. The car here shown is lever steered but later ones have wheel steer, and wheel steer will, no doubt, be the standard practice.

"The car shown has been in use for several months in one of the largest stables in New York City and has proved entirely satisfactory. It can cover 50 to 1 miles per day regularly and will run 18 miles on a gallon of fuel. One gallon of oil lasts for 250 miles running. It is estimated that the total running expense, including driver's pay, will not exceed 7 cents per mile and it is therefore expected that the car will meet with a very large sale. It is believed to be the first gasoline cab offered the American trade.”

The Brief Items of News and Trade Miscellany column of the December 26, 1907 issue of The Automobile reported:

“D.P. Nichols & Company, 124 West Brookline street, Boston, well known in carriage circles, have fitted up one of the best and most modern plants in New England for overhauling, painting, repairing or renewing worn parts of automobile bodies.”

The March, 1908 issue of the Commercial Vehicle included a description of a Nichols’ convertible limousine-ambulance, chassis unknown, although it was most likely a Frayer-Miller:

“D.P. Nichols & Co., 116-122 West Brookline street, Boston, Mass., are building for J.M. Duggan a convertible limousine ambulance. This is a new departure in the ambulance line being so designed that it has at all times the appearance of a stylish limousine. When in use as an ambulance it is provided with cot pneumatic mattress and all necessary equipment with room inside for two passengers besides the patient and cot, and when not arranged as an ambulance, is a luxurious eight passenger limousine. This car is intended for hospital and private service where patrons wish to avoid the conspicuousness of an ordinary ambulance. Nichols & Co. are endeavoring to complete this car in time for exhibition at the Boston show March 7 to 14.”

Wendell L. Nichols, the only son of Daniel P. and Caroline G. Nichols was born in May, 1861 in West Newbury, Mass., having a much younger sister named Mary who was born in 1875. Wendell started out with his father’s firm as bookkeeper, and took over as president when his father retired. The 1900 US Census lists his residence as Harold St., wife Anna W. (b. Jan., 1866), two sons, Richard H. (b. Feb., 1895) and Lloyd (b. Feb., 1897).

Nichols occasionally advertised outside of the cities where it maintained repositories as evidenced by a large display ad that was placed in the February 8, 1909 Atlanta Constitution:

“Slightly Used Carriages at Sacrifice Prices


“We have in stock a full line of high-grade heavy carriages suitable for private use or livery trade, including Broughams, Coaches, Demi-Coaches, Landaus, Hansoms, Cabriolets, Victorias, etc., which we have taken in exchange.

“Many of these could scarcely be told from new; all are for sale at irresistible prices as we shall close these out at once "regardless." Will be sold on easy monthly terms, if desired. They can be seen at our various branches, or full and careful attention will be given to all mail inquiries.

“Handsome catalog upon request, Call or write D. P. NICHOLS & CO., Office and Factory 5, 7, 9, and 11 Edgewood St., BOSTON, MASS.; 289-241 West 47th St., New York City; 1615-1617 M St. N.W., Washington, D.C.“

Boston’s Frayer-Miller showroom was located at the Boston Motor Mart, 220 Elliott St., near the intersection of Columbus and Charles Sts., and Nichols was also listed as a distributor of the Gramm-Logan Motor Car Co., a short-lived automobile built in Bowling Green, Ohio.

A classified advertisement in the January 18, 1909 Washington Post reads:

“D. P. NICHOLS & CO., Carriage Manufacturers. We have a large stock of fine carriages, both, new and second-hand, at very attractive prices. 1018 Connecticut Ave.”

The firm exhibited the Frayer-Miller truck at the 1909 Textile Machinery Exhibition held at the Mechanic’s Building, Boston, April 26-May 1, 1909:

“D.P. Nichols & Co. have on exhibition a large Frayer Miller truck of the type that is coming into use for heavy teaming. Considerable interest was displayed by manufacturers in this machine.”

The May, 1909 issue of the Power Wagon announced a new business venture that was funded by Wendell L. Nichols:


“VERY extensive preparations have been made by the Motor Truck Company of New York City to sell commercial motor vehicles of all sorts and ratings. The general manager of the company is Charles E. Stone who for years has been fortifying himself with information pertaining to motor wagon transportation and is therefore unusually well equipped to push the present enterprise to success.

“The company's establishment is located at 244 & 250 West 49th street. Its stock is almost exclusively controlled by W.L. Nichols of the firm of D.P. Nichols & Co., builders of horse cabs and carriages, who for three years past have been selling Frayer-Miller trucks throughout New England.

“The Motor Truck Company will not confine its efforts to the sale of Frayer-Miller machines but will handle any good product which has been tested and bears a reputation for economic performance.

“The demonstration and repair departments are in charge of factory experts. The machine shop is well equipped. One of the aims of the company will be to have a representative call upon every customer at least once in ten days so that any trouble which may arise in connection with the operation of the machines bought will not to their disadvantage be smothered. Another purpose of these periodic visits to customers will be to acquire exact information pertaining to the cost of operation.

“The Nichols company also intends to open agencies in Washington and other eastern cities in which they have business connections. It is interesting to remember in connection with this undertaking of the Nichols company, that the firm for years has been recognized as the most important factor in the production of hansom cabs in the east.

”The wood working department of the Nichols company will undoubtedly find a large outlet for its productive facilities in supplying bodies for the motor trucks which its subsidiary companies will sell. Already it is doing a large business in supplying motor cab bodies.”

In June of 1909 Nichols announced in the Hub that they were constructing a massive new building adjacent to the Charles River in Cambridge on 31,000 st. ft. plot of land located on the Esplanade side of Amherst st., between Wadsworth and Ames sts. , next door to two M.I.T. residence halls:


“A large tract of land containing 31,000 square feet in Cambridge, Mass. fronting on Amherst street, opposite the south end of the recently built World's Fair Building, has been bought by W.L. Nichols of the firm of D.P. Nichols & Co. of Boston, New York, and Washington, carriage and automobile manufacturers, and the Frayer-Miller motor truck. They plan to increase their manufacturing facilities at once and will build a large factory of re-enforced concrete construction.”

The firm completed a recapitalization and reorganization on November 13, 1909 and was incorporated in Massachusetts on November 27, 1909. The new firm was called the D.P. Nichols Company and was capitalized at $106,000, listed offices being 18-20 Ames Street, Cambridge, Mass., and New York City, New York. The Motor Truck Company, a related firm owned by Wendell L. Nichols, also expanded its operations in New York City as evidenced by the April 1910 issue of the Carriage Monthly:

“Wendell L. Nichols for the D.P. Nichols Carriage Co., Boston, Mass., has leased the two five-story buildings, 100 x 100 feet, at 315 and 317 West Forty-seventh Street, New York City, for a term twenty one years at an aggregate rental approximating $300,000.”

The following October Wendell L. Nichols leased half of the Motor Truck Company’s former Manhattan showroom and garage (244-250 W. Forty-ninth street) to the New York City Dept. of Weights and Measures, the other half to the New York City Mayors Dept. of Licenses.

The April, 1910 issue of Cement Age included the following article outlining the construction of Nichols’ new Boston factory, which is representative of many other body-building plants constructed at that time:


“In the development of fireproof manufacturing plants concrete has come to occupy the front rank by reason of its strength rigidity structural adaptability and unexcelled fireproof qualities. For heavy floor loads and long span construction concrete also enjoys economic advantages in addition to its superior fireproof qualities over slow burning mill construction so that ample reason is found for its extensive use, particularly in industries where the fire risk and attending damage must be reduced to a minimum, also where the limit of column spacing to secure ample floor space is of prime importance.

“Careful consideration of the requirements of an extensive and growing business led Mr. D.P. Nichols of the D.P. Nichols Co., Boston, to adopt reinforced concrete and the new plant will be ready for occupancy about February 1, 1910. The building containing 43,750 square feet of floor space is located on Ames Street opposite Princeton Avenue on the Cambridge side of the Charles River Basin. Between the Bridges, one square back from the Esplanade with the broad side toward the river and is conspicuous for several miles from the river bank of the Back Bay section of the city proper.

“The plant, one of the most complete of its type in New England and comparing favorably with any similar establishment in the country, is designed for manufacture and repairing of automobiles in every main branch of construction. The equipment in every detail, strictly modern and on a large scale. It consists of a forge plant and machine room, battery and charging outfit, body and coach making department, upholstery and trimming rooms, paint shop, and temporary storage.


“FIRST FLOOR - Main offices, machine room, forge room and smithy, battery room and charging plant, main stock room and temporary storage.

“SECOND FLOOR - Draughting room, mill and body construction room. The machinery installed is of the latest types for modern wood and metal construction. There will be room for sixty or more body makers benches besides mill hands and helpers.

“THIRD FLOOR - Trimming and upholstery rooms, hanging up and assembly room. There will be accommodations for fifty men in these departments.

“FOURTH FLOOR - Paint shop, priming and filling rooms, coloring and rubbing rooms, rubbing decks, gear finishing room, body finishing room.

“ROOF - The roof is a graded floor for cleaning cars, testing engines, air drying, and miscellaneous uses.

“YARD - There will be a yard room of one half an acre that will be used in suitable weather for temporary storage while making small repairs on cars and trucks, saving the necessity for driving into the building when not desirable.


“The present business of the company consists of building, handling, and repairing commercial motor trucks of various capacities from one thousand pounds to five tons, designing and building bodies, and all appointments for pleasure and public service cars, particularly the complete equipment of foreign made chassis and the assembly of imported cars and parts. Upholstering, trimming and painting and re-painting re-trimming and re-modeling cars in use.

“The business in two years has outgrown the large plant in Roxbury, Mass. The limitations of the old plant made it impossible to execute large contracts and handle single local orders perfectly at the same time. The new plant will allow of a diversion of the departments so that all classes of business may be dealt with promptly and efficiently.


“In this locality the ground is filled with material taken from the river bottom near by. The entire building is supported on piles which were driven to a depth of about 14 feet below the ground level, or 17 feet below the street grade. The piles rest on a stratum of stiff clay below which it would be necessary to drive a distance of approximately 70 feet to satisfactory bottom. The load was made consequently light being about 12 tons per pile. The piles were cut off at grade 12, Cambridge Base, this being the water level of the Charles River Basin and at this grade the tops of the piles are 8 feet below the first floor grade under these conditions it was found cheaper to support the wall columns on individual foundations than to put in a continuous foundation at this depth. Reinforced concrete beams between the wall columns 4 feet below the finished grade of the building support the curtain walls.


“The building is of the beam girder construction with clear spans of 25 feet by 25 feet. It is 175 feet long by 50 feet in width. The first floor is built on the ground and there are three constructed floors and roof of the same strength, the clear headroom on the first floor is 12 feet, and 11 feet on the second, third, and fourth floors. The design was based on a distributed loading of 125 pounds per square foot with allowance for a concentrated load of 3,000 pounds. The maximum light is obtained on account of the large window area, this composing 58 per cent of the wall surface. The windows are fixed sash arranged with a swinging transom at the top, by which sufficient ventilation can be obtained.


“Since the interior columns would be extremely large if constructed of concrete, and on account of the fact that the maximum floor space is required, structural steel columns were used. These are of the H-column type and are encased in concrete.


“The elevator is to be the largest of its type in New England, having a platform 8 feet 6 inches by 21 feet 6 inches over all. It is to be electrically operated and is provided with full automatic gates and runs through the roof, and a large pent house is provided at the top of the elevator shaft. The shaft opening is thoroughly fireproof constructed of 8 inch terra cotta blocks plastered with Portland cement. The stair well lighted by hip skylight is also enclosed with terra cotta blocks plastered with Portland cement, but the stairs are built of reinforced concrete.

“The building is equipped with two automobile wash stands and on each floor are toilet rooms and other plumbing fixtures, making the building complete in this respect. The heating system is of the simple gravity return type. The problem of running returns back to the boiler offers much study for a building used for this purpose, where the maximum headroom may be required throughout. The radiation on the first floor is carried overhead and that on the other floors is run along the windows while additional circulation is carried on the fourth floor, where a considerable amount of heat will be necessarily lost through the elevator shaft opening to the roof. The boiler room is depressed slightly below the first floor and is enclosed by partitions of hard plaster constructed on metal lath.

“The building is provided with a complete sprinkler system and, on account of this and its fire resisting construction, is allowed the minimum insurance rate. All electric light wires are carried in conduits placed in the concrete and thus none of the wiring is exposed.


“Plain round rods were used throughout. The specifications for the reinforcing steel called for medium steel with an ultimate strength of from 60,000 to 70,000 pounds, an elastic limit of not less than one half of the above values, and a percentage of elongation in 8 inches of 1,400,000, divided by the ultimate strength and the additional requirement that rods should be bent cold 180 degrees around a diameter equal to their own without fracture. Frequent and representative tests were made to determine the satisfactory quality of the steel.

“In the construction of this building it was required that beams girders and slabs be poured at the same time for the reason that the slab takes a part of the compression both for the beams and girders, and horizontal joints between the slab and the beam or girder form planes of weakness. Where this could not be done in every instance, vertical joints in the floor slab were allowed at the center of the beams and girders, since these places are points of small shear and a joint here does little or no harm.

“The curtain walls and parapet walls are reinforced with of 1 per cent of steel consisting of 1 1/4 inch diameter round rods. The beams are 8 inches by 22 inches, this depth including the slab. They are reinforced with four 1 inch diameter rods, one half of which are bent up to pass over the supports. The beams are increased to 34 inches in depth at the girders. The girders are 15 inches by 34 inches and are reinforced with six 1/2 inch rods and two 1 inch rods. The two 1 inch rods and two of the 1/2 inch rods are bent up to take care of the negative bending moment over the supports. Diagonal tension in both beams and girders is taken care of by inch diameter stirrups in conjunction with the bent up tension steel. The floor slab is 4 inches thick and reinforced with 1 inch rods, 5 inches center to center. Half of these rods are bent up into the top of the slab over the beams. In addition 1 1/4 inch diameter rods, 10 inches center to center, were placed in the top of the slab over the beams. The floor slab was also reinforced with 1 inch rods, 10 inches center to center, laid parallel to the beams.

“The roof is constructed exactly as the other floors and is waterproofed with six courses of plastic slate and felt and then covered with a 2 inch granolithic wearing surface reinforced with No. 10 Standard expanded metal.

“All materials were carefully inspected and regularly tested and this work was much facilitated by a resident experienced inspector representing the engineers Messrs. Monks & Johnson. Having standardized the materials of construction in their specifications, the engineers consistently followed this practice throughout the work.

“Giant Portland cement furnished by the United Building Material Co., Boston, was exclusively used. The foundation concrete was mixed in the proportion of 1 part cement, 3 parts sand, and 6 parts stone. All of the concrete above the foundations was mixed in the proportion of 1, 2, 4. Realizing the important part the fine aggregate plays in the quality of concrete, the engineers had frequent tests made of the sand and thereby standardized the material as far as possible for the entire work. The importance of this test cannot be too strongly emphasized.

“Broken stone formed the coarse aggregate for the concrete and in the foundations ranged in sizes between 3/4 inch and 1 inch and in the work above between 1/4 inch and 1 inch. This material was required to be perfectly clean screened. Particular care was exercised in gaging the materials to insure correct and uniform proportions. All the concrete was mixed in a batch mixer provided with baffle plates and the greatest care was exercised to avoid excessively wet concrete. At the same time an ample amount of water was used to insure the ready flow of the concrete between the reinforcing metal. The mixing plant was located about midway of the long diameter of the building and the concrete was distributed on each floor in steel dump cars operating on a light industrial track assembled in short sections for easy adjustment. All of the exposed exterior concrete was finished to a rubbed surface producing a very satisfactory effect and insuring the permanence of the surface treatment.

“The contract price for this building was 8.54 cents per cubic foot or $1.18 per square foot, not figuring the roof as a floor although so constructed. The final cost including elevator heating sprinkler system plumbing etc., was 10.7 cents per cubic foot or $1.53 per square foot of floor area - excluding the roof as a floor as before. The cost would have been less for shorter span construction and for concrete columns instead of structural steel and for roof of usual construction, whereas in this case the roof has the same strength as the floors below and will be used in the same way.

“A word in regard to cost may be opportune in this connection. The cost of work is a variable quantity being materially influenced by local conditions, cost of materials, and labor time allowed for construction and range of climatic conditions to be expected during construction. The writer believes that it would be distinctly to the advantage of owners if engineers could be permitted to complete their plans in the early winter with ample time for consideration and adjustment of all details.

“In this connection it is believed that contract cost to the owner is lower if the work be figured in the dull season for the reason that contractors desire and need a certain amount of work to insure the holding together of their organization, and will therefore figure closer in competition for their earlier work and as the season advances and the amount of work increases, many desirable contractors are more inclined and often obliged to raise their prices either declining additional work or submitting complimentary bids by reason of the fact that they do not have time to make a close estimate of the cost with the usual rush that accompanies late letting.

“This building was designed by and built under the supervision of Messrs. Monks & Johnson, Architects and Engineers, 7 Water Street, Boston, Mass., and the General Contractor for the work was the C.A. Dodge Co., members of the Master Builders Association, Boston, Mass., with offices on Albany Street, Cambridge, Mass.”

It appears as if construction of the new factory overextended the firm, and they withdrew from business at the end of 1911. The January, 1912 issue of the Carriage Monthly announced the liquidation of the firm's inventory:

“The D.P. Nichols Co. 18-20 Ames Street, Cambridge, Mass. have ceased doing business and are closing out their stock of hansoms carriages. They have done nothing in the manufacturing line since last April.”

The firm's magnificent new factory building found a new occupant in the form of the Page & Shaw candy company. Founded on March 1, 1912, Page & Shaw Inc. used the building, 18-20 Ames St., Cambridge, Mass., as their main factory into the 1930s.

The resume of Homer Thomas Hollingshead, Nichols' ‘bookkeeper and superintendent’ supports a withdrawal from business in 1911-1912:

“HOMER THOMAS HOLLINGSHEAD. B.A.; M.A., Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn., 1888. Born June 21, 1863, New Somerset, Ohio. Bookkeeper with A. H. Cobb & Co., soap manufacturers, Boston, Mass., 1885-93. Bookkeeper and superintendent with D. P. Nichols & Co., carriage and automobile manufacturers, Boston, 1893-1912.”

The firm’s founder, Daniel Pillsbury Nichols, survived to see the construction of the factory and its subsequent withdrawal from business, as he was still alive at the time of 1910 US Census, which states he and his wife Caroline were living in Boston’s 21st Ward.

I could not locate a date of death for him although his wife Caroline’s 1920 census entry reveals she was now a widow. As late as 1922 Caroline G. Nichols was listed as the property owner of her husband’s former W. Brookline St. carriage factory as her name appeared on a building permit application for the property. She survived the decade and was still living at the time of the 1930 US census.

It appears that Wendell L. Nichols' Manhattan operations foldere soonafter those in Cambridge. His final Manhattan business address, 315-317 West Forty-seventh street, was subsequently occupied by a number of auto-related firms which included the Bryant Auto Painting Co. (1914-1915); the Auto Salvage Co., (1915-1917); the New England Auto Top & Body Co. (1917-1919); the Sandow Motor Truck Co. (1916-18);  the Perfect Body Co., (1920) and Steinbart & Wegner Co. (1920s). It later served as the home of the Cosnat Record Distributing Corp. and today houses the Salvation Army Theater.

Formed in 1907 by Guy A. Mackey, George L. Wilson and Benjamin Eisenstein, former employees of the National Auto Top Co., the New England Auto Top Company manufactured automobile tops, slip covers, folding wind shields, and upholstered, painted and refinished automobiles at the corner of Broadway and West Fifty fourth street (229 W.54th St.) New York City. It was reorganized as the New England Auto Top & Body Co., and relocated to 315-317 W. 47th in the early teens.

A handful of Nichols carriages survive, but unfortunately no Nichols-bodied trucks or automobiles. One of the firm’s Hansom Cabs is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. It is the Hansom cab included in the pictures to the right, and it's description and provenance follow, provided by the Smithsonian, follows:

“This hansom cab was made by D.P. Nichols Company (New York, Chicago and Boston) and purchased by Mrs. Alice Maury Parmelee of Washington, D. C. She lived on an estate large enough to keep her horses and carriages. She used this carriage well into the 1920s. In 1931, Mrs. Parmalee gave it to the Smithsonian Institution. Artifact. Size: 13'L x 6'1"W x 8'8"H; shaft 5' L. Material: Wood, leather, fabric. Color: Black exterior; gray interior. The hansom cab is a two wheeled, two passenger carriage. It has a black body with silver mountings and gray upholstery. The body is low to the ground so passengers can easily board the cab. The driver's seat is mounted high on the rear of the cab enabling the driver to control and see his horse as well as traffic.”

Another of the firm’s Hansom cabs survives in the collection of the Chicago Historical Society as follows:

“The hansom cab, made by D.P. Nichols of Boston and New York, was driven in Chicago between 1885 and 1890, and was presented to the Society by Helen Swift Neilson.”

© 2012 Mark Theobald -






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