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Rothschild & Co.
Audineau et Cie, Rothschild et Cie, 1906-1912, Perfection Automobile Body Co.,1912-1930s New York City, New York
Associated Builders
Rothschild-Seaman, Holbrook-Singer, Rubay

Rothschild bodies appeared on numerous European (Benz, Berliet, Decauville, FIAT, Isotta-Fraschini, Mercedes, Mors, Opel, Renault) American (Packard, Stearns), and European-American (Mercedes, FIAT) chassis. (Unbeknownst to many automotive enthusiasts both FIAT and Mercedes automobiles were assembled in New York State prior to World War I. FIAT in Poughkeepsie, NY from 1910-1918 and Mercedes in Long Island City from 1904-1907).

Born in France in 1880, Maurice J. Rothschild emigrated to the United States in 1903 to serve as the Manhattan representative of the famous Parisian coachbuilder Audineau et Cie. It is unknown if he was related to the famous Parisian coachbuilder Josef Rothschild, whose firm was still in business at the time, although it was now controlled by Messrs. Edmond Rheims and Leon Auscher (Rothschild & Fils, Rheims et Auscher à Paris).

According to US Customs records Maurice J. Rothschild sailed from Le Havre, France on the French ocean liner La Savoie arriving in New York on January 18, 1903. On a subsequent passing he sailed from Southampton, England on the USS Philadelphia, arriving at Ellis Island on Jan 29, 1905. A third passing occurred later in the year with Rothschild returning to New York on August 19, 1905 via Cherbourg, France aboard the US Philadelphia.

The well-known French coachbuilder, Audineau & Cie, was founded by Paul Audineau in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly sur Seine in 1899. (Audineau et Cie, 41 et 43. rue Ibry, à Neuilly Seine) His family had been involved in the construction of vehicle bodies for the previous half-century, and a lithograph dated 1863 (pictured to the left) depicts a Bitricycle Omnibus Audineau. Paul Audineau is credited with introducing extremely lightweight automobile bodies through the utilization of ash framework, aluminum paneling and a minimal use of glass. His Lightweight construction proved popular with early aeronauts and the December 1910 issue of Omnia included a small item stating the firm had produced two "Monoplanes Audineau" to showcase the technology.

Audineau et Cie was reorganized as Ansart-Audineau et Cie in 1920 when he went into partnership with Jacques Ansart, another well-established Parisian coachbuilder. In 1924 they dissolved the partnership with Ansart forming Ansart & Teisseire and Audineau establishing Carrosserie Francaise Paul Audineau, which shortly introduced Clairalpax, a patented aluminum (Alpax) over ash construction system which was licensed to a handful of other constructors including Castagna. A sunroof-equipped Clairalpax body was introduced in 1926, but by within two years he was out of business. 

The October 26, 1905 issue of the Automobile mentions Rothschild's association with the Parisian coachbuilder:

"Ernest S. Partridge, vice-president and general manager of the Decauville Automobile Company, sailed for Paris, Thursday, on the Amerika, to oversee personally the preparation of Decauville cars for the forthcoming shows. While in Paris he will also attend to the establishment of the Paris branch of the American company, which has been rendered necessary by the large number of cars owned by Americans who are touring through or living in Europe. Mr. Partridge will be accompanied by M. J. Rothschild, American representative of the firm of Audinot et Cie.*, auto body builders."

(*error, should be Audineau et Cie, not Audinot et Cie)

The January 20, 1906 issue of the New York Daily Tribune indicates that Audineau would be establishing a US factory that would stock and finish French-built bodies-in-the-white for Manhattan's high-end automobile dealers:

"M. Rothschild, the American member of the firm of Audineau et Cie, whose automobile bodies have been so widely shown and admired at the Decauville, C. G. V., Smith & Mabley. Archer & Co., Aster and Mendel, Dale & Co. stands at the Garden and armory, has made the announcement that on March 1 he will open a factory in New York, where the bodies built in France will be finished for the importers who are sending him hurry orders and for several prominent American manufacturers who desire Audineau bodies for their high powered chassis. This finishing factory in New York will be run under the supervision of a Parisian superintendent educated in the Audineau ways and styles."

The January 25, 1906 issue of The Automobile included a description of bodies that could be seen at the New York Importers Salon:

"In one Rothschild body a small seat for a child pulls out from the center of the rear seat."

It's likely that the Rothschild body in question was supplied by J. Rothschild & Fils, and not by Audineau's representative Maurice J. Rothschild, as his New York facility wasn't yet in operation.  The same issue's News & Trade Miscellany column included the following 2 announcements:

"M. Rothschild, the American member of the firm of Audineau et Cie, has made the announcement that, on March 1 he will open a factory in New York, where the bodies built in France will be finished for the importers who are sending him hurry orders and for several prominent American manufacturers who desire Audineau bodies for their high-powered chassis. This finishing factory in New York will be run under the supervision of a Parisian superintendent, educated in the Audineau ways and styles."

"W. Gould Brokaw has ordered from Audineau & Co., the Parisian body builders, an enclosed body of unique character to be placed on a 50-horsepower Fiat chassis. The car will be a sort of "cruiser" and will have seats which can be made into a berth for sleeping; there will be a washstand and complete toilet fittings, an ice-box, provision storage, electric lights and numerous other conveniences, so that a small party can indulge in long "land cruises" without having recourse to hotels."

Capt. William Gould Brokaw (b. June 14, 1865-d. Feb. 18 1941) was the son of William Vail Brokaw, a partner in Brokaw Brothers, the successful New York clothiers. His mother was Elizabeth Foote (Gould) Brokaw, daughter of J. Mitchell Gould, a stair rod manufacturer from Newark, New Jersey. When he came of age, Brokaw inherited a fortune and spent the rest of his life spending it. During the late 19th and early 20th century he spent over a million dollars on yachts, race horses, mansions and fast cars and provided the capital behind J. Walter Christie's various automotive ventures as well as the great Parisian/American coachbuilders Hibbard & Darrin, both of which held him responsible for their demise.

The April 19, 1906 issue of The Automobile provided the address of Audineau/Rothschild's Manhattan factory:

"F. Rothschild, the Parisian builder of automobile bodies, has established an American factory at 530 West Twenty-seventh street, New York City, where he has forty men at work under a French superintendent. The business is in process of incorporation by M. J. Rothschild, son of the house, under the home title of Rothschild et Cie. J. R. Chisholm, who at one time imported the Decauville car, is interested in the business management."

The April 20, 1906 issue of the New York Times listed the firm under its New York Incorporation listings for April 19, 1906:

"Rothschild & Co., New York, (automobiles); capital, $30,000. Directors - W. H. Mendel, M. J. Rothschild. N. D. Reich, New York."

As to which Rothschild the April 19, 1906 Automobile article refers to ("F. Rothschild"), it is assumed that it refers to  J. Rothschild & Fils although another firm with the same name was active in the Parisian suburb of  Levallois-Perret at that time, Carrosserie Clément-Rothschild, with its factory at 33 Quai Michelet Levallois-Perret, Paris, France. It is not known whether the two Parisian firms bearing the Rothschild name were directly connected, but it is clear that M.J. Rothschild's New York operations were not connected to either of them.

The more recognized of those two firms, J. Rothschild & Fils, 131 Avenue Malakoff, was founded in the Parisian suburb of Levallois-Perret in 1838 by Austrian-born Josef Rothschild. One of France's oldest makers, the firm is known to have built automobile coachwork as early as 1894. Soon afterwards the firm was purchased by two young engineering graduates of École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, Messrs. Edmond Rheims and Leon Auscher. (Rothschild & Fils, Rheims et Auscher à Paris) who pioneered the manufacture of aluminum composite automobile coachwork in 1896.

The May 9, 1906 issue of The Horseless Age announced the incorporation of Rothschild & Co.:

"Rothschild & Co., New York City.—Capital, $30,000; to deal in automobiles. Incorporators, W. H. Mendel, M. J. Rothschild and N. D. Reich, all of New York city."

William H. Mendel was a wealthy Mt. Vernon, New York investor who in collaboration with his son, William H. (Harold) Mendel Jr. and William G. Dale established Mendel, Dale & Company, at a 219 W. 58th St., the Manhattan distributor of the French-built Berliet. He also held an interest in the Upton Motor Co. of Lebanon, PA whose Upton automobile was also distributed by Mendel, Dale & Co.

William H. Mendel Sr. (b. 1864-d.1918) was also involved in a number of lucrative New York businesses which included W.H. Mendel, Inc., (operated the parcel room at Grand Central Station and a popular restaurant at 430 Fourth Ave.) the Columbus Realty Co., the Westchester-Bronxville Realty Co., and the Postal Life Insurance Co. of New York. He was also president of the Mt. Vernon Automobile Club, one of the more active clubs in the Metropolitan New York area at the time.

Nathaniel D. Reich (b.1881-d.1967) was a wealthy New York attorney who held interests in the Amsterdam Ave. Realty Co., the Seaman Realty Holding Co., the Metropolitan Holding Co., the Ada-lur-iem Medicine Co., and the International Hat Works.

A November 11, 1906 Wyckoff, Church & Partridge display ad in the New York Times advertised a number of C.G.V.'s bodied by Rothschild:

50 H.P. C.G.V. touring body by Rothschild & Fils, immediate delivery.
20-25 H.P. C.G.V. landaulet, .delivery In one week
30-35 H.P. C.G.V. demountable limousine, delivery ten (10) days.
45 H.P. English Daimler, limousine Rothschild body.
30-40 H.P. English Daimler, touring Rothschild body, immediate delivery;

Another WCP display advertisement dated January 16, 1907 shows a C.G.V. with a Rothschild et Fils Limousine body. WCP distributed C.G.V., English Daimler, Stearns, Franklin and Babcock Electric.

Another WCP display advertisement dated February 10, 1908 advertised a Rothschild limousine body on a 1908 Stearns chassis.

In 1907 Leon Rubay (b.1870-d.1937) joined Rothschild & Co. as manager of their wholesale sales department. Rubay was already well-known to Manhattan's auto-related establishments. Shortly after his arrival from Paris in 1902 he began selling European auto parts and accessories.

The May 6, 1903 issue of The Horseless Age reported:

"Frank B. Davis, of Youngstown, Ohio, and Leon Rubay of Paris, France, have formed a partnership under the style of Davis & Rubay, to import French automobiles and supplies."

Apparently the partnership was short-lived as the October 1, 1903 issue of The Automobile Review inferred that Rubay was now on his own:

"Leon Rubay Expands His Business.

"Leon Rubay, 136 W. Thirty-eighth street. New York, has recently commenced the importation of French automobile supplies and is carrying in stock a full line of the electric ignition goods of J. Lacoste et Cie of Paris (for whom M. Rubay is sole agent in the United States and Canada), Ducellier lamps, Continental tires, French horns, etc.

"The induction coil Lacoste is being taken up by the leading French manufacturers, Panhard et Levassor alone having placed an order for 2,500 of the type suitable for their cars. Mons. Rubay has in stock this coil in various styles adapted to Panhard, Peugeot, DeDetrich, Clement, Decauville and other cars.

"Other Lacoste specialties are, accumulators in three sizes, charging sockets, Ignition controllers, advance sparking apparatus, spark plugs and spark intensifier. Having a thorough knowledge of automobiles and their requirements in ignition apparatus M. Rubay is qualified to specify for individual needs and invites correspondence."

The Sept 3, 1904 issue of The Automobile announced Rubay's move to an adjacent facility:

"Leon Rubay, New York, United States representative of J. Lacoste & Co., Paris, has moved into the premises at 140 West Thirty-eighth street, recently vacated by the Richard-Brasier agency, and will carry a very complete line of automobile accessories of all kinds, including tires. Electrical apparatus for automobiles will be a specialty, as heretofore."

The firm's 1906 Trow Copartnership and Corporation Directory of New York listing follows:

"Leon Rubay: Leon Rubay, pres.; C.N. Pitcher, sec.; Capital $25,000. Directors: Leon Rubay, C.N. Pitcher, H. J. Hinley; 140 W 38th St."

By that time Rubay had expanded his line which now included M & B Bearings (Malicet et Blin), LaCoste electrics, Bleriot & Zanardini lamps, Titus & Helena tools, Continental, Michelin & Samson tires. He also launched a Boston branch at 242 Columbus Ave.

The December 22, 1906 issue of The Automobile included a mention of Rubay's recent trip to France:

"Leon Rubay returned last Saturday on La Provence, from his annual visit to the Paris Salon. Mr. Rubay brought back with him a number of new things which he will introduce to the American market. While on the other side he obtained the exclusive agency for the Bleriot lamps and generators and the Titus portable socket wrench. Mr. Rubay also made arrangements to introduce to this market a complete motor and dynamo outfit for house lighting, having capacities from 1 to 130 horsepower. This lighting engine consists of a gas engine and a dynamo attached, and is built to be operated by inexperienced people. Mr. Rubay will also exhibit at his space in the coming show, the Argus headlight bracket, which turns in the same direction as the front wheels and enables the driver to see just where he is going. Another new thing which Mr. Rubay will show is the Lacoste high-tension magneto."

Rubay's 1908 International Motor Cyclopedia listing follows and it's interesting to note that Paul Lacroix, general manager of Renault Freres Manhattan selling branch, was now the firm's vice-president:

"Rubay, Leon.—1697 Broadway, New York City. Est. 1900. Supply dealer and importer Lacoste ignition coils, commutators, magnetos, batteries, wire terminals, plugs. Bleriot lamps. Malicet and Blin ball bearings. Leon Rubay, Pres. and Treas.; Paul Lacroix, Vice-Pres.; Geo. Lamberty, Sec."

Apparently both Rubay and his finances were spread too thin and the March 12, 1908 issue of the Motor Way announced the firm's receivership:

"Rubay Fails After Selling Boston Branch.

"Peter Zucker was yesterday appointed receiver for Leon Rubay, Inc., New York, who dealt chiefly with imported accessories. The petitioning creditors alleged that the corporation was insolvent and had admitted in writing its inability to pay its debts. Its assets are placed at $4,000. Previous to the failure, the Rubay branch in Boston, had been taken-over by the Percy Ford Co., a $1,000 company formed for the purpose under New York laws. Ford himself already was connected with the Rubay establishment."

The May 7, 1908 issue of Motor World listed a schedule of the bankruptcy proceedings:

"What Rubay's Schedule Discloses.

Schedules in bankruptcy of Leon Rubay, Inc., the New York accessory importer who failed some two months ago, show liabilities of $25,186. The assets, amounting to $19,562, consist of cash, $586, stock and fixtures, $5,945, and accounts $13,031."

After the failure of his parts business Rubay took a sales position with Rothschild. At the time coachwork salesmen were frequently called upon to do produce quick renderings when planning a body and the erstwhile parts importer soon found himself designing much of Rothschild’s coachwork.

At the 1907 Salon, which was held at Madison Square Garden, Rothschild had the largest exhibit. A bare Isottta-Fraschini chassis was prominently featured surrounded by 7 additional chassis, all wearing coachwork by Rothschild.

Rothschild's connection with Audineau must have been terminated after the incorporation of Rothschild & Co. as the 1908 Motor Cyclopedia lists Manhattan Renault Freres distributor Lewis P. McNamara as Audineau's New York agent:

"MacNamara, Lewis P.—1591 Broadway. New York City. (Renault.) U. S. agent for Audineau & Cie, body builders, Paris, France. Est. 1899."

Dec 29, 1907 New York Times:

"Importers Automobile Salon at Madison Square Garden:

"The central part of the floor on either side of the middle aisle is occupied by the exhibits of the Rochet, Hotchkiss, de Dietrich, Renault, Delahaye, Delaunay-Belleville, Pillain, Fiat, Clement, C.G.V., Isotta-Fraschini cars, and those of the Rothschild body exhibit. In the spaces to the left, beneath the platform, are the Panhard and Benz cars, and five machines showing Brewster bodies. The side aisle to the right is bordered by the Maja, Bianchi, Rolls-Royce, Zust, and Quinby bodies…

"The Rolls-Royce, the only English machine, shows a beautiful six-cylinder chassis and nearby, in the Isotta booth is the latest 40-45 horse power polished chassis turned out from the Italian factory. Besides this chassis there are seven Isotta cars equipped with Rothschild bodies, one of the richest being a limousine finished in polished mahogany."

The August 30, 1908 New York Times reported on a new Renault chassis designed specifically for American roads to which a Rothschild body had been fitted:

"Renault's American Car

"French Firm Builds a Special Chassis Adapted to American Roads

"Renault is putting out especially for the American Market a light car of lower horse power adapted particularly for American roads. The chassis is lighter, shorter, and narrower that the regulation French model, and has a higher clearance – 10 inches. The radiator is wider than the standard, with a long bonnet, while the springs are re-enforced, high axles are used, a tilted wheel, short levers, and other suitable changes to accommodate a runabout or baby tonneau. The chassis weighs less than 2,000 pounds, while the body building space is 94 ½ inches by 31 ½ inches, carried on a 120-inch wheel base.

"The motor is a 20-30 horsepower engine with four cylinders of four-inch bore and 5 ¾-inch stroke, in every respect identical with the motor used in the foreign cars of the same size. The first of the cars to arrive in this country was equipped with a Rothschild body, with an arrangement whereby the two double seats may be changed, the rear seats be detached and a single rumble substituted. In the same way the hood can be attached either to the front or back seats, as desired.

"Paul Lacroix is using the first car personally."

The firm was listed in the March 1908 edition of The Trow (formerly Wilson's) Co-partnership & Corporation Directory of the Boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx, City of New York as follows:

"Rothschild & Co. (automobiles) (N.Y ) (Maurice J. Rothschild, Pres.: William H. Mendel. Sec. Capital, $30.000. Directors: Maurice J. Rothschild, James R. Chisholm, William H. Mendel) 530 W. 27th"

This Week's Patents column in the August 27, 1908 issue of The Motor World included the following patent:

"889,402. Carriage and Automobile Body. Maurice J. Rothschild, New York, N. Y., assignor to Rothschild & Company, New York, N. Y., a Corporation of New York. Filed Sept. 16, 1907. Serial No. 393,001.

A column in a 1909 issue of the New York Times, called “Enclosed Bodies Popular”, quotes Maurice J. Rothschild:

“There is a marked tendency towards bodies of the inclosed type and toward lighter-weight bodies of all types, pointing out that it is beginning to be the rule and not the exception for people who own but one car to have it fitted with an enclosed body, either of the limousine type or pone of the several types of landaulette bodies”.

A 1909 ad states:

"Rothschild Bodies Set the Style. We build all metal bodies of the highest quality. Our methods of construction are guaranteed by patents. Rothschild bodies carry an unqualified guarantee. Factory, 530-532 West 27th Street; showroom, Broadway at 58th & 59th Sts."

The September 5, 1909 New York Times reported on a Rothschild-bodied Renault competing in a Washington to Boston Run:

"Thirty Cars Now in Munsey Endurance Run.

"Thirty cars, representing twenty-six different makes, are now entered in the Frank A Munsey reliability contest from Washington to Boston Sept. 21 to 29. As the entry list does not close until Sept. 11, it is expected that several additional nominations will be made. The list now equals that of the Glidden Tour, and more makes of cars are included.

"One of the most recent entries was that of a Renault car by Leo H. Schaab, the Baltimore representative of Renault Freres. It is not unusual for foreign-made cars to compete in speed events, but it is somewhat out of the ordinary to have them compete in reliability contests. MR Schaab will drive the car in the tour. The Renault is equipped with a Rothschild body, making it the highest priced car in the run…."

In 1910, Rothschild advertised that their factory had moved to a larger building at the corner of 57th Street and 11th Avenue:

“Carrosserie Automobile, Rothschild & Co.: Designers and Builders of Artistic Aluminum Coachwork for Foreign and American Chassis, especial attention given to developing and perfecting original ideas. Dust proof luggage compartments for extended touring. Well-equipped repair and storage departments. Estimates submitted. Entire plant devoted to Building and Repairing Automobile Coachwork. No Motors Repaired or Sold. 57th St. and Eleventh Ave."

November 17, 1910 The Automobile:

"Rothschild & Co., Body Makers, Fail

"Bankruptcy proceedings were commenced Monday against Rothschild & Company, manufacturers of automobile bodies at 550 West Fifty-seventh street, New York City. Lillian H. Mendel, of Mount Vernon, and several other creditors instituted the proceedings. Federal Judge Hough named Charles Singer receiver under $5,000 bonds and authorized him to continue the business for ten days.

"Liabilities are estimated at $100,000 and the schedule of assets foots up about $30,000. The company has on hand about $50,000 in contracts and the work of the receiver will be to fill as many as possible during his tenure of office. The company was formed in 1906 with capital of $35,000. This was increased subsequently to $200,000."

The increase in capital was provided by Charles A. Singer, Jr. & Sr. who purchased an interest in the firm in order to provide coachwork for their Manhattan Simplex and Palmer-Singer distributorship. Charles A. Singer Jr. & Sr. entered the motor trade in January of 1906 with the establishment of the Matheson Co. with Jr. being associated with the design and production of the Matheson, Simplex, Palmer-Singer and (later) Singer automobiles.

The Singers also held an interest in another coachbuilder, the Holbrook-Singer Company. Organized in 1908 by two experienced metropolitan New York coachbuilders, Henry (Harry) F. Holbrook and John (Jack) Graham, the firm provided high-grade custom-built bodies for the Singer's Palmer-Singer and Simplex automobiles.

The organization of the Holbrook-Singer Co. coincided with the organization of the Palmer-Singer Co. with Holbrook-Singer and its successor, The Holbrook Co. supplying most of the coachwork for both Simplex and Palmer-Singer automobiles between 1908 and 1912.

Holbrook-Singer's capital was furnished by Charles Singer Jr. & Sr., John Graham, Henry F. Holbrook and David J. Levett. With a factory located at 509-15 W. 56th St., New York, New York, the firm's organization was reported in the February 19, 1908 issue of the Horseless Age:

"Holbrook-Singer Co., Larchmont, Westchester County, N. Y.—Capital, $15.000. Directors. Henry F. Holbrook, 58 West Fifty-ninth street: Charles A. Singer, Jr., and David J. Levett. Larchmont, N. Y. To manufacture motors, vehicles, etc."

The Holbrook-Singer plant was leased from Schock, Gusmer & Co., a manufacturer of brewing equipment for the beverage industry. The "In The Real Estate" column of the March 31, 1908 New York Times recorded the following lease:

"Gustav Schock to the Holbrook-Singer Company, 7,000 square feet of space in 511 West Fifty-Sixth St."

Charles A. Singer Jr. was an executive of the Singer Sewing Machine Co., who along with Henry U. Palmer, A.P. Palmer and his father Charles A. Singer, Sr., owned the Manhattan sales branch of the Pennsylvania-built Matheson Automobile. A dispute with the Matheson Motor Car Co. resulted in the creation of the Palmer-Singer Co. who took over sales of the Simplex automobile and embarked upon the manufacture of their own vehicle in early 1908. The January 22, 1908 issue of the Horseless Age reported:

"Palmer & Singer Manufacturing Company's Product.

"As recently announced in these columns, the Palmer & Singer Manufacturing Company, who last year handled the Matheson car in New York, have given up that agency, and it is now announced that they have acquired the agency for the Simplex, made by the Simplex Manufacturing Company, who are the successors to the Smith & Mabley Manufacturing Company, Inc. The Simplex will, from now on, be made in one model only, rated at 50-60 horse power. The sale of this make was formerly pushed only in New York and Philadelphia, but it is the intention of the Palmer & Singer Manufacturing Company to secure a national market for it. C. M. Hamilton, who has been identified with the Simplex product since it was first put on the market, has joined the Palmer & Singer Manufacturing Company.

"In addition to the Simplex the company will offer three models of its own manufacture, as follows: A four cylinder, seven passenger touring car, rated at 40-45 horse power, to be known as the P. & S. Four-forty; a town car which can be fitted with either brougham, limousine, landaulet or Berlin body, and a six cylinder, 60 horse power runabout, to be known as the P. & S. Six-sixty. All three models will be fitted with high tension magneto ignition. It is expected to have them ready for demonstration within a month."

In 1910, the W.S. Seaman Co., a Milwaukee, Wisconsin coachbuilder, formed a partnership with Rothschild whereby Seaman produced Maurice J. Rothschild-designed bodies for distribution in the mid-west, and even formed a subsidiary, the Rothschild-Seaman Co. for that purpose. Another Rothschild & Co. satellite sales office was located in Chicago at State & Van Buren Streets.

Despite their pending bankruptcy, the firm's coachwork was prominently displayed at the 1911 Importers Auto Salon. The January 4, 1911 New York Times reported on a number of sales Rothschild-equipped chassis at the event:

"P.V. Clodio, sales manager of the Benz Auto Import Co., reported the sale of the following cars: Russell Grace, an 18 horse power landaulet, body by Burr & Co.; J.L. Philips, a 30 horse power car with a Rothschild body… There is also a white gunboat body made by Rothschild & Co., mounted on a 50 horse power chassis, a dark green limousine with gold striping by Burr & Co., and a Rothschild limousine, with black body and red wheels, mounted on a 30 horse power chassis."

The 1911 catalog for Peugeot Auto Import, 229 W 57th St. New York City, the sole Peugeot distributor for Cuba and North America, pictured a number of Rothschild bodies as follows: 43 HP Cardan with Rothschild body , 40 HP Cardan with Rothschild body and 38 HP Cardan Touring.

At the 1911 Salon, held in the Hotel Astor Ballroom, Rothschild displayed a 50hp Benz with a white gunboat body as well as a 30hp Benz with a black limousine body and red chassis and wheels.

The remaining assets of the firm were purchased at auction by Mendel and Singer, who sold off the bulk of the firm's leftover coachwork to the Jandorf Automobile Co., a large Manhattan used automobile and coachwork retailer located at 1741 Broadway, in the heart of New York City’s Automobile Row. An early 1912 Jandorf ad advertised their newly acquired inventory:

“1,000 Auto Bodies – Bargains. Bought large stock of “Rothschild” at auction. The Swellest Ever! 250 Fore-Door, Finest Make, for five of for seven passengers. 200 Limousines and Landaulets of three best makers: trimming to suit. 205 Runabouts, short coupled, Toy Tonneaus, Touring, etc.: Slightly used and new. Also Tops, Windshields, Seats, etc. [We save you 40% to 75%] and finished to suit: complete quick job.”

Jandorf also acquired the services of John D. Cogan, a former Rothschild superintendent who shortly afterwards formed his own coachworks as reported in the January 1914 issue of The Carriage Monthly:

“John D. Cogan, until recently superintendent of the Jandorf Automobile Co., New York, has leased the property at 214 and 216 West Sixty-fifth Street for five years at an annual rental of $7,000. Mr. Cogan will carry on a general automobile business and build automobile bodies for all chassis. There will also be a used car department and tire department. Prior to his connection with the Jandorf company. Mr. Cogan was with the firm of Rothschild & Co., New York City.”

March 10, 1912 New York Times display ad:

"Rothschild & Co.

"We have a limited number of five and seven passenger touring bodies which we will trim and paint to your specifications and mount on your chassis at on-third of their original cost. Orders must be given at once.

"57th St. and 11th Ave."

In 1912 Rothschild's spacious 57th St. and 11th Ave plant was leased to Billy Durant's Republic Co. which used it to assemble the Little Four automobile, the direct predecessor of the first Chevrolet. The Republic Company of New York was incorporated by Durant on June 17, 1912, and by April 1913 was assembling the final batch of 200 Little Fours (most of which were exported to the UK). The former Rothschild plant went on to build Chevrolet cars under the auspices of the Chevrolet Motor Company of New York, and was closed down in September 1918, when Chevrolet production moved to the firm's new plant in Tarrytown, New York.

At the end of the year William H. Mendel had formed another firm, the Perfection Automobile Body Co., which was organized in October, 1912. The New Incorporations column of the October 31, 1912 issue of Motor World reported:

"New York, "N. Y.—Perfection Automobile Body Co., under New York laws, with $15,000 capital; to manufacture motor car bodies. Corporators—William H. Mendel, 145 Summit avenue, Mount Vernon; William H. Mendel, Jr., 2650 Broadway; James V. Simpson, 239 Summit avenue, Mount Vernon."

The 1918 New York City Directory of Directors lists the following officers: William H. Mendel, president; George W. Alger, vice-president; (Alger was a partner in the firm Alger & Ayres, and was president of the Lourain Construction Co.). James V. Simpson was also an attorney?, a partner in Alger & Simpson.

Rubay found a job with Holbrook & Co, and during 1914 moved to Cleveland to design automobiles for White. In 1916 he formed Rubay & Co. in partnership with Paul Lacroix, producing not only their own coachwork, Duesenberg (77), but their own chassis as well.

After Rothschild's 1911 bankruptcy Seaman continued building custom coachwork using the Rothschild-Seaman badging, but abandoned the moniker in 1915. Between 1910 and 1915 Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago and St. Louis distributors mounted custom Rothschild-Seaman bodies on Cadillac, Cole, Dorris, Locomobile, Lozier, Marmon Packard, and Velie chassis.

During 1913 Rothschild-Seaman supplied production bodies for the Jeffery Six, a mid-priced luxury car produced in Kenosha, Wisconsin. What follows is a snippet of text from a 1913 Jeffery display advertisement:

"Yet the Jeffery is the pioneer in using this new idea, providing both power and economy for American buyers. Paris approved the new style Rothschild body. He took it to New York; Jeffery introduced it to the American public. Those are two exclusive high grade features. You will want to know about the others….

"Rothschild body with extra wide doors and low, deep seats, full floating rear axle. This car is made. 5 passenger touring or two passenger roadster at $2250; six passenger at $2300; Sedan five passenger $3250 and limousine, at $3700."

The March 4, 1913 issue of the Official Gazette of the U.S. Patent office included the following automobile body design patent:

"43,679. Automobile Body. Maurice J. Rothschild, New York, N. Y., assignor to Rothschild-Seaman Company, Milwaukee, Wis., a corporation of Wisconsin. Filed Jan. 20, 1913, Serial number 743,213. Term of Patent 3 ½ years. The ornamental design for an automobile body as shown"

William H. Mendel's Perfection Automobile Body Co. held the rights to Maurice J. Rothschild's 1908 body patent, and according to an article in the September, 1919 issue of the Automobile Manufacturer was contemplating legal action against a number of well-known automobile body manufacturers:

"Warning to Infringers of Body Patent

"The Perfection Automobile Body Co. has sent out a warning to infringers of the Rothschild automobile body patent which covers a peculiar form of body construction. The construction involved applies particularly to enclosed bodies, and is a method of avoiding the use of external moldings in joining the sheathing of upper and lower sections of the body. For this purpose the sheathing of the upper section is turned under the edge of a bar, bent to conform to the body, which itself is secured to the framework from the inside, thus clamping the sheathing in place. The patent, No. 889,402, was issued to Maurice J. Rothschild in 1908, and by him assigned to the Rothschild Body Co., which has since gone out of existence. It is now owned by the Perfection Automobile Body Co., of New York, which exacts a fee for its use.

"Among users of this construction are the following concerns: Locomobile Co. of America, Fisher Body Co., Blue Ribbon Carriage and Auto Co., Willoughby Co., Biddle & Smart Co., Winton Co., New Haven Carriage Co., Holbrook Co., Racine Mfg. Co., Hollander & Morrill, Inc., Currier Cameron Co., Rubay Co., Farnham-Nelson Co., Charles Albresch Co., and Locke & Co."

On April 28, 2001 Christies auctioned a Rothschild-equipped Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, chassis no. 1322. The circa 1910 Rothschild & Co. Roi-de-Belges coachwork was not originally fitted to the car which after numerous body exchanges had been fitted with replica Mulliner Balloon Roadster coachwork in 1978. A description of the car from the auction catalog follows:


"Black with maroon pinstriping, aluminium bonnet, maroon tufted leather interior and matching wool carpeting.

"Engine: six cylinder, 7,248cc., side valves, 48bhp at 1,000rpm; Gearbox: three-speed manual; Suspension: front, semi-elliptic leaf springs, rear, three quarter elliptic; Brakes: two wheel drum. Right hand drive.

"In 2000 the replica Balloon coachwork was removed and replaced by a superb contemporary Roi-des-Belges touring body that for many years was fitted to the 1908 Silver Ghost, chassis number 60712. This Rothschild body was originally discovered by noted collector Tom Batchelor on the third floor of a Missouri carriage house and he fitted it to 60712 in around 1980. In its current condition this splendid car is painted black with black wings and maroon striping for added visual appeal. The bonnet has been left in a polished aluminium state, while the interior is trimmed in maroon tufted leather with matching wool carpeting. All of the lamps and bright work are finished in polished brass including those wonderful self-generating Lucas driving lights."

A 24hp. Rothschild & Son automobile is included in the 1905 New England Motor Vehicle Registration Roster, which was owned by J.C. Phillips of Boston. The 1905 Red Book entry follows: "Mass. reg #6121, J. C. Phillips; 299 Berkeley, Boston (24hp Rothschild & Son)." It is likely that the vehicle in question was bodied by the French coachbuilder Rothschild et Fils, and that Mr. Philips used the name on the builder's plate when he registered his 24hp. car which was likely a 24hp. Benz.

I could find no familial connection between our subject and the better-known Chicago-based automotive financier of the same name. That Maurice Rothschild served as president, vice-president and chairman of a number of early automobile and truck manufacturers which include; Apperson, Haynes, Lozier, Pioneer Automobile, Regal, Republic Truck, Standard Motor Car Co., etc.

Although they shared the same name, no connection was discovered between Manhattan clothier Maurice J. (Patsy) Rothschild, whose family businesses included S. Rothschild & Brother; Abraham & Straus Co. and Macy's.

No records could be located indicating what happened to Maurice J. Rothschild after 1913 and it is assumed he returned to France.

I recently heard from the granddaughter of Herbert M. Rice, the chauffeur pictured with the circa 1910 Rothschild-bodied Renault seen to the right. Family legend indicates he worked for Col. John Jacob Astor (IV) which would indicate the car likely belonged to the Astor family as well:

"When Herbert immigrated from England in 1905 he advertised for work in New York City as a coachman (he had experience with horses and coaches). Family legend says he worked for Col. J.J. Astor (and named his 2nd son Vincent for Col. Astor's son, William Vincent) and I would love to either prove or disprove this story. Herbert went on to work as a chauffeur in New York and later in the taxi industry until his death in 1943."

Col. Astor was one of the numerous wealthy New Yorkers who perished in the April 15, 1912 Titanic disaster.

© 2011 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to Kathleen O'Neill






Leon Rubay - Automobile Quarterly Vol. 37, No. 4

Richard Wager - Golden Wheels

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - Packard: A History of the Motorcar and Company

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

Frederick I. Olson - Seaman Body Corporation , in The Automobile Industry, 1896 -1920, ed. by George S. May, Vol. 1, pub 1970

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