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Schildwachter Automobile Co., 1913-1918; Schildwachter Auto Body Co., 1918-1931, (Bronx) New York, New York
Associated Builders
Schildwächter & Traenkle, 1850s-1870s; Schildwachter Carriage Co., 1870s-1913; (Harlem) New York, New York

Schildwachter is among a select group of Manhattan-based body builders that worked in the pre-classic era, bodying high-class imported and domestic chassis for New York’s early automobile dealers.

Schildwachter sold new vehicles and was the Manhattan distributor of Lozier and Sternberg motor trucks. They were specialists in commercial bodies, although small numbers of bespoke automobile bodies were constructed into the mid-20s.

Charles C. Schildwachter was born in 1828 in Bergheim, near Waldeck Prussia (now Edertal, northern Hesse, Germany) where he and his older brother Jacob (b.1823) served as apprentice blacksmiths in a local wagon works.

Around 1850 Charles and his brother Jacob traveled to Darmstadt, a staging point for American-bound immigrants, and booked passage on a New York-bound Bremen to Liverpool steamship.

Upon their arrival in New York the pair quickly found work in one of Manhattans numerous carriage-building houses and used the proceeds to book passage for their wives who soon joined them in Manhattan.

Some Schildwachter family documents record Charles name as Christian which is most likely his middle name, although it’s possible that it was changed from Christian to Charles at the time of his arrival in New York. Jacob’s name is sometimes spelled Jakob. Charles’ side of the family fared significantly better than Jacob’s whose children were renamed Sylvester upon their arrival at Castle Garden.

Drew Schildwachter, Charles Christian Schildwachter's great grandson, explains:

"The reason for the name change to Sylvester was a result of a lost leg at Gettysburg . To collect his veterans pension, he (Jacob) had to retain the name Sylvester because he had been paid by Sylvester to go fight. It is also rumored that he saw the profile of Lincoln at dusk as Lincoln past in his carriage at Gettysburg."

Charles' blessed union with his wife, Friderike Muench (b.1829), resulted in the birth of a daughter, Caroline, in 1854, and two years later a son, Christian W. (b.1856-d.1931).

Jacob’s wife Marie Rudenklau (b.1820) brought along her young son named George John (b.1847) and in 1852 another son, Philip was born in New York. For reasons unknown Philips’s surname was Sylvester. Marie returned to Europe in 1855 and while she was there a daughter named Elsa was born, after which mother and daughter returned to New York. Elsa kept her original surname, which was not changed to Sylvester. Another son named Charles (surname Sylvester) was born in New York in 1860.

An older son named Daniel (b.1849-d.1926), remained in Germany, eventually emigrating to the United States in 1863 in order to work for his uncle’s carriage company. As did his two brothers, Daniel changed his surname to Sylvester when he emigrated.

By the late 1850s the Schildwachter brothers had moved to Harlem where they established a smithworks and wagon repair shop in partnership with another German immigrant named Frederick Traenkle (b.1830 in Wurtenburg Germany).

The Schildwachter & Traenkle wagon works were located in a wooden storefront and factory located at 77-79 East 125th Street near the corner of Fourth Avenue.

Their listing in the 1868 New York City Directory of Corporations and Partnerships follows: Schildwachter & Traenkle; Charles Schildwachter & Frederick Traenkle; E 125th & Third Ave. Although building and repairing business wagons was their main line of work, a small number of pleasure carriages were also manufactured.

The 1867 New York city directory lists Charles C. Schildwachter, blacksmith, at East 125th & Fourth Ave. h. 1925 Third Ave. The directory also lists Jacob Schildwachter, blacksmith, East 125th and Third Ave., h. E.125th & Second Ave.

Although Charles Schildwachter’s eldest son, Christian, worked for him as a teenager, he did not find the work to his liking and embarked upon a career in the dry goods business, eventually marrying Katherina (Catherine) Merle in 1879.

Soon after the establishment of Schildwachter & Traenkle, Charles and Friderike were blessed with three more children, Sophia (b.1867); Charles C. jr. (b.1868); and Philip W.C. Schildwachter (b.1874).

The 1877 NYC Directory lists Charles Schildwachter at 77 E. 125th Street.

Charles C. Schildwachter’s older brother Jacob is noticeably absent from New York City municipal and genealogical records after 1870 and it is assumed he died around that time. His son George listed in the 1880 US Census as a carpenter and continued to be identified as a building contractor in various New York City records well into the 20th century.

Although East Harlem was originally settled by wealthy Dutch and British farmers, by the 1850’s many of the old farms had been abandoned and the area became a refuge for Irish and German immigrants desiring cheap property and housing.

Soon after the arrival of the Schildwachters, the City of New York annexed the area and it was transformed into a middle and upper-middle class neighborhood which soon became the site of a massive wave of speculative development which peaked in 1881 with the arrival of the first elevated railway.

Charles C. Schildwachter’s involvement in real estate coincided with the arrival of the “L” and in 1881 he financed the construction of ten flat houses on the east side of Lincoln avenue, 50 feet north of East 135th Street which were designed by Manhattan architect, William Kusche.

Sometime around 1880 Traenkle sold his interest in the firm to Schildwachter and opened an imported cigar and toy store. The September 17, 1881 NY Real Estate Record lists the sale of a $150 wagon to F.H. Grolle, 116 7th Ave. by “Schildwachter & Keiper”. There was a German blacksmith named John Keiper (b.1852) living in Manhattan at that time, but no further links to Schildwachter have been found.

In 1884 Charles Schildwachter began construction of a new 4-story factory on the east side of Fourth Ave. (later 1885-1889 Park Ave) between East 128th & 129th Streets, just two blocks west of the Harlem River.

A period description of the new plant written by Richard Edwards and published in "New York's Great Industries" (1885 edition) follows:

“Charles C. Schildwachter, Carriage and Wagon Maker, corner Fourth Avenue and 128th Street, Harlem.

“Prominent among the first-class carriage manufacturers of Harlem is Charles C. Schildwachter, whose factory is located at the corner of 4th Avenue and 128th street, formerly 77 and 79 East 125th St.

“This business was established by Mr. Schildwachter in 1866, during which time he has gained an enviable reputation for fine workmanship, finish and style in the work turned out. His new factory, to which he moved in February, 1885, is the largest one of its kind in Harlem, 25x100 feet, and four stories high. The entire premises comprise a repository, paint shops, varnish shop, blacksmiths' shops, and wood shop. The various departments are fitted and equipped with the best machinery and appliances for the work, and an immense stock is carried, including fashionable sleighs in season, and vehicles of every class. Trucks and business wagons of all descriptions are made to order in the best and most satisfactory manner, and jobbing and repairing are promptly attended to. A large number of hands are employed and each department has a competent superintendent. Mr. Charles C. Schildwachter, who is sole proprietor, is a native of Germany, and has resided in this country for many years.”

Members of the Charles C. Schildwachter family were among the original founders and benefactors of the Union Hospital and although they share the same surname, were unrelated to Bronx ‘ice king’ Fred M. Schildwachter, who emigrated to the US sometime around 1900.

A large part of Schildwachter’s business was repairing existing vehicles and New York City records indicate that various New York City agencies including the Parks Department, used Schildwachter as their repair depot.

The following paid inclusion is from the December 4, 1893, New York Times:

“C.C. Schildwachter, 1885 and 1887 Park Avenue, makes a specialty of the Palo Alto runabouts, a very handy and useful trap. He has also a big collection of all styles and designs of Fall and Winter carriages that are finished in very good taste. The Harlem Carriage Factory, as Mr. Schildwachter’s warerooms are known, is noted for the extremely high-class work it turns out. All the timber used in the manufacture of these carriages is well seasoned and carefully put together, making a carriage to stand wear and tear, as well as being beautiful in design.”

In 1894 25-year-old Charles Schildwachter Jr. became involved in a well-publicized scandal which did little to help his family’s carriage business. The New York Times covered the events as they unfolded in court:

New York Times, January 18, 1894 issue:

“EVIDENCE FOR SCHILDWACHTER.; A Sealed Verdict Ordered in Miss Halliday's Breach of Promise Suit.

“Miss Maud Halliday's suit against Charles Schildwachter for $50,000 for breach of promise of marriage and betrayal was continued yesterday before Judge Gildersleeve of the Superior Court, and at 5:30 o'clock in the afternoon the jury was ordered to bring in a sealed verdict.

“Lizzy McGoverm, witness for the defendant, and janitress at 231 East Sixty-ninth Street, swore that during June, 1893, Miss Halliday lived there with Max Lauterbach as his wife. In the cross-examination, however, she became confused, and said she knew noting derogatory to the character of Miss Halliday.

“Katie Rothkranz of 976 Third Avenue said that last June she also lived at 231 East Sixty-ninth Street. She swore that Miss Halliday was living in the house with Lauterbach as his wife. She further said that once when she and Miss Halliday were in Central Park the latter flirted with two men they saw there. One day she said that Lauterbach got down on his knees to Miss Halliday and begged her to be true to him. This piece of evidence made the spectators laugh.

“Counsel for Schildwachter applied to the court for protection, and said that his witnesses were intimidated even outside the Court House. Judge Gildersleeve told the counsel that the trial had proceeded in an orderly manner, and that he had no jurisdiction outside of the courtroom.

“Max Lauterbach took the stand and denied that he had ever lived with Miss Halliday, or that he had ever introduced her as his wife.

“Louise Reuber of 365 East Tenth Street testified that Schildwachter told her that he intended marrying Maud Halliday.

“This closed the evidence, and the lawyers summed up. Judge Gildersleeve’s address to the jury lasted 5 minutes.”

The verdict was announced in the January 19, 1894 New York Times:

“For Miss Maud Halliday, $5,000

“The jury in the Superior Court before which the suit brought by Miss Maud Halliday to recover $50,000 damages from Charles Schildwachter for breach of promise of marriage was tried brought in a sealed verdict of $5,000 in favor of Miss Halliday. The jury retired at 5 o’clock Wednesday night. After discussing the evidence in the case for three hours, they reached the verdict at about 8 o’clock. The long delay was occasioned by the inability of the jurors to agree upon the amount of the verdict. It is not certain whether the case will be appealed. A compromise may be brought about.”

Attorneys for Schildwachter appealed the verdict and two years later it was reversed, as recorded in the following opinion which was written by Justice Barrett.

“Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department. May 22, 1896.
Bastardy—Cross-examination Of Complainant—Chastity.

“Where complainant in a bastardy proceeding testifies on her direct examination that she had never had sexual intercourse with any person other than defendant, that she had always been virtuous, and that defendant had outraged her while she was unconscious, defendant may cross-examine her for the purpose of showing that she had intercourse with other men.

“Appeal from court of general sessions, New York county.

"Bastardy proceeding by the commissioners of charities and corrections, on the complaint of Maude M. Halliday, against Charles C. Schildwachter, Jr. From an order of filiation, defendant appeals. Reversed.

“For decision on former appeal, see 34 N. Y. Supp. 352.
David Welch, for appellant.
David Milliken, Jr., for respondents.

“BARRETT, J. Upon the hearing the complainant, Maude M. Halliday, testified that she had sexual intercourse with the appellant on the 28th day of November, 1891, and that as the result of this intercourse she became pregnant with child, to which she gave birth on the 13th day of August, 1892. She further testified, also upon her direct examination, that she never had connection with any other person, save the appellant, prior or subsequent to the date of her connection with him. She claimed throughout that she was a virtuous woman, and that she had in fact been outraged by the appellant while unconscious. Upon her cross-examination the appellant's counsel endeavored to show that she had had intercourse with other men prior to her intercourse with the appellant. Every question, however, which he put upon this head, was excluded; and the learned judge distinctly ruled that illicit relations of the complainant with other persons prior to the 28th of November, 1891, or about that time, were inadmissible. This we think was erroneous.”

It’s surprising that the court found favor with young Schildwachter, considering his behavior in the year preceding their review of the case. The March 21, 1895 New York Times reported:

“Charles Schildwachter Jr. Arrested

“Charles Schildwachter Jr., son of the wealthy carriage manufacturer, was held in $500 bail in the Tombs Police Court yesterday on a charge of assaulting Charles H. Farrell, a private detective.

“Farrell worked for Schildwachter in the suits brought against him by Miss Maude H. Halliday, daughter of an ex-squad member of the Yorkville Police Courts squad, for breach of promise. Miss Halliday has since charged several witnesses in the case with perjury and conspiracy.

“Farrell and Schildwachter met in the District Attorney’s office on Tuesday, and Schildwachter accused Farrell of giving evidence on Miss Halliday’s present charges of perjury and conspiracy.

“Farrell said Schildwachter cursed him, struck him in the face, and threatened to shoot him.”

As a direct result of Charles Jr.’s notoriety, his older brother, Christian W. Schildwachter, was forced to take over the family’s carriage business when his father passed away in the early 1900s. Although his younger brother, Philip W.C. Schildwachter, was involved with the firm, his main interest was horse racing and horse trading, and not in vehicles.

Philip was a member of the New York Road Drivers' Association and competed in numerous harness races at Manhattan’s Guttenburg and Empire City race tracks. In the early part of the 20th century NYRDA members participated for the Schildwachter Trophy which was named in honor of Phillip’s untiring work for the organization.

In 1905 Phillip was awarded a patent for a “speed wagon” and although it’s likely that the family manufactured small numbers of the vehicle for Philip’s racing friends, it had little to do with the firm’s core product, business carriages and wagons.

Schildwachter’s work in that field drew the attention of Manhattan’s early auto truck distributors, and the soon developed a reputation as a builder of heavy commercial vehicle bodies as evidenced by the April 1909 issue of the Commercial Vehicle:


“After tentative trials with various types of commercial motor vehicles, the New York Herald and Evening Telegram placed in service last month, at the New York office of publication, a complete fleet of gas motor vehicles for the distribution of these dailies to the various railroad depots and city and suburban news dealers. To start the service, eight machines have been installed, the chassis being imported from the Renault factory in Paris and fitted with bodies here by the Schildwachter Carriage Co., of New York. Seven of the machines have a carrying capacity each of 3,400 pounds, and are fitted with 14-20- horsepower four-cylinder motors, 3½-inch bore and 4¼-inch stroke. The other machine is of a lighter type, with carrying capacity of 1,800 pounds, and equipped with two-cylinder io-i4-horsepower gas motor, having cylinders 4 inches by 4¼ inches. On the larger machines the body space is n feet 6 inches by 3 feet nj4 inches, on a 144-inch wheelbase. The tread is 66 inches, and the wheels are 34 by 4½ inches, fitted with pneumatic tires, single in front and dual on the rear wheels. The weight of these machines is 3,000 pounds.

“The smaller wagon has a body space of 9 feet 10 inches by 3 feet 4 inches on n8-inch wheelbase, with 58- inch tread. The wheels are 34 by 4 inches, also fitted with pneumatic tires, and the weight of the vehicle is 2,200 pounds.

“In all the machines the power plant and transmission system follows the familiar Renault pleasure car practice; water-cooled vertical motor, with tubular radiator fitted in front of the dash, and thermo-syphon system of water circulation, sliding gear change-speed mechanism and shaft drive to the rear live axle. The frame is of pressed steel, with trusses stiffening the side members.

“The bodies have been made with great care by a concern having an extensive experience with horsed vehicle construction for business purposes. They are built with sides 12 inches high, with flared racks 8 inches wide, and the tailboard is hinged and fitted with spring catches to keep it in position when running. The three-ply wood top is supported by tough-wood verticals, and under the extension over the driver's seat there are hinged clamps for carrying spare tires. The center line of the top is 68 inches from the floor of the body. Heavy-roll waterproof curtains are fitted to the sides and ends.

“These vehicles will be cared for in a garage owned by the newspaper company, on Thirty-seventh street, between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, where arrangements are now being made for the installation of various machine tools and bench equipment.”

In 1909 the Schildwachter Carriage Company opened a salesroom for automobiles in the Thoroughfare Building which was located in Manhattan’s automobile row at 1777 Broadway. At that time they were the New York City distributor for Lozier commercial vehicles.

After the death of Charles C. Schildwachter Sr., his three sons formed a holding company to handle the family’s numerous real estate investments. Capitalized for $10,000 in 1909, the officers of the Glen Washington Realty Co. were: Christian W. Schildwachter, President; Philip W. Schildwachter, Secretary. Christian, Philip and Charles, the black sheep of the family were listed as directors.

At the February 1910, Newark, New Jersey Automobile show the Newark branch of the Detroit-Cadillac Motor Company, of New York displayed a Cadillac chassis with a Schildwachter commercial body which was designed by C.E. Fisher, manager of the Newark branch.

The 1911 New York City Directory of Directors and Corporations listed Christian W. Schildwachter, as President/director and Phillip W.C. Schildwachter as Secretary-Treasurer/ director of the Schildwachter Carriage Co.

The December 3, 1911 New York Times announced a new Schildwachter sales room:

“The Schildwachter Carriage Co. has rented a booth in the concourse of the Hudson Terminal at Cortlandt St where McIntyre Power Wagons are now exhibited.”

At the 1912 New York Automobile Show Schildwachter exhibited a 4-cylinder 1.5-ton Lozier commercial chassis whose 1.5-ton capacity stake body was removed to show the chassis and drive-train. Also shown was a 2-cylinder 1.5-ton Lozier commercial chassis with a 1-ton capacity stake body

In 1912 they became the New York distributor for Sternberg Motor Trucks, the predecessor of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-built Sterling. Schildwachter announced that they “will maintain a service garage and carry a complete line of all parts.”

The January 19, 1913 New York Times announced the death of Philip W.C. Schildwachter:

“Philip W. Schildwachter, secretary of the Schildwachter Carriage Company, Park Ave and 128th Street, died Friday of nervous prostration at his home, Bronxville Terrace, Bronxville, N.Y. He was 58 years old. Mr. Schildwachter was interested in trading horses and was the inventor of the 58 pound wagon for trotting horses. He was a member of the New York Athletic Club, the Harlem Wheelman, the Sagamore Club and the Property Owner’s Association of Harlem. Mr. Schildwachter left a widow.”

The death of Philip may have been related to the firm’s voluntary bankruptcy announcement a few months later. The Automobile reported:

”The Schildwachter Carriage Co., New York City, has filed a voluntary petition in bankruptcy. The assets of the company are $23,583 and its liabilities $36,486.”

That November The Automobile reported that the:

“Schildwachter Automobile Co., New York City, some time ago adjudged bankrupt, has been re-incorporated with a capital of $30,000.”

Christian was the only Schildwachter involved in the reorganized firm, and it’s likely he bought out Philip’s share in the Carriage Company from his widow.

A late 1913 issue of The Automobile recorded another Schildwachter-related business development:

“New York, NY—United Auto Rim Co.: capital, $50000; to make rims. Incorporators: Christian W. Schildwachter, August Linden, Philip S. Smith.”

August Linden was a Manhattan-based attorney and Philip S. Smith owned a Staten Island paper box company with his brother H. Bridgeman Smith. According to the 1917 NY Directory of Directors, August Linden was United Auto Rim’s President, Treasurer, Manager and Director.

A circa 1913 advertisement for Fred Nuse & Sons of Newark, New Jersey states:

"Manufacturers and Distributors of Carriages, Wagons and Automobiles; High Class Carriage and Automobile Painting; State Agents for McIntyre Passenger and Commercial Cars.  Schildwachter High-class Limousine, Landaulet and Town Car Bodies."

During the War Schildwachter lost their Sternberg/Sterling franchise and somtime around 1915 the firm moved its operations to 2436 Grand Concourse in the Bronx. The firm’s old Park Ave. factory was leased to the neighboring Gristede Brothers grocery store.

Now known as Schildwachter Auto Body Co., the reorganized firm’s new garage and showroom was located between 187th & 188th St., directly across the street from the future site of one of the Bronx’ most famous landmarks, the Loews Paradise Theater, which opened up in 1929.

Christian W. Schildwachter was also associated with a small taxi and limousine service known as the Grand Concourse Service Co. that was located in the same building at the corner of 188th Street.

During the twenties the Schildwachter plant which was run by George White who acted as superintendent of the factory and manager of the sales department. Although most of Schildwachter’s output was truck bodies, they were occasionally called upon to produce a bespoke automobile body.

In 1923 Manhattan-based body designer, J. Frank de Causse, commissioned the firm to build three bodies for Manhattan’s Benz distributor, the Benz Auto Import Co. of America. The bodies were designed for the 50 hp six-cylinder Benz Chassis; two open body styles (a phaeton and a roadster) and two closed (a sedan and a collapsible cabriolet).

Although an occasional commercial body was produced into the late-20s Schildwachter’s gradually became an auto body repair shop, finally closing its doors in late 1931 when its owner, Charles M. Schildwachter passed away.

At the time of his November 28, 1931 death, Schildwachter had amassed a substantial real estate portfolio which was inherited by his wife Katherina and three daughters, Caroline, Catherine and Flora. His widow followed him in death on November 27, 1936.

© 2004 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to Drew Schildwachter






Edwards and Critten - New York's Great Industries, pub 1885 

Walter E. Gosden – J. Frank De Causse: The man of mystery and his motorcars - Automobile Quarterly Vol. 19 No. 2

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

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