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Smith & Mabley
Smith & Mabley Inc., 1901-1907; Smith & Mabley Mfg. Co., 1904-1907; New York, New York
Associated Builders
Simplex Automobile Co.

Continued from Page 1

The August 31, 1905 issue of the Automobile included a piece highlighting the firm's short, yet successful history up to that time:

"The Story of a Quick Business Success in the Automobile Field.

"SIX or seven years ago a young man on the Consolidated Exchange in New York who had some money to spend in amusement, conceived the idea that he could get a large measure of fun out of an automobile. He was not a mechanical man, and had not studied engineering, so he called to his aid in selecting a machine his brother-in-law, a young man who had attained his majority only a year or so before but who had given up a position with the New York Telephone Company to engage in the electrical contracting business on his own account. He was interested in mechanics and of course had a good knowledge of electrical work.

"Together they considered one car and another—there were not many different makes in those days—and finally became especially interested in a 6-horsepower Panhard-Levassor. Careful examination of this French machine revealed the excellence of the material and workmanship in it, and the younger man recommended its purchase. So it was bought and it gave satisfaction.

"Friends took note of it, watched its performance in use and then wanted to buy it. It was sold and another machine of the same make, but of 8 horsepower, took its place. The second car met the same fate as the first, but possession of the two machines had awakened a desire in both young men to learn why the French machines were better and so much higher priced than cars then made in this country, and what special conditions were responsible for the difference.

"As the elder of the two wanted to get a new car to replace the last one sold, the younger one went to Paris to make a selection, as at that time no one was dealing in French cars in New York city. When he got there, he found that the manufacture and use of automobiles was already well established in the French capital, where the work of designing and building them was being undertaken as a serious engineering problem and that the best obtainable material and workmen were employed.

"Several new cars were bought, and upon returning home arrangements were made to open an office for the sale and storage of foreign cars in New York, as, despite a widespread prejudice against foreign machines, it was believed that there were enough persons on this side who would want to buy and use the best cars the market afforded to make such an enterprise profitable.

"Under the partnership name of Smith & Mabley, a small office was opened in the Automobile Exchange, on the north side of Thirty-eighth street, between Broadway and Seventh avenue, and arrangements were made with the Exchange management for the storage and care of cars owned by their patrons. The elder member of the firm was A. D. Proctor Smith and the younger Clinton R. Mabley. Mr. Smith took charge of the outside work and the sales, while Mr. Mabley took care of the inside management.

"The Automobile Exchange was then handling several American cars, such as the Winton and Stearns. It was about the only sales and storage station in the city, and its availability decided the location for the new firm—in fact, this was practically the beginning of the Thirty-eighth street "automobile row" that grew up later and all but monopolized the block on that street between Broadway and Seventh avenue.

"That was five years ago. With the starting of the new enterprise an order was placed in Paris for a considerable number of cars to be delivered the following year, as the French firms were unable to promise deliveries any earlier. In a very short time it was seen that better facilities would be needed for properly taking care of customers' cars, and a bold move was made in leasing the old building on Seventh avenue near Thirty-eighth street that comprises part of the establishment now occupied. This building had a frontage of 50 feet on the avenue and a depth of 100 feet. When it was opened the firm had only four or five cars to put in it, and many among the trade thought the partners were rash to the point of lunacy in undertaking a burden of such magnitude for the sale and care of cars of foreign make exclusively. Predictions were freely made of an early failure and of the need of coming to other dealers to secure financial help.

"The introduction of French cars into America was uphill work at first, according to Mr. Mabley. Everything seemed against them; the manufacturers and dealers, the trade papers and the majority of the public, could not be convinced that cars could be built any better abroad than at home, and it was the hardest kind of work to talk a $7,000 or $8,000 proposition to a man who was used to considering cars at $1,500. Nearly everybody was skeptical, but the few early buyers were well satisfied and not only bought new cars from time to time, but interested their friends and these became customers.

"To the policy of giving complete satisfaction to their customers, even at an occasional loss to themselves, Mr. Mabley attributes in large measure the success of the firm. Other elements in its growth were the quality of the cars handled and extensive advertising. Old customers have been retained from the beginning, and some have bought as many as ten and twelve cars. As the best advertisement is a satisfied customer, it was obviously the best business policy to please patrons.

"Prejudice against foreign machines finally wore away, as Americans going abroad began touring in automobiles and returned home with accounts of the pleasure enjoyed. At first very few ot the tourists brought their cars to America upon their return, owing to the heavy import duty, but later, when it was shown that foreign cars were adapted for use on American roads, they brought them in and began doing some touring in their own country.

"The duty does not offer so much of a bar now as formerly, for a man who paid from $3,000 to $4,000 for a car was more likely to balk at paying an additional 45 per cent, than a man who bought a car costing $10,000 to $20,000, and the cost of machines has increased in proportion with the power of the engine. Most of the cars imported now are of 24 horsepower or more.

"In the winter of 1901-2 the firm engaged space at the automobile show in Madison Square Garden and exhibited three Panhard cars, an 8, a 10 and a 12-horsepower. The 12-horsepower machine created great wonder, being looked upon as a monster machine for ordinary use. The show gave new impetus to the business and the new garage quickly filled up.

"The repair department grew apace, and as new machinery was installed the partners began experimenting in the building of high-class cars after the French type. But it was impossible to get first-class mechanics who were capable of doing the work right, and even more difficult to get the proper materials.

"Despite the difficulties encountered, from six to a dozen cars were completed during each of the succeeding three years. These were not offered to the public, but were kept by members of the firm for personal use and by others closely connected with the business to be tested, and it was not until last year that the first S. & M. Simplex cars were brought out publicly, and the Smith & Mabley Manufacturing Company was fully launched in a factory on the East side.

"Meantime, the regular business of the firm continued to expand so that a little more than three years ago the partnership was reorganized into a stock company and the adjoining building on the corner of Seventh avenue and Thirty-eighth street was leased and remodeled into an up-to-date auto salesroom, as it stands to-day. Most of the stock was retained by Messrs. Smith & Mabley, and the other shares were taken by men working in the business with the principals.

"Another year saw the storage limit of the establishment, even with the new addition, practically reached, and the company decided to increase its facilities again, and in such a way as to provide for the growth for years to come. This proved to be a harder matter than was anticipated.

"Attempts were made to lease adjoining property that was used as lumber yards and livery stables, but it was impossible to do so, and as there was no plot of land on the block sufficiently large for the purpose, the company sought and finally found a location further up-town, on Broadway at the northwest corner of Fifty-sixth street.

"The site, which has been occupied by a collection of decrepit old houses, was particularly advantageous for the business of the company, owing to its proximity to the best residential part of the city, to the park and transportation lines, the broad streets and lighter traffic.

"The owners of the plot agreed to erect an immense building especially adapted for garage purposes, and Smith & Mabley, now incorporated, agreed to take a ten-year lease of the building, with option of renewal. Work was begun last spring, and now there is nearing completion there an automobile establishment which, it is said, will be not only the largest in New York City, but anywhere in the world, Paris not excepted. In another month it is expected that the company will be comfortably housed in its new quarters. The accompanying engraving from a photograph taken last Thursday shows the present stage of construction, and work is being rushed on the building inside and out.

"Every feature of construction of the new building and its equipment that is suggested by years of experience in selling, storing and caring for automobiles of the most costly types has been employed or provided for. The construction is of expensive character, of fireproof materials, substantial and permanent. It is to be ornamental enough to be an improvement to the character of that part of Broadway in which it is located, and parts of the interior are to be attractively decorated and well furnished.

"That a building of such size and character should be erected on a plot on the busy main thoroughfare of the largest city in the country, where frontage is so expensive, is indicative of the faith in the permanency of the business that is entertained by Smith & Mabley, with their intimate knowledge of the present status of it, and by the parties who are erecting the building for them.

"Such rapid expansion of the retailing business as is shown by the need of a building of this size and character by one concern is in reality a better index of the growth and stability of the automobile business than is the enlargement of manufacturing plants, for the former represents the steady increase of the actual sales of cars and of their constant use by the owners. It is evident that money would not be invested in establishments of this character unless the financiers felt assured of the permanency and continued growth of the business, for a building designed and built for a garage is not adapted to use for other purposes, especially in such a location.

"However, Smith & Mabley feel that they are not venturing upon any uncertain undertaking, but are simply keeping pace with the development of all modern forms of transportation and regard the expansion of their facilities only as a good business move. The seriousness of the problem of the storage and proper care of cars has increased with every additional car handled.

"The new garage will be centrally located in a wealthy residential quarter of the city, close to the Boulevard and to Central Park, in the great hotel and theatre section, convenient to the underground, elevated and surface car lines, and within a few short blocks of the new home of the Automobile Club of America.

"The new building is four stories in height, with a front of 160 feet on Broadway and 210 feet on Fifty-sixth street. It is of irregular shape, as the building line of Broadway meets that of Fifty-sixth street at an acute angle, and a large rectangle about 60 by 90 feet in the northwest corner is occupied by a corner of the Rutland Hotel. The part of the building that is directly on the corner, fronting on the two streets and cut off from the rest of the structure by fire walls, will not be occupied by Smith & Mabley, but will be used by another concern for commercial purposes.

"The four floors of the part to be devoted to automobile purposes comprise 76,000 square feet. The street walls of the structure are of buff brick trimmed with terra cotta, with ample windows for lighting the interior. The floors are of concrete supported by iron columns and steel girders, making the entire construction fireproof. The offices and salesrooms are cut off by fire walls and fire doors from the garage proper, where machines are kept in "live" storage. As each of the four floors is to be used for the storage of cars, there will be accommodation for from 400 to 450 cars. Every detail of construction and equipment will comply with the regulations of the Board of Fire Underwriters and the City Bureau of Combustibles. Thus danger of fire will be reduced to the minimum and insurance premiums on building and machines kept as low as possible.

"A novel but very simple device for simplifying the maneuvering of cars into position inside of the building is an original idea with the firm. It is a combination of elevator and turntable. The large car "lift," directly in front of the Fifty-sixth street entrance, is fitted with a turntable 17 feet in diameter, and on each of the floors there are three wire gates 8 feet wide opening from the elevator. A car can be run through the entrance onto the elevator, raised to any floor desired, then turned in any direction on the turntable before being rolled into its final resting place. This greatly lessens the liability to damage of the radiator, lamps and body by contact with other cars and pillars and also diminishes the time necessary to take a car into or out of the building. The elevator itself is 19 feet square, probably the largest in the city. As each floor is in effect a separate garage in itself, with individual washing stands, gasoline and compressed air supply, lockers, telephones and teleautograph service, a car will need very little shifting about after being brought into the building.

"The plan of the main floor is shown in the accompanying line engraving. The upper floors are much the same in arrangement, except that the space occupied on the first floor by offices and salesrooms will be used in part by a chauffeurs' room, and stockrooms for parts and supplies and for patterns, jigs and tools. An exceptionally large and varied stock of extra parts for both foreign and domestic machines is carried by the firm, and with the assortment of patterns, tools, jigs and fixtures constantly kept on hand, it is possible to duplicate intricate parts of almost any description at short notice. The machine shop, of which this stockroom is an adjunct, will be located on the top floor over the Fifty-sixth street end, and will have a complete up-to-date equipment of machine and hand tools and every facility for executing difficult repairs. Owing to the high class of cars handled and the instructive value of working on them, the best class of mechanics is attracted to the shop.

"As shown in the plan, entrance to the office of the establishment is on the Broadway front, at the extreme northeast corner of the building. This admits to a passenger elevator communicating with the upper floors and also by stairway to the rooms and shops on the upper floors. Opening off from the office are waiting rooms for men and women patrons, which will be well furnished. There will be ample provision for removing dust and grease after a long ride, the men's lavatory being fitted even with shower baths. There will be a separate waiting room for the chauffeurs on the second floor, and on the roof will be a sort of summer garden where they may spend idle moments in comfort on summer evenings.

"The salesroom has a frontage on Broadway of 80 feet and a maximum width of 40 feet. The office, which is separated from it by a wood and glass partition, is 35 feet square. The storage room back of the salesroom and office is 50 feet square, and the garage proper has a length of 100 feet and is 80 feet wide. At the rear or north end of the garage are the washing stands, occupying a space about 18 by 60 feet. In front of this space is the rear freight elevator, measuring 10 by 17 feet, and directly back of it a tire sink for washing tires. To the left of the washing stands is a closed room with iron door where the gasoline is drawn for filling the tanks. Hot water as well as cold will be piped to the washing stands. One of the elevators gives access to the roof, so that cars may be taken out into the light for photographing or inspection.

"There will be a storage department for electric vehicles, with the necessary charging facilities, and with men in charge who are familiar with storage batteries.

"One of the garage floors will probably be reserved for the storage of cars owned by persons who do not employ chauffeurs. Here the owners will be able to tinker with their machines as much as they like, without the unpleasant feeling of being watched by "professional" mechanics.

"The new establishment represents an investment of between $450,000 and $500,000 for the entire building, exclusive of the land. The company will employ from eighty to one hundred workmen. Thus has developed in a few years out of an almost insignificant beginning, an enterprise that requires the use of a capital of from $800,000 to $1,000,000 for the annual turnover, the sales of cars for the present year being estimated by Mr. Mabley at from 175 to 200, and the average price of the machines between $5,000 and $6,000."

The March 1906 edition of the Trow Copartnership and Corporation Directory of the Boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx, New York City, lists two distinct Smith & Mabley organizations. The first gave details of their imported auto sales division as follows:

"Smith & Mabley (N.Y.) (Carlton R. Mabley, Pres.; Albert D.P. Smith, sec.; Capital: $500,000. Directors: Carlton R. Mabley, Clarence M. Hamilton, Albert D.P. Smith); 1765 B'way."

The second detailed the partners' automobile manufacturing activities:

"Smith & Mabley Mfg. Co., (N.Y.) (Herman Broesel, Pres.; Joseph S. Bunting, sec.; Capital, $45,000. Directors: Herman Broesel, Joseph S. Bunting, Carlton R. Mabley, A.D. Proctor Smith, Clarence M. Hamilton) 614 E. 83d."

Herman A. Broesel was the active partner in Boessneck, Broesel & Co., a well-known manufacturer of woolen garments founded in 1892 by Broesel and two Germans, Otto and Hugo Boessneck, who continued to operate their own woolen millworks - Otto Boessneck & Co. - in Glauchau, Saxony and Moscow, Russia. Broesel was also president of the Jefferson Bank (branches at 103 Canal & 299 E. Houston Sts.).

Broesel Sr. was socially acquainted A.D. Proctor Smith and wanted in when Smith & Mabley started plans to manufacturing their own automobile. He took his position as president of the firm seriously as both he and his wife owned Simplex town cars. His sons, both Princeton students, eagerly awaited their turn at the wheel of Smith's notorious Simplex motor launches. That dream became a reality for Herman A. Broesel Jr., who piloted the Simplex VIII to victory in the 1907 Palm Beach Mid-Winter Regatta.

The other directors included; Joseph S. Bunting, manager of Philadelphia's Wanamaker Department Store's automobile dept. and a founding member of Manhattan's Morris Park Motor Racing Club; and Clarence M. Hamilton, a founding member of the Automobile Club of America, and later on secretary of the Isotta Import Co. of America, 1624 Broadway.

Smith & Mabley placed the following text-only article/advertisement in the July 1905 issue of Everybody's Magazine:

"Things to Consider in Buying an Automobile

"AN automobile is either a thing of joy, pleasure and safety, or it is a thing of annoyance, expense and danger. A cheap piece of steel, a makeshift fitting or a clumsy bit of workmanship sooner or later leads to a breakdown, and a breakdown always means delay and expense; often it means injuries or death.

"The purchase of an automobile thus becomes as serious a proposition as the average" man is called upon to meet.

"It is not the claims of manufacturers, it is not clever advertising, it is not dare-devil racing contests, that in the long run determine what is good and what is otherwise in automobiles.

"It is the test of time—the test of the Great Public itself—the test of Experience—that gives the final verdict; and in everything this is the test that counts.

"There is just one name that comes to the public mind instantly when fine automobiles are discussed, and that name is "Mercedes."

"Mercedes" stands for steel of exceeding fineness.

"It stands for the slow, precise, painstaking, mechanical exactness of the skilled German artisan—a skill recognized the whole world round.

"It stands for sterling honesty, for scientific precision, for a gathering together of perfect parts, shaped to do their work harmoniously, safely and surely.

"It stands for the best thought in mechanics —the real triumph in the new art that had its birth when the Daimler idea took shape in the first motor cycle.

"This is general talk, but general talk is enough when the subject is the Mercedes Automobile.

"It is the finished thing as a whole—the tout ensemble—that has made the fame of this machine.

"You do not ask what brand of paint Raphael used, nor do you inquire as to the source of his canvases.

"You consider his work as he completed it.

"And so the owner of a Mercedes does not tax himself about the motor, or transmission, or clutch, or cylinders, or steering gear.

"He knows they are as they should be, and it is this sense of certainty and safety that imparts to the owner the complete joy that is the very heart and life of automobiling.

"The owner of a Mercedes knows that when he wants to go anywhere his machine will be in shape to take him there.

"He knows his motor will start the exact moment he himself wants to start.

"He knows the carburettor will not be out of adjustment, and that the valves will not be broken.

"He knows, when he enters his car, that beneath his feet are wheels and shafts and bearings that he can depend upon—so dependable that with them his safety and life are not in jeopardy.

"No Mercedes car ever leaves the factory in Germany until it is ready to start on a many-thousand-mile journey without doing more than supply it with gasoline, oil and water.

"Simply turn the crank, and the Mercedes is ready to respond to every move of the driver.

"Men who know express the belief that the 1906 Mercedes models have reached that stage in automobile evolution where a "standard" is fixed.

"The product of the future will differ little from the 1906 models, so that a man who buys now need not buy again in years to "keep in style."

"The perplexity of choosing a fine holiday gift at once disappears by making that gift a Mercedes.

"Smith & Mabley, Inc., exclusive agents of the Mercedes Import Co., sole representatives of C. L. Charley, Paris, control the entire Mercedes importations for 1906.

"In their Automobile Salon, Broadway between 56th and 57th Streets, New York, models of this Master Machine can be seen, or further particulars will be furnished by mail.

"The 1906 importations are limited in number, so the placing of early orders is advised.

"To order a Mercedes and not be able to get it—can disappointment go beyond that?

"WARNING—Vigorous prosecution will be begun against any person who buys a Mercedes car from a foreign agent and imports it into the United States or Canada, thereby infringing the valuable basic Daimler and Selden patents, of which Smith & Mabley, Inc., are sole licensees in the United States and Canada for the Mercedes Automobiles made in Germany."

The October 18, 1905 issue of the New York Times announced the grand opening of Smith & Mabley's new 'Auto Palace':

"New Automobile Garage Opened.

"Hundreds of women and automobile enthusiasts inspected every feature of interest in the new garage and automobile salesroom of Smith & Mabley, Incorporated, which was formally opened yesterday. The new building occupies half of the Broadway block on the corner of Fifty-Sixth Street. It is three stories in height, and these floors, with the basement, will accommodate about 500 automobiles. The garage is one of the most perfect ever erected in this city, and it is said to be the largest in the world.

"John B. Warden's Mercedes racing car that he drove in the recent Vanderbilt Cup race was among the attractions, and it was surrounded by a curious crowd the greater part of the day. Mr. Warden himself was present, and a number of foreign drivers took especial interest in studying the conveniences in the repair shops, the electrical storage department, the chauffeurs' waiting room, and the big elevator for carrying automobiles to the upper floors. This elevator is the largest of its kind in the city. It is 19 feet square and is equipped with a turn table, so that a car entering from the street can be turned readily in any direction before leaving the elevator.

"Music and refreshments were provided for the guests, a distinct novelty in an automobile garage. William K. Vanderbilt , Jr., Robert Graves, and Commodore Morton F. Plant were among the large number present."

The January 26, 1906 New York Times contained a display ad placed by the Thompson-Starrett Co., the builders of the firm's new headquarters which were now shared by the HOL-TAN Co. (formerly Hollander-Tangeman Co.), the Manhattan FIAT importer:

"Two of the greatest automobile concerns in New York City are doing business in this fireproof structure covering 22,960 sq. feet, which we built at the corner of 56th street and Broadway!'

"The work of excavating was not started until the 5th day of April, 1905. Messrs, SMITH & MABLEY, who rented from the plans, occupied their portion of the premises on the 10th day of October, 1905. For the HOL-TAN COMPANY, which made a lease on the 20th day of November, 1905, special reconstruction was done, including the installation of two elevators, and the premises were ready for occupancy on the 2nd day of January, 1906.

"This building was built on the COST INSURANCE plan, and we invite comparison of it with other structures of a similar character, many of which were started months before and few of which are finished.

"The Thompson-Starrett Company, 51 Wall St, New York."

Smith & Mabley's Simplex motor launches were sold with an implied guarantee in regards to speed, so it's not surprising that the firm's automobiles were sold with the following perpetuial guarantee, which was printed in the November 14, 1906 New York Times:

"A new departure in guarantees has been decided upon by the Smith & Mabley Manufacturing Company. Beginning this month, Simplex cars will be sold with a certificate of perpetual guarantee. This guarantees the car against defects in material, workmanship or mechanism, to the extent of replacing any part or parts that may bend or break, or otherwise prove defective, provided such defect or defects are not caused by accident, misuse, or neglect."

The December 27, 1906 Automobile announced Smith & Mabley's latest business venture:


"During the past five or six years we have been called upon so frequently to aid tourists in procuring cars for use on the other side, and the demand of late has become so great, that we have decided to make a service of this kind a branch of our business," said Carleton R. Mabley, of Smith & Mabley, Inc. "We have established a bureau in Paris which will furnish touring routes, hotel lists and cars of any size desired, together with a reliable chauffeur capable of acting in the capacity of a courier as well. The cars will be maintained in good running order, and the only extra expense beside the regular rental charge will be for oil, gasoline and tires. When arranged for in advance, through either the home or the Paris office, the car will meet the customer at any British or Continental port of the transatlantic liners. We will provide only new cars of large horsepower and fine equipment such as have not been obtainable for rental before. In Germany and Italy it is practically impossible to rent a good automobile, while in France it is not always easy to obtain a desirable car. The rental will be the same as regularly charged in France and England, and if the tourist desires to purchase the car, 80 per cent, of the rental will be applied to the purchase price."

The February 10, 1907 New York Times made the first announcement of the firm's recent acquisition of the Isotta-Fraschini franchise:

"Smith & Mabley, Inc., have received word from the Isotta-Fraschini Automobile Company of Milan, Italy, that they have recently completed two racing machines. Smith & Mabley are the sole American agents of this Italian car, and it is expected that the two cup racers will be entered for the Vanderbilt Cup race."

The March 1907 issue of Carriage Monthly included a number of Smith & Mabley tidbits:

"At the Chicago Show.

"Smith & Mabley, Inc., exhibited at the Chicago Show, through their local agents, the Hamilton Automobile Co., a 35 horse-power polished Isotta Fraschini chassis, a 30 horse-power Simplex landaulet, a 35 horse-power Isotta Fraschini car with a miniature brougham body, and a 30-35 horse-power Simplex touring car. The Simplex landaulet is painted red, and upholstered in maroon morocco leather, the body of which was made by Rothschild Fils, of New York, and seats five inside. It is equipped with two drop seats in back of the driver's seat, and contains card cases, toilet cases, clock, speaking tube, dome light, etc."

"Smith & Mabley's new booklet, ''The Great Two," is a tasteful catalogue, and thoroughly representative of the excellent cars produced by the makers of the S.& M. Simplex. Handsomely illustrated with half-tone engravings, it is one of the neatest booklets published this year. This concern has also gotten up a very original souvenir postal card for those having the post-card habit."

""A New Idea in Automobile Touring" is an exceedingly interesting little pamphlet put out by Smith & Mabley, Inc. It is a description of "Troubles Touring" in foreign lands, as conducted by Smith & Mabley's new European touring department. The new idea in touring Europe is that this well-known concern will provide 30 horse-power Simplex touring cars, seating six persons and chauffeur, for trips on the Continent, Smith & Mabley assuming all responsibilities and attending to all the annoyances of securing licenses, custom-house affairs, etc. A two months' itinerary of a delightful 6,000-mile tour from Cherbourg, through France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Italy and return, is laid out."

"A Touring Proposition.

"Smith & Mabley, Inc., are receiving numerous inquiries from all over the world, asking for fuller particulars regarding their foreign automobile touring proposition. One gentleman in France wrote, asking if Smith & Mabley would rent him a Simplex car for touring in America under the same conditions as specified for cars loaned for touring in Europe. The plan is this: Smith & Mabley, through their foreign tour department, rent a man a car for any length of time at a regular scale of prices. Eighty per cent of the price paid over to Smith & Mabley for the rental of the car may apply on the purchase price, should the party, after having used the car, desire to buy it. The same arrangement will be made to apply here in America for parties living in foreign countries. The proposition has really taken a stronger grip than the firm looked for. From present prospects, Smith & Mabley will have to send over to the other side between 30 and 40 cars of various types. All these cars will be Simplex products, made by the Smith & Mabley Mfg. Co., in New York City."

Classified ads for the tours were placed in a number of the nation's newspapers during March of 1907 which read as follows:


"For description of routes, principal features, style of cars, rates, complete information regarding this novel touring idea, address Foreign Touring Department, SMITH & MABLEY, 1763 Broadway. New York. S & M Simplex, Panhard, Renault, Isotta-Fraschini."

At that time J. Knight Neftel served as Smith & Mabley's sales manager.

An October 19, 1904 incident involving a startled horse and a touring car owned by the firm made headlines just as Smith & Mabley's Automobile Tour business was getting started. To make the matter worse, the car in question was towing the broken-down Simplex racecar piloted by Frank H. Croker in the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup race. Apparently doomed from day one, the 70 hp racer was originally constructed in order to win the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup.

At the pre-race weigh-in the Simplex was several tens of pounds over the 2,204 weight limit, forcing Coker's mechanic to drill the car's frame and bodywork full of holes in order to get it under the limit. During that process the Simplex' normally sturdy chassis was weakened so much that it collapsed during the race, forcing Croker to finish the race in first gear with the drivetrain scraping the ground.

It was on the return trip to the Smith & Mabley shop that the racecar's tow vehicle, a touring car owned by Smith & Mabley, startled a horse pulling the carriage in which Mrs. A.B. Davis was riding, throwing her out of the vehicle and causing her injury. Although her husband waited over two years to file the lawsuit, it came at a most inopportune time.

The Panic of 1906-1907 had prompted lenders to clamp down on credit, and despite Smith & Mabley's otherwise untarnished reputation as Manhattan's first and most successful imported automobile dealer, the loss of working capital proved disastrous to Smith & Mabley Inc.

Already teetering on bankruptcy, the repercussions of the Davis lawsuit caused a number of the firm creditors to ask for a receiver. The February 21, 1907 New York Times presented the details:


"Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Davis Want Damages for Injuries Received In Accident

"The trial of an action involving claims for damages amounting to $80,000 was begun yesterday in the supreme Court of Queens County, Justice Carr sitting, at Flushing. The main action is brought by Mrs. Addie Smith Davis, wife of Allen Bell Davis, a well-known horse-dealer of Long Island City. She sued to recover from Smith & Mabley, automobile dealers of Manhattan, $30,000 for injuries alleged to have been suffered on Oct. 19, 1904. Her husband seeks damages in the sum of $50,000 for the loss of his wife's services. Yesterday was consumed in obtaining the jury.

"Mrs. Davis and her husband were driving through Thompson Avenue, Long Island City, on Oct. 19, 1904, when they met a touring car belonging to the defendant's firm, which was towing the racing car which Frank Croker drove in the 1904 race for the Vanderbilt Cup, and which broke down on the course.

"Mr. Davis's horse took fright and shied, and Mrs. Davis was thrown out."

The reasons for the Davis' three-year delay in filing a case against Smith & Mabley are unknown, but the results were catastrophic and the firm was in the hands of a receiver 90 days later.

Croker and his Simplex racecar had already suffered a similar fate on January 21, 1905 when the rebuilt vehicle flipped over at the annual Ormond-Daytona Beach time trials, killing him instantly.

The January 26, 1905 issue of Motor Age gave the details:


"Daytona, Fla., Jan. 22—Frank H. Croker, one of the few American amateur automobile drivers, died this morning from the severe injuries he received yesterday afternoon in a collision with a motor cycle rider. His mechanic, Alexandre Raoul, was killed instantly, being thrown high in the air and falling on his head; while Newton Stanley, a nephew of the builder of the racing cars bearing that name, and who was riding the motor cycle, had his legs broken.

"The accident cast a gloom over the hundreds of enthusiasts here for the week of sport which begins Monday, and measures will be taken at once to prevent similar accidents. Those who saw the accident yesterday afternoon agree that Croker sacrificed his life and that of his assistant in order to save Newton, who was probably to blame for the disaster. The New Yorker was taking a spin in his 75-horsepower Simplex racer and probably going at a rate of a mile in 40 to 45 seconds, when Newton, who was going in the same direction, suddenly start to ride across the course. Croker was only a few yards away and immediately gave his machine a sharp turn toward the car, thus trying to avoid running down e smaller machine. But in turning the big car he struck the motor cycle, causing Newton to be thrown off and his legs to be broken. The strain of the sudden turn given to the Croker car resulted in one of the front tires coming off. The machine then became controllable, bounced into the surf and turned over, settling into the water. Raoul was thrown out of the car, fell on his head was killed, while Croker fell into the water with the racer. When he was picked up he was unconscious. An examination owed that he had both legs broken, severe injuries all over the body and the head and that his condition was precarious. During the night a slight improvement was noticeable, but early this morning Croker had a relapse, which ended in his death. During the few moments he regained consciousness the racing man asked how his mechanic was and was told that he was all right. This seemed to please him greatly.

"Frank H. Croker, son of Richard Croker, of Tammany Hall fame, was only 27 years old. After having been an enthusiastic football and baseball player he became interested in the newer sport and soon was an enthusiastic motorist and later on owner of a fast motor boat. He first became well known when he was entered as one of the contestants in the Vanderbilt cup race, in which he drove the same racer which figured in yesterday's accident. In that great road race Croker gave evidence of being a good but at the same time daredevil driver. He continued that race gamely, although he had no chance whatever of finishing among the leaders. Last November, on the Empire City track, Yonkers, N. Y., Croker established a new world's amateur record for 1 mile, going the distance in 57% seconds in the Simplex. He also broke all other amateur world's records up to 12 miles, which distance was covered in 11:32 1/2."

The firm's receivership was published in the May 14, 1907 Business Troubles column of the New York Times as follows:

"SMITH & MABLEY— A petition in bankruptcy has been filed against Smith & Mabley, Incorporated, dealers in automobiles at l765 Broadway, by James, Schell & Elkus for these creditors: Thompson Hollister, $1,500 for fire Insurance; Auto Import Company, $60 for supplies; and Caleb Printing Company, $50 for printing. It was alleged that the corporation is insolvent, made preferential payments, and transferred accounts. Judge Hough of the United States District Court appointed Postmaster William R. Willcox receiver of the assets on consent of the attorneys for the corporation, fixed his bond at $20,000, and authorized him to continue business for two weeks. The business was started several years ago by the firm of Smith & Mabley and was incorporated under New York laws, on Oct. 22, 1903, with a capital stock of $500,000. Carlton R. Mabley is President and Albert D. Proctor Smith Treasurer. The firm paid, it is said, a rental of $40,000 a year for its quarters at 1705 Broadway. The corporation formerly did a large business, its sales for 1905 having been, it was reported, $1,500,000. The assets are reported to be between $50,000 and $175,000 and liabilities in excess of those figures."

The following display ad appeared in the May 17, 1907 New York Times:

"Receiver's Sale Of High Grade Automobiles At Greatly Reduced Prices

"Panhard, Renault, Mercedes, and several other makes.

"All the above are brand new 1906 models, equipped with Touring and Limousine Bodies. Also some slightly used cars and $25,000 worth of Auto Parts, Supplies, etc., at slaughter prices.

SALE ENDS May 25th, by order of the court.

"W.R. WILLCOX, Receiver, for SMITH & MABLEY, Inc. 1765 Broadway."

June 21, 1907 New York Times:


"Auto Firm's Liabilities $296,188 – Nominal Assets $513,661

"Schedules in bankruptcy of Smith & Mabley, Incorporated, dealers in automobiles and supplies at 1765 Broadway, show liabilities $296,188, of which $90,000 are contingent, being three damage suits for personal injuries; nominal assets, $513,661, and available assets, $167,241. The nominal assets are automobiles, supplies, materials, office furniture at cost of $61,892; outstanding accounts, $64,578; equity in accounts assigned, $2,614; cash, $557; unexpired insurance, $1,600; 360 shares of stock of Smith & Mabley Manufacturing Company, $36,000 par value pledged for a loan of $25,000; plant and power account, good will, & c. carries on the books as $346,420.

"The damage suits are by Addie Smith Davis for $30,000; she recovered a verdict of $10,000, which was set aside by the court and a new trial granted; Allen B. Davis, $50,000 for his wife's injuries, and William Beckman $10,000. Of the actual liabilities, $25,562 are secured. There are 210 creditors, among whom are Boessneck Broesel, $116,500, partly secured; New Amsterdam National Bank, $24,000; Riverside Bank, $165,500*;  W.H.H. Hull & Co., $6,117; Bridgeport Vehicle Company, $5,999; Harry Monkhouse, Rome, N.Y., $3,638; Standard Oil Company, $2,698; Harburg Fire Company, $1,714; and New York Edison Company, $1,419."

(*actually $16,550, see following article for an explanation)

June 25, 1907 New York Times:

"NO LOSSES TO THE BANK.; Smith & Mabley's Indebtedness to the Riverside Bank Fully Paid

"In the schedules in bankruptcy of Smith & Mabley, published in The Times on Jun 21, the statement was made that the firm owned the Riverside Bank $165,000, this was a typographical error and should have read $16,500.

"The Riverside Bank sometime before the failure insisted upon an endorsement upon the notes of the firm, which was secured, and in the failure the bank did not lose a dollar, as the notes were promptly paid. The bank is conducted in a most conservative manner and has made no loans of the amount previously stated."

C.A. Duerr, the Manhattan Moon distributor, leased a portion of the former Smith & Mabley structure in late 1908 for sales and service of the Moon automobile.

Although the Smith & Mabley Manufacturing Company was corporately unrelated to Smith & Mabley Incorporated, the latter's failure forced a reorganization of the partner's manufacturing business in mid-1907. Smith & Mabley sold their shares in the Manufacturing Company to its president and largest shareholder, Herman A. Broesel Sr., who promptly installed his sons on the board and renamed the firm the Simplex Automobile Company.

Between 1904 and 1907 approximately 120 Smith & Mabley Simplex chassis were built at the partner's 614 E. 83d St., factory.

Smith & Mabley did not have an exclusive license to sell the Mercedes in Manhattan, which was officially handled by the Mercedes Import Co., 590 Fifth Ave., a firm founded by Charles W. Morse, John J. Primrose and Robert E. Fulton to import the car under license from C.L. Charley of Paris. The Import Co., with branches in Philadelphia, Newport R.I., Boston and Chicago were also unable to survive the panic failing in February of 1908.

The failure of Smith & Mabley indirectly caused a second Mercedes-inspired car to be put on the American market. Founded in 1906 to serve as the exclusive agents for the Matheson, the Palmer & Singer Company's Manhattan and Chicago branches were also authorized Smith & Mabley Simplex and Selden distributors. Although the firm's largest shareholders, namely Charles A. Singer jr. & sr., - heirs to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune - were unaffected by the panic, they no longer wanted to be associated with the failed Simplex organization, electing to produce their own Mercedes clone.

Under the direction of the firm's vice-president, H.U. Palmer, the manufacture of the first Palmer & Singer car was undertaken in the Matheson shops which also happened to be controlled by the Singers.

Like the Simplex, the Palmer-Singer was built using a large number of Mercedes-sourced parts, in particular its V-shaped radiator and massive 4-cylinder engine. Priced to fill the gap vacated by the Simplex, three Palmer-Singer models debuted during 1907-1908. Coachwork for the Palmer-Singer was supplied by the same firms that had furnished bodies for the Simplex, namely Moore & Munger, Healey, Quinby and Rothschild plus the recently-organized Holbrook-Singer Co., that, unsurprisingly, was also controlled by the Singers.

The partners were both heavily involved in New York City's auto-related fraternities and organizations. A.D. Proctor Smith served as the inaugural president of the New York Automobile Trade Club which was formed in January of 1904 and was a made a director of the Manhattan Transit Co. in 1903.

Starting in 1904 Carleton R. Mabley served as manager of the New York Importers' Salon until resigning his position shortly after the 1908 event. The October 27, 1907 issue of the New York Times contained an article penned by Mabley detailing the history of the imported car in America:


"Why the Foreign Car Has Been Popular and Its Influence Upon American Industry.


"New York's Third Auto Show in December Will Be Restricted to Finest Types of European Machines.

"By Carlton R. Mabley, Importers' Automobile Salon.

"With the coming of the Importers' Automobile Salon, to be held at Madison Square Garden Dec. 28, we are practically celebrating the eighth anniversary of the importing business, and without making disagreeable comparisons, but still sticking to the truth, we may say that the first imported automobile was the first practical self-propelled vehicle that could be considered safe, sane, and usable for extensive passenger transportation; so we may add that the automobile industry as it exists to-day both abroad and here is the growth of one decade.  Just stop and think.  Less than ten years and we have in use alone in the United States, it is estimated, 150,000 automobiles.  Assuming the average carrying capacity can be five persons, we have a carrying capacity of 750,000 persons, of which about 100,000 are receiving a livelihood from the driving or operating of these cars, and the majority are using these vehicles in the place of trains, trolley cars, carriages, and bicycles-in fact, in preference to any other means of locomotion or transportation.  Undoubtedly the pleasure obtained in 70 per cent. of these cases is secondary to the actual service rendered in expediting the business of a great people in a safe and comfortable manner.

"The part that the individual importer has played in bringing about the reliable iron traveling steed, controlled by the manipulation of one hand, and that can climb a mountain or move along in congested traffic has been more important than many, unfamiliar with the details of progress, have any idea.

"In the year 1901 there was one concern importing cars into this country.  In 1902 there were two or three, and the total importations of machines of foreign make into this country up to that time would not have totaled fifty.  During 1903 there were several new and important agencies for foreign cars opened in New York, and the foreign car was then well established for American use.  In the year 1904 there were about 300 vehicles imported into this country by some ten or twelve importers.  It was in this year that the Importers' Automobile Salon was organized for the purpose of promoting and aiding the importations into the United States of the most improved and latest foreign models, and the first distinctly foreign car show was held in January, 1905, when twenty-five different makes were represented.

"The business increased so largely that the importations during the year fairly astonished the American manufacturer.  The total importations in this year were about 900 machines, valued at $3,000,000, and in the following year, 1906, we have what may be termed the banner year for both the foreign and the American high-grade car.  The small single and double cylinder American cars, being considered in a class by themselves, supplying a demand in this country which was not sought by the foreign makers at all, the success of the foreign cars was directly due to their four-cylinder powerful engines, strong construction, reliability, and longevity of service.

"The year 1906, which was the largest year and the best year for high-powered cars of both foreign and American makes, saw the importations reach the wonderful total of 1,500 cars, of a valuation of $4,500,000, or with duty and freight added, $7,000,000.  Up to and including this year we see now an approximate total of importations of 4,500 cars, during which period there have been manufactured 14,000 cars in this country that might be assumed to be cars in the same general category of class as those imported.  It will be seen, therefore, that the people who could afford to purchase cars at as high a price as these naturally were becoming pretty well supplied.

"One feature of these superior quality cars was that it was unnecessary to purchase new ones every year as cars of this quality could be depended upon to do satisfactory service for a number of years.  On account of the uniform and more permanent designs, a decrease in both the importations of higher-priced machines and in the purchase of higher-powered American machines was to be looked for during the year 1907.  That this looked-for decrease was far smaller than might have been reasonably anticipated is shown by the fact that the importations up to Oct. 1 show 879 cars, indicating that the sale of high-grade cars will be very little curtailed this year, in spite of these conditions.

"Whether or not there will be as many foreign cars sold in 1908 as in 1907, there is one thing pretty generally established and recognized to-day, and that is, as long as there is a good market for high-class, reliable goods, the imported car will hold its proportionate share of business.

"Conditions of manufacture and importations are2 revising themselves.  The future supply will be in proportion to the demand made up of those who have not heretofore owned cars, of which there will be a goodly number every year, and a certain fair proportion of renewals or repurchases of new machines.  In supplying this demand, the imported car will receive its fair proportion of increasing supporters.  Many wise manufacturers have been studying the questions of natural supply and demand, and it may be fairly predicted that a selected and much better constructed line of both foreign and American cars will compete for the continued large demand for the best quality of machines ranging from $5,000 to $8,000. This will necessitate some raising of prices by American manufacturers and a lowering of foreign car prices."

During their short tenure as Manhattan's premier importer of European automobiles, Smith & Mabley were in a position to influence their customer's on their choice of coachwork. While many preferred to work with the well-established firms, some were not so choosey, and the partners began offering their own line of coachwork in 1902-03 which was marketed using the Smith & Mabley name.

Many of Manhattan's lesser-known builders were perfectly content with having their work branded with Smith & Mabley coach-plates, which is exactly what happened. Firms such as Cole & Woop, Demarest, Moore & Munger and Schildwachter supplied either bodies-in-the white or fully trimmed and painted coachwork to the partners into the middle teens. It is unknown if the firm produced any of their own coachwork from scratch, however it's certain the firm's well-equipped refinishing department could take a body-in-the white and paint and trim it to a high standard.

By the end of 1908 Carlton R. Mabley had organized a new sales organization with his brother-in-law George W. Post jr. (b. 1878 or 1880, married Bernice Mabley) in order to sell and distribute auto trucks at 1623 Broadway, Manhattan. The January 1909 issue of Power Wagon announced a recent deal by the Post Organization to distribute the Hart-Kraft Motor Truck in and around New York City:


"ARRANGEMENTS have been made between the Hart-Kraft Motor Company, of York, Pa., and the Post Motor Company, of New York, whereby the latter establishment will undertake to put 1,100 gasoline wagons, made by the former, in service within a radius of 50 miles from the metropolis. The maintenance of these machines will be undertaken by the Post company, which will lease them on yearly contracts to establishments which have need for their services.

"The Post company has been granted exclusive selling privileges within the metropolitan district. It is composed of George W. Post, Jr., formerly sales manager for the Panhard company, and C. R. Mabley, formerly a member of the firm of Smith & Mabley, and several other people well known in the trade. It is reported that already a considerable number of prominent houses in New York have agreed to sign contracts for the services of the machines."

Post and his cousin Carroll J. Post Jr. (of the Post & Davis Co., well-known Manhattan printers and engravers), were the principals behind the Elmere Motor Car Co., another Manhattan-based motor vehicle sales organization of which additional information is lacking.

The Post Motor Co. failed within the year and C.R. Mabley took a position as general manager of the R.I.V. Company, 1771 Broadway. The firm was the US importer of the Italian-made R.I.V. radial ball bearing, a component found in an increasing number of heavy trucks and equipment.  

As the importation of R.I.V. bearings was halted at the start of the First World War, Mabley joined the selling organization of the S.K.F. Ball Bearing Co. on March 15, 1915. Produced in Hartford, Connecticut, S.K.F.'s Manhattan sales office was located at 50 Church St., New York City, and Mabley was placed in charge of the Automobile Dept.

The June 28, 1919 issue of Michigan Manufacturer & Financial Record announced Mabley appointment as S.K.F's Detroit district manager:


"C. R. Mabley has been appointed district manager of sales in Michigan for the S. K. F. Industries. Inc.. which make S. K. F. ball bearings. Hess-Bright ball bearings, Atlas balls and the products of the S. K. F. Engineering Laboratory. Headquarters of Mr. Mabley and his staff will be in Detroit."

The 1920 Federal Census reveals that the Mabley family included his wife Louise; a daughter, Catherine; and six sons - Carlton (jr.), Louis, Taylor, Hollister, Theodore and Frank. Carleton R. Mabley retired from the sales staff of SKF Industries, Inc. on June 1, 1946, after 31 years of service, passing away in September, 1963 at the age of 84.

From 1904-1906 A. D. Proctor Smith served as Commodore of the Motor Boat Club of America during which time he campaigned at least seven iterations of his 'Simplex' motor launch (1904's Simplex I through 1907's Simplex VIII). Smith was also a member of the Palm Beach Power Boat Association who held an annual Power Boat Carnival on Lake Worth. Another member of the club was Manhattan millionaire W. Gould Brokaw, who became the owner of Smith & Mabley's Challenger soon after it returned from competing in the 1904 Harmsworth Cup.

A.D. Proctor Smith apparently fell off the face of the earth after the failure of Smith & Mabley as no information on personal or business activities could be located after that time. I get the impression that most of his time was spent working on his motor launches, and he had little to do with the partner's automotive operations. His last known residences (1907) were Larchmont, New York and Palm Beach, Florida.

Gustave E. Franquist, a founding member of the S.A.E. (Society of Automotive Engineers), remained Simplex' chief engineer, becoming plant superintendent when the firm relocated to New Brunswick, New Jersey. He remained in charge of the factory during the war when it was outfitted to produce Hispano-Suiza aircraft engines, and ended his career at Rochester, New York's James Cunningham, Son & Company, passing away after a short illness on September 15, 1924 at the age of 50.

© 2011 Mark Theobald -






Paul Leake - A History of Detroit, pub. 1912

The Development of the High-Speed Launch or Automobile Boat - Scientific American, March 12, 1904

Henry Austin Clark – Simplex, Automotive Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 4

Tony Muldoon - Hare's Today, Gone Tomorrow: Emlen Hare's Failed Empire, Automotive Quarterly Vol. 35, No. 3

Simplex, Vol. 43, No. 2 of Automotive Quarterly

Herman A. Broesel Jr. - Reflections of the Early Days, The Bulb Horn, Vol. 22 No. 2 (1962)

Walter O. MacIlvain – Palmer-Singer, Who's Who in Automobilia, The Bulb Horn, (VMCCA) Vol. XII, No. 3; July 1951 issue.

West Peterson – 1915 Crane Simplex Model 5 Roadster, Cars & Parts, March 2004 issue

William Greenleaf - Monopoly on Wheels: Henry Ford and the Selden Automobile Patent, pub 1961

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Pictures Continued

Ving et Un I

Ving et Un II

A.D. Protor Smith

Carlton R. Mabley on right

1905 S&M Simplex, Mabley on rt

Smith & Mabley Challenger

Smith & Mabley Challenger

Smith & Mabley Challenger

Smith & Mabley Challenger

Frank Croker in  Simplex racecar at 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race

1904 S&M Simplex Brochure

1904 Smith & Mabley Ad

1904 S&M Simplex Limousine

1904 Renault Chassis S&M display at World's Fair

1904 S&M Simplex 75 hp racercar

1905 Panhard Victoria by S&M

1905 Renault Limousine by S&M

1905 S&M Simplex Town Car

1905 S&M Simplex Touring

1905 Smith & Mabley advertisement

1905 Boston Auto Show Smith & Mabley ad

1905 Smith & Mabley advertisement

1905 Smith & Mabley advertisement

1905 Smith & Mabley Garage Plan

1905 Smith & Mabley Garage Construction

1906 Isotta-Fraschini Bridal Car by S&M

1906 Mercedes Warning

1906 Mercedes by S&M advertisement

1906 Mercedes S&M catalog

1906 S&M Simplex Cape Cart Touring

1906 S&M Simplex Limousine

1906 S&M Simplex Roi de Belges Touring

1906 Smith & Mabley Ad

1906 S&M Simplex Catalog

1907 Smith & Mabley Receiver's Sale


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