Charles Henry Stratton, the founder and driving force behind the Stratton
Carriage Body Co. of Muncie, Indiana and its predecessor, the C.H. Stratton
Carriage Co. of Buffalo, New York and Salem, was born in Monroeton, Bradford
County, Pennsylvania sometime during the early 1850s.
After a public education Stratton was apprenticed to a local blacksmith
and carriage builder and in 1872 established his own wagon, farm implement
and blacksmith shop in Monroeton. Stratton was a skilled engineer and
starting in 1874 received a series of patents on farm implements, carriage
seats and wagon bodies.
He relocated to Salem, Ohio in 1876 where he established the C.H.
Stratton Carriage Co. at the corner of W. Main St. and 15 Jennings Ave. His
younger brother Franklin eventually joined him and by the mid 1880s they
were shipping large numbers of their patent jump seats, jump seat irons,
wagon gear, and combination carriages to numerous carriage builders and
resellers across the country. They claimed to be “The largest carriage
company in the world making exclusively family carriages”.
In 1899 Stratton announced that he was moving to a new factory in East
Jeanette, Pennsylvania. Salem’s residents were not pleased and the following
news item appeared in the July 9, 1889 Salem Daily News:
“Several of our neighboring exchanges have come to us with a news item to
the effect that C.H. Stratton, the carriage manufacturer of this city, will
move his carriage factory to East Jeanette, Pa. This item is rather
misleading. Mr. Stratton has been considering the propriety of removing his
plant but we do not understand that he has determined to make such a
removal. If his present facilities are inadequate for the demand for his
products which we understand is the case he will have no difficulty in
enlarging his factory. He has purchased land for this purpose, and the
factory will probably be enlarged where it stands.”
As it turns out Stratton did not end up relocating to East Jeanette, he
chose a much better location, Buffalo, New York. The following article comes
from the December 30th, 1890 Salem Daily News:
“New Carriage Company
“B.P Angel, of Buffalo, N.Y., who was here the latter part of last week
for the purpose of completing arrangements for the organization of the C.H.
Carriage Company, left for home Saturday evening on the 4:15 west bound
train. For some time past negotiations have been in progress between C.H.
Stratton of this city and capitalists of Buffalo who are interested in the
International Carriage Works at that city, but it was impossible to forsee
how these negotiations would terminate and for that reason we have hitherto
refrained from saying anything about the prospective enterprise. We can now
say that all the details have been satisfactorily arranged, and that all the
necessary papers have been signed.
“The new carriage company will be known as the C.H. Stratton Carriage
Company, and will be composed of five members, C.H. Stratton, Franklin
Stratton, B.P. Angel, I.P. Thorn and another gentleman yet to be admitted.
C.H. Stratton will retain a controlling interest in the company. The company
will have a business at Buffalo, and another at Salem. The mechanical force
employed here will be doubled with as little delay as possible. Five new
hands have already been employed. Whether the buildings here will be
enlarged will depend on circumstances. If it is found that the work can be
done cheaper at Salem than at Buffalo, the work will be done here, and the
factory here will probably be replaced by a more spacious and imposing
“C.H. Stratton will remove to Buffalo and reside there. His brother,
Franklin, will remain here and will manage the factory here. The Buffalo
members of the firm are interested in the International Carriage Factory at
Buffalo, and a part of the Stratton carriages will be made by the
International Company. The bodies of the combination carriages will be made
here, and the rest of the work will be done at Buffalo. The intention of the
new firm is to make three-thousand combination bodies here within the coming
“Mr. Angel came here last week for the first time. Before his arrival he
was under the impression that Salem was a small, unimportant place, but was
agreeably surprised at finding a wealthy and populous manufacturing centre.
He had but one fault to find with it, the fact that it has but one
Despite claims to the contrary, within two months the Salem works were
mothballed as evidenced by the following Salem Daily News article dating
from February 20th, 1891:
“Salem’s Loss Buffalo’s Gain
“The Stratton Carriage Factory Changes its Base.
“The carriage works on West Main street, this city, known as the C.H.
Stratton Carriage Factory, is to be removed gradually to Buffalo, N.Y. where
Mr. Stratton's business interests are chiefly located and where he has been
employed during the past year. Frank Stratton is here at the present time
but will leave here for Buffalo some time next week after which very little
work will be done in the blacksmithing department of the carriage factory at
this place. During the past year this department has given employment to
eight or nine men, whom some will probably go to Buffalo if they wish to
continue in operation through the coming summer, but probably not with a
full force of men. A great deal of work must be done here before the factory
is permanently closed, and several months will lapse before this work can be
completed. In the meantime a stock of parts and finished work will be kept
here for the accommodation of the people of this city and vicinity who
prefer double jump seat carriages. After the departure of Frank Stratton the
carriage factory at this place will be under the control of E.L. Stanley.
During the past year the C.H. Stratton Carriage factory in this city
furnished employment to 25 or 30 men and pad out to its employees, in the
year 1890, $12,000. The reasons for removing the factory at this place to
Buffalo are such that no considerations can be entertained to prevent the
removal. A year or more ago C.H. Stratton organized a carriage company at
Buffalo, transferred his business interests largely to that place and
subsequently removed his family there. The head of the C.H. Stratton
Carriage Company is therefore at Buffalo, the body is also there, and to
remove the carriage shop on West Main St. to Buffalo is merely removing what
might be called one leg of it.”
The April 8th, 1891 Salem Daily News announced that the former Stratton
works had been rented to Henry Z. Thomas. However, shipments of existing
carriage parts and bodies from Salem to Buffalo continued throughout the
remainder of the year.
Things did not go well in Buffalo, and the October 9th 1895, issue of the
Buffalo Courier announced the voluntary dissolution of the firm, and stated
that the firm’s creditors were launching proceedings against B.P. Angel and
Stratton remained undaunted by the bankruptcy and relocated to Muncie,
Indiana in 1898, where he established the Stratton Carriage Body Company on
April 26, 1899. Stratton was well-known in the wholesale carriage business
and in no time at all he found plenty of customers for his bodies, seats and
In January of 1903, the Stratton firm made national headlines when an
outbreak of mumps forced the temporary closure of the factory. By that time
Stratton had already begun supplying convertible tops, seats and bodies in
the white to many of the region’s pioneer automakers.
In early 1908 Stratton made the decision to develop a Stratton automobile
and delivered the prototype during February of 1909. Kimes & Clark had kind
words for the car, although by that time, the highwheeler was already on its
“Though the Stratton Carriage Company venture into manufacture itself
was short-lived, the highwheeler it produced in 1909 was an admirable one,
with two-cylinder 14 hp engine under a hood in front, two-speed planetary
transmission, double chain drive, and right-hand steering by wheel. The
Stratton's wheelbase was a long 90 inches, and the car's ride on 36-inch
wheels in front, 38-inch in rear was said to be quite comfortable.”
Stratton entered into negotiations with a group of Wabash, Indiana
businessmen in the hopes of establishing a factory there to build the
Stratton car, but the financing fell through, and Stratton decided to stick
with building automobile bodies.
During his many years in the carriage business he had designed and
manufactured a number of clever transformable seats and carriage bodies. His
infatuation with seating continued into the automobile age, and he
introduced a number of novel seating conventions.
The first involved an inflatable rear occasional seat/cushion that
allowed physicians to their doctor’s coupe into a temporary ambulance. The
second was a runabout body with a concealed rear seat that could be raised
when needed. The Muncie Evening Press claimed it solved:
"... the nuisance of
hauling friends about on their business when the owner of the car has urgent
business of his own to transact."
Stratton’s death was reported in a 1913 issue of Automotive Industries:
“C.H. Stratton, designer and manufacturers of the Stratton Car died
suddenly last week at his home in Muncie, Indiana, following a stroke of
Stratton’s body building operation was a one-man show, and his firm
accompanied him to the grave.
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com