The November 15, 1915 Boston Daily Globe included
an article in which Leonard B. Nichols, the president of Chauncey
Thomas & Co., claims that in 1892 he turned out "the first
’worth-while’ auto ever built in Boston, an electrically-propelled
The vehicle that Nichols was
referring to was the Holtzer Electric automobile, an early electric
by the Holtzer-Cabot Electric Co. of Brookline, Mass., to the order of
Warren, Esq., a wealthy Boston attorney and paper manufacturer who “had
desire to ascertain just what could be done with such vehicles”.
The firm had ties to three local
coachbuilders, Boston’s Chauncey
Thomas & Co. who supplied the coachwork for a number of its
Michael Quinlan who built another, and George W. McNear who later
Station Street factory.
Holtzer-Cabot’s founder, Charles William
Holtzer, was born
in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1848. Emigrating in 1866, he found employment
Ritchie & Sons, a manufacturer of nautical accessories located in
In 1874 he entered into a partnership producing doorbells, alarms, gas
and other small electrical appliances with a Mr. Newell, in the style
& Newell. Within the year, he bought out his partner, establishing
Co. in a small building in Brookline’s Harvard Square.
In 1880 Holtzer relocated to a larger
facility on Boylston
Street at which time he took on a partner, Seth W. Fuller. In 1885 they
a plot opposite the Station Street railway station upon which was built
modern yellow-brick four-story factory.
As the business expanded, they took in a
George W. Cabot, in the style of Fuller, Holtzer & Co. Fuller
the partnership in 1889, and it was reorganized as the Holtzer-Cabot
Company. A massive fire destroyed a large portion of the Station
on the night of October 6, 1911. The October 12, 1911 edition of Motor
Damages Holtzer-Cabot Factory.
“Fire of mysterious origin started at
midnight, October 6-7,
in the factory of the Holtzer-Cabot Electric Co., Brookline,
and destroyed the entire main building, causing nearly $250,000 damage.
other things, the Holtzer-Cabot company makes a dynamo
ignition system for automobiles.”
Temporary quarters were acquired while the
firm undertook construction
of a new facility at 125 Armory st., Jamaica Plain. The May 1914 issue
Accessory and Garage Journal reported:
“NEW HOLTZER-CABOT FACTORY.
“Ground has been broken for the erection of
a new factory of
the Holtzer-Cabot Electric Company, Brookline, Mass., and
Ill., on Armory street, Roxbury. Mass. It will be six stories high,
with an ell of the same height, and will
modern construction and equipment throughout. It is expected that it
ready for occupancy early in 1915.”
Holtzer-Cabot’s Station Street factory was
leased out by George W. McNear, Boston’s best-known builder of
automobile coachwork, who used the facility for most of the next two
prior to their removal to 20 Webster Place, Brookline.
The April 1922 issue of the General Electric
a historical review of Boston’s first electric-powered vehicles:
“The Electric Vehicle in Boston, by E.
Superintendent Operating Bureau Accounts Department, Edison Electric
Illuminating Co., Boston
“The first electric automobile in
Boston was built
in the summer of 1888 by Fred M. Kimball of the Fred M. Kimball Co. of
This machine was constructed for P. W. Pratt and was first exhibited in
Winthrop Square and later on Columbus Avenue in Boston; also at Central
New York City; and on the Boardwalk at Atlantic City.
“It consisted of a tricycle driven by a
bi-polar electric motor of about one-third horse power. Electric power
supplied by a storage battery consisting of six Julien cells, mounted
wooden crate suspended from the main frame of the vehicle by means of
springs, so arranged as to relieve the battery crate from strain or
triple reduction through one set of gears and two chain drives gave the
a speed ranging from 6 to 8 miles per hour on a smooth road. Its total
without passenger was about 300 lb.
“The next electric vehicle in Boston about
which we have any
information was a two-passenger electric carriage built for Fiske
1891 by the Holtzer-Cabot Electric Co. of Boston. This car was
with a 5-h.p. series-wound motor especially designed for a speed of 600
and driven by 40 "11-E" chloride accumulator cells coupled to control
in four groups of ten cells each to produce speeds of 4, 8, and 16
hour when running over good level roads, and on the middle speed the
would run about 40 miles on a single charge of the battery. The weight
carriage with batteries was nearly 3000 lb., yet it could be operated
great ease and was a very satisfactorily running carriage.
“The drive consisted of rawhide wheels on
each end of the
armature shaft, bearing on iron flanges bolted to the inside of each
wheel. Ingenious devices were provided for the electric control, for
regulating the speed, and for braking. The speed of this car was about
per hour and but for its untimely end would doubtless have given good
“In 1895 the Holtzer-Cabot Co.
electric wagon, modeled after the English "brake," for a wealthy
resident of Boston. Its weight was about 5100 lb. and was of solid and
“The batteries contained in the body and
under the front
seat consisted of forty-four 250-ampere-hour chloride accumulator cells
normal discharge rate of 25 amp. The motor was a special 7 1/2 h.p.
series wound machine, having a speed at full load of 250 r.p.m. and an
efficiency of 89 per cent.
“The car had a speed of from 4 to 15 miles
per hour and
could take ordinary grades with ease.”
Holtzer-Cabot exhibited an electric carriage
Eighteenth Triennial Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable
Association, held during October and November 1892 at the Huntington
West Newton st. Exhibition Building in Boston, Massachusetts. The
catalog included the following entry:
“The Holtzer-Cabot Electric
Company manufacture a
variety of electrical apparatus, some of which has been on the market
and have been accepted by the public as a standard where supplies of
highest class are called for.
“The most prominent specialties made by this
belonging more strictly to the general supply class are the H. C.
plain gas lighting fittings, annunciators, burglar alarms, and a
of electrical bells, also H. C. watchman's time register for battery or
service, the well-known, monarch battery, magneto and extension bells
classes of telephone and general service, together with a large variety
buttons, switches and various devices and fittings which make up a
line of electrical hardware.
“The most prominent and attractive feature
of their exhibit
was the electric carriage, and the full line of dynamos and motors.
carriage is probably the most powerful and largest of its class that is
and is a good example of the latest ideas in
electric automobile carriages.
It is in general similar to the English break type and is driven by a
devised, slow speed, motor which is connected to the rear wheels by a
chain and differential gearing; by means of an easily operated
well defined speeds may be obtained. It is easily guided by one hand,
together which a powerful brake makes it easily controlled.
“This company manufacture motors of 1-8 to
50 H. P., and
dynamos for electric light or power purposes of equivalent capacity.
also recently added a line of dynamos for electroyping etc. Only the
workmanship and stock are used in the construction of their apparatus,
attempt is made to compete with cheap goods.
“They have recently equipped the New Fire
Boston, with twenty-five special motor generators with which the entire
alarm service is operated. This installation is the largest of the kind
country and has been in operation day and night since starting, giving
satisfaction and displacing over 401)0 cells of primary battery with
attendant trouble, uncertainty and expense. It is in such cases as the
where efficiency, good workmanship and quiet running, with the utmost
durability, are demanded, and these are found in the Holtzer-Cabot
“The carriage shown by them is estimated to
run 100 miles
without recharging, at the rate of fifteen miles an hour. What another
will show in the line of electric carriages is a most interesting
That the advancement will be useful and pleasant as well as wonderful
a doubt. Those exhibitors and their compeers and successors will take a
prominent part in this great work. The award of the Judges for their
exhibit was a Silver Medal.”
A very detailed description of the
was published in the inaugural issue of The Horseless Age (November,
“The Holtzer Electric Wagon
“In the spring of 1895 The Holtzer-Cabot
Electric Co. of
Boston, completed for a wealthy resident of that city an electric wagon
after the English brake and capable of seating six or seven persons.
is 5,100 pounds, and it is of the most durable and solid construction
“The batteries are contained in the body and
under the front
seat, and the top or cover of the body which supports the two rear
hinged, so that it can be raised and thrown over against the front
leaving the cells and all connections accessible for examination or
“The batteries comprise 44, 250 ampere hour
with a nominal discharge rated of 25 amperes. The cells are arranged in
groups of eleven each, and are connected to the motor through a series
controller, which puts the groups in multiple series, and multiple
giving three speeds; 5, 8 and 15 miles an hour. These are operated by
shown alongside the steering shaft, and locked in the various positions
engaging with a notched arc and spring latch. This arrangement gives
defined speeds, and no rheostat is needed. Though put to severe test in
climbing and over heavy roads the batteries are said to have been equal
“The running gear is very substantially
built to stand the
strain of heavy loads and rough roads without danger of breaking
wheels. To reduce friction the wheels are provided with ball bearings.
of the wagons is watertight and acid proof paint has been liberally
it, so that under no circumstances can the breaking or spilling of a
damage the motor or its connections underneath.
“The steering is arranged at the hubs of the
heavy crank levers being geared to the steering shaft, which is
provided with a
bicycle handle. A toothed segment with a spring latch is also arranged
by a slight pressure of the foot the operator may lock the front wheels
angle. Notwithstanding the immense weight the wagon can be guided by
at any speed.
“The motor is a 4 pole series wound, of 7 ˝
H.P. capacity, and
weighs 450 pounds. Its speed at full load is 250 revolutions and its
89 per cent. A phosphor bronze armature pinion engages with a carefully
intermediate gear, the shaft of which is divided and connected through
differential gearing, allowing the wheels to run at different speeds
rounding corners. The intermediate shaft drives the hind wheels
chains, one on each side. The motor and gearing are protected by a
“For convenience in backing a reversing
switch is mounted on
the controller arc and interlocks with it so that the motor cannot be
until the controller level is placed at ‘off’.
“The speed may be varied from 4 to 15 miles
an hour, and all
ordinary grades are accomplished with ease. The brake is of the usual
pattern, and has been found sufficient for all purposes.
“Two 10 candle power lamps furnish light by
“The wagon work was done by Chauncey Thomas
carriage builders of Boston.”
The June 28, 1893 issue of Electricity
contained the following
news item relating to the car:
“The selectmen of Brookline, Mass. are
they ought to prohibit the use of an electric carriage in the streets,
having been made that it frightened a horse. Mr. Fiske Warren, the
owner of the
vehicle, cites in defense of such use of it the case of the bicycle
which similar objections were raised when it first appeared but are
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