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Walker Wells Body Co.
Walker & Wells Carriage Company, 1908-1911; Walker-Wells Body Company, 1911-1918; Amesbury, Massachusetts
Associated Builders
Walker Body Company

The founder of the Walker Body Co., George T. Walker Sr., emigrated to the United States from his native Scotland in 1870. After arriving in the carriage-making center of Amesbury, Massachusetts, he formed a partnership with John H. Shiels in 1885. The new firm, called the Walker & Shiels Carriage Works didn’t last for long, as the two men became partners in the well-known Amesbury carriage works of Hume & Co.

The foundation of this firm dates from the purchase in 1857 by James Hume, of the business of J. R. Huntington, one of Amesbury’s oldest builders. Under the senior Hume's management the firm became known all over the country for the style and variety of its work. Hume’s eldest son, John, eventually took over the firm and when he retired in 1884, his brother, William H. Hume, assumed control, taking in Shiels and Walker as partners a year later. An 1888 a fire destroyed nineteen carriage plants in Amesbury, including three buildings used by Hume.

Shiels left the firm in 1887 to form his own carriage-building concern, John H. Shiels and Co. In April of 1898, the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. of Newton, Massachusetts, commissioned the Currier Cameron Co. to build ten bodies for its new steam-operated automobile. Currier & Cameron built the bodies and subcontracted the trimming to the Shields Carriage Co., the successor to John H. Shiels and Co.. From 1898 until 1900, Shields and Currier & Cameron were the only Amesbury firms involved in the automobile business.

In 1898, George T. Walker Sr. left Hume to organize his own firm, the Walker Carriage Company. Walker conducted business in Amesbury until 1903 when he moved to the neighboring town of Merrimac (formerly West Amesbury). However, Hume did not fade into obscurity. In 1909 they moved to Boston, opening a shop in the middle of Boston’s automobile row, which was located on Commonwealth Ave. near Fenway Park. Between 1909 and 1925, they built custom bodies for Boston’s luxury car distributors, eventually being purchased by Marmon in 1924, in order to obtain the services of their president and stylist, W. E. Pierce.

Back in Merrimac, Walker’s business prospered and his sons, George Jr. and James H. Walker joined him in the family business. James, his eldest son, served a term in the Massachusetts State Senate from 1905-1906, and was thereafter known as “Senator Jim”.  In 1909, Senator Jim re-established the Walker name in Amesbury, forming the Walker & Wells Carriage Co. with a partner, Harlan P. Wells in the former Folger & Drummond Carriage Works, on Railroad Ave. The firm was incorporated in 1911 as the Walker-Wells Body Co., as automobile bodies were now an important of their business. Although he remained in Merrimac, George Sr. remained one of the Amesbury firm’s four partners, with Harlan Wells, president; James H. Walker, treasurer and Henry Miller, secretary. When Harlan P. Wells retired in 1918, the two firms were reorganized as the Walker Body Co., with plants in both Merrimac and Amesbury.

George T. Walker Sr. passed away in 1919, but his two sons remained in control of the firm. George T. Walker, Jr., was president; George F. Wilde, vice president; Frank M. Prescott, secretary and James H. Walker, treasurer. George T. Thompson served as Walker’s purchasing agent while G. Howard ­Temple was superintendent of production. The Merrimac plant was discontinued in 1920.

During the following decade, Walker reached became Amesbury’s second largest builder, producing from 8-10,000 bodies at its peak. According to former employees, Walker employed 1500 hands in 1927, its peak year, and consumed over two million board feet of white ash lumber. As all Walker bodies were made of aluminum, that would make them one of the nation's largest consumers of sheet alumi­num as well.

Unfortunately the Depression brought an end to the Walker Body Company. They chose not to invest in the expensive machinery needed to stamp out the all-steel bodies that were coming down the pike and by the end of 1931, conditions were so bad that Walker decided to discontinue its body building business, and ventured into other fields. The firm’s first few ventures, such as the Stanley patent Quick demountable wheel, were unsuccessful. When Franklin faltered in 1933, they purchased a controlling interest in the Marks-Doman Engine Company, a firm founded in Syracuse by former Franklin engineers Carl Doman and Ed Marks, to market an air-cooled engine to the aero and automotive industry. Marks-Doman moved to Amesbury later that year and was headquartered in the first two floors of Walker’s No. 4 body plant.

Walker attempted to sell Doman-Marks in September of 1935 to a stillborn syndicate formed to produce another Franklin car, but the deal fell through. They managed to sell it a year later to Norman Woolworth, a relative of F.W. Woolworth, the dime-store millionaire. The Doman-Marks engine survived for a number of years and was used in the 1937 Airmobile, 1938-40 White Horse delivery truck and served as the basis for the air-cooled 1948 Tucker.

However, the rest of the Walker Body Company was in trouble, and the firm’s trustees; Edward Gould, Clifford Carter and George Howard Temple voluntarily liquidate its assets in 1934. The sale of Doman-Marks completed the liquidation, and the firm quietly faded away.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -






Thomas H. Hubbard - The Franklin Automobile: Distinguished American Classic - Air-Cooled News, Vol 1 #5, August 1954

Thomas H. Hubbard - Was This Herbert’s Dietrich? - the Classic Car, September 1975

Clifford Boram - Walker Body Co: Where Craftsmanship Is a Heritage - Air-Cooled News #31, June 1963

Pete Kunan - Walker Body Co. Factories: Today – Air-Cooled News #94, July 1985

Waltter E. Gosden - Walker Body Co.  Revisited - Air-Cooled News #94, July 1985

Walter E. Gosden - Coachwork Lines: Walker Body Company - the Classic Car, March 1988

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

Orra L. Stone - History of Massachusetts Industries Vol I-IV - Boston, MA, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1930

John Bartley - Amesbury as a Body-Building Center – April 13, 1943 – Collection of the Amesbury Public Library

Sinclair Powell - The Franklin Automobile Company

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

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