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The Friday March 5, 1897 Rome Citizen
reported the details:
“$125,000 Visited This City Early This
Block in Ashes. The Fire Originated Hear the Elevator Shaft.
“FIREMEN WORK BRAVELY. Utica, Syracuse and
Oneida Wired for
Assistance, But the Orders Were Countermanded, as the Fire Was Got
Control at 2 O’Clock.
“One of largest fires that have ever visited
Rome started at
12 o’clock last night in the rear of the six-story Bingham block on
street. The fire was first discovered by a brakeman of a freight train
stopped in front of the depot. Officer Conley was at the depot and
the alarm from box 2-3, corner of Front and James streets. The fire was
under good headway. It originated in the southwest corner of the
addition in the rear, and at the bottom of the elevator shaft.
“The flames shot up through the shaft, and
in a short time
the entire building was enveloped. The building was occupied by the
Harness company and E.A. Willoughby carriage and sleigh works. Only a
the goods on the ground floor were saved. Mr. Bingham said the building
about $50,000, on which the Fort Stanwix bank had a mortgage of
$15,000, insurance $7,000. Mr. Bingham said his
company carried about $40,000 of stock, which was insured for about
Mr. Willoughby estimates his stock at
$25,000, with about
$15,000 insurance. Paul Fluster’s harness shop, a small one-story
west of the Bingham block, was burned; contents saved. The
building was valued at $150 with only a
small insurance. Next to this building was a two-story frame building
Owens, Day & Co., and occupied by Mr. Willoughby as wood working
department. The building was worth about $300, and Mr. Willoughby does
what his loss is in this building.
Next west is the T.W. Edwards property,
considerably damaged. C. Schneible’s wholesale liquor store, a 2 ½
building, corner of James and Front streets, was considerably damaged
Front street side, the blinds and windows being burned. The loss will
reach $150, and is covered by insurance.
“L. Hower's new brick block, on Front street
loss, the windows being broken by the heat, and the sash burned. The
the two upper floors in front were water soaked. His damage was $1,500.
“Burrel’s cheese press factory and supply
three-story brick building across Front street, was considerably
doors and windows were burned out. The loss to the building will
$100, and is covered by insurance. The loss to stock by water is
cannot now be estimated.
“The Ethridge-Rose five-story brick
building, unoccupied, on
the east side of James street, was damaged by heat, and it caught fire
times. The windows in front were broken. The damage is probably $1,000.
“The flames leaped across the canal and set
Randolph’s livery, the building being owned by J.S. Dyett. Here the
an exceedingly stubborn fight, was got under control. The damage to Mr.
Randolph and the building will reach probably $1,500.
“The Rome fire-department, which did all it
could under the
circumstances, was not equal to the occasion, and Chief Briggs wired
Oneida, and Utica for assistance. At 1 o'clock it looked as though the
going to Dominick street, and also consume the buildings west of the
block and the Ethridge Rose building, but a 2 o’clock the fire was got
control, and the requests for assistance were countermanded. Utica and
had their apparatus loaded on the cars and were waiting for orders to
when they were notified the fire was under control.
“The north wall of the Bingham block fell
into the canal, and
the other walls feel into the street. The volunteer fire department is
congratulated on its good and efficient work, although it was
many ways. No pressure could be obtained, as the river was very low,
were several bursts in the hose.
“The buildings, known as the Armstrong
block, burned on the
site of the Bingham property, about 18 years ago this winter. The fire
spread to D.D. William’s carriage shop, which caught two or three
the firemen were ‘too many for it’ and extinguished the flames with
$100 damage. Insured.
“About 75 people are thrown out of
employment. Both steamers
were pressed into service and they did excellent work, and saved
over $500,000 worth of property. Had it not been for these steamers,
would have spread to Dominick at the north, to Washington street off to
west, and to the Ethridge-Rose building and A.P. Tuner’s plant on the
to the Central depot on the south. Still there are people in this city
criticized the action of the commissioners in purchasing the new engine
year ago. The fire clearly demonstrated that Rome must have a different
of water supply, either gravity or a pumping plant.
“The fire is still burning as the Citizen
goes to press, and
the members of the bolunteer fired department are on duty and working
faithfully as though each received a salary of $5,000 a year.
“In Willoughby’s wagon shop Ira Teeter lost
a valuable set
of tools for which he refused $500. Workmen for the Bingham Harness
also lost valuable kits of tools.”
Immediately following the loss, the Utica
Commerce approached Willoughby with the goal of having him take over
city’s Utica Carriage Co. which was in the midst of bankruptcy
scheme was approved by the Charles I. Williams, the carriage company’s
and Willoughby took over management of the firm on March 30th, 1897 as
by the April 3, 1897 issue of the Utica Daily Press:
“Utica’s Latest Industry
Located Here - The Former Roman Assumes the Management of the Utica
Company’s Plant – Twenty Men Employed and That Number Will Soon Be
“The reputation of E.A. Willoughby as a
manufacturer extends far beyond the borders of Oneida County and even
those of the State of New York. Therefore the news that the blaze which
March 4th swept out of existence over $100,000 worth of property in
taken with it his factory was deplored by a great many people who are
“It will be good news to such, especially
those of Utica, to
learn, that Mr. Willoughby is to continue in the carriage making
in this city. On March 30, he assumed the management of the Utica
Company under Charles I. Williams, the receiver. At the time of the
disaster, Mr. Willoughby had many orders ahead. He comes here to
orders and at the same time to fulfill all others he may receive.
“In the plant of the Utica Carriage Company
facility is provided a carriage manufacturer to put his conception of
making into material form. People ordinarily do not realize how much of
carriage making is. There are men employed in some of the larger
in this country, who receive salaries of $10,000 for artistic work
with this branch of manufacture. The demand for the best and handsomest
vehicle line is practically unlimited. It is the mediocre which is a
the market. The reputation of Mr. Willoughby's carriages show that he
the talent to meet the demands of the class who are able and anxious to
handsome style and in the Utica plant he will have every opportunity to
scope to that talent.
“The Utica Carriage Company's factory is the
guard of the city's manufacturing industry. It is situated on Dwyer
Turner Street, only about a hundred yards west of the city line. The
is a handsome one of its kind, of red brick, 175 by 60 feet and four
high. It has capacity for turning out 800 carriages a year and would
to fifty men. The building is splendidly equipped with the finest
for carriage making. In fact, there is no better equipped factory in
States. Much of the work, however, which Mr. Willoughby will direct,
done by hand. At present twenty men are employed at the factory, but
will soon be increased to thirty. Everything in the line of a pleasure
known to man will be made there and the work will be strictly high
orders received for fine work on special designs will not be
by the permission of the partner giving the orders. Mr. Willoughby
open a carriage repository in the business portion of the city within a
“The Utica Carriage Company, which was
established in 1893,
has always had the name of doing good work. At the present time there
the factory scores of fine specimens of that work including rockaways,
cabriolets, opera busses, breaks, phaetons and traps of various forms,
number of buggies and other kinds of light vehicles. With prospects of
times the outlook before the company under the new management is
the city is fortunate, in that the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce
Mr. Willoughby to locate in Utica were crowned with success.”
As the factory was located a couple of miles
due east of
Utica’s main shopping district, Willoughby leased a satellite showroom
warehouse at 86 Genesee Street, Utica. The building, popularly known as
‘Checkered Block’, was located in Utica’s popular Bagg’s Square
district and formerly housed the H.E. Brewster Co., a dealer in trunks,
suit cases, hats, caps and straw goods. For the next year or so,
was the only name that appeared on advertisements as evidenced by the
wareroom advertisement that appeared in the June 26, 1897 Utica
“WILLOUGHBY CARRIAGE AND SLEIGH BUILDER.
“Broughams, Cabriolets, Victorias, Surreys,
Buggies, Bicycles, Trunks and Bags.
“See Our Styles and Get Our Prices Before
“86 Genesee St., Utica, N.Y.”
At least one display ad advertised
‘Willoughby’s Utica Carriage Co.’.
A full-page ad in the Utica Daily Press
railroad-sponsored city-wide sale on the weekend of November 17-18,
E.A. Willoughby under the harness, saddlery and carriages heading.
The Bingham Harness works got back on its
feet as well, relocating
it manufacturing plant 1 block southeast to a Canal Street site owned
Rome Factory Bldg. Co., another firm controlled by Dr. Willey Lyon
Rome Factory Building Co. was a 50-acre site established to provide
facilities for firms utilizing the products of the Rome Brass &
Copper Co. The
Bingham Harness Co. also leased a showroom and office at 148 W.
Dominick St. which
was one block northwest of the Bingham block ruins.
The September 26, 1899 Rome Citizen included
of the Harness Co.’s exhibit at the 1899 Oneida County Fair:
“THE LARGEST EXHIBIT,
“Nothing Ever Seen on the Grounds Like the
Display of the
Bingham Harness Co.
“One of the most interesting exhibits for
the people who are
interested in fine buggies and horse furnishings is the exhibit of the
Harness company who have the largest and best display of articles in
ever seen on the ground.
“The Bingham company is among the largest
manufacturers in their
line in the United States. Their factory is located in East Rome, but
a retail store at 148 West Dominick street where they carry a full
everything in the line of carriages, harness and stable hoods. The fact
they do such an extensive business enables them to buy in the best
they are in a position to give the very best values.
“Their harness factory is one of Rome’s
model factories and
a very interesting place to visit. The building was erected after the
which burned out the company in 1897, and contains all the
the latest machinery in their line of business. The
factory is so arranged that the raw
material is taken in at one end and the finished harness turned out at
the other end.
“All latest labor saving devices are used
possible is done to economize labor. Over 80 hands are employed and a
is turned out every twenty-five minutes. In the rush season
time can be made and the factory has a record of having tuned out a
the raw material and had it boxed ready for shipment in six minutes.
“This is something that could be equaled in
establishments of the kind in the country. All grades of goods are
manufactured, from light buggy harness to heavy work harness and the
grade of carriage trappings. The company manufactures a harness which
$6.75 and the prices run from that figure upwards.
“The Bingham Harness company was
incorporated in 1891. Dr.
W. L. Kingsley is president, and M.R. Bingham, who has been through all
of the business, is the secretary and treasurer and has the general
of the concern, and J.C. Pendill is superintendent and has charge of
Rinaldo M. Bingham passed away on November
19, 1901 at the
age of 76, at his home at Hunter’s Station, in Portland, Oregon. The
19, 1901 issue of the Utica Observer carried his obituary:
“DEATH OF R.M. BINGHAM.
“Former Prominent Rome Man Dies in Portland,
“Rome, Nov. 19, (Special) - News was
received here this
morning from Portland, Oregon announcing the death of R.M. Bingham, a
well known business man and manufacturer of this city. No particulars
death are at hand, and the son, M.R. Bingham, head of the Bingham
Company here, was not aware that his father was ill.
“Mr. & Mrs. Bingham had lived in
Portland for about ten
years, he being engaged in business there. For many years Mr. Bingham
a carriage manufactory here, employing a large number of hands, and
panic of fifteen or twenty years ago, failed.
“He was connected with several of Rome’s
institutions, having been the first vice president of the old Rome
the Farmers National Bank, and for many years he was one of the board
trustees of the First M.E. Church. Mr. Bingham was 76 years old. He is
by his wife, one son, M.R. of Rome, and one daughter, Mrs. E.A.
Utica. Mr. Bingham was born in Martinsburg, Lewis county, and studied
He practiced for a time in Watertown and came to Rome in 1855. He was
the committee that erected the First M.E. Church in 1875.”
The Bingham block plot was eventually
purchased by W.J.
Doyle and eventually rebuilt as reported in the November 12, 1908 issue
“Rome, N.Y. – W.J. Doyle of the Doyle
Novelty Works and A.S.
Noonan of the Noonan Garage and Bicycle Works have had plans drawn for
erection of a theater and garage on South James street the site of the
Bingham harness factory. Contracts will be let as soon as possible.”
A 1912 issue of Metal Industry confirms the
“W.J. Doyle makes brass, bronze,
aluminum castings and he is now in larger quarters at 130
South James street.”
The Bingham Harness Co., whose showroom was
at 148 W.
Dominick St., and its factory at 109
Canal St., survived until 1917 when it was forced into bankruptcy with
$127,867. Dr. W.L. Kingsley, the firm’s largest shareholder and debt
and his wife held $80,000 in notes) took control of the firm
reorganizing it as
the Rome Sporting Goods Co. Bingham’s Canal street factory was taken
the Rome Turney Radiator Co., a well-known manufacturer of
fin-tube copper radiators for automobiles and other motor vehicles.
The Utica Carriage Company was incorporated
on March 20,
1893 by a group of Oneida County businessmen headed by Charles I.
eldest son of Irvin A. Williams, the founder of the Utica Head-Light
was later incorporated as I.A. Williams & Co.
Irvin Abijah Williams was born in Oriskany,
Oneida County, New
York on June 9, 1829 to Abijah Jewel and Mary (Billington) Williams. In
of 1841 he accompanied his parents on a move to nearby Utica and after
education learned the trade of wood turning, after which he went to
work in his
father’s machine shop. In 1851 he began building small numbers of
railroad locomotive head lamps and after much experimentation designed
improved unit which was awarded US Pat. No. 11,799 on October 10, 1854.
Production commenced on the ‘Williams Patent
Head-Lamp’ and following a number of reissues and improvements (RE 503
27, 1857) Pat. No. 22,099 (Nov. 16, 1858) Pat No. 35,122 (April 29,
head lamp became the nation’s most popular. Further improvements
the war, a number of them making their way into household instruments,
Irvin A. Williams a wealthy man. The firm’s business was conducted out
five-story brick building at the corner of Blandina and Genesee Sts.
In 1881 he took his son, Charles I.
partnership, under the firm name of I.A. Williams & Co., and in
youngest son, Aras J. Williams, entered the firm. In 1894 I. A.
Co. helped organize the United States Headlight Co., one of the
manufacturing ‘trusts’ that were cropping up around the country at the
The June 16, 1894 issue of Railway World explained the trust’s
“The United States Head-Light Company, of
Utica, New York,
of which J. Kirby, jr., is president, and A. J. Williams secretary, has
purchased of M. M. Buck & Co., the Dayton Manufacturing Company,
Company, Steam Gauge and Lantern Company, I. A. Williams & Co., and
Adams & Westlake Company the machinery, tools, patterns, &c,
constituting their head-light business, together with thirty-two
and a number of applications for patents, covering all of the standard
for illuminated numbers and signals in head-lights and other desirable
improvements therein. It is the intention of the United States
Company to unite with the patents and facilities thus acquired, the
over forty years' experience in manufacturing head-lights, for the
embodying in them the latest improved devices which will add to the
convenience, and durability; furnishing bead-lights for all purposes
to any heretofore supplied, at the lowest possible price consistent
first-class material and workmanship. Selling agents for this company
conveniently located in the best distributing points of the country,
carry in stock a full line of standard head-lights and parts thereof,
purpose of filling all orders promptly. This company having secured
valuable patents and assumed the litigation now in progress, railroads
others purchasing its goods will thereby protect themselves from action
Although Utica had a number of
builders, including Charles J. Childs, whose firm is covered elsewhere
encyclopedia, Irvin’s eldest son wished to establish his own carriage
a stock company named the Utica Carriage Company was organized. Charles
Williams served as president; Frank D. Westcott,
secretary; and Myron W. Van Auken, treasurer and attorney.
Frank D. Westcott was a clerk/accountant by
dabbled in various other Utica businesses including Westcott &
publishers; Miller & Westcott (later Westcott & Parker) coal
and the Westcott Laundry Co. Myron W. Van
Auken was a well-known Utica attorney who specialized in corporate law
served on the boards of numerous Utica businesses.
The sale of stock provided for the
construction of a modern 75
ft. by 150 ft. factory at the northwest corner of Dwyer Avenue and
Street, Utica, a hundred yards west of the city line and adjacent to
York Central rail lines and Erie Canal. The four-story brick building
capacity for turning out 800 to 1000 carriages/bodies a year and could
furnish employment for fifty to one hundred craftsmen, many of whom
the German community of Frankfort which was located along the canal
just to the
An 1894 inspection by the State of New York
the firm employed 30 males, who worked a standard 60 hour week. The
March 1896 issue
of The Hub listed the firm’s directors:
"At the annual meeting of the
the Utica Carriage Co., held February 1st, the following
were elected: C. I. Williams, W. T. Atwood, M. W. Van Auken, R.
Richards, F. D.
Westcott, John B. Wild and C. W. Hackett. The Directors elected the
officers: President, C. I. Williams; Vice-President, John B. Wild;
F. D. Westcott; Treasurer. M. W. Van Auken."
The director’s main line of work follows:
John B. Wild. pres.,
Oneida Knitting Mills, Utica; W.T. Atwood, pres. Utica Knitting
Oriskany Falls, N.Y.; C.W. Hackett was a partner with Atwood in Hackett
Atwood, another knitting mill located in Stittville, N.Y., and also
half-share in R. Marcy & Co., a railroad coal supplier based in
R. Richards was pres. of R. Richards and Son,
builders, Utica, N.Y.
The factory commenced operations in
mid-1894, with its first
advertisement appearing in the Utica papers June 30, 1894.
July 20, 1895 Utica Saturday Globe:
“The Common Council last night ratified the
action of the
committee appointed to purchase an ambulance. The committee had awarded
contract to the Utica Carriage company for $600. The vehicle will be
in every particular and Utica no longer need be ashamed of her
service. The carriage will be turned over to the Police and Fire
will operate it.”
I couldn’t locate many advertisements for
the firm after
that date, so it’s not surprising that within two years the firm was in
hands of a receiver, as reported by the August 17, 1896 issue of the
“Utica Carriage Works Suspend.
“A local industry employing over 100 hands
in the busy
season, and from 25 to 30 the year around, was forced to suspend
Saturday on account of the hard times and the inability of the officers
company to effect loans, owing to the uncertain financial outlook.
“The concern was the Utica Carriage Works,
years ago with a capital of $50,000, and the following officers:
Charles I. Williams; Vice President, John B. Wild; Secretary, Frank I.
Westcott; Treasurer, M.W. Van Auken; General Manager, John F. Durand. Justice Frank Hiscock has appointed Charles
I. Williams temporary receiver of the company.”
The August 18, 1996 issue of the Rome
Citizen reported on
the firm’s liabilities:
“The Utica Carriage company has failed. The
$48,000, of which $42,000 is owed by the directors. The personal assets
between $25,000 and $30,000. The company has assets sufficient to more
cover the liabilities. When the times brighten up the plant may be
in operation, but for some time it will be tied, up. Charles I.
been appointed receiver.”
Tuesday April 6, 1897 issue of the Utica
marks the first time it was publicly announced that Willoughby would be
over the defunct Utica Carriage Co. works:
“New Industry for Utica.
“E.A. Willoughby, the Rome carriage maker
was in Utica
Friday. He stated that he had arranged to occupy the Utica Carriage
in East Utica. Mr. Willoughby was one of the sufferers by the Bingham
fire in Rome a short time ago. The East Utica plant offers just the
Mr. Willoughby desires. He will bring to Utica with him the larger part
force of skilled workmen he employed in Rome.”
One week prior to Willoughby’s official
takeover of the firm,
the April 23, 1897 Rome Semi-Weekly Citizen announced that:
“Justice Scripture on Tuesday appointed
Charles I. Williams
permanent receiver of the Utica Carriage company. Mr. Williams has been
as temporary receiver for some time past.”
Utica Carriage Co.’s lawyer, M.W. Van Auken,
ended up with
the firm’s factory and property, which was leased to Willoughby for the
After running the defunct firm for a little
more than a
year, Willoughby took in a partner, William H. Owen, reorganizing as
Willoughby-Owen Company. The May 28, 1898 issue of the Utica Daily
announced the firm’s organization:
“TO MANUFACTURE CARRIAGES.
“The Willoughby-Owen Company incorporated –
To Operate in
“Papers were filed in Albany yesterday
‘Willoughby-Owen Company’ for the manufacture and sale of carriages in
city. The officers of the new company are: President, E.W. Willoughby;
and treasurer, W.H. Owen. For the present the manufacture of carriages
carried on in the factory formerly operated by the Utica Carriage
the eastern part of the city. The revival of the business means
new industry for the city and the new company will have the good will
who are interested in Utica’s commercial prosperity. The president, Mr.
Willoughby, has been engaged for many years in the carriage business,
greater part of the time in Rome, and thoroughly understands it. Mr.
secretary and treasurer, has been identified prominently with the meat
here for some years and has made many friends both in a business and
way. He is a man of business ability and the strictest integrity. The
begins its career with excellent prospects and will have the best
wishes of all
in the city.”
William H. Owen, (b. Nov. 27, 1855-d.
Oct.17, 1925) was a well-known
Utica businessman whose family operated the Owen & Co. meat markets
Genesee and 25 Bleecker streets. He was also was vice-president of the
Brass Mfg. Co., 228 Bleecker street, Utica, a manufacturer of
fixtures and plumbing specialties.
The April 14, 1899 issue of the Waterville
Times and Hop
Reporter announced the first of succeeding orders the firm would
the nation’s automobile manufacturers:
“The Willoughby Owen company of Utica has
received from the
Electric Vehicle company of New York city a large order for the
bodies for automobiles or horseless carriages. The contract is no less
than $60,000. The automobiles are to be used in New York city and are
finished in the finest manner. The senior member of the firm is E A.
The $60,000 order was for 135 bodies. Within
the year the Electric
Vehicle Co. of New York merged with the Columbia Automobile Co., the
manufacturing division of the Pope Mfg. Co., to form the Columbia
Company of Hartford, Connecticut.
The Friday, June 2, 1899 issue of the Motor
London, England reported:
“An United States contemporary states that
Vehicle Co. of New York has given to the Willoughby Owen Co. of Utica a
contract for the furnishing of bodies for automobiles in the sum of
The November 25, 1899 issue of the Utica
reported on the firm’s progress in completing the first order:
“Auto business growing
“The first of 35 automobiles – minus motors
– rolls off the
assembly line at the four-story, brick Willoughby-Owen factory at
Street and Dwyer Avenue on Utica’s eastern city line. They are being
the Electric Vehicle Co. in New York City.
“Willoughby-Owen auto bodies are among the
finest being built in the
They are made of ash and panels and woodwork of white wood. They
coats of paint and varnish before leaving the factory and are fitted
lamps, seats and cushions made of imported goat skin.
“Edward Willoughby, whose carriage-making plant
in Rome was
destroyed by fire
in 1897, purchased the Utica Carriage Co. on Turner Street
in Utica and he and his partner, William H. Owen – and their
skilled workers – began to manufacture bodies for automobiles,
firms in Europe. Earlier this year, the company signed a contract with
Columbia Automobile Co. in New York City to make 135 auto bodies.”
The 1899 annual report of the factory
inspectors of the
State of New York reports lists Willoughby, Owen Co., mfr. of
and sleighs, Turner Street and Dwyer Avenue, Utica, employing 28 males
average work week of 59 hours. The 1900 annual report of the same
55 hands, all male. A fire at the plant of the Electric Vehicle’s Co.
reported in the December 19, 1899 issue of the Rome Citizen:
“A Roman Interested.
“Saturday there was a fire in the
establishment of the
Electric Vehicle company’s plant at East 42d street, New York city. The
Willoughby-Owen company of Utica had a large number of automobile
bodies in the
building, which had not yet been accepted by the Electric Vehicle
which they were constructed. Shipments amounting to $20,000 had been
New York, but the fire is protected from loss. Mr. Willoughby is a
A display ad in the February 6, 1900 Utica
announced that the firm would no longer be building sleighs:
“RARE OCCASION RARE - Having decided to
manufacture of sleighs except on special orders, and owing to the open
thus far, we will offer the balance of OUR STOCK AT COST until closed
goods are new and of the latest styles. This is a grand opportunity to
want of sleighs. Call and see what it means. Willoughby-Owen Co., 86
A detailed article describing the
appeared in the September 17, 1899 issue of the Utica Sunday Journal:
“Interesting Plant - Factory Where Horseless
Made – Description of Process.
“The Willoughby-Owen Company on Turner
Street, has two large
contracts for carriages from Columbia Automobile Company of New York -
things predicted for Horseless Carriages.
“Of all Utica’s industries that bear promise
of great fruit
for the future, while in the present it is reaping a moderate harvest
owners, not one has brighter prospects than the building of
Everything necessary for a horseless carriage, as it is properly
manufactured in this city, excepting motors by which the power is
Within the next year at least one of these modern conveyances will be
in use on
Utica’s streets. It is probable that there will be several, for only
inability of companies to manufacture them as fast as the orders come
in, is to
blame for their absence from the fine boulevards in all parts of the
on the splendid roads of the surrounding country. Locally the last
Uticans got of the twentieth century conveyance was not a good one. It
connection with the trip which a man and woman were making through this
the State on their way from New York to San Francisco. The carriage
several times within hailing distance of this city. It was remarked at
that the “things” were merely in the experimental stage. This was not
by well-posted people, however for in the larger cities the automobile
common sight. It is not used alone for pleasure driving although this
use to which the greatest number are put. Heavy trucking, running of
public use, and of big omnibuses, are also done by the unseen power.
“Quite recently it was suggested, by a man
who knows what is
good and progressive in the fire department, that an automobile fire
truck would be a good thing for the fire commission to consider when
piece of apparatus is ordered. The mere suggestion carries with it and
advantages of such a piece of apparatus. It would always be ready for
lightning-like work of the department in hitching up, fast as it is,
outdone. The apparatus could go at a speed no horses could attain in
heavy work; and could travel a long distance at a rate that is not even
attempted by the drivers of the department knowing that such usage
“All over the world the automobile is coming
in general use.
Of all the forms of propulsion, none has reached the perfection that
electricity has attained.
“A visit to the
factory where they are made will explain this better. A few hours spent
will convince the most skeptical that a high grade carriage is like
of high quality – worth just what is asked for it.
“The factory is in the plant of the old
carriage company on
Turner St, or just across from the Masonic Home. It is run by the
Willoughby-Owen Company – the firm which is no working on two orders,
of 75 and
60 carriages respectively. Not half so skilled as the carriage maker is
who builds a house. There are some resemblances in the tow occupations,
however. In both the work is first planned and from the plans the
product is made.
“The designer at the works is E.M. Galle, a
graduate of a
technical school in Dresden, where he also worked at the trade. When he
this country he studied still further, and in 1892 was chief instructor
Technical School for Carriage Draughtsmen and Mechanics in New York. He
more about carriages of the old world and the new, of this century and
centuries past, than could be told in several editions of a paper. The
part of his knowledge, however, that is
used most in the making of automobiles is architectural and artistic.
milliner knows what styles of a decade ago will be in force again, so
just how the styles in carriages will change. Eight years is about the
allotted for the longest season of popularity which any one style of
enjoys. This is the life of the vehicle which is built on square lines.
remarkable that the uncompromising square lines now in vogue last twice
sometimes three times as long as do the more picturesque curved lines.
cannot be said that the curved lines in a carriage are always
by artist in the trade, for men who are most skilled and knowing in the
acknowledge that they like the square lines.
“In the draughting room are made the plans.
Patterns are cut
and from these patterns the work is done. The lumber used comes from
mills, as the finishing is all done at the factory. Four-inch timber is
heaviest that goes into the shop. This is used only in the frame work.
seasoned by four years exposure and poplar, or white wood, as it is
seasoned by two years exposure, are used. The lumber is all selected.
machine shop, on the saws, planers, etc., the work is blocked out. The
in proper shape is then piled in the dry kiln, where thirty thousand
lumber can be tried at one time. The kiln is heated by steam and in it
of the wood’s natural moisture is taken out. If in a big piece of the
there is left a tiny spot not thoroughly dry, that spot will show in
When the wood parts are sent into the body room for one carriage they
pile which originally represented 1,000 square feet of lumber. It is
impossible to see this pile of wood and believe that it is all put into
neat and compact carriages that are seen in the showroom.
“In the body room the wood assumes shape
under the tools of
the men who, after years of labor, have become expert enough to do the
work in their trade. The fit the joints of the frame with a nicety that
not the divergence of a hairbreadth from the plans. Between the joints
no visible space. Water would soak through the wood as quickly as
seam, and air could find no space where the ends of two pieces of the
Screws hold the frame together. The panels are glued on. So far as the
appearance of the body is concerned it is completed when it leaves the
woodworker’s hands and goes to the blacksmith. In the blacksmith shop
reinforced with iron, at points where the greatest strain will come.
springs and gear are put on and it is ready for the paint shop. In the
shop the guide coat is rubbed off, and with sandpaper, pumice stone and
other methods known to the trade, the surface of the wood is made
after coat of paint is used, until when the last coat of varnish is
is the eighteenth time that the painter’s brush has gone over the
shines like a mirror when the last coat is dry and it is sent to the
shop. Here the upholstering and other trimming is done. In the seats
upholstering the best English goat skin is used. The leather in one
costs $60, before a knife has been touched to it. The cushions are
gray drawings or curled hair. This costs 50 cents a pound. Thirty
used in one carriage. The finishing touches are put on the carriage. It
appears in the show room.
“Here the conveniences for the first time
The finishing brougham, hansome or other style of vehicle is longer by
feet than its brother which is drawn by horses. In the hansome the
behind just as he does on the carriages now in use. Where before he had
appearance of being about to droop off the main part of the vehicle, he
supported beneath by a box about three feet long and eighteen inches
this box is put the storage battery. The wires run from the battery to
motors, which are attached to the rear axles, just as the motors on a
car are attached to the truck. The motors not alone turn the wheels,
also run the various appliances. The driver, from his perch on the box
hand on a lever, makes the automobile go fast or slow at will. With a
foot on a
spring he can turn on the electricity which will reverse the wheels
immediately. With his other hand he steers the vehicles. This steering
of the features of the new carriage. The back wheels only turn. With a
light that it takes no effort more than the writer uses in lifting his
wheels may be turned. Much has been said about the difficulty with
automobile is managed. The difficulty is that only a light touch is
where a heavy hand is often used.
“When the carriages go from the works on
Turner Street to
the factory of the Columbia Automobile Company of New York they are
use except only that they must have the storage battery slipped in the
the motors attached to the axles. This work is done in New York, where
motors are made.
“Wherever there is so great a demand for the
is always competition in the sale. Automobiles within the next ten
be common sights in this city. A horse will be an oddity; just as at
horse-car is almost unknown where but a decade ago thoroughly
cities owned them.
“The automobile described above is only one
of the many
patterns made. They vary just as much as do carriages drawn by horses.
present they are a fad. The smart set in the larger cities use them
they cannot be got by the masses of the people. They are so useful and
after the first price is paid, that if the output where ten times what
there would be no automobiles standing in showrooms. Their best
summed up as follows; The automobile does not eat, it costs less than a
mile to run it., it is consuming nothing when not in use, its original
but little more than a fine carriage and an ordinary span of horses. It
run away, it can be run as safely by a child or woman as by a man, it
run by an ordinarily strong-minded person after but two days of
points in running are: How to start, to increase the speed, to use the
to stop the carriage and to ring the gong which gives warning of its
All these things are done by hand and foot levers and the only danger
the loss of personal control when quick action is needed. Women have
expert as men in their use and it is not an unusual sight to see in the
cities such a picture as is described below:
“Her hands were on the nickel-plated levers
gracefully up from the carriage floor, while one foot rested on the
She wore none of the tense, exerted expression of the driver of horses.
gentle turn of a neatly gloved wrist increased or decreased her speed
several miles per hour, a twist of the other and the vehicle cut to one
with a pleasant whirr and passed a lumbering bus; a pressure of her
the electric bell rang a warning. It was all without effort, graceful
The bulk of the preceding article was
reprinted in the November
26, 1899 Utica Sunday Tribune with the following amusing headline:
“AUTOMOBILES IN UTICA – Plenty in the City,
But None on the
Streets. AN IMPORTANT INDUSTRY.
“Horseless Carriages Made Here in
Considerable Numbers All
Ready to Receive their Motors and Begin their Work – The
In addition to creating bodies for their
much publicized order,
Willoughby-Owen had not abandoned the carriage trade, advertising in
11, 1900 Utica Herald-Dispatch:
“Don't fall to have your SPRINGFIELD RUBBER
TIRES Put on at
Willoughby-Owen Co.'s CARRIAGE FACTORY. Orders
can be left at the Repository, 86 Genesee street.”
An article detailing the operations of a
local firm that
used Willoughby coaches exclusively appeared in the August 5, 1900
“TAKE A DRIVE
“Where To Go for a First Class Turnout
“Utica, with its miles of asphalt paved
streets and first
class roads in every direction after leaving the city, is noted for its
Those who do not own a horse and carriage, desiring a ride, whether for
pleasure, business or any purpose, will find elegant vehicles of every
speedy horses at Shue’s Palace Livery, on Main street, opposite Bagg’s
known for years as the Old Butterfield stables.
“Several months since Mr. Shue leased the
thoroughly refitted the entire place, with the intention of having a
second to none in the city in its appointments and equipments.
fact that to meet a demand of any class of patronage and for any
livery out to be equipped with vehicles of all kinds and the best, Mr.
placed orders with the Willoughby-Owen Company of this city for
carriages, coaches, runabouts, three-seaters, canopy tops and pleasure
such as buckboards and two elegant hearses for funeral purposes, both
city and country, one a very large and elegant one for city use, the
one for the country.
“One of the first of the equipages completed
was an elegant
brougham, which is great in demand by ladies for shopping and calling.
elegant vehicle to follow was a two-seated buckboard, with canopy top,
in light, natural wood, light leather trimmings. This is for pleasure
and has been in such demand that another similar one was ordered, has
delivered and put in service.
“Probably one of the finest vehicles in
point of finish in
its entirety is a Berlin coach, built by the Willoughby-Owen Company,
so to speak, ‘a dream’ in its finish and appointment. The body and
are painted Brewster green and black, striped ivory white. The interior
upholstered in broadcloth and satin and is fitted with card and cigar
cases, a hand mirror and call bell.
“All the vehicles of the livery are fitted
tires, as Mr. Shue speaks with commendable pride of the fact that in
rubber tires his establishment has more than any two liveries in the
“In fact, Shue’s Palace Livery, as now
equipped with first
class horses, vehicles, harness, etc., is second to none in Utica, and
the patronage of anyone desiring first class turnout of any
“The Willoughby-Owen Company, which was
June, 1898, has a big plant at the corner of Dwyer avenue and Turner
opposite the Masonic Home. Its building consists of a four-story brick
50 x 200 feet in exterior dimensions. The company manufactures
automobiles and sleighs, employing from 40 to 45 men. E. A. Willoughby
president of the company and W. H. Owen secretary and treasurer. The
an office and salesroom at No. 86 Genesee street, Utica.”
Although they were still involved in
automobiles became the firm’s focus, and the November 10, 1901 Utica
Journal reported that Willoughby’s designer was attending the 2nd
NAAM/ACA (National Association of Automobile Manufacturers / Automobile
America) Automobile Show:
“E. M. Galle of the Willoughby-Owen Company
is attending the
automobile show in New York”
The March 24, 1901 Utica Sunday Journal
contained the only
evidence I could find of the Willoughby-Owen electric automobile:
“One of the finest automobiles ever seen in
this City was
exhibited by the Willoughby-Owen Company yesterday. It was handsome in
and attracted many people. The company claims it to be of an entirely
original design, it being a full leather-top electric Landau, being
two three-horsepower electric motors.”
The September 29, 1901 Utica Sunday Journal
Willoughby-Owen advertisement which showed a drawing of the
Unfortunately production did not follow
within the year Owen
had exited the firm to join the Remington Motor Vehicle Co. which was
process of producing their own gasoline-powered automobile.
Willoughby was well-thought-of and had
finding investors for the re-organized firm, which was now simply the
Willoughby Company. The January 28, 1903 issue of The Horseless Age
its formation to the trade:
“The Willoughby Company of Utica, N.Y. has
to make automobiles and other vehicles; capital $160,000; directors;
Maynard; J.A. Roberts; F.T. Proctor and T.R. Proctor, all of Utica.”
John F. Maynard was a wealthy Utica
invested in railroads (Utica & Black River and the Rome, Watertown
Ogdensburg RR.s) and textiles (The Globe, Utica Steam and Mohawk
Cotton Mills). John A. Roberts was pres. of J.A. Roberts &
Utica’s largest department store.
Hotelier Thomas R. Proctor and his younger
T. Proctor, were reportedly Utica’s wealthiest residents and Frederick
Willoughby’s first vice-president in order to keep an eye on their
money. For a
half century the Proctor family rode in Willoughby-built carriages and
automobiles which were painted ‘Proctor Blue’ a special shade developed
and Frederick’s wives, sisters Rachel and Maria Munson-Williams-Proctor.
The firm’s first known advertisement
appeared in the March
21, 1903 Utica Herald-Dispatch:
“NEW GOODS, NEW STYLES — Broughams,
Phaetons, Depot Wagons, Surries, Buckboards, Runabouts, Top Buggies,
Delivery Wagons and several bargains in second hand Carriages. The
stock. The most correct styles and the lowest prices. Come and see us
from manufacturers. WILLOUGHBY COMPANY, 86 Genesee Street, Utica, N.Y.”
The Willoughby Story
is continued HERE
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