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Willoughby Co.
E.A. Willoughby Carriage & Sleigh Works, 1893-1897; Rome, New York; Utica Carriage Co. 1893-1897; Willoughby’s Utica Carriage Co. 1897-1898; Willoughby-Owen Co., 1898-1903; Willoughby Company, 1903-1938; Utica, New York
Associated Builders
R.M. Bingham & Co. 1858-1893; Bingham Harness Co. 1893-1917; Rome, New York

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The Friday March 5, 1897 Rome Citizen reported the details:

“$125,000 Visited This City Early This Morning. Bingham 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 Under 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 South James street. The fire was first discovered by a brakeman of a freight train which stopped in front of the depot. Officer Conley was at the depot and turned in the alarm from box 2-3, corner of Front and James streets. The fire was then under good headway. It originated in the southwest corner of the five-story 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 Bingham Harness company and E.A. Willoughby carriage and sleigh works. Only a part of the goods on the ground floor were saved. Mr. Bingham said the building cost 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 $85,000.

Mr. Willoughby estimates his stock at $25,000, with about $15,000 insurance. Paul Fluster’s harness shop, a small one-story building just 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 owned by Owens, Day & Co., and occupied by Mr. Willoughby as wood working department. The building was worth about $300, and Mr. Willoughby does not know what his loss is in this building.

Next west is the T.W. Edwards property, which was considerably damaged. C. Schneible’s wholesale liquor store, a 2 ½ story brick building, corner of James and Front streets, was considerably damaged on the Front street side, the blinds and windows being burned. The loss will probably reach $150, and is covered by insurance.

“L. Hower's new brick block, on Front street suffered a loss, the windows being broken by the heat, and the sash burned. The good on the two upper floors in front were water soaked. His damage was $1,500.

“Burrel’s cheese press factory and supply depot, a three-story brick building across Front street, was considerably damaged. The doors and windows were burned out. The loss to the building will probably reach $100, and is covered by insurance. The loss to stock by water is considerable and 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 several times. The windows in front were broken. The damage is probably $1,000.

“The flames leaped across the canal and set fire to Randolph’s livery, the building being owned by J.S. Dyett. Here the fire, after 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 Syracuse, Oneida, and Utica for assistance. At 1 o'clock it looked as though the fire was going to Dominick street, and also consume the buildings west of the Bingham block and the Ethridge Rose building, but a 2 o’clock the fire was got under control, and the requests for assistance were countermanded. Utica and Oneida had their apparatus loaded on the cars and were waiting for orders to start, 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 to be congratulated on its good and efficient work, although it was handicapped in many ways. No pressure could be obtained, as the river was very low, and there 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 also spread to D.D. William’s carriage shop, which caught two or three times, but the firemen were ‘too many for it’ and extinguished the flames with only about $100 damage. Insured.

“About 75 people are thrown out of employment. Both steamers were pressed into service and they did excellent work, and saved undoubtedly over $500,000 worth of property. Had it not been for these steamers, the fire would have spread to Dominick at the north, to Washington street off to the west, and to the Ethridge-Rose building and A.P. Tuner’s plant on the east, and to the Central depot on the south. Still there are people in this city who criticized the action of the commissioners in purchasing the new engine about a year ago. The fire clearly demonstrated that Rome must have a different system 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 as 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 company also lost valuable kits of tools.”

Immediately following the loss, the Utica Chamber of Commerce approached Willoughby with the goal of having him take over that city’s Utica Carriage Co. which was in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings. The scheme was approved by the Charles I. Williams, the carriage company’s receiver, and Willoughby took over management of the firm on March 30th, 1897 as reported by the April 3, 1897 issue of the Utica Daily Press:

“Utica’s Latest Industry

“E.A. Willoughby Located Here - The Former Roman Assumes the Management of the Utica Carriage Company’s Plant – Twenty Men Employed and That Number Will Soon Be Increased. ­

“The reputation of E.A. Willoughby as a carriage manufacturer extends far beyond the borders of Oneida County and even beyond those of the State of New York. Therefore the news that the blaze which on March 4th swept out of existence over $100,000 worth of property in Rome, had taken with it his factory was deplored by a great many people who are fond of handsome vehicles.

“It will be good news to such, especially those of Utica, to learn, that Mr. Willoughby is to continue in the carriage making business, and in this city. On March 30, he assumed the management of the Utica Carriage Company under Charles I. Williams, the receiver. At the time of the Rome disaster, Mr. Willoughby had many orders ahead. He comes here to complete those orders and at the same time to fulfill all others he may receive.­

“In the plant of the Utica Carriage Company every possible facility is provided a carriage manufacturer to put his conception of vehicle making into material form. People ordinarily do not realize how much of an art carriage making is. There are men employed in some of the larger establishments in this country, who receive salaries of $10,000 for artistic work connected with this branch of manufacture. The demand for the best and handsomest in the vehicle line is practically unlimited. It is the mediocre which is a drug on the market. The reputation of Mr. Willoughby's carriages show that he possesses the talent to meet the demands of the class who are able and anxious to ride in handsome style and in the Utica plant he will have every opportunity to give scope to that tal­ent.

“The Utica Carriage Company's factory is the eastern advance guard of the city's manufacturing industry. It is situated on Dwyer Avenue near Tur­ner Street, only about a hundred yards west of the city line. The building is a handsome one of its kind, of red brick, 175 by 60 feet and four stories high. It has capacity for turning out 800 carriages a year and would furnish em­ployment to fifty men. The building is splendidly equipped with the finest ma­chinery for carriage making. In fact, there is no better equipped factory in the United States. Much of the work, however, which Mr. Willoughby will di­rect, will be done by hand. At present twenty men are employed at the factory, but the number will soon be in­creased to thirty. Everything in the line of a pleasure vehicle known to man will be made there and the work will be strictly high grade. Any orders received for fine work on special designs will not be duplicated, except by the permission of the partner giving the orders. Mr. Willoughby expects to open a carriage repository in the business portion of the city within a short time.

“The Utica Carriage Company, which was established in 1893, has always had the name of doing good work. At the present time there are at the factory scores of fine specimens of that work including rockaways, surreys, cabriolets, opera busses, breaks, phaetons and traps of various forms, any number of buggies and other kinds of light vehicles. With prospects of better times the outlook before the company un­der the new management is bright, and the city is fortunate, in that the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce to induce 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 and warehouse at 86 Genesee Street, Utica. The building, popularly known as the ‘Checkered Block’, was located in Utica’s popular Bagg’s Square shopping district and formerly housed the H.E. Brewster Co., a dealer in trunks, bags, suit cases, hats, caps and straw goods. For the next year or so, Willoughby’s was the only name that appeared on advertisements as evidenced by the following wareroom advertisement that appeared in the June 26, 1897 Utica Observer:


“Broughams, Cabriolets, Victorias, Surreys, Trap, Runabouts, Buggies, Bicycles, Trunks and Bags.

“See Our Styles and Get Our Prices Before Buying.

“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 advertising a railroad-sponsored city-wide sale on the weekend of November 17-18, 1898 lists 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 by the Rome Factory Bldg. Co., another firm controlled by Dr. Willey Lyon Kingsley. The Rome Factory Building Co. was a 50-acre site established to provide manufacturing 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 a description of the Harness Co.’s exhibit at the 1899 Oneida County Fair:


“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 Bingham Harness company who have the largest and best display of articles in this line 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 they have a retail store at 148 West Dominick street where they carry a full stock of everything in the line of carriages, harness and stable hoods. The fact that they do such an extensive business enables them to buy in the best markets and 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 fire which burned out the company in 1897, and contains all the conveniences, and 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 and everything possible is done to economize labor. Over 80 hands are employed and a harness is turned out every twenty-five minutes. In the rush season considerably better time can be made and the factory has a record of having tuned out a harness from the raw material and had it boxed ready for shipment in six minutes.

“This is something that could be equaled in very few establishments of the kind in the country. All grades of goods are manufactured, from light buggy harness to heavy work harness and the highest grade of carriage trappings. The company manufactures a harness which sells for $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 branches of the business, is the secretary and treasurer and has the general management of the concern, and J.C. Pendill is superintendent and has charge of the manufacturing department.”

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 November 19, 1901 issue of the Utica Observer carried his obituary:


“Former Prominent Rome Man Dies in Portland, Oregon.

“Rome, Nov. 19, (Special) - News was received here this morning from Portland, Oregon announcing the death of R.M. Bingham, a former well known business man and manufacturer of this city. No particulars of the death are at hand, and the son, M.R. Bingham, head of the Bingham Harness Manufacturing 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 conducted a carriage manufactory here, employing a large number of hands, and during the panic of fifteen or twenty years ago, failed.

“He was connected with several of Rome’s financial institutions, having been the first vice president of the old Rome Bank, now the Farmers National Bank, and for many years he was one of the board of trustees of the First M.E. Church. Mr. Bingham was 76 years old. He is survived by his wife, one son, M.R. of Rome, and one daughter, Mrs. E.A. Willoughby of Utica. Mr. Bingham was born in Martinsburg, Lewis county, and studied medicine. He practiced for a time in Watertown and came to Rome in 1855. He was one of 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 of Motor Age:

“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 the erection of a theater and garage on South James street the site of the old Bingham harness factory. Contracts will be let as soon as possible.”

A 1912 issue of Metal Industry confirms the reconstruction:

“W.J. Doyle makes brass, bronze, composition and 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 debts of $127,867. Dr. W.L. Kingsley, the firm’s largest shareholder and debt holder (he 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 over by the Rome Turney Radiator Co., a well-known manufacturer of Mercedes-style 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. Williams, the eldest son of Irvin A. Williams, the founder of the Utica Head-Light Works, which 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 April of 1841 he accompanied his parents on a move to nearby Utica and after a public 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 oil-fired railroad locomotive head lamps and after much experimentation designed an improved unit which was awarded US Pat. No. 11,799 on October 10, 1854.

Production commenced on the ‘Williams Patent Locomotive Head-Lamp’ and following a number of reissues and improvements (RE 503 - Oct. 27, 1857) Pat. No. 22,099 (Nov. 16, 1858) Pat No. 35,122 (April 29, 1862) his head lamp became the nation’s most popular. Further improvements commenced after the war, a number of them making their way into household instruments, making Irvin A. Williams a wealthy man. The firm’s business was conducted out of a five-story brick building at the corner of Blandina and Genesee Sts. Utica.

In 1881 he took his son, Charles I. Williams, into partnership, under the firm name of I.A. Williams & Co., and in 1893 his youngest son, Aras J. Williams, entered the firm. In 1894 I. A. Williams & Co. helped organize the United States Headlight Co., one of the numerous manufacturing ‘trusts’ that were cropping up around the country at the time. The June 16, 1894 issue of Railway World explained the trust’s objective in plain detail:

“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, Kelly Lamp Company, Steam Gauge and Lantern Company, I. A. Williams & Co., and The Adams & Westlake Company the machinery, tools, patterns, &c, constituting their head-light business, together with thirty-two letters patent and a number of applications for patents, covering all of the standard devices for illuminated numbers and signals in head-lights and other desirable improvements therein. It is the intention of the United States Head-Light Company to unite with the patents and facilities thus acquired, the result of over forty years' experience in manufacturing head-lights, for the purpose of embodying in them the latest improved devices which will add to the design, convenience, and durability; furnishing bead-lights for all purposes superior to any heretofore supplied, at the lowest possible price consistent with first-class material and workmanship. Selling agents for this company will be conveniently located in the best distributing points of the country, who will carry in stock a full line of standard head-lights and parts thereof, for the purpose of filling all orders promptly. This company having secured these valuable patents and assumed the litigation now in progress, railroads and others purchasing its goods will thereby protect themselves from action for infringement.”

Although Utica had a number of well-established vehicle builders, including Charles J. Childs, whose firm is covered elsewhere in this encyclopedia, Irvin’s eldest son wished to establish his own carriage works and a stock company named the Utica Carriage Company was organized. Charles I. Williams served as president; Frank D. Westcott, secretary; and Myron W. Van Auken, treasurer and attorney.

Frank D. Westcott was a clerk/accountant by trade who dabbled in various other Utica businesses including Westcott & Killian, publishers; Miller & Westcott (later Westcott & Parker) coal dealers; and the Westcott Laundry Co. Myron W. Van Auken was a well-known Utica attorney who specialized in corporate law and 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 Turner Street, Utica, a hundred yards west of the city line and adjacent to the New York Central rail lines and Erie Canal. The four-story brick building had a capacity for turning out 800 to 1000 carriages/bodies a year and could easily furnish em­ployment for fifty to one hundred craftsmen, many of whom lived in the German community of Frankfort which was located along the canal just to the east.

An 1894 inspection by the State of New York revealed that 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 stockholders of the Utica Carriage Co., held February 1st, the following directors 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 following officers: President, C. I. Williams; Vice-President, John B. Wild; Secretary, 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 Co., 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 owned a half-share in R. Marcy & Co., a railroad coal supplier based in Utica, N.Y.; 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 the contract to the Utica Carriage company for $600. The vehicle will be complete in every particular and Utica no longer need be ashamed of her ambulance service. The carriage will be turned over to the Police and Fire Boards, who 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 the hands of a receiver, as reported by the August 17, 1896 issue of the Utica Daily Union:

“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 operations Saturday on account of the hard times and the inability of the officers of the company to effect loans, owing to the uncertain financial outlook.

“The concern was the Utica Carriage Works, organized three years ago with a capital of $50,000, and the following officers: President, 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 liabilities are $48,000, of which $42,000 is owed by the directors. The personal assets are between $25,000 and $30,000. The company has assets sufficient to more than cover the liabilities. When the times brighten up the plant may be placed again in operation, but for some time it will be tied, up. Charles I. Williams has been appointed receiver.”

Tuesday April 6, 1897 issue of the Utica Semi-Weekly Herald marks the first time it was publicly announced that Willoughby would be taking 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 company shop in East Utica. Mr. Willoughby was one of the sufferers by the Bingham block fire in Rome a short time ago. The East Utica plant offers just the opportunity Mr. Willoughby desires. He will bring to Utica with him the larger part of the 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 acting 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 next decade.

After running the defunct firm for a little more than a year, Willoughby took in a partner, William H. Owen, reorganizing as the Willoughby-Owen Company. The May 28, 1898 issue of the Utica Daily Press announced the firm’s organization:


“The Willoughby-Owen Company incorporated – To Operate in East Utica.

“Papers were filed in Albany yesterday incorporating the ‘Willoughby-Owen Company’ for the manufacture and sale of carriages in this city. The officers of the new company are: President, E.W. Willoughby; secretary and treasurer, W.H. Owen. For the present the manufacture of carriages will be carried on in the factory formerly operated by the Utica Carriage Company in the eastern part of the city. The revival of the business means practically a new industry for the city and the new company will have the good will of all who are interested in Utica’s commercial prosperity. The president, Mr. Willoughby, has been engaged for many years in the carriage business, the greater part of the time in Rome, and thoroughly understands it. Mr. Owen, the secretary and treasurer, has been identified prominently with the meat trade here for some years and has made many friends both in a business and social way. He is a man of business ability and the strictest integrity. The new firm 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 at 212 Genesee and 25 Bleecker streets. He was also was vice-president of the Standard Brass Mfg. Co., 228 Bleecker street, Utica, a manufacturer of electrical 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 receive from 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 furnishing of bodies for automobiles or horseless carriages. The contract is no less a sum than $60,000. The automobiles are to be used in New York city and are to be finished in the finest manner. The senior member of the firm is E A. Willoughby of Rome.”

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 automobile manufacturing division of the Pope Mfg. Co., to form the Columbia Electric Automobile Company of Hartford, Connecticut.

The Friday, June 2, 1899 issue of the Motor Car Journal. London, England reported:

“An United States contemporary states that the Electric 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 £12,000.”

The November 25, 1899 issue of the Utica Observer-Dispatch 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 Turner Street and Dwyer Avenue on Utica’s eastern city line. They are being made for the Electric Vehicle Co. in New York City.

“Willoughby-Owen auto bodies are among the finest being built in the world. They are made of ash and panels and woodwork of white wood. They receive 18 coats of paint and varnish before leaving the factory and are fitted with fancy 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 100 skilled workers – began to manufacture bodies for automobiles, including for firms in Europe. Earlier this year, the company signed a contract with the 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 carriages and sleighs, Turner Street and Dwyer Avenue, Utica, employing 28 males with an average work week of 59 hours. The 1900 annual report of the same agency reported 55 hands, all male. A fire at the plant of the Electric Vehicle’s Co. was 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 company, for which they were constructed. Shipments amounting to $20,000 had been made to New York, but the fire is protected from loss. Mr. Willoughby is a Roman.”

A display ad in the February 6, 1900 Utica Morning-Herald announced that the firm would no longer be building sleighs:

“RARE OCCASION RARE - Having decided to discontinue the manufacture of sleighs except on special orders, and owing to the open winter thus far, we will offer the balance of OUR STOCK AT COST until closed out. The goods are new and of the latest styles. This is a grand opportunity to those in want of sleighs. Call and see what it means. Willoughby-Owen Co., 86 Genesee Street.”

A detailed article describing the Willoughby-Owen operations appeared in the September 17, 1899 issue of the Utica Sunday Journal:

“Interesting Plant - Factory Where Horseless Carriages are Made – Description of Process.

“The Willoughby-Owen Company on Turner Street, has two large contracts for carriages from Columbia Automobile Company of New York - great 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 for its owners, not one has brighter prospects than the building of automobiles. Everything necessary for a horseless carriage, as it is properly called, is manufactured in this city, excepting motors by which the power is supplied. 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 the 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 city, and on the splendid roads of the surrounding country. Locally the last impression Uticans got of the twentieth century conveyance was not a good one. It was in connection with the trip which a man and woman were making through this part of the State on their way from New York to San Francisco. The carriage broke down several times within hailing distance of this city. It was remarked at the time that the “things” were merely in the experimental stage. This was not believed by well-posted people, however for in the larger cities the automobile is a common sight. It is not used alone for pleasure driving although this is the use to which the greatest number are put. Heavy trucking, running of Hansom for 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 engine or truck would be a good thing for the fire commission to consider when the next piece of apparatus is ordered. The mere suggestion carries with it and idea of advantages of such a piece of apparatus. It would always be ready for use. The lightning-like work of the department in hitching up, fast as it is, would be outdone. The apparatus could go at a speed no horses could attain in such 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 would kill their horses.

“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 there will convince the most skeptical that a high grade carriage is like everything else 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 the man 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 finished 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 came to this country he studied still further, and in 1892 was chief instructor in the Technical School for Carriage Draughtsmen and Mechanics in New York. He knows more about carriages of the old world and the new, of this century and of 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. As the milliner knows what styles of a decade ago will be in force again, so he knows just how the styles in carriages will change. Eight years is about the time allotted for the longest season of popularity which any one style of carriages enjoys. This is the life of the vehicle which is built on square lines. It is remarkable that the uncompromising square lines now in vogue last twice and sometimes three times as long as do the more picturesque curved lines. It cannot be said that the curved lines in a carriage are always appreciated more by artist in the trade, for men who are most skilled and knowing in the art 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 the saw mills, as the finishing is all done at the factory. Four-inch timber is the heaviest that goes into the shop. This is used only in the frame work. Ash seasoned by four years exposure and poplar, or white wood, as it is called, seasoned by two years exposure, are used. The lumber is all selected. In the machine shop, on the saws, planers, etc., the work is blocked out. The wood cut in proper shape is then piled in the dry kiln, where thirty thousand feet of lumber can be tried at one time. The kiln is heated by steam and in it the last of the wood’s natural moisture is taken out. If in a big piece of the wood there is left a tiny spot not thoroughly dry, that spot will show in the carriage. When the wood parts are sent into the body room for one carriage they make a pile which originally represented 1,000 square feet of lumber. It is almost impossible to see this pile of wood and believe that it is all put into the 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 finest work in their trade. The fit the joints of the frame with a nicety that allows not the divergence of a hairbreadth from the plans. Between the joints there is no visible space. Water would soak through the wood as quickly as through the seam, and air could find no space where the ends of two pieces of the ash meet. 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 it is reinforced with iron, at points where the greatest strain will come. The springs and gear are put on and it is ready for the paint shop. In the paint shop the guide coat is rubbed off, and with sandpaper, pumice stone and all other methods known to the trade, the surface of the wood is made smooth. Coat after coat of paint is used, until when the last coat of varnish is applied, it is the eighteenth time that the painter’s brush has gone over the carriage. It shines like a mirror when the last coat is dry and it is sent to the trimming shop. Here the upholstering and other trimming is done. In the seats and other upholstering the best English goat skin is used. The leather in one automobile costs $60, before a knife has been touched to it. The cushions are stuffed with gray drawings or curled hair. This costs 50 cents a pound. Thirty pounds are used in one carriage. The finishing touches are put on the carriage. It next appears in the show room.

“Here the conveniences for the first time are appreciated. The finishing brougham, hansome or other style of vehicle is longer by a few feet than its brother which is drawn by horses. In the hansome the driver sits behind just as he does on the carriages now in use. Where before he had the appearance of being about to droop off the main part of the vehicle, he is now supported beneath by a box about three feet long and eighteen inches high. In this box is put the storage battery. The wires run from the battery to the motors, which are attached to the rear axles, just as the motors on a trolley car are attached to the truck. The motors not alone turn the wheels, but they also run the various appliances. The driver, from his perch on the box with his 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 is one of the features of the new carriage. The back wheels only turn. With a touch so light that it takes no effort more than the writer uses in lifting his pen, the wheels may be turned. Much has been said about the difficulty with which the automobile is managed. The difficulty is that only a light touch is needed 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 ready for use except only that they must have the storage battery slipped in the box and the motors attached to the axles. This work is done in New York, where the motors are made.

“Wherever there is so great a demand for the article there is always competition in the sale. Automobiles within the next ten years will be common sights in this city. A horse will be an oddity; just as at present a horse-car is almost unknown where but a decade ago thoroughly progressive 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. At present they are a fad. The smart set in the larger cities use them because they cannot be got by the masses of the people. They are so useful and cheap after the first price is paid, that if the output where ten times what it is there would be no automobiles standing in showrooms. Their best features are summed up as follows; The automobile does not eat, it costs less than a cent a mile to run it., it is consuming nothing when not in use, its original cost is but little more than a fine carriage and an ordinary span of horses. It cannot run away, it can be run as safely by a child or woman as by a man, it can be run by an ordinarily strong-minded person after but two days of practice. The points in running are: How to start, to increase the speed, to use the brake, to stop the carriage and to ring the gong which gives warning of its coming. All these things are done by hand and foot levers and the only danger lies in the loss of personal control when quick action is needed. Women have become as expert as men in their use and it is not an unusual sight to see in the larger cities such a picture as is described below:

“Her hands were on the nickel-plated levers that curved gracefully up from the carriage floor, while one foot rested on the brake bar. She wore none of the tense, exerted expression of the driver of horses. A gentle turn of a neatly gloved wrist increased or decreased her speed by several miles per hour, a twist of the other and the vehicle cut to one side with a pleasant whirr and passed a lumbering bus; a pressure of her thumb and the electric bell rang a warning. It was all without effort, graceful and deliberate.”

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 Willoughby-Owen Co.’s Contract.”

In addition to creating bodies for their much publicized order, Willoughby-Owen had not abandoned the carriage trade, advertising in the April 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 Utica Sunday Journal:


“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 drives. 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 kind and speedy horses at Shue’s Palace Livery, on Main street, opposite Bagg’s Hotel, known for years as the Old Butterfield stables.

“Several months since Mr. Shue leased the property, thoroughly refitted the entire place, with the intention of having a livery second to none in the city in its appointments and equipments. Recognizing the fact that to meet a demand of any class of patronage and for any purpose, his livery out to be equipped with vehicles of all kinds and the best, Mr. Shue placed orders with the Willoughby-Owen Company of this city for broughams, carriages, coaches, runabouts, three-seaters, canopy tops and pleasure wagons such as buckboards and two elegant hearses for funeral purposes, both in the city and country, one a very large and elegant one for city use, the smaller 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. Another elegant vehicle to follow was a two-seated buckboard, with canopy top, finished in light, natural wood, light leather trimmings. This is for pleasure driving and has been in such demand that another similar one was ordered, has just been 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, which is, so to speak, ‘a dream’ in its finish and appointment. The body and running gear are painted Brewster green and black, striped ivory white. The interior is 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 with rubber tires, as Mr. Shue speaks with commendable pride of the fact that in respect to rubber tires his establishment has more than any two liveries in the city.

“In fact, Shue’s Palace Livery, as now equipped with first class horses, vehicles, harness, etc., is second to none in Utica, and merits the patronage of anyone desiring first class turnout of any description.”


“The Willoughby-Owen Company, which was incorporated in June, 1898, has a big plant at the corner of Dwyer avenue and Turner street, opposite the Masonic Home. Its building consists of a four-story brick structure, 50 x 200 feet in exterior dimensions. The company manufactures carriages, automobiles and sleighs, employing from 40 to 45 men. E. A. Willoughby is president of the company and W. H. Owen secretary and treasurer. The company has an office and salesroom at No. 86 Genesee street, Utica.”

Although they were still involved in carriage manufacturing, automobiles became the firm’s focus, and the November 10, 1901 Utica Sunday Journal reported that Willoughby’s designer was attending the 2nd national NAAM/ACA (National Association of Automobile Manufacturers / Automobile Club of 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:

“Handsome Automobile

“One of the finest automobiles ever seen in this City was exhibited by the Willoughby-Owen Company yesterday. It was handsome in design, and attracted many people. The company claims it to be of an entirely new and original design, it being a full leather-top electric Landau, being driven by two three-horsepower electric motors.”

The September 29, 1901 Utica Sunday Journal contained a Willoughby-Owen advertisement which showed a drawing of the Willoughby-Owen car.

Unfortunately production did not follow within the year Owen had exited the firm to join the Remington Motor Vehicle Co. which was in the process of producing their own gasoline-powered automobile.

Willoughby was well-thought-of and had little trouble finding investors for the re-organized firm, which was now simply the Willoughby Company. The January 28, 1903 issue of The Horseless Age announced its formation to the trade:

“The Willoughby Company of Utica, N.Y. has been incorporated to make automobiles and other vehicles; capital $160,000; directors; J.F. Maynard; J.A. Roberts; F.T. Proctor and T.R. Proctor, all of Utica.”

John F. Maynard was a wealthy Utica businessman, heavily invested in railroads (Utica & Black River and the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg RR.s) and textiles (The Globe, Utica Steam and Mohawk Valley Cotton Mills). John A. Roberts was pres. of J.A. Roberts & Co., Utica’s largest department store.

Hotelier Thomas R. Proctor and his younger half-brother Frederick T. Proctor, were reportedly Utica’s wealthiest residents and Frederick was elected 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 by Thomas 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, Cabriolets, Park Phaetons, Depot Wagons, Surries, Buckboards, Runabouts, Top Buggies, Stanhopes, Delivery Wagons and several bargains in second hand Carriages. The largest stock. The most correct styles and the lowest prices. Come and see us and buy from manufacturers. WILLOUGHBY COMPANY, 86 Genesee Street, Utica, N.Y.”

The Willoughby Story is continued HERE

© 2012 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to Thomas M. Tryniski and Ed Fiore


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A Bibliography of the History and Life of Utica - Utica Manufacture and Industry: Willoughby Company pp187

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Roger Morrison - 1925 Rolls-Royce Springfield Silver Ghost Salamanca - Car Collector - August 1987 pp 28-35

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Mark A. Patrick - Lincoln Motor Cars: 1920 through 1942 Photo Archive

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Thomas E. Bonsall - The Lincoln Motor Car: Sixty Years of Excellence

Thomas E. Bonsall – Coachwork on Lincoln

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Maurice Hendry - Lincoln: The Car of State

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Oneida County NY Historical Society

Vintage Automobile Dealerships and Automobilia

Extended Auto Warranties
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State by State directory of car shows; includes new car shows and classic auto events.

Auto Buying Guide
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Car Books, Models & Diecasts
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