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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

The Willoughby Company* of Utica N.Y. specialized in chauffeur-driven town cars, landaulets and limousines of first-quality workmanship and conservative styling.

Like most large American custom coachbuilders (in contrast to English or Italian carrosseries), Willoughby was a production body builder, known for series-built catalog customs for the major automobile manufacturers.

Today they’re fondly remembered for their Lincoln bodies (852 produced) of the twenties and thirties. They also built production bodies for Rolls-Royce (370 coupe, limousine and town car bodies for the Springfield Ghost) and Duesenberg (49 Berline or enclosed-drive sedans), as well as formal limousine bodies for the Model J. In addition, they produced small batches of bodies for Cadillac, Chandler, Cole, Dodge, Franklin, Hudson, Locomobile, Lozier, Marmon, Moon, Packard, Peerless, Pierce-Arrow, Remington, Studebaker, Velie and Wills Ste. Claire chassis. After the mid-twenties, they produced only a handful of open body styles.

*known earlier as E.A. Willoughby Carriage & Sleigh Works, Utica Carriage Co., Willoughby’s Utica Carriage Co., and Willoughby-Owen Co. Co.

The Rockefeller Family, boxer Joe Louis, gangster Al Capone, auto­maker Horace Dodge, New York mayor Jimmy Walker, and Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover (Coolidge had two and Hoover had three) were among the many famous and wealthy Americans who owned or enjoyed Willoughby town cars and limousines.

Willoughby’s direct antecedent was the R.M. Bingham & Co. of Rome, New York, a builder of carriages, sleighs and wagons founded just after the Civil War. Rinaldo Melville Bingham was born on March 19, 1827 to Oliver Sabin Bingham and Mary Foster Covell in West Martinsburg, Lewis County, New York.

According to a 1917 genealogy of the Bingham family:

“Oliver Sabin Bingham was born in Bozrah, Conn., and came with an older brother, Abiel, to Canajoharie, N. Y., when sixteen years of age. Here he afterward married and remained until 1820. He removed to the "Black River Country" with his wife and two sons, arriving after a three days' tedious journey on March 4, 1820. He settled in the hamlet of West Martinsburg, finding shelter in a log cabin on the farm of Mr. Gaines Alexander, located at the corner of the "West" road and the road leading to Lowville. He afterward purchased land and ‘cleared off’ a farm on the West road about one-half mile south of West Martinsburg, bordered by the creek flowing out of Chimney Point Gulf. He lived on this farm during the rest of his life. By trade he was a carpenter and builder, and some of the dwellings erected by him were still standing in good preservation in 1915.”

In his young manhood, Rinaldo M. Bingham worked with his father as a carpenter and builder, after which he studied medicine at the Albany Medical College, establishing a practice in Watertown, Jefferson County, New York. His office was situated in the historic Paddock Arcade building, #34, 2nd floor. Built in 1850, the Paddock Arcade survives and is credited as being the oldest continuously operating covered mall in the United States. His Watertown directory listing being: “DR. R.M. BINGHAM, Office, No. 34, Arcade 2d. Floor”

His older brother Isaac Sabin Bingham was a Methodist-Episcopal minister and for his entire life Rinaldo was active in the M-E church, teaching Sunday School and serving in various capacities at Rome’s First M-E Church of Rome with his first business partner, Norman B. Foot.

On May 23, 1852 Rinaldo M. Bingham married Mary Melissa Robinson (b. in the Town of Rutland, Jefferson County, New York on Jun. 15, 1830-d. Mar. 25, 1911) an 1851 graduate of Mt. Holyoke Seminary, South Hadley, Massachusetts. To the blessed union was born four children; Franklin Asbury (b. May 12, 1854-d. Jul. 4, 1881), Mary Alice or ‘Minnie’ (b. Aug. 31, 1856-d. Jan. 14, 1916), Fannie Grace (b. Jul 12, 1858-d.Jul. 12, 1859) - who were all born in Watertown - and Melville Rinaldo (b. Oct. 8, 1861-d.Oct. 31, 1900) Bingham who was born in Rome.

An 1853 Watertown directory lists him as Dr. R.M. Bingham and in November of 1857 he was elected as 1 of 3 Jefferson County Coroners. He ran for election once again in 1858 as indicated by the following item in the September 22, 1858 Syracuse Daily Journal:

“The Republicans of Jefferson county have made the following nominations: County Clerk, Russell B. Biddlecom; Sessions, Bradford K. Howes; Coroners, R.M. Bingham, James A. Bell, Jesse Davis.”

June 15, 1859 issue of the Central City Daily Courier (Syracuse) included a long list of the Governor’s appointments to which the following was added:

“And also, Peter O. Williams of Watertown to the office Coroner of Jefferson county, made vacant by the removal of Dr. R.M. Bingham.”

His removal was due to the fact that he was enticed to relocate to Rome by a fellow member of the Methodist-Episcopal church named Norman B. Foot, who offered him a partnership in his James street drug store. This corresponds with the 1860 US Census which lists the Bingham’s as residents of the 3rd Ward of Rome, Oneida County, New York.

Located in the Dyett block, at 21 & 23 James St., Foot & White’s Drug Store was situated opposite Stanwix Hall at the northwest corner of James street and the Erie canal. He took out a license for R.M. Bingham & Co. with the Oneida County Commissioner of Excise on May 27, 1859 and the June 8, 1859 issue of the Rome Citizen included the following advertisement:

“Rome Wholesale & Retail Drug Store


“For Medicinal and Mechanical purposes. All the Popular Patent Medicines of the day. It is our Intention to sell goods just as cheap as it is possible to do it, and at the same time give the purchaser good goods; as it well known that Drugs and Medicines can be furbished at almost any price, as they are capable of so much adulteration; but it will be our aim to give the purchaser pure Medicines. And as the Drug Department will be under the supervision of the Doctor himself, people can rely upon the articles purchased of us as being the genuine kind.

“Orders from Merchants, Druggists, Physicians and others, will meet with prompt attention, and be put up with a view to please. Those in want of any articles in our line, will please give us a call, or send your orders, and we will try and do you good.

“R.M. BINGHAM, M.D., late of Watertown & N.B. FOOT, of Firm Foot & White. N.B. - Prescriptions carefully prepared by Dr. Bingham.”

Also advertised on the same page: “PATENT AXLE GREASE, A Superior article for sale by R.M. BINGHAM & CO., 21 & 23 James St., opposite Stanwix Hall, Rome.”

For the next few years Bingham worked with Foot in various capacities, serving as a salesman and buyer for Foot’s numerous business ventures which included a wholesale grocery supply house, shipping and storage warehouse, the aforementioned drug store as well as a patent medicine manufactory which produced ‘Rev. W. Harrison's Remedy for Consumption’.

Shortly after the end of the Civil War Bingham decided to part ways with Foot, and joined J. Duane Mills in establishing a firm specializing in carriage goods and hardware. The second iteration of R.M. Bingham & Co. was located at the northeast corner of James and Front streets, directly across the street from where he would later construct the Bingham block. The 1869 Oneida County Directory miss-spells the firm as R.M. Brigham & Co. as follows:

“R.M. Brigham & Co. (Rome) (Ronaldo M. Brigham & J. Duane Mills) manufacturers and wholesale dealers in coach and saddlery hardware. 12 & 14 James.”

The location was a good one as Bingham was conveniently located next to the Erie Canal, a block away from the junction of the Erie and Black River Canals, and less than 300 feet away from the yards and main lines of the N.Y. Central & Hudson River Railroads; and Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg; Rome & Oswego and the Midland Railroads.

After establishing himself as Rome’s preeminent equine and carriage outfitter, Bingham ventured into the manufacturing of harnesses, saddles, carriages and wagons, erecting a 6-story brick factory adjacent to the Erie Canal on land purchased from G.V. Selden, the proprietor of a decades-old canal-side planing mill and lumber yard bearing his name. The firm’s new quarters were described in the January 8, 1878 issue of the Rome Citizen:

“New Quarters.

“R.M. Bingham & Co. have taken possession of their new quarters in the block just erected at the corner of James street and the Eric Canal. The new office is 24 x 22, nicely furnished, and a pleasant place to do business. The firm has now 26,400 feet of floor-room, being over three fifths of an acre. The cellar is devoted to iron and steel, paints and varnishes. The first or main floor is occupied by axles, springs, carriage and saddlery hardware. Spokes felloes and hubs find space on the third floor. The fourth floor is given to carriage wheels, carriages bodies and sleigh goods. The fifth occupied by curled hair, moss and excelsior. The establishment is one of the largest in the state and is well worth a visit by those who wish to see one of our most prosperous business establishments.”

An advertisement in the December 23, 1878 issue of the Rome Citizen follows:

“R.M. BINGHAM & CO. Are offering the largest line of HORSE BLANKETS, LAP ROBES and SLEIGH BELLS. The World's Standard, In Central New York, AT VERY LOW PRICES. CALL AND SEE THEM. 12, 14, 16 and 18 JAMES ST., ROME.”

Bingham became one of the largest carriage builders in Central New York and in 1875 helped found the Bank of Rome*, serving as its first Vice President. He was also a vice-president of its successor, the Farmer’s National Bank of Rome whose president, W.J.P. Kingsley, was elected mayor of Rome in 1895. Kingsley also happened to be a major shareholder in many of Rome’s large businesses including the Bingham works.

(*An earlier, unrelated Bank of Rome withdrew from business when its charter expired in 1863.)

The 1880 US Census continues to list the Bingham family as residents of 130 Court street, Rome, Oneida County, New York. Renaldo [sic] M.’s occupation, dealer in carriage and saddlery goods, his wife, Mary M.’s ‘keeping house’. Their son Melville’s occupation was ‘clerk’; Franklin’s was listed as ‘dealer in carriage and saddlery goods’, and Mary A., was listed ‘at home’.

The Bingham block was visited by fire for the first time on Monday, April 24, 1882. The following day’s Utica Observer reporting:

“The City of Rome Visited by Fire Once Again

“John Martin discovered fire in a wooden building on Front street at 8:45 last evening, and gave the alarm. It was a two story and a half frame building about 150 feet long and was used for shops. The east end came up in close proximity to the long brick building used for manufacturing cheese vats. At the west end were quantities of wood and lumber and Williams’ wagon shop. In the yard just south were piles of lumber and lumber sheds, and across the street were Martin’s livery stables and Curry’s hotel, while on the north, Bingham’s new brick block, another large wagon shop. Hollister’s livery barns and Owens, Day & Co, coal shed and Edwards’ coal sheds, and also Selden’s lumber yard and planing mill. In the east end of the building burned R.M. Bingham & Co. kept three fine horses, carts and harnesses, and also lumber and trunks. Other goods were stored there, and men were at work in the second story making packing boxes. The horses were in the east end and on the lower floor where the fire originated. The exact cause of the fire is not known. Some think it was the work of an incendiary, and others that it was caused by spontaneous combustion. A large quantity of gram and other material used for packing purposes were stored near where the horses were standing, and the fire was first discovered in that locality. When first observed the interior of the east end of the building was all ablaze, and the horses were endeavoring to escape. One man ventured in and succeeded in untying one, but the fire and smoke drove him out before he could get either of the horses out and all three perished. They were valued at $300 each. Bingham’s loss is quite heavy over and above his horses, wagons and harnesses. He loses trunks, trimmings, lumber and other articles. Men were at work for him in the building lost all of their tools. That half of the building was a total loss. It was owned by Mrs. R.E. Lee. The west half of the building was owned by Mrs. K. Carroll. The interior was a total wreck. Those who occupied it removed all of the tools and contents so that the loss will be confined to the building…”

A May 7, 1883 announcement in the Rome Citizen follows:

“R.M. Bingham & Co. have perfected arrangements for manufacturing carriage tops at the extensive establishment in this city."

The May 13, 1885 issue of the Rome Citizen announced the construction of additional facilities:

“R. M. Bingham & Co. have commenced the erection of another building for workshops on the lot just east of the railroad bridge, south side of the Erie Canal. The building will be of brick, three stories high, 40 feet by 120, and will be used exclusively for blacksmith work.”

Although no existing Bingham carriages are known to exist, the firm’s work was undoubtedly high class, as they employed a number of the best carriage draftsmen and designers over the years, among them Paul Steinbeck, Walter C. Yelton and Ernest M. Galle. Biographies of all three men were published in the April, 1904 issue of Carriage Monthly:

“Paul W. Steinbeck, draftsman for the New Haven (Conn.) Carriage Co., was born at College Point. N.Y., July 9. 1865. He began work with Brewster & Co. at the age of fifteen, and soon after began the study of drafting under the late H.P. Stahmer. He remained five years, and laid a good foundation. At the age of twenty he engaged with R.M. Bingham & Co., Rome, N.Y., and did their entire drafting. In his spare time he sold work for the company from Maine to Georgia, constantly pursuing his studies in drafting. At the end of this period he was engaged by H.H. Babcock & Co., and later by Fenton & Dunn, Holyoke, Mass. In 1893 be engaged with the New Haven Carriage Co., where he is still employed. Mr. Steinbeck is considered an expert in copying as well as in originating, which his work shows.

“Walter C. Yelton. superintendent and draftsman with J.M. Quinby & Co., Newark, N.J., was born October 10, 1868, in Butler, Pendleton County, Ky. At the age of fifteen he removed to Oneida. N. Y., and learned body making in the shops of J.L. Spencer & Co. He remained here three and a half years. The shops were burned down, and he engaged with R.M. Bingham, Rome, N.Y. From there he went to the Oneida Carriage Works, and then to the Cortland Wagon Co. In 1892 he became a member of the corresponding class of the Technical School, and in the following year attended both day and night classes, graduating with honors in both. In July, 1895, he became an assistant in the carriage plant of J.M. Quinby & Co., Newark, N.J., and on the death of the superintendent and draftsman, in 1898, was promoted to his position, which he still retains.

“E.M. Galle, designer and superintendent with the Willoughby Co., Utica. N.Y., was born in Dresden, Germany, and learned his trade with his father, who was an artistic coach builder. He was next engaged with Hoercher & Co., Hamburg. Germany, as chief designer, there organizing a drafting class and conducting it four years. After that he came to the United States and entered the employ of Brewster & Co. He was next engaged by R.M. Bingham & Co. as assistant draftsman. Mr. Galle received the first prize for the best design of brougham draft offered by the C.B.N.A. at the Chicago convention, 1890. He subsequently filled the position of designer and superintendent with Henry Killam & Co., Brewster & Co. and J. Curley, Brooklyn, N.Y. In 1892 he was appointed instructor-in-chief to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Prof. John D. Gribbon in the Technical School for Carriage Drafting, and retained this position until the appointment of Andrew F. Johnson, the present incumbent. Mr. Galle's life has been a busy one, and he is among the most advanced carriage designers.”

Although he wasn’t a carriage designer, another Bingham employee would go on to establish one of the country’s largest producers of series-built custom automobile coachwork.

Edward A. Willoughby was born in Newport, Herkimer County, New York on October 31, 1847 to Daniel C. (b.1819-d.1905) and Caroline M. (Carpenter) (b.1823-d.1900) Willoughby. Phineas Briggs, Edward’s great-great-grandfather on his mother’s side, was a Revolutionary War veteran for whom Willoughby wrote the following entry in the 1899 edition of the Register of the Empire State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution:

“Phineas Briggs: Born in Norton, Mass., in 1750 ; died in Russia, N. Y.; enlisted in 1775 in Capt. Silas Cobb's Co., Col. Walker's Regt. and served for eight months; was enrolled in Capt. Smith's Co., of Artillery, rendering short tours of duty ; in April, 1778, marched with that company to Warren, R. I., and thence to Howland's Ferry where he was stationed for about six weeks ; subsequently served at Newport, Butt's Hill and Howland's Ferry.”

(Willoughby was the grandson of Daniel C. Carpenter and Temperance Warfield; great-grandson of Amos Carpenter and Charlotte Briggs; and the great-great-grandson of Phineas Briggs and Rhoda Bradley.)

Edward A. Willoughby’s father, Daniel C. Willoughby (b.Mar.1819-d.1905), was born in March of 1819 to James (b.1773-d.1855) and Anne (Cole) (b.1776-d.1852) Willoughby. Born in Goshen, Connecticut, James was the son of Westel Willoughby sr.

James and his older brother, Westel Willoughby jr., aka Dr. Westel Willoughby (b. Nov. 20, 1769-d.Oct. 3, 1844) were two of the early settlers of Newport, Herkimer County, New York. In 1792, at the age of 23, Westel moved from Goshen, Connecticut, to Herkimer County, New York, to practice medicine. He was member, treasurer, and Vice President of the New York Medical Society, served as an Army Surgeon in the War of 1812, and was also Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Newport.

From 1815 to 1817 Westel Willoughby jr. served Herkimer County as its representative in the fourteenth US Congress. He later established a medical school in the town of Lake Erie, Ohio, becoming so prominent that in 1835 the community named itself Willoughby, Ohio in his honor.

Various US Census’ list Daniel C. Willoughby’s profession as farmer and he lived next door to his older brother Lewis (b.1795-d.1859) Willoughby and his wife Nancy (b.1797– d.1871). Edward’s brothers and sisters included Eliza [m.Young] (b.1842-d.1882), Marcella [m.Irwin] (b.1849) and Flora E. [m.Adams] (b.1854).

According to his official obituary which was published in the November 10, 1913 Utica Herald Dispatch:

“Edward A. Willoughby was educated at the district school nearest the old homestead and at the high schools in Newport and Poland. When a lad of 15, a cousin, Ira Trask, owned and conducted what was known as the Fish Pond Hotel, just below Trenton Falls which was famous in its day for trout suppers, and many Uticans were entertained there, Mr. Trask devoted himself to catching the fish and had young Willoughby there during four summers to take charge of the house and the entertainment of the guests.

“Later Willoughby hired out as a clerk to the Poland union store. He remained four years. When the Westernville union store was organized by a stock company, Thomas Tinley and Mr. Willoughby were put in charge, the latter remaining a year.

“Later he went to Rome as head clerk of the A.M. Jackson Company dry goods store, and was there for four years. Then Mr. Willoughby and John R. Edwards of Rome bought out the store of I.T. Miner & Co., dry goods, in Rome, and conducted it very successfully for eight years. Mr. Willoughby sold out to Mr. Edwards and went with his father-in-law, R.M. Bingham, as general manager and foreman of the R.M. Bingham Company, which at that time made carriages, sleighs, harness, trunks, etc., doing a large manufacturing and jobbing business.”

John R. Edwards was born in Floyd, Oneida county, NY in 1845 and came to Rome in 1865 and secured a position as clerk in a dry goods store and in 1868 went into the dry goods business with a firm known as Williams, Evans & Co. He went into partnership with Willoughby in 1875 and when Willoughby sold his share in the firm in the late 1880s he continued the business on his own, consolidating operations with Rome’s F.E. Bacon in 1893. He would also play an important part in the business affairs of both Bingham and Willoughby as a director of the Farmers National Bank of Rome.

An ad from the April 4, 1879 Rome Citizen provides us with a general idea of the kinds of goods sold at the Edwards & Willoughby shops:

“~Go and see the cloak you can buy at Edwards & Willoughby for $4.50, and also $8. ~An elegant line of Dolman Cloths at Edwards & Willoughby's! ~You can buy a good Black and Colored Cashmere at Edwards & Willoughby's, at 50c. ~Edwards & Willoughby have one of the best assortments of Fringes and Ornaments in the city. ~Edwards & Willoughby have the cheapest and best line of Black Silk Velvets in the city. ~Edwards & Willoughby have the popular Black Goods called Momie Cloths. Call and see them. ~150 Cloaks at Edwards & Willoughby's down to a price that will sell them. ~Armure Cloths are very much called for. Edwards & Willoughby have a nice line in all the shades. ~India Cashmeres are the leading Dress Goods this season. Go and see them. EDWARDS & WILLOUGHBY.”

A special advertising section in the March 21, 1884 issue of the same paper provides a much larger description of the firm’s activities and warerooms:

“EDWARDS & WILLOUGHBY, Dry Goods and Black Silks and Velvets a Specialty - 61 Dominick street.

“There are many branches of trade the prosecution of which demands the exercises of great skill and good judgment, but no branch calls for the exhibition of more varied business talent than the dry goods trade.

“The fancies of a very changeable portion of the community, the caprices of fashion, and the adaptation for differences of climate or season, must all receive due consideration in selecting suitable and saleable goods.

“One of the best known firms in this trade in this city – known through the medium of printer’s ink and a steady increasing class of customers – is that of Messrs. Edwards & Willoughby, who have been engaged in the trade for seven years. They make it a strict rule to sell their good at a close, living profit, and they have received and are daily receiving abundant evidence of the just appreciation of their efforts and the confidence of the public by the large amount of trade they are enabled to control throughout the city and surrounding country.

“Their stock embrace everything connected with the dry goods trade, from the heavy domestic to the finest and most elegant imported dress goods from the looms of the Old World. This department is a specialty with this house, and represents all the latest styles and fabrics as soon as they appear on the market. Notions, fancy goods, woolens, furnishing goods, in their long array of detail, are made features of, and the stock is acknowledged to be one of the best and most desirable in our city.

“Messrs. Edwards & Willoughby are also extensive manufacturers of ladies and misses linen and cotton underwear of every conceivable variety and style, which they offer to their patrons at prices that defy competition.

“On the second floor of the model establishment Miss Fitzsimmons conducts a department devoted exclusively to the manufacture of CLOAKS, MANTLES AND DRESS MAKING, where employment is given to ten skilled artists, under her immediate supervision, and the ladies of this city and surrounding country can always rely upon obtaining garments that strictly fulfill all of the latest requirements of the goddess’ Fashion.’ Messrs. Edwards. & Willoughby have just completed many improvements in their establishment, consisting of new floors, kalsomining, retouching and decorating, making the salesrooms among the most desirable and attractive in Central New York.

“An important element with them is their perfect light, which is a most important factor in the selection of goods. Their building possesses an area of 25 x 100 feet, three floors, including basement, which is utilized for reserve stock.”

I.T. Miner Co. (aka I.T. Miner & Sons) was located at 61-69 West Dominick St., just around the corner from the Bingham Block and its founder, Isaac T. Miner (b.1809-d.1875), headed the Rome Iron and Steel Bloom Co. and the Central National Bank of Rome. In the years preceding his death, Miner brought his two eldest sons, Payson H. & Herbert I into the business, which was sold by the Miner family to Willoughby & Edwards in 1875. Immediately following the sale it was known as Miner, Willoughby & Edwards. Coincidentally, A.M. Jackson was a former employee and co-owner of I.T. Miner Co.

Willoughby’s employment with Bingham coincides with his marriage to R.M. Bingham’s daughter which took place on January 17, 1883. To the blessed union were born two* children, Ernestine Bingham (b. Sep. 11, 1883- d. Nov. 15, 1971) and Francis Daniel (b. Apr. 30, 1887-d. Aug. 13, 1955) Willoughby.

(*A couple of genealogy sites list two more names (Daniel and Frances) with no additional information, although the official Bingham family biographies and US Census list only Ernestine and Francis.)

As that time it was customary for large businessmen to bring their daughter’s spouses into the management of established family businesses, especially if the owner’s male children were deemed too young or inexperienced to assume a role in management. However, Willoughby continued to own a share in Edwards & Willoughby well into the late 1880s.

Mary A. Bingham was a well-known citizen of Rome, having gained national notoriety in 1874 as one of the four founders of Syracuse University’s Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. She was active in the Temperance Movement, and during the same year provided author Annie Wittenmyer with the following report on her progress in Rome:

“The city was canvassed, and over a thousand women gave their names, pledging themselves to do what they could to promote the cause of temperance, and we think the moral power cannot be estimated, of this large number of women, each acting conscientiously in her own family and sphere of influence.“

Her biography in the Gamma Phi Beta yearbooks follows:

“Mary Alice Bingham ("Minnie") was born in Watertown, New York on August 30, 1856. She graduated from Syracuse University in 1878 with a degree in art. Mary was known as "the aristocrat" of the four founders of Gamma Phi Beta because of her dress, demeanor, and ideals. One sister at Syracuse commented that she ‘was always beautifully dressed and seemed instinctively to know the correct thing to do and was at ease in any situation.’

“On January 17, 1883, she married Edward A. Willoughby, who died in 1913. They had two children, a son Francis and a daughter Ernestine. Mary Willoughby and Helen Ferguson were the only Founders who were able to continue their close association after their college years, as both lived in Utica, New York. Mary died on January 14, 1916.”

Unsurprisingly, Mary’s father Rinaldo was also an Abolitionist, having run (unsuccessfully) for Oneida County Judge on the Abolitionist ticket in November 1886. A portion of his acceptance speech at the September 10, 1886 party nomination caucus follows:

“We have borne the tax and disgrace of the liquor traffic long enough. I believe in prohibition, and will work for it and vote for it. When I go past a saloon I know that it does not exist by my vote, but in direct opposition to it.”

The 1889 Annual report of the factory inspectors of the State of New York, lists two separate Bingham operations. The R.M. Bingham & Co. harness & saddlery works employed 76 males and 300 females while the significantly smaller R. M Bingham & Co. carriage and sleigh woodworks employed 50 males and no females. Although Bingham’s employees enjoyed a 54-hour work week (the average was 60 in those days) with an hour off each day for lunch, the report notes that neither operation was in compliance with previous orders directing them to install fire escapes, elevator guards, belt guards and hand-rails. At that time the Bingham works was Rome’s second-largest employer, only the massive New York Locomotive Works employed more, with the report listing 750 employees. The Rome Steam Knitting Mills was third largest, with 17 male and 275 female employees.

As a large portion of Rome’s residents depended on the firm for their livelihood, it must have come as a shock when Bingham’s July 13, 1891 failure was announced to the world via the following wire which was carried in numerous papers across the country:

“Rome, N.Y. - July 13 - Failure of R. M. Bingham & Co., wagon makers, in Rome, N. Y., for $225,000.”

The very next day (July 14, 1891) the failure of E.C. Stark & Co. was announced. Based in Oneida, Madison County, New York, E.C. Stark & Company was a private bank owned by R.M. Bingham and Elverton C. Stark that was heavily invested in R.M Bingham & Co. Bingham was also heavily invested in the Farmer’s National Bank of Rome, N.Y., serving as its vice-president.

The Madison County Times (Chittenango, NY) reported:

“COLLAPSE OF A BANK. — The business men of Oneida and Rome were startled Monday by the failure of the private banking house of E. C. Stark & Co., of Oneida, and Hard Bros., & Co., spring bed manufacturers of Oneida, and R. M. Bingham & Co., of Rome, carriage manufacturers.

“The cause of the bank's failure was the inability of Hard Bros. & Co., of Oneida and R. M. Bingham & Co., of Rome, to take up large amounts of their paper which the bank held. Hard Bros. & Co., owe the bank $78,000 and R.M. Bingham & Co., $70,000, and A.J. Luce & Co., of New York; $18,080. Hard Bros. & Co., secured the bank to the extent of $20,000. The bank tried hard to weather the storm, but the failure of the two manufacturing firms to meet their obligations forced them to the wall.

“At 2 o'clock Tuesday morning the heaviest depositors of the bank held a conference and tried to devise a plan to carry the bank through its difficulty. The idea was to form a stock company to run R. M. Bingham & Co.'s factory at Rome and a lawyer was sent on to Rome to learn the extent of Bingham & Co.'s indebtedness. It was found that Bingham & Co., were involved $30,000 beyond the amount reported at first and when this was reported to the conference it was decided that nothing could be done for the bank.

“The bank's assets are placed at $160,000 and the liabilities at $250,000. The bank was organized in 1875 and its reputation has been good. It did a loan and discount business of $200,000 a year and its deposits averaged $100,000. Its capital stock was $20,000 on which was equally divided between Elverton C. Stark of Oneida, and R.M. Bingham of Rome. From 1875 to 1880 the bank earned $60,000 in profits and this sum was added to the capital stock, no dividends having been paid previous to 1880.

“The liabilities of the firm of Hard Bros. & Co., is between $90,000 and $100,000. Its plant and real estate is valued at $85,000 and its stock and accounts at $50,000. The firm is composed of C.B. and H.D. Hard and John Crawford. The firm recently expended about $30,000 for improved machinery.

“R.M. Bingham & Co.'s liabilities are placed at over $300,000. The firm was the largest manufacturing concern in Rome and bad been in business for 33 years. The firm was composed of R.M. Bingham and James D. Miller. The company's indebtedness of $70,000 to the Oneida bank is secured by mortgage upon the real estate and plant and by an assignment of accounts, in all to the extent of $67,819”

The July 15, 1891 issue of the Clinton Courier (Clinton, NY) provided a statement from Bingham:

“The extensive manufacturing establishment of R.M. Bingham & Co., on South James street, Rome, did not open for business Monday morning and it soon became known what the trouble was. Mortgages given by the firm were filed in the city chamberlain’s office Monday morning amounting to $152,053.49. The mortgages are all dated July 13, 1891.

“The announcement of the suspension caused a profound sensation. The establishment is one of the largest in Oneida County and sent carriages, sleighs and other articles of its manufacture to all parts of the world. The plant consists of about 10 large buildings and occupies more than a block.

“The firm has been embarrassed for some time past and borrowed large amounts of money to tide over the difficulties and avoid a failure. It finally succumbed under the continued dullness of business.

“R.M. Bingham, senior member of the firm, makes the following statement: ‘We have made no general assignment, but have given a number of mortgages to secure parties who have loaned us money to use in our business. We have been carrying a very large stock of goods for which the demand has been light. Besides the depressed market, collections have been very slow. Our assets are largely in excess of our liabilities. Being unable to satisfy the demands made upon us, we have done the best thing we could under the circumstances. If outside creditors do not press us too hard, but give us time to dispose of our stock of goods at full value we will be able to pay every creditor one hundred cents on the dollar and have a handsome surplus left. All the operatives of our works will receive full pay right away. The works are closed temporarily. I am not prepared to say just when they will be reopened but I hope it will be soon.’”

The July 22, 1891 edition of the Rome Citizen painted a slightly brighter picture:

"R.M. Bingham & Co.'s Affairs Discussed and Committee Appointed — Nothing Definite Yet.

"At 2 P.M. Monday about twenty of the heaviest creditors of R. M. Bingham & Co. met at the company's office in response to the circular sent out last week. Mr. Bingham submitted a statement showing the firm's assets, including everything, to be in round figures $266,000. In the assets all goods manufactured and in process of manufacture were figured at invoice price.

"The liabilities, including the mortgages given, as published last week, were shown to be $222,000, leaving an apparent surplus of $44,000. W. A. Sweet of the Sweet Manufacturing Company of Syracuse was then chosen chairman of the meeting and E. C. Metcalf and W. A. Mooney were selected as secretaries.

"Mr. Bingham was asked to explain the various items of the statement which he did. After considerable discussion it was decided to appoint a committee of three to examine the books and affairs of R. M. Bingham & Co. and report at a meeting to be held as soon as the examination is completed.

"The chair appointed as such committee W. A. Mooney of the firm of W. W. Mooney & Son of Columbus, Ind ., E. C. Metcalf of the Westmoreland Malleable Iron Company, and T. C. Campbell of New York. Mr. Bingham stated that it ought not to require more than half a day to make the examination, as the schedules and figures were all made up and could easily be verified. Mr. Bingham said he was confident the plant could be made to pay, and said he thought the creditors would get more out of their claims by consenting and co-operating in the formation of a stock company, the company to purchase the plant and stock of goods, pay of the creditors and divide the balance of the purchase money among the other creditors, or the latter could take stock to the amount of their claims.

"While the stock company idea seemed to meet with general favor, there was a manifest feeling that the preferred creditors should go into the company on an equal basis, un-preferred, or at least to the amount of 50 per cent of their claims.

"Ex-Mayor Jim Stevens of the Rome Merchant Iron Mill favored a stock company, and said Rome could not afford to allow the business to go down, and he was confident an abundance of capital could be secured here. He had talked with several parties who said they would willingly take stock.

"Judge I. J. Evans said one man had told him he would take $25,000 of the stock, and he knew of several others who would subscribe liberally. Mr. Sweet said he would not only take the amount of his claim in stock, but $1,000 besides, providing the creditors were disposed to do their fair share. Others of the creditors expressed themselves in a similar vein.

"In view of these expressions it was decided to appoint a committee of three to confer with the preferred creditors and ascertain what they will do and also to canvas the moneyed men of the city and learn what amount of stock they will subscribe.

"The meeting then adjourned till such time as the committees will be ready to report.


"Yesterday afternoon the following three judgments were filed at the Oneida County Clerk's Office in Utica against R. M. Bingham and J. D. Mills of this city:

"One in favor of E.C. Stark of Oneida for $20,959.94. It is for a 90 day note given October 3, 1890. One in favor of Mary M. Bingham for $10,308 92, for a note given January 1, 1890, payable on demand for $9,411.57. One in favor of Edward A. Willoughby for $8,530.68 for eight notes of $1,000 each, all dated April 1, 1890. Four for 60 days, two for 90 days, and two for 120 days. All the eight are payable at the Fort Stanwix National Bank of Rome."

Unfortunately for Bingham and his brother-in-law James Duane Mills (married to Bingham’s older sister Mary Louisa b.1840), many of the firm’s creditors were unwilling to wait for business to pick up, and two receivers, John R. Edwards and Cyrus D. Prescott, were appointed by the court. The receivers were not unsympathetic to the firm’s woes as Edwards was a longtime friend and former business partner of Edward A. Willoughby.

A legal notice printed in the November 26, 1892 issue of the Rome Citizen, provides a detailed list of the firm’s creditors which included a number of Rome and Oneida County businessmen:

“SUPREME COURT - Trial desired in Oneida County – Rome Savings Bank against Rinaldo M. Bingham, John R. Edwards as Receiver of R. M. Bingham & Co., Cyrus D. Prescott, as receiver of R.M. Bingham & Co., James Duane Mills, Mary L. Mills, Daniel M. Tuttle as Assignee of Elverton C. Stark, Edward A. Willoughby, Mary M. Bingham, Owen E. Owens, George W. Day and James Evans, Alfred Ethridge, Carrie J. Rose and Isabel Rose. Moses M. Davis, Charles Fowler, Albert J. Broughton and Norman K. Graves, Rome Merchant-Iron Mill, Edwin B. Smith, Sweets Manufacturing Company, James G. English and Edwin F. Mersick, Michael O. Riorden and Levi R. Brainard, Daniel Delaney, The Wheel and Wood Bending Company, Theodore J. Mowry, F. Louis Roth and George J. Roth, Benjamin F. Webb, William B. Adamson, Charles B. Adamson, William M. Scott and John K. Marshall, as surviving members of the firm of Baeder, Adamson & Co., Wood, Smith & Co., Albert M. Patterson and William Greenough, The Eberhard Manufacturing Co., Oriskany Malleable Iron Co., Limited, Cortland Top and Rail Co., Limited, William G. Faatz, Frank L. Faatz and Gilbert H. Faatz, The Westmoreland Malleable Iron Co., Essex Leather Co., S. H. Brown & Co., George A. King, Hildreth Varnish Co., Morgan Envelope Co., Sherman Petrie, Elverton C. Stark.

"To the above named defendants: You are hereby summoned to answer the complaint in this action, and to serve a copy of your answer on the plaintiff's attorney within twenty days after the service of this summons, exclusive of the day of service; and in case of your failure to appear or answer, judgment will be taken against you by default for the relief demanded in the complaint.

"Dated November 4, 1892, Beach & Wager, Plaintiff's Attorney. Office and Post Office address, 107 S. James St., Rome, N. Y.

"To James G. English and Edwin F. Mersick, Michael O'Riordan and Levi R. Brainard, Daniel Delaney, The Wheel and Wood Bending Company, The Eberhard Manufacturing Co., James Duane Mills, Mary L. Mills, The Essex Leather Co., S.N. Brown & Co., Morgan Envelope Company, defendants.

"The foregoing summons is served upon you by publication pursuant, to an order of Hon. W.T. Dunmore, Special County Judge of Oneida County dated the 17th day of November, 1892, and filed with the complaint in the office of the clerk at Oneida County, at Utica, N. Y.

"Beach & Wager, Plaintiff's Attorney. Office and Post Office address, 107 S James St., Rome, N. Y."

During the next few months a flurry of lawsuits ensued, with many of the creditors filing lawsuits against the others, hoping to salvage a portion of their investments. Another legal notice follows, this one from the March 8, 1893 Rome Citizen:

"SUPREME COURT - Trial desired in Oneida County - George Barnard against Rinaldo M. Bingham, John R. Edwards as Receiver of R. M. Bingham & Co., Cyrus D. Prescott, as receiver of R.M. Bingham & Co., James Duane Mills, Mary L. Mills, Daniel M. Tuttle as Assignee of Elverton C. Stark, Edward A. Willoughby, Mary M. Bingham, Owen E. Owens, George W. Day and James Evans, Alfred Ethridge, Carrie J. Rose and Isabel Rose. Moses M. Davis, Charles Fowler, Albert J. Broughton and Norman K. Graves, Rome Merchant-Iron Mill, Edwin B. Smith, Sweets Manufacturing Company, James G. English and Edwin F. Mersick, Michael O. Riorden and Levi R. Brainard, Daniel Delaney, The Wheel and Wood Bending Company, Theodore J. Mowry, F. Louis Roth and George J. Roth, Benjamin F. Webb, William B. Adamson, Charles B. Adamson, William M. Scott and John K. Marshall, as surviving members of the firm of Baeder, Adamson & Co., Wood, Smith & Co., Albert M. Patterson and William Greenough, The Eberhard Manufacturing Co., Oriskany Malleable Iron Co., Limited, Cortland Top and Rail Co., Limited, William G. Faatz, Frank L. Faatz and Gilbert H. Faatz, The Westmoreland Malleable Iron Co., Essex Leather Co., S. H. Brown & Co., George A. King, Hildreth Varnish Co., Morgan Envelope Co., Sherman Petrie, Elverton C. Stark.

"To the above named defendants: You are hereby summoned to answer the complaint in this action, and to serve a copy of your answer on the plaintiff's attorney within twenty days after the service of this summons, exclusive of the day of service; and in case of your failure to appear or answer, judgment will be taken against you by default for the relief demanded in the complaint.

"Dated November 4, 1892, J. S. BAKER, Plaintiff's Attorney. Office address, 112 West Dominick Street, Rome, N. Y.

"To William B. Adamson, Charles B. Adamson, William M. Scott and John K. Marshall.

"The foregoing summons is served upon you by publication pursuant, to an order of Hon. R. C. Briggs, Special County Judge of Oneida County dated the 7th day of; March, 1893, and filed with the complaint in the office of the clerk at Oneida County, at Utica, N. Y.

"Yours, etc., Dated March 8, 1893; J. S. BAKER, Plaintiff's Attorney, 112 W. Dominick St., Rome, N. Y."

Although the affairs of the R.M. Bingham & Co. took several years to be resolved, Bingham reorganized with the help of Rome businessman Dr. Willey Lyon Kingsley, placing his son (Melville Rinaldo Bingham) in charge of the Bingham Harness Co. and his son-in-law (Edward A. Willoughby) in charge of the E.A. Willoughby Carriage Works.

Kingsley, was the son of Dr. Willey J. P. Kingsley, prominent Rome physician and surgeon who headed the Rome Hospital in addition to organizing a number of Rome’s most prosperous businesses which included; the Farmers National Bank of Rome, the Rome Locomotive Works, the Rome Mfg. Co., the Rome Metal Co., the Rome Tube Co., and the Rome Iron Works. The latter firm became Rome’s most famous manufacturing concern, later becoming the Rome Brass & Copper Co. and after a merger with Revere, the Revere Copper & Brass Co.

Willey Lyon, the third of the Dr. and Mrs. Kingsley’s children in order of birth, graduated with an A.B. from Yale University in 1886, after which he received an M.D. from Harvard University in 1890. He not only served as president of the Harness company but after his father’s retirement assumed his numerous business obligations, becoming president of the Rome Brass & Copper Co. and the related Rome Factory Bldg. Co. Augustus C. Kessinger, founder of the Rome Sentinel, served as vice-president of the Bingham harness works, while Melville R. Bingham served as Secretary-Treasurer.

Rinaldo M. Bingham was severely embarrassed by the bankruptcy and relocated with his wife to Portland, Oregon where they invested what was left of their fortune in the booming northwest real estate market. Under the careful guidance of Kingsley, the Bingham Harness works returned to profitability and although their name is noticeably absent on the master list of known American bicycle manufacturers, an 1895 advertisement infers that the junior Bingham had entered the booming bicycle market, although it’s not clear whether they built their own, or simply remarketed vehicles made by a third party. In any case the Rome N.Y.-built? Bingham bicycle was unrelated to the much better-known Dutch-built bicycle of the same name.

Just as the Bingham Harness company and Willoughby Carriage works seemed to be on solid financial ground, disaster struck in the early morning hours of March 5, 1897. The following day’s (March 6, 1897) New York Times reported:

“ROME BUSINESS FIRMS SUFFER; The Most Destructive Fire Experienced There in Years.

“ROME, N.Y., March 5. -- The most destructive fire that Rome has experienced in six years occurred between midnight and daylight this morning, entailing a loss of $100,000, upon which there is an insurance of $65,000. The Bingham Block, a six-story brick structure, covering 100 by 150 feet, was totally destroyed.

“The building belonged to the defunct Fort Stanwix National Bank. The Bingham Harness Company and Willoughby’s Carriage Works occupied the block. These establishments were doing a large business. The harness company’s loss is $40,000; insured for $35,000. The other firm’s loss is $20,000; insurance $15,000. One hundred people are thrown out of work.”

The March 5, 1897 Freeport Daily Journal included the following headline, which may not have seemed so humorous to the Citizens of Rome:

“ROME IN FLAMES ONCE MORE, But Nero Is Not Present to do the Fiddling.

ROME, N. Y., March 5.—[Special] —The Bingham block occupied by the Bingham Harness company and the Willoughby Carriage works was destroyed by fire this morning. Flames crossed the Erie Canal and damaged a number of buildings more or less. The total loss was $200,000.”

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

Henry J. Cookinham - History of Oneida County, New York: from 1700 to the present time: pub. 1912

Hamilton Child - Gazetteer and Business Directory of Oneida County, pub. 1869

Charles H. Young and William A Quinn - Foundation For Living: The Story of Charles Stewart Mott and Flint, pub. 1963

Auction Scatters Valuable Equipment of Once Thriving Utica Industry – Utica Observer-Dispatch February 5, 1939

George A. Hardin & Frank H. Willard - History of Herkimer County, pub. 1893

Car Body Maker F.D. Willoughby Dies at Age 68 – Utica Daily Press August 15, 1955

Utica’s Latest Industry – Utica Daily Press, April 3, 1897 pp4

Interesting Plant – Utica Sunday Journal – Sept 17, 1899

Audrey Lewis - Memories of Willoughby Vivid for Some - Utica Observer Dispatch, March 4, 1989 ppC1

Michael Lamm - The Coachbuilders: Part XI: Willoughby Co. -  SIA #164, March/April 1998 pp 44-45

Martin Regitko - Willoughby – the Classic Car, Winter 1961 pp14-23

Hugo Pfau - Willoughby – Cars & Parts Oct 1971

Hugo Pfau - More On the Willoughby Company - Cars & Parts November 1973

James F. Bellamy - Cars Made In Upstate New York

Beverly Rae Kimes – Willoughby, Automobile Quarterly

Rome N.Y. - Our City and its People - pp165

Daniel Wager - Our County and Its People (Oneida County, NY) pub. 1896

Samuel W. Durant - History of Oneida County, New York, pub. 1878 

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

Charles Darwin Bingham – The Bingham Genealogy, pub. 1917

Col. Theodore A. Bingham –Genealogy of the Bingham Family, pub. 1898

Donna Bingham Munger - The Bingham family in the United States, pub. 1996 

Annie Wittenmyer - History of the Woman's Temperance Crusade, pub. 1878

Marvin E. Arnold - Lincoln and Continental Classic Motorcars: The Early Years

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

Brooks T. Brierley - There is no mistaking a Pierce-Arrow, pub. 1986

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

Thomas E. Bonsall – Coachwork on Lincoln

Thomas E Bonsall - The Lincoln Story: the Postwar Years

Thomas E. Bonsall - Lincoln: Seventy Years Of Fine Car Heritage

Mrs. Wilfred C. Leland - Master of Precision: Henry M. Leland

Maurice Hendry - Lincoln: The Car of State

George Philip Hanley, Stacey Pankiw Hanley – The Marmon Heritage, pub, 1985

Oneida County NY Historical Society

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