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Woonsocket MFg. Co.
Woonsocket Wagon Mfg. Co., 1901-1922; Woonsocket Manufacturing Co., 1922-1927; Woonsocket, Rhode Island & 1925-1927; Providence, Rhode Island
Associated Builders
H.C. Marsh, 1870-1884; J.F. Fisher, 1884-1888; Logan & Sproul, 1888-1901; R.H. Long Motors Co. ; M.P. Moller

Although they were primarily a commercial body builder, the Woonsocket Manufacturing Co. is remembered today for being one of the production body suppliers for the DuPont automobile. L. Osborne (Oz) Waterhouse (1900-1982), a member of the famous Massachusetts coachbuilding family, served as Woonsocket’s supervisor for a number of years and noted automobile designer, George Briggs Weaver, started his career with the firm.

The origins of the firm can be traced to one H.C. Marsh, who initiated the repair and manufacture of farm wagons on Worrall Street in downtown Woonsocket sometime around 1870. Marsh’s business was succeeded by that of J.F. Fisher in 1884, and four years later by the wagon-building partnership of D. Logan and C. K. Sproul. As natives of Nova Scotia, Canada, Logan & Sproul had garnered considerable experience in the trade before coming to Woonsocket and by 1891 they employed thirty hands at their factory which was situated on a 1 1/2 acre plot at Nos. 15-20 Worrall Street.

Both light and heavy wagons were produced, the firm's specialties being the Boston truck, a heavy commercial wagon that found favor in that eastern Massachusetts metropolis. A period description follows:

"The Boston truck is constructed of two long parallel shafts, hewn from the best of oak, winter felled, well-seasoned, and free from faults. These shafts are twenty-five feet long, ten inches wide, and five inches thick, strengthened underneath, in the middle portion, with shorter pieces of the same width. The upper ends of the shafts are cut curving and shaped round, to fit the sides of the wheelhorse. They are then framed together by two transverse pieces: the well-compacted structure is placed upon a low axle, supported by wheels which are three feet in diameter, and thus the truck is complete."

Logan & Sproul's trade extended from Eastern New England into New York state and included everything from simple vendor’s wagons and carryalls to heavy-duty dumping, moving and party wagons. The firm also had a contract with the Woonsocket Street Railroad Company to build and repair the firm’s rolling stock. After twelve years in business the partner’s sold the firm to the recently organized Woonsocket Wagon Manufacturing Co., a firm incorporated on March 6, 1901, for “the purpose of manufacturing, buying, selling, and dealing in all kinds of wagons and other vehicles, and all kinds of supplies commonly used by horseshoers, wheelwrights, and blacksmiths, and of carrying on the general business of horseshoer, wheelwright, and blacksmith, and any business connected therewith or incidental thereto.” The firm was capitalized at $10,000 and its stockholders included Woonsocket resident Fred L. Cleveland, his wife, Eva J. Cleveland and Uxbridge, Mass. businessman Elwin E. Southwick.

The December 21, 1909 Lowell (Mass.) Sun reported:

“Loss Is $15,000: Wagon Co.'s Plant Destroyed by Fire

“WOONSOCKET, R.I., Dec. 21.—The plant of the Woonsocket Wagon Manufacturing company, consisting of a three story wooden building and a two story storage shed, was practically destroyed by a fire which broke out in the forge room late last night. The damage amounted to $15,000 and is covered by Insurance.”

The firm rebuilt and soon occupied an entire city block, from #2 to #38 Worrall Street, Woonsocket. By that time the firm had already built a few commercial bodies for early self-propelled auto-trucks and as the decade wore on they began to specialize in automobile and commercial vehicle bodies. As early as 1914 Woonsocket Wagon Manufacturing was putting a camping body on a automobile chassis. It was described as "something novel in the form of a camping body, mounted on a six-cylinder automobile chassis.” Included with the 10-foot long screened-in delivery body were four folding bunks, electric lights, a gas stove and icebox.

By the late-teens the firm began national advertisements introducing a line of all metal dumping wagons and oil transport trailers that were designed to be towed behind a 1 to 3 ton truck. Bodies were also introduced for direct mounting on truck chassis as evidenced by the following advertisement in the Commercial Vehicle which included a picture of a Woonsocket Dumping body for the Ford Model TT chassis:

“A new type square-cornered combination dumping body for 1-ton trucks has been introduced by the Woonsocket Wagon Manufacturing Co, Woonsocket, R.I. It is hand operated, has a double–acting tail gate, and the sub-frame and body are all one unit, readily attached to a Ford 1-ton truck. The price is $200, the rear elevating attachment being $25 extra.”

The Commercial Car journal also ran a small piece on the firm’s dump bodies in 1917 which mentioned the firm had introduced “a steel dump body mounted on a semi-trailer and lifted with a hand hoist.”

During 1919 Fred L. Cleveland sold an interest in the firm to his two sons, F. Bertram and Harold A. Cleveland and the firm was reorganized with his eldest son Harold A., taking over the reigns of the firm. F. Bertram Cleveland was a 1912 graduate of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and served as the firm’s general manager and treasurer. His brother, Harold A. Cleveland, a 1916 WPI graduate, served as president and superintendent. The family’s entry in the 1920 Rhode Island Directory of Directors follows:

CLEVELAND, E. J., 65 Social Street, Woonsocket. President and Director, Woonsocket Wagon Manufacturing Co.

CLEVELAND, F. BERTRAM, 65 Social Street, Woonsocket. Treasurer and Director, Woonsocket Wagon Manufacturing Co.

CLEVELAND, F. L., 65 Social Street, Woonsocket. Secretary, Treasurer and Director, Woonsocket Wagon Manufacturing Co.

CLEVELAND, HAROLD A., Worrall Street, Woonsocket. President and Director, Woonsocket Wagon Manufacturing Co. 

Unfortunately the post-war recession had a negative impact on the firm’s sales and in February of 1922, the Woonsocket Wagon Manufacturing Co. was in the hands of a receiver. The previous firm’s assets were soon purchased from the receiver for a consideration of $20,000 by F.B. Cleveland, acting for and on behalf of the “Woonsocket Manufacturing Co.” a new corporation which was organized for the purpose of acquiring the assets and business of the predecessor corporation. The purchase price was raised on three promissory notes which were endorsed by Fred L. Cleveland and two other parties whom he had interested in the business. There were two notes for $6,250 each, one of which was endorsed by William J. Brown and the petitioner, and the other by D.W. Gaskill and the petitioner. Gaskill was a lumberman from nearby Blackstone, Massachusetts. A third note of $12,500 was endorsed by the Fred L. Cleveland and his two sons, F.B. and H.A. Cleveland. Brown and Gaskill became directors in the new firm with Brown serving as treasurer and Harold A. Cleveland, president.

As luck would have it, L. Osborne (Oz) Waterhouse, a member of one of New England’s greatest coachbuilding families, had recently left the employ of Merrimac, Mass. builder J.B. Judkins, and was hired on as superintendent of the Woonsocket Mfg Co. Waterhouse’s new position soon reached a number of regional automobile manufacturers and within a few short months the firm was supplying production automobile bodies to the DuPont Motors Co. and others. A large contract was also obtained from the Luxor Cab Manufacturing Company, who had started building taxicabs in nearby Framingham, Massachusetts in the former R.H. Long Automobile factory.

The M.P. Moller Motor Car Co. of Hagerstown, Maryland also supplied Luxor with taxicabs, and during 1925 all Luxor production was moved to Hagerstown, ending Woonsocket’s association with the cab manufacturer. At the close of 1925, the loss of the Luxor account combined with other downturns in the trade left Woonsocket Manufacturing hopelessly insolvent, and a last-ditch attempt at building motor coaches for various regional bus operators was put forth. The old factory in Woonsocket proved too small to manufacture buses so a larger facility was leased on Narragansett Avenue in nearby Providence and the bulk of the firm’s operations were relocated there. The firm’s Worrall Street factory was leased to the Woonsocket Auto Corp., a Buick dealer.

George Briggs Weaver, (1884-1965) Woonsocket’s primary body designer from 1926-1928, was born in 1884 and descended from a family of Newport, Rhode Island silversmiths. He studied jewelry design at the Rhode Island School of Design and upon graduation secured a job with the famous silversmiths, Gorham Manufacturing Co. in nearby Providence. Although no evidence exists today, Brigg’s father supposedly manufactured an automobile from the family’s hardware store during the early part of the century. Called the Weaver, it was one of the hundreds of assembled automobiles that proliferated during that time. When his father died unexpectedly, he took a leave of absence from Gorham and returned home to take over his father’s Newport hardware store. Shortly thereafter, a fire destroyed the business and Briggs returned to Gorham designing tools and automatic-machinery. Starting in 1926, he began to design bodies for the Woonsocket Mfg. Co. which had recently relocated to Providence.

Despite Weaver’s excellent engineering and Oz Waterhouse’s superior craftsmanship, the Cleveland family was unable to keep the firm solvent and by mid-1927 Woonsocket Manufacturing Co. was facing bankruptcy.

Coincidently, Roger Clapp, a fund manager at Boston’s Stone and Webster, and a Harvard Business School graduate, and his out-of-work former college roommate, S. Roberts (Bob) Dunham, sent out letters indicating their desire to purchase an on-going manufacturing firm. Charles L. Waterhouse Sr. became aware of Clapp and Dunham’s search for a business to acquire through a neighbor active in Framingham’s Chamber of Commerce. The elder Waterhouse was well aware of his son’s employers impending receivership and put together a deal whereby Dunham, an accountant, would handle the business end of the firm and Waterhouse would run the factory, with Clapp and Dunham retaining a majority of the stock.

At Woonsocket’s bankruptcy auction, the Waterhouses purchased all of the firm’s stock and machinery (which included a number of bus bodies) and moved it 35 miles northwest to a vacant building in Webster, Massachusetts, a small town 16 miles south of Worcester. Roger Clapp and Charles L. Waterhouse kept their respective jobs in Boston while S. Roberts Dunham and L. Osborne Waterhouse organized, set-up and ran the plant. Charles L. Waterhouse was elected president and it was decided to name the firm The Waterhouse Company, in tribute to the Waterhouse family’s long association with coachbuilding. In time, the other three founders, L. Osborne Waterhouse, Roger Clapp and S. Robert Dunham, would also serve as president.

With Woonsocket out of business, E. Paul duPont contracted with Waterhouse to produce their production bodies, and hired George Briggs Weaver to oversee DuPont Motor’s body engineering department in Wilmington, Delaware. Waterhouse wanted Weaver’s services as well so his contract with duPont allowed him to continue to design bodies for Waterhouse on an as-needed basis.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -







Beverly Rae Kimes - The Long Road To Success; Richard Long and his Bay State Automobile; Automobile Quarterly, Volume 28, No 2; pub 1990

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Arthur Lee Homan and Keith Marvin - The Dagmar and the Möller Motor Car Company: an automotive enigma, The Automobilist Vol. X. No. 1, February 1960

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