William A. Henderson


(Henderson worked for Holbrook and Brooks-Ostruk).

Henderson wrote the following article for the New York whose publication coincided with the opening of the 1921 New York Auto Salon

"Art In Body Building by William A Henderson Formerly designer for the Holbrook Co.

"Coach building has always been an art. Whether it reached its peak in the days of the magnificent horse-drawn vehicles of royalty or whether that honor belongs to the special creations which mark custom-built automobile bodies is a matter of opinion. Coach building had its start in Poland. Few realize that the country separating Germany from Russia gave to the world the first fine sample of coach building. Such was its excellence in early days that the English investigated and took up the art, and afterward came the French.

"All of the craftsmen and designers of the empires and kingdoms participated in this rivalry, and the samples of the work of other centuries reflect not only keen vision, wonderful art on the part of designers but hand work on woods and metals that always will rank among the clever creations of men.

"The source of some of the inspirations is striking. An English coach builders was passing through the Alps when he saw an oddly contrived goat cart. He sketched the lines and when he returned home he worked out, the cabriolet, which made an instant appeal to those who wanted the finest equipages. The first part of the word cabriolet is a translation of what they called the goat where the cart was discovered.

"Early in the history of the United State coach building took its place among the arts. Democratic as we were under our Declaration of Independence there were those who wanted the finest appearing and best built vehicles for their horses. New York of long ago was the show place; on its avenues were to be seen vehicles of rare lines, graceful and alluring, and built for ages, so well was the work done.

"Fine coach building in the days of the horse never developed in the west. There were builders, but they never attained the heights reached by the firms concentrated around New York and in New England. It was logical, therefore, when the automobile began to encroach upon the desirability of the horse, that the early steps in body building should come from the latter places. In fact, designs of bodies now built in the Midwest came from the East.

"For more than thirty years I have been designing and building bodies. Starting in Amesbury and then going to New Haven, I spent years in this art, and in 1898 began building electric cars, and for several years was connected with the Holbrook Co. In 1913 the company brought out eighteen different bodies for the automobile salon and continued to design and build bodies for imported cars as well as for some of our American makes. 

"During the years of the automobile I have designed bodies for the royalty of Europe and nobles of this country, including almost every stage favorite with the exception of Charlie Chaplin. In the field of custom-built bodies there always has been opportunity. The designer has had the incentive of creation as his goal, and those who enjoy the splendid motor coaches little think of the time and thought which the carrying out of the idea required. That greatly desired touch of the exclusive, the individual, has forced the designers to search the innermost recesses of their ingenuity. Then came the work of making those lines a fact, and workmanship which marks the period furniture s freely copied never was better than that on some of the bodies today.

"The designer of the automobile body has many things to take into consideration. Primarily the lines must be such that the body will be clever. It must also be comfortable and it must balance with the chassis so that the car is harmonious from end to end. Beauty does not mean lavishness or colors, nor does it include freakiness. Line of almost severe plainness at times are those which command quick commendation from the automobile show visitors. Too little thought of real grace has been given to some of the bodies which come forth by the thousands.

1921 The New York Times



For more information please read:

Biographies of Prominent Carriage Draftsmen - Carriage Monthly, April 1904

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

George Arthur Oliver - A History of Coachbuilding

George Arthur Oliver - Cars and Coachbuilding: One Hundred Years of Road Vehicle Development

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

James J. Schild - Fleetwood: the Company and the Coachcraft

John R. Velliky - Dodge Brothers/Budd Co. Historical Photo Album

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 1

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 2

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 3

Dennis Adler - The Art of the Sports Car: The Greatest Designs of the 20th Century

C. Edson Armi - The Art of American Car Design: The Profession and Personalities

C. Edson Armi - American Car Design Now

Penny Sparke - A Century of Car Design

John Tipler - The World's Great Automobile Stylists

Ivan Margolius - Automobiles by Architects

Jonathan Bell - Concept Car Design

Erminie Shaeffer Hafer - A century of vehicle craftsmanship

Ronald Barker & Anthony Harding - Automobile Design: Twelve Great Designers and Their Work

John McLelland - Bodies beautiful: A history of car styling and craftsmanship

Frederic A. Sharf - Future Retro: Drawings From The Great Age Of American Automobiles

Paul Carroll Wilson - Chrome Dreams: Automobile Styling Since 1893

David Gartman - Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design

Nick Georgano - Art of the American Automobile: The Greatest Stylists and Their Work

Matt Delorenzo - Modern Chrysler Concept Cars: The Designs That Saved the Company

Thom Taylor - How to Draw Cars Like a Pro

Tony Lewin & Ryan Borroff - How To Design Cars Like a Pro

Frederick E. Hoadley - Automobile Design Techniques and Design Modeling: the Men, the Methods, the Materials

Doug DuBosque - Draw Cars

Jonathan Wood - Concept Cars

D. Nesbitt - 50 Years Of American Auto Design

David Gartman - Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design

Lennart W. Haajanen & Karl Ludvigsen - Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles

L. J. K Setright - The designers: Great automobiles and the men who made them

Goro Tamai - The Leading Edge: Aerodynamic Design of Ultra-Streamlined Land Vehicles

Brian Peacock & Waldemar Karwowski - Automotive Ergonomics

Bob Thomas - Confessions of an Automotive Stylist

Brooke Hodge & C. Edson Armi - Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays

Gordon M. Buehrig - Rolling sculpture: A designer and his work

Henry L. Dominguez - Edsel Ford and E.T. Gregorie: The Remarkable Design Team...

Stephen Bayley - Harley Earl (Design Heroes Series)

Stephen Bayley - Harley Earl and the Dream Machine

Serge Bellu - 500 Fantastic Cars: A Century of the World Concept Cars

Raymond Loewy - Industrial Design

Raymond Loewy - Never Leave Well Enough Alone

Philippe Tretiack - Raymond Loewy and Streamlined Design

Angela Schoenberger - Raymond Loewy: Pioneer of American Industrial Design

Laura Cordin - Raymond Loewy


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