George H. Woodfield 1884-1976


George H. Woodfield - Auto Body Designer  by Walter Seeley - Antique Automobile March-April 1975 pp12-13

It is seldom that today's hobbyists are fortunate enough to meet, in person, a pioneer of the automobile industry's early days. Time has taken its toll, and of the real oldtimers, only a handful remain. One is George H. Woodfield, now 90 years old, master custom body designer and draftsman. At a recent meeting of AACA's Kinzua Valley Region (Pennsylvania) members were treated to an unforget­table talk covering the highlights of Mr. Wood­field's 90 years of life in America, from his birth on May 6, 1884.

George Woodfield began his automotive career in 1904 as an apprentice at Burr & Company, coach builders at 209 W. 48th Street, New York City. He graduated from the Mechanics' Iinstitute in New York as a carriage draftsman, and soon became engi­neer and floor manager for Burr & Company. While there, he designed custom bodies on imported car chassis for such notables as Diamond Jim Brady and Isidor Straus, the Macy magnate. The latter never took delivery of his car; he and his wife were drowned in the Titanic disaster.

Mr. Woodfield left New York City to work for the New Haven Carriage Co., and from there went to the Melburn Wagon Company in Toledo. It was there that he became involved with mass production, and had to change his automotive design methods to con­form to changing techniques. At about this time he was credited with designing the first window-lifter, and the adjustable driver's seat.

After the sale of Milburn to GM in 1923 , Woodfield found work at Brunn & Co. in Buffalo, NY.

Eventually George Woodfield became associated with Brunn & Company of Buffalo, where he could once again design custom bodies. One assignment was the custom body he designed for the Shah of Persia's (Iran) Pierce Arrow, which reputedly cost around $50,000. All the brightwork on the car was gold-plated and gold replicas of the Shah's crown adorned the headlights and doors. The upholstery was patterned with a design taken from the Shah's ceremonial robe and the car's resplendent interior included a diamond-studded vanity case.

When the depression hit the custom body market, George left Brunn & Company to use his skills as an engineer to build homes of his own design. He finally retired from active business in 1969 and settled in Bemus Point, New York, on Chautauqua Lake, where he is still very active in designing and building items in his hobby shop.

George Woodfield is now a member of the AACA Kinzua Valley Region and enjoys sharing his vast knowledge and experience with his fellow club members.

Woodfield was with Burr from 1904 at least through 1909. Burr & Company was probably a contemporary of A.T. Demarest, although probably much smaller in size.

209 W. 48th Street is on the NW corner of Broadway & 48th.


BURR - The firm of Burr & Company in New York City has been indicated on various car rosters as building an automobile in 1897. Burr did provide the body for the Strauss car produced that year, but this seems to have been the extent of its automotive activity. The company, which was at 1709 Broadway, was listed as a manufacturer of automobiles in the Hiscox book Horseless Vehicles, Auto­mobiles, Motor Cycles published in 1900. Turn of the century references to the Burr Company in New York City directories, however, mention carriages only as the firm's products. And it was as a coachbuilder that Burr & Company continued in business into the World War I era, specializing in bodies for foreign cars that arrived in New York as chassis only.---- Burr & Company of New York City built the body for the Henry W. Struss’s 4-cylinder Struss automobile that was built in 1897.


    For more information please read:

Antique Automobile March-April 1975

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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