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.
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