Building the Birmingham
(This is Part 1 of a two part series on the history of Birmingham Motors and its presence in Peterborough)
Peterborough was a diverse manufacturing centre, but our local production did not include automobiles. But, briefly, in 1922, even that seemed possible. The Birmingham Motors Company had a factory, and was committed to building one of the distinctive cars of the decade in Peterborough. and Peterborough.
The company, which only operated between 1921 and 1925, was beset with many difficulties in the competitive 1920s world of automobiles.
Ford was already the dominant car manufacturer and its sales network covered most of the United States and Canada. Chrysler Plymouth, Dodge Brothers) and General Motors (Durant, REO, Oldsmobile) were already firmly established. Some familiar companies of the 1920s were absorbed by these three companies, although several, such as Nash, thrived until the 1960s. Apparently, there are no Birminghams in automobile collections and museums. The number that were made is unknown, but estimates range fromfrom wholesale cheap Blue Jackets jerseys
20 to 50.
The Birmingham car was distinguished by at least three characteristics.
Its flexible axle allowed each wheel to operate separately from the other wheels to cushion the ride over potholes, for example; few roads were paved in the early 1920s. Instead of paint, the car was covered with fabricfabric wholesale Blue Jackets jerseys
fabricfabric wholesale Blue Jackets jerseys wholesale Blue Jackets cheap jerseys
using a Dupont process called Haskelite.
The four door sedan came with a six cylinder engine, and a 124 inch wheelbase. The earliest cars were built with wooden bodies, apparently like the early airplanes; by 1924, it was moving to a steel body.
Cyrus E. Weaver was the designer, and he acquired the patents of the Blood Brothers who had produced a Cornelian car that had similar chassis. The company also had patents for axle design which I was able to trace on the internet. One, patented 1921 22, was for axle gear casing. Another, filed in July 1921, with Birmingham Motors as the original assignee, was for a front axle assembly.
A third was for a rear axle assembly. In each case, Cyrus E. Weaver was listed as the inventor. Three prototype sedans were completed and test driven by Wright Fisher Engineering Company in Detroit, May 7, 1921. The sedan and the touring car were both lighter by a third to a half compared to competitors of the same size.
In the meantime, Weaver teamed up with a promoter, George B. Mecham, Sr., a 20 year veteran of Wall Street, mainly tied to petroleum companies. The Birmingham Motors A Trust was registered in New York, October 19, 1920. Walter S. Seeley (1921 2013), who wrote an excellent article on the Birmingham Motor Company in Antique Automobile in 1974 notes that Mechem's promotions were generally not good for investors. In the case of the Birmingham Motor Company, his commission was very high.
By the end of November, the advertising campaign began in Jamestown. New York, which was where the new company planned to place its factory. Jamestown, midway between Cleveland and Buffalo, is in the western most county of New York, Chatauqua county.
Jamestown is now about the size of Peterborough; it became a city in 1885 when it had 15,000 people. By 1922 it had about 40,000 people, about twice the size of Peterborough.
The president of the company was Samuel A. Carson (1868 1961) who was the mayor of Jamestown, 1908 1928, 1930 1934. Jamestown's factory was built in nearby Falconer. Carlson had a reputation as an organizer and had considerable executive experience. The company attracted several reputable supporters.
The company was so proud of its "no axle" axle, that it challenged other makers to match their vehicles against the Birmingham on a stretch of road strewn with logs, replicas of corduroy roads.
This was a very successful marketing device. During the summer of 1921, the Birmingham prototypes had been demonstrated in more than 50 cities and towns. As Seeley noted, the company had paid its expenses, purchased the factory lands and the parts for the productions of the cars was in progress. The Birmingham would be assembled with parts manufactured by several manufacturers.
Peterborough was first mentioned as a possible site for the company's Canadian factory in late July 1921. Byron Lederer (1873 1922) was the company representative and later general manager at Peterborough. He had also been to most of the demonstrations that summer.
The company's only Canadian operation was in the former Henry Hope factory on Monaghan Rd., on the site of what is now the Canadian Canoe Museum, andand cheap Blue Jackets jerseys china
was formerly the main building of Outboard Marine.
The factory was clearly marked on the 1922 Plan of the City of Peterborough.
Robert Abbott had acquired the Hope property for the Raybestos plant in 1920, but then opted for the site on Perry Street east of Park Street. Abbott still owned the property when officials from Johnson Outboard Motors came in 1928, and he was active in the wooing of Johnson to Peterborough.
According to The Examiner, July 26, Birmingham Motors claimed, "this car is the easiest riding car ever built, regardless of price, and a car that will practically double the speed of other cars over rough roads." It was also noted that the rigid chassis coupled with the light weight body was revolutionary.
"It is centrally located, has satisfactory railroad facilities and waterways; is a port of entry and there is reasonable lightlight cheap Blue Jackets jerseys
and power and the right kind of labour."
He was pleasantly surprised that there were several local manufacturers, such as General Electric, Raybestos and Red Arrow Tire which could supply parts to the Birmingham automobile. The Examiner reported that the car was built with a Continental Red Seal six cylinder motor, Timken roller bearings, Michelin disk wheels, Detroit Steel Products springs, Firestone tires, and covered with Dupont Fabrikoid.