Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

In the first two decades of the twentieth century, there were a number of manufacturers in eastern Pennsylvania producing both passenger cars and trucks. Much of the activity centered around Reading, where in addition to the famous Duryea, the Acme, Boss, Daniels, Dile, Meteor, Middlebury, Reber, Riviera, Snader and S.G.V., not to mention the “Read­ing Steamer,” were made – all pre­sumably gasoline-driven.

In Allentown, the emphasis was on truck manufacture, with the (still existing) Mack Truck operation, the Bethlehem Truck, the Maccar Truck, the Penn Unit Truck and the Starbux Truck. Nearby Easton produced the Wilson Steam Truck. Wilkes-Barre had its Mathewson automobile (and truck) and the Owen Magnetic – a forerunner of Chrysler’s push-button-gear-shift car. In the Pottstown-Phoenixville area were produced the Chadwick, Cham­pion and Phoenix, as well as the Auto­car Truck, now located at Exton.

Lancaster County had its “Cones­toga” Truck Company in the city of Lancaster, the “Carrol” Motor Car Company at Strasburg, and the “Light” Commercial Car Company at Marietta – all producing gas-driven vehicles in the early 1900s.

The above list is by no means all­-inclusive. There were many other manufacturing operations of short duration, such as the “Imperial” Electric Car in Williamsport, the “Chester” auto and the “Rowe” Truck at Coatesville, the “Hahn” Wagon Works in Hamburg, the “Ran­dall” at Newtown, and the “Vim” Motor Truck Company production plant in Philadelphia. The names of long-forgotten automobiles and trucks listed here are simply intended to give the reader an impression of the important part played by Pennsylvania in the early history of the automobile in­dustry in the United States.

There were a variety of self-pro­pelled vehicles manufactured in York and York County in the early 1900s: the “Mayflower” Truck, 1905; the “Hart-Kraft” Truck, about 1908; the “Martin” Truck and “Kline-Kar,” 1909; the “Atlas” Truck in 1912; the “Sphinx” Motor Car, 1914; the “Bell” in 1915; and the “Hanover” in 1917. A car named the “Pritz” was also said to have been built in York at one time. But by far the most significant automobile manufacturing operation ever undertaken in York, or perhaps in this part of the United States, was that of the “Pullman” Motor Car. Estimates vary between 12 to 20 thousand as to the total number of “Pullmans” actually manufactured. However, at peak production the Pullman factory had a total work force of approximately nine hundred people and was turning out finished automobiles at the rate of thirty-six a day.

The first “Pullman” was a six-wheel­er, developed in 1903 by Albert P. Broomell, President of Broomell, Schmidt and Steacy Company of York, manufacturers of steam and hot-water heating equipment. The car was assembled in Broomell’s plant and was given the name “Pullman” to associate it with the luxury-travel railroad coach of the day developed by George Mortimer Pullman. The six-wheel ar­rangement stemmed from the six-wheel trucks on the Pullman railroad coaches (as opposed to the conventional four-wheel railroad car trucks) which were supposed to provide an exceptionally smooth ride.

The Six-Wheeler, however, proved to be anything by a smooth-riding vehicle. Possibly on today’s modern highways it might have performed satisfactorily, but on the unbelievably bad roads of the early 1900s it was a nightmare to drive. The power was supplied to the center wheels by a two-cylinder, 20 HP, pancake gasoline engine, via chain drive, with the front and rear steering wheels linked together to turn in opposite directions when the car cornered. With steering controlled only by a tiller, the operator frequently found himself on some­one’s front lawn when the road got rough. Not only that, the driving wheels often spun free of the road when the vehicle straddled a cross gutter and it had to be pushed to make contact with the road again.

After several attempts at inter-city driving, with limited success, Broomell decided to tear down the colorful Six­Wheeler and make a conventional four­-wheel auto out of the remains. Some­what soured on the name “Pullman,” his second experimental model was called the “York.” It had a vertical, 18-20 HP, four-cylinder engine (Broomell’s design), a radiator sus­pended under the driver’s seat and a steering wheel instead of a tiller. In all respects it was a much more practical automobile than the Six­-Wheeler.

Broomell felt he needed a partner with facilities to build the car in quantity, and so arranged with Samuel E. Baily, owner of the old York Car­riage Company at George and North streets, to build the car in that plant. As their production manager. Broomell and Baily took into partnership young James A. Kline or Harrisburg, who had already made a name for himself in central Pennsylvania by selling and re­building both steam and gasoline­-driven vehicles.

The team of Broomell (the inven­tor), Baily (the financier) and Kline (expert auto mechanic) proved to be a good one. In 1906, after further modifications and improvements, the partners went into production with their “Model C,” returning co the original name “Pullman” once again. Twenty cars were produced in the fall of 1906 and were first put on display at the York Fair. The car proved a good seller at a base price of $2,000. The folding top was sold as an “extra” at $100 to $150, and the “plate glass front” (windshield) also came as an extra, at $35.

The improved “Model D” was pro­duced in 1907 and continued the alphabetical series of models which terminated with the “Model O” in 1911. By all accounts, the “Model K” of 1910 was said to be the best of the “large cars” which Pullman produced. They had reached serial numbers in the 8,200 range in 1911, so presum­ably at least 8,000 Pullmans had been produced by that year.

A car’s performance in those days was tested out against competition on the race track. Endurance tests were also run over longer periods on com­petitive inter-city tours. The Pullman did extremely well in racing competition with luxury cars of the time such as Cadillac, Buick, Locomobile, Pierce Arrow and others. Norman Gallatin, one of Pullman’s test drivers, won an 1,100-mile endurance run between Atlanta and New York in 1910 against stiff competition. Pullman Engineer Ernest Gilliard that same year walked off with top honors in the Fairmount Park Road Race in Philadelphia, cover­ing the 202.2 mile course in 237 minutes. On July 4th in 1911, Pull­mans won four out of five races against Simplex, Oldsmobile and Buick. at contests held in York. A few months later, Pullman shipped four cars to Russia where they captured three gold medals at the Russian Exposition held at Rost on Dan, more prizes than any other exhibitor – an unprecedented vic­tory for an American manufacturer.

In spite of the excellent quality of its production models, recovery from a national panic in 1907 had been slow and the company was having financial difficulties. In 1908 new blood was brought into the organization with so­-called “money men” from New York­ – Thomas O’Connor and Oscar Stephen­son. The latter reorganized the com­pany and cased out both Sam Baily and James Kline the following year. The new management adopted mass­-production methods using more pur­chased items than it had in the past. Quality declined accordingly, and the company reputation for building fine cars suffered.

In the meantime Sam Baily and James Kline formed their own com­pany and began manufacturing the “Kline-Kar,” an excellent automobile, in competition with Pullman. The Kline-Kar ultimately moved its head­quarters to Richmond, Virginia and continued operations there until 1922.

Pullman now embarked on a new numerical series, with roadsters and speedsters added to the line. The sporty Model 4-44 “Gentleman’s Road­ster” of 1909 sold for $3,000. Another sports car, built in 1911 to compete with the Stutz Bearcat, was called the “Vestibuled Speedster” and sold well at a price of $1,650.

Operations and sales during the next few years were moderately suc­cessful, but the beginning of World War I in 1914 round the Pullman Company in financial trouble once again. This time a group of local businessmen, headed by John C. Schmidt, came to the rescue of the ailing company. They pumped in more money and reorganized its operation to produce a much smaller. less expensive car known as the “Pull­man Junior.” This car was competitive with Maxwell, Ford, Willys Overland and Dodge. To head the new opera­tion, they brought from Detroit an au to mobile production specialist named Henry W. Hayden, who was placed in full charge as General Mana­ger. An official announcement of the reorganization was made in October of 1915.

For the next six months or so, un­der the guiding hands of “Hans” Hay­den, the factory in York hummed with purposeful activity. The factory pay­roll was boosted to about nine hun­dred men by 1916. Complete assembly­-line methods, similar to the Model T Ford line, were installed. New and less expensive parts sources were presum­ably being searched out by Mr. Hay­den. The Pullman engine plant in York was completely shut down in favor of Golden, Belknap and Swartz engines, purchased by Hayden in Michigan. Essentially, the Pullman Junior now became an assembly opera­tion. A “war prosperity boom” had given the national economy a boost, and it looked as though Pullman was at last going to make money. Hayden reported in late 1915 that he had orders in hand for 9,292 cars. In addition to the regular touring car and roadster models, selling for $740. a special “Deluxe Coupe,” with hard top and magnetic, push-button gear shift, was developed to capture the woman­-driver market. This model sold for $990. By mid-1916 production of all models had climbed to thirty-six cars per day.

Toward the close of 1916, the directors became aware that even though production continued full scale, dealer payments seemed very slow to return. Upon investigation at the receiving end, the directors were shocked to dis­cover that many of the sales contracts which Hayden had led them to believe were “signed and sealed” were really nonexistent and the overflow of unsold models was actually being stockpiled by Hayden at warehouses all over the country.

This led to an immediate and thor­ough investigation. of Mr. Hayden’s sales and purchasing records. So many irregularities were discovered that the directors felt they had no choice but to declare the company bankrupt. Th is they did in December 1916.

Receivers appointed by the York County Court, after firing Hans Hay­den. produced approximately six hun­dred additional cars. In April 1917, when the entrance of the United States into World War I placed the national economy on a war-time basis, production of civilian goods, including automobiles, was halted. The receivers made an unsuccessful attempt to secure some government truck contract work for Pullman. When this failed, they presented a plan for reorganization of the firm with new capital, wiping out the equity of the old stockholders and paying off the creditors in part. When some of the minor stockholders objected, the court ordered the sale of all Pullman assets and Pullman “went on the block” July 24, 1917. Thus ended what had become one of the largest automobile manufacturing operations east of Detroit, one which, under more favorable circumstances, might have made York the automotive capital of the East.


This abbreviated account of the rise and fall of the York-Pullman automo­bile is based upon a booklet entitled “History of the York-Pullman Auto­mobile, 1903-1917” which Mr. Shank wrote in 1970 under the sponsorship of the Historical Society of York County. A profusely illustrated thirty­-six page edition, this booklet is on sale at principal bookstores throughout Pennsylvania.


William H Shank, a licensed Professional Engineer, was named state “Engineer of the Year” in 1978 and currently serves as President of the American Canal Society. He has authored various books and has a particular interest in the history and development of transportation in the Commonwealth.