Briscoe (automobile company)

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Briscoe Model B 4/24 Touring 1919

The Briscoe was an American automobile manufactured at Jackson, Michigan by a group headed by Benjamin Briscoe.

A few months after his departure from the United States Motor Company in 1913, Benjamin Briscoe established a manufacturing plant at Billancourt, France to design and manufacture the first automobile in France built by American methods. The business was called Briscoe Freres; Billancourt was the home of Renault.

In 1915, Briscoe offered what he called "The First French Car at an American Price." Briscoe claimed that the auto had been designed by a French design studio. It featured a single headlamp in the front, faired into the radiator shell. The auto was priced at US$750.00 but this price did not include a top, windshield, or starter.

The company also produced the Argo, the Hackett, and the Lorraine.

Benjamin Briscoe[edit]

Benjamin Briscoe (May 1867–26 June 1945) was born in Detroit, Michigan and was an automobile pioneer and industrialist.

Briscoe entered business for himself at age of 18 with capital of $472, organizing the firm of Benjamin Briscoe & Co. to manufacture sheet-metal stampings. This later became part of the American Can Company. He then invented a machine for the production of corrugated pipe for the Briscoe and Detroit Galvanizing Works, later the Briscoe Manufacturing Company.

In 1901, the automobile industry was in its infancy when Briscoe helped finance David Buick's first car. He was later president of the Maxwell-Briscoe Motor Company that manufactured the Maxwell automobile. This was probably his greatest success in the industry. The company was backed by J. P. Morgan & Co. and Richard Irvin & Co., but in the panic of 1907, Briscoe had the first of many bad experience with bankers and was forced to do his own financing.

Mr. Briscoe conceived the idea of consolidating the four largest automobile manufacturers—Ford Motor Company, Buick, REO and Maxwell-Briscoe—into one company. His negotiations with William C. Durant, Henry Ford and Ransom E. Olds failed, so he proceeded to organize his own corporation along the broad lines he envisaged resulting in the United States Motor Company.

U. S. Motors continued production of the Maxwell and was soon also producing the Stoddard-Dayton car, the Brush Runabout (in which his brother Frank Briscoe was a principal), Alden-Sampson trucks and others. The firm continued to operate the old Maxwell-Briscoe plants and bought up such concerns as the Columbia Motor Car Co., owner of many patents, including the Selden patent. Briscoe had an option on the Cadillac car at one time, but never exercised it, and it eventually went to Mr. Durant, who had organized the General Motors Corporation.

In 1910 bankers invested $6,000,000 in U. S. Motors, but the financing proved inadequate and the firm went into receivership in 1912. Briscoe was forced out and Walter Flanders took over and reorganized the assets as Maxwell Motor Co. (Incorporated), which itself was later reorganized as the Chrysler Corporation.

A few months after leaving U. S. Motors, he and his brother formed Briscoe Frères at Billancourt, France, home of the Renault, to design and build a car on the continent according to American methods. The result was the Ajax. A year later the brothers brought out the Briscoe car in America manufactured at Jackson, Michigan but which they promoted as the first French-designed American car. When World War I broke out, Benjamin Briscoe turned his manufacturing facilities over to war production and he never returned to the automobile business. His partners continued to manufacture Briscoe models until 1923.

During WWI, he joined the United States Navy with the rank of lieutenant commander. He saw service in both Italy and France and received the Navy Cross and was a member of the French Legion of Honor.

After the war, Briscoe and a group of others developed a new process for refining crude oil. He then went to Montreal, Canada as an executive in an oil company later taken over by the Texas Company (Texaco). Later he was involved in gold mining and ore milling in Colorado. About 1940 he retired to a 3,000-acre (12 km2) plantation in Marion County, Florida, where he experimented in growing tung trees.

Benjamin Briscoe died at age 78 in his home near Dunnellon, Florida.

The End of An Era[edit]

On Sunday, October 27, 1918 the Carriage Company caught fire, destroying the plant and putting about 200 men out of work. Many bodies were rescued from the fire, but the damage was done. While the Briscoe plant was able to continue in business, the body plant was gone and Briscoe production ceased in 1921 ending a decade in the automotive business for the town of Brockville.

From 1916 to 1921, the Brockville Briscoe Motor Company produced five different models, including a three-seat clover-leaf roadster in the first part of 1916. A serial number chart is shown below, from the records of the Briscoe Motor Corporation of Jackson Michigan, where production started two years earlier. There is some evidence that shows Canadian car numbers started at or near 1 for 1916, with motor numbers taken from the US inventory. For example, the 1917 Briscoe in the Brockville Museum is car number 1022 (recall production numbers were roughly 1000 cars per year), with motor number 30730.

A Brief History of the Brockville, Canada, Briscoe, ab 1915[edit]

In October 1915, with the help of Tom Storey (one of the directors of the Brockville Atlas Automobile Company), Benjamin Briscoe expanded Briscoe Motors of Jackson Michigan into Canada to form the Canadian Briscoe Motor Company of Brockville with Tom Storey as vice-president and plant manager. Bodies were produced by the Carriage Company on Park Street in Brockville, and the former Atlas plant was now producing Briscoes for the 1916 model year using parts shipped from Michigan. By May 1916 the Briscoe plant was turning out about five cars per day, a far cry from Henry Ford's Canadian production numbers of more than 50,000 cars during the same year. The 1916 Briscoe model 4-38 four cylinder car had 33 horsepower and a wheelbase of 114 inches. The wheelbase would be decreased for 1917's B 4-24 model to 105 inches and 24 horsepower.

The Brockville Briscoe car is a rather plain design, with electric starter and headlights. In 1916 both 4 cylinder and 8 cylinder models were offered, and the company advertised that one could buy a car with the four, within 30 days of purchase it could be returned it to the factory, the difference paid plus an installation fee and the car would be upgraded to the eight cylinder motor. The touring model was advertised in 1917 for $935.00, while at the same time the Ford Model T touring was $495.00. Briscoes built with the "Half Million Dollar Motor", a slogan used with much aplomb in 1917's advertising campaign, were tested in the roads around Brockville. Specific production numbers are not known, but it is estimated that approximately 5,000 Brockville Briscoes were built over the life of the company, compared to approximately 50,000 in the US Briscoe plant.

References[edit]