Alphabetical Index|A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M|N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z


quicklinks|buses|cars|designers|fire apparatus|limos|pro-cars|taxis|trailers|trucks|woodies


George L. Brownell, William A. Carroll Co.
George L. Brownell, 1843-1910; Jas. Cunningham, Sons & Co., 1910; New Bedford, Massachusetts; William A. Carroll Co., 1912; Merrimac, Massachusetts & 1912-1930?;  New Bedford, Massachusetts (aka William E. Carroll)
Associated Builders
James Cunningham, Sons & Co.; Brownell & Burt; Brownell,Ashley & Co.; Pease & Carroll; S.C. Pease Carriage Co.

Daniel L. Brownell and his uncle George L. Brownell (b. Jul. 1823-d.Jan 13, 1903) not only shared a surname and a profession, but were also well-known builders of horse-drawn hearses. Although their businesses were not directly related, they were located less than 25 miles away from each other in Bristol County, Massachusetts, Daniel in Taunton, and George in New Bedford which is located 23 miles south of Taunton.

George L. Brownell was born in Adamsville, Newport County, Rhode Island in July of 1823 to Daniel and Hannah A. (Allen) Brownell who were both natives of Little Compton, Rhode Island. Soon afterward the family moved across the border to Westport, Massachusetts where young George was educated in the public schools.

At the age of seventeen, Brownell was apprenticed to Ayres R. Marsh, a New Bedford carriage builder, and within four short years George had not only learned the trade but bought out his employer as well. He commenced business in his own name during 1843 and by 1846 an increasing business led him to make extensive additions to his shop. State of Massachusetts records give 1846 as the year that Brownell first established his business.

His listing in C. & A. Taber’s 1849 New Bedford directory follows:

“Brownell, George L. - carriage manufacturer, 44 Third; h. 54 School.”

He married Priscilla (??) sometime prior to 1844 and to the blessed union was born five children; Wallace N. (b. 1845); George Lewis (b.1847); John W. (b.1855); Elizabeth aka Lizzie (b. 1857); and Emma L. (b.1868) Brownell.

Along with fellow carriage builders J.M. Quinby in Newark, N.J. and the Wood Bros. in Bridgeport, Conn. Brownell embarked upon the manufacture of bicycles soon after the end of the Civil War. In 1869 he introduced the first rubber-cushioned bicycle tire, which when combined with Brownell is recorded as being the first person to apply a solid rubber tire to a vehicle in order to cushion its ride.

In 1869 New York inventor Virgil Price designed the first modern American bicycle, made possible by his improved lightweight metal-spoked bicycle wheel, Brownell’s rubber tire, and Thomas R. Pickering’s French-influenced bicycle frame. Price’s ‘Improved Bicycle’ was prominently featured in the June 12, 1869 issue of Scientific American which included an inset detailing how Brownell’s tire was fitted to Price’s wheel.

A surviving Brownell bicycle is in the collection of the New York Historical Society. Affixed labels indicate that bicycle was produced by the factory of George L. Brownell, located in New Bedford, MA. Brownell was a noted carriage, coach and hearse maker active in New Bedford from about 1840, and by 1889 was considered to be one of the United States' largest carriage manufacturers.

The Society describes the vehicle as follows:

“Bicycle with iron frame; wooden wheels, spokes, pedals, and handles; wheels bound with iron; stuffed seat covered with leather. Metal plaque affixed under the seat inscribed: "PATENT/NOVEMBER 20TH 1866/G.L. BROWNELL/N. BEDFORD MASS./437”

In 1872 Brownell helped found the Carriage Builders National Association (CBNA) and participated in its apprenticeship program which provided applicants with a thorough education in the art and mechanics of vehicle construction in its well-known Manhattan school.

Brownell entered his vehicles in various regional competitions and in 1884 was awarded a Silver Medal for his exhibit of carriages and hearses at the Boston’s Charitable Mechanics Association Exhibition.

Zeph. W. Pease & George A. Hough’s 1889 history of New Bedford gives the following description of the Brownell works:

“Leading Industries, Carriage Manufacturers:

“A prominent industry is the manufacture of fine carriages, and although a number of concerns are engaged in the business, only the highest grade work is done.

“The largest factory is that of George L. Brownell, on Cannon street. A specialty is made here of the manufacture of fine hearses, coaches, and undertakers' wagons, but light carriages of every kind are also made at the factory.

“At the age of seventeen, Mr. Brownell, who was a Westport boy, was apprenticed to Ayres R. Marsh, in New Bedford, to learn the trade of carriage making. After four years Mr. Brownell bought the business of his employer, and in 1846 an increasing business led him to make extensive additions to his shop. In 1853 he built a new shop on Third street. At about this time he commenced the manufacture of hearses, and in 1863 further accommodations were required and he bought the stone building at the corner of Acushnet avenue and Cannon streets, formerly occupied by Samuel Leonard & Sons. This building was refitted and occupied by him on the 12th of November. A public dedication was arranged by Mr. Brownell's friends and about fifteen hundred people were present.

“This building was a two and a half story structure of stone, one hundred by sixty feet in area. A growing business has rendered additional buildings necessary. First an addition was built extending from the main structure a distance of one hundred thirty feet on Cannon street. It is two stories high and thirty feet wide. Then .- a second wing was built and two large buildings were erected in the yard, the entire buildings covering an area of seventeen thousand one hundred sixty feet, and finally a warehouse was built on Acushnet avenue, seventy-five by forty feet in area and three stories high. The factory is now one of the largest in the country and gives employment to between fifty and one hundred men. Giles G. Barker is the superintendent of the factory.”

The text from a display advertisement in the same publication follows:


“GEORGE L. BROWNELL OFFERS FOR SALE AT HIS Carriage Manufactory & Repositories, COR. ACUSHNET AVE. AND CANNON ST., NEW BEDFORD, MASS. A FINE assortment of Carriages namely Landaus Coaches Coupe Victorias Coupe Rockaways Extension and Standing Top Family Carryalls Phaetons Goddard Box Top Buggies Open Road and Business Wagons. Also a very large assortment of SECOND HAND CARRIAGES OF ALL DESCRIPTIONS Which will be sold low GILES G BARKER Supt.”

Although George L. Brownell’s carriage works were the best known, they were not the only New Bedford builder that shared the Brownell surname. Another firm headed by J. Augustus Brownell and Joshua B. Ashley enjoyed a fine reputation as constructors of light carriages.

The International Publishing Co.’s ‘Leading Manufacturers and Merchants of Eastern Massachusetts’, published in 1887, provides us with the following history of that firm:

“Brownell, Ashley & Co., Carriage Works, Nos. 24 to 38 Fourth Street. — Carriage manufacture constitutes an important feature of our national industry. An old established and representative concern of this city to be mentioned in this connection is that of Messrs. Brownell, Ashley & Co., manufacturers of line carriages, which was founded by the present firm in the year 1848, and in its subsequent prosperous career has been closely identified with the material growth and development of the Commonwealth. The premises consist of a three-story stone factory 40x100 feet in dimensions, and a repository four stories in height and 50x100 feet in area, of frame construction. The general complete equipment embraces all requisite facilities for the advantageous prosecution of the extensive business, and a force of twenty experienced workmen is regularly employed in the several departments. Light and heavy carriages are built and repaired and horseshoeing is an important feature of the enterprise. The work turned out has an enviable reputation for general excellence, and the business is both extensive and prosperous. Messrs. J. Augustus Brownell and Joshua B. Ashley, composing the firm, are natives of the State and practical and skillful exponents of their trade. By energetic and able management they have reared a prominent and justly successful industry.”

The firm was originally founded by Joseph Brownell, who according to the Henry Howland Crapo’s 1836 New Bedford directory was a blacksmith:

“Brownell, Joseph – blacksmith, 16 Fourth; house, 39 Spring.“

Zeph. W. Pease & George A. Hough’s 1889 history of New Bedford provides us with another description of the Brownell, Ashley & Co. works:

“The firm of Brownell, Ashley & Co. comprises J. Augustus Brownell and Joshua B. Ashley, and they manufacture fine grades of carriages of all varieties, excepting coaches. The business was started nearly seventy years ago by Joseph Brownell, the father of J. Augustus Brownell, in a building at the northeast corner of Fourth and Spring streets. About sixty years ago he moved his business to the two story stone building forty by one hundred feet in area, on the southeast corner of the same street, and about thirty-eight years ago the present proprietors were admitted to the firm. In 1854 a repository one hundred by fifty feet in area, and four stories high, was built on Fourth street, next south of the building on the corner. This building was occupied by H. G. O. Cole as a carriage manufactory for a few years, when Brownell, Ashley & Co. took possession, Mr. Cole moving to the factory on Acushnet avenue, then Third street, in the building vacated by George L. Brownell. The number of men employed is twenty-seven.”

A series of articles in the Boston Globe indicate that the Brownell plant was affected by the 1893 Boston carriage and wagons builders strike. Union members were striking for a nine hour day and a Saturday walkout by the city’s 600+ mechanics brought a quick resolution to the strike, which had mostly ended by the following Wednesday.

A scandal regarding Brownell’s right hand man, Giles G. Barker, brought unwanted publicity to the firm in 1895, the August 1895 issue of the Hub reporting:

“Giles G. Barker, for many years a salesman in the employ of the widely known and long established house of George L. Brownell, carriage manufacturer, New Bedford, Mass., is short in his accounts. A circular which has been sent to the trade throughout the country, owing to the prominence of the house, has attracted much attention and provoked many inquiries there as elsewhere. The circular, under date of July 1st, says, over the signature of Mr. Brownell:

“'Mr. Giles G. Barker, who has acted as salesman for me, having been discharged from my employment, is now in no way connected with my business, and is not authorized to transact any business for or on account of this establishment.' Mr. Barker had been in Mr. Brownell's employ for a great many years, and occupied positions of trust. At one time he devoted his attention to supervision of the workmen, and was called superintendent, but for some years he had been engaged as a traveling representative of the manufactory in the Middle States. His duties called him away from New Bedford most of the time. The shortages in his accounts were in collections made of customers and not returned to Mr. Brownell. These were only discovered when various people complained at the home office that amounts paid by them had not been credited. An examination and the investigation which followed showed the amounts thus unaccounted for to be in the neighborhood of from $2,500 to $3,000. Subsequently Mr. Barker was allowed to continue his trips, but it soon appeared that he was not traveling the route laid out, and his communications home were unsatisfactory. This led to an inquiry which caused his removal, and the circulars to be sent out as stated above. Mr. Barker's present whereabouts are unknown.’”

Brownell survived to see the advent of the automobile, passing away on January 13, 1903, at the age of 79. Although his death certificate states he was born in Adamsville,​ R.I. various census list Massachusetts as the state of his birth. He died of arterio sclerosis or a hardening of the arteries and his obituary was published in the Jan. 14, 1903 New York Times as follows:

“George L. Brownell dies in New Bedford, Mass. Yesterday, in his eightieth year. He was the first man in the United States to manufacture the old-fashioned two-wheeled velocipede, the forerunner of the safety bicycle. He had been in the carriage business for fifty-nine years.”

William C. Barker took over the operation of the plant following the death of Brownell and in 1910 the Brownell family sold the firm's assets to James Cunningham, Son & Co., of Rochester, New York, the February 1910 issue of the Hub reporting:


“The George L. Brownell carriage business, of New Bedford, Mass., one of the oldest in New England making hearses, ambulances and coaches, has been acquired by James Cunningham, Son & Co., of Rochester, N. Y., as the result of a merger which has been consummated.

“Under the new arrangement the Brownell family retires from any interest in the business and retains the real estate and factory buildings. The business will continue under the supervision and management of William C. Barker, who has been superintendent and manager since the death of Mr. Brownell in 1903. No permanent plans are announced by the Cunningham Company, but for the present the factory will be continued, as the books are filled with orders for delivery during the spring. In addition to hearse and ambulance work, the business includes automobile features.

“The business was established by the late George L. Brownell in 1843, and the factory had a reputation throughout New England and in New York city for its hearse and ambulance work.”

Once the plant's orders were fullfilled, Cunningham shut down their New Bedford operations, consolidating Brownells sales department into their own as the main purpose of the acquisition was to convert existing Bronwell customers into Cunningham customers.

Many of the firm's former employees found jobs with other regional builders, and as we shall see, two of the Brownell's most skilled craftsmen would soon turn the closure of the firm to their advantage.

Those two men were a father and son team of body builders named William E. and William A. Carroll. William E. Carroll, the father, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in March of 1850 to Robert B. and Maribah B. (Skiff) Carroll. His only known sibling was an older brother named Robert S., born in 1845.

The 1855 Mass. Census lists William E., 4yrs old, and Roberts S., age 9, living with their mother, Maribah B. Carroll, age 35. Their father is not mentioned but Maribah is not listed as a widow. The 1865 Mass. Census lists a William E., 14yrs old, Roberts S., age 19, and Maribah B. Carroll, age 40. Widowed.

1870 US Census lists a William E. Carroll, (age 19), occupation apprentice, in New Bedford – mother Maribah Carroll (aged 46) - widowed. The 1880 US Census lists Wm. E. Carroll, b. March, 1850, occupation carriage maker in New Bedford, wife Emma L. (McFarlin) Carroll b. 1851. Two children, William A. Carroll (b. May 26 1874 – age 6) and Charles E. (b. 1877 - age 3).

1900 US Census lists William E. Carroll, b. March, 1850 (mother and father born in Mass.), occupation carriage maker (body builder), wife Emma L. (McFarlin) Carroll b. Dec. 1849 (father born in Mass. mother in Maine). The same census lists his son, William A. Carroll, (b. May 26 1874) occupation carpenter; wife Annie E. Carroll (b. Jan. 1876), and their son, Milton E. Carroll (b. Apr. 1898), all in New Bedford.

The 1904-1905 New Bedford Directory lists the Carrolls as follows:

“Carroll, William A., 88 Liberty, carpenter; Carroll, William E., 88 Liberty, carriage maker.”

Shortly after Cunningham purchased Brownell's assets they shut down the New Bedford plant leaving the Carrolls without jobs. They temporarliy relocated to Merrimac, Mass. where they found employment with S.C. Pease & Sons and in 1911 built a few motorized hearses and ambulances under the S.C. Pease & Sons banner, that are popularly referred to as Pease & Carroll coaches.  

Unfortunately the ‘sons’ of S.C. Pease & Sons experienced business troubles unrelated to their new professional vehicle line and were forced into receivership in early 1912 as reported in the February 1912 issue of Carriage Monthly:

“Newburyport (Mass.) Firm Assigns

“Announcement was made January 23d of an assignment made of the business of S. C. Pease & Sons, Newburyport, Mass., manufacturers of carriages, automobile bodies, hearses, etc., to B. Frank Sargent and Robert O. Patten, for the benefit of the creditors of the company.

“The affairs of the concern are now tentatively in the hands of the assignees, pending a meeting of the various creditors when further plans will be discussed. It is stated, however, that the business will be continued without any doubt, indefinitely, or until a considerable number of orders that are now in process of execution have been fulfilled. Further than that, the future of the concern could not be discussed by those interviewed who are in a position to speak with any authority.“

The release was sent from Newburyport, the home of the receivers; however, the Pease factory was located in Merrimac.

The Carroll’s pooled their family assets and purchased the firm’s assets, save for the factory building, from the receivers and set about construction of a modern 4-story factory measuring 160 x 50 feet in their hometown of New Bedford.

The William A. Carroll Corporation was organized in Merrimac during the late spring of 1912 by William A., Annie E., and William E. Carroll, Charlotte B. Case and Walter R. Mitchell. Capitalized at $50,000, the firm’s stated product was automobiles, automobile bodies and hearses. The May 1912 issue of Carriage Monthly included a description of the firm’s new factory:

“The William A. Carroll Co. have begun the erection of a building, three stories, 45 x 160 feet of mill construction, between North and Hillman streets, New Bedford, Mass. It is understood that carriages and carriage supplies will be manufactured.”

The move to the factory took place mid-summer, the August 19, 1912 issue of The Automobile reporting:

“Moves to New Bedford

“The William A. Carroll Company of Merrimac, Mass., which manufactures carriages, automobile bodies and other vehicles, is to move shortly to Bedford, Mass. where a new factory has been built for the company.”

One of the last vehicles constructed in the Merrimac was an automobile hearse (chassis unknown) built for the well-known Manhattan undertaker, Frank E. Campbell, as evidenced by the following article in the September 7, 1912 issue of Automobile Topics:

“Carroll Purchases Merrimac Plant

“William E. Carroll, for fourteen years connected with the G. L. Brownell carriage factory, has purchased the S. C. Pease Carriage Building Co., of Merrimac, Mass., and will transport it to his new factory building in New Bedford, Mass. In addition to building carriages, he will make automobile bodies, motor hearses, ambulances, fire and patrol wagons. The machinery already has been installed and work will begin at once. Carroll is said to have constructed the first complete automobile hearse that was ever built in the United States, for Frank E. Campbell, of New York City. His new factory is a large one, four stories in height, 160 by 50 feet in dimensions.”

Still in business today, the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home remains Manhattan’s best-known celebrity undertaker, handling the interment of celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino, Irving Berlin, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Joan Crawford , George Gershwin, James Cagney, Montgomery Clift, Arturo Toscanini, Igor Stravinsky, Frank Costello, Walter Cronkite, Ayn Rand, Ed Sullivan, Rocky Graziano, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jeanne Eagels, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and John Lennon.

During the teens and twenties Campbell purchased large numbers of Cunningham funeral coaches, which were built on their own purpose-built chassis in Rochester, New York.

The September 1912 issue of Carriage Monthly reveals that William E. Carroll claimed to have built ‘the first automobile hearse in the United States’:

“New Motor Body Factory at Merrimac

“William E. Carroll, for the last three years with the Pease Carriage Co., Merrimac, Mass., has purchased the business, and will remove it to his new factory at North and Lindsey Streets, New Bedford. The fixtures and much of the machinery is already installed and the plant is ready for business.

“Mr. Carroll claims that he is the builder of the first automobile hearse in the United States. His new factory is a large one, 160 x 50 feet, and four stories in height. It will be run by electricity and heated by steam. Mr. Carroll is well known in the carriage trade, having spent fourteen years with the G. L. Brownell carriage factory previous to going to the Pease people.

“The concern just purchased has had a considerable reputation for its horse-drawn pleasure vehicles, but it is the intention of Mr. Carroll to expand the business and build not only horse-drawn work, but also automobile bodies, hearses, undertaking, fire and police wagons.”

It is doubtful Carroll built the first automobile hearse, which is generally attributed to Crane & Breed of Cincinnati, Ohio, who introduced a gasoline-powered auto hearse on June 15, 1909. Rochester, New York’s Jas. A. Cunningham, Son & Co., reportedly produced a similar vehicle at about the same time and had been building motorized invalid cars prior to that time.

The first electric-powered hearse, constructed by the General Vehicle Company of New York, debuted May 1, 1908, a full year before Crane & Breed’s gasoline-powered funeral car. The first electric powered ambulance dates to February 1899, when 500 Chicago businessmen presented one to that city’s Michael Reese Hospital. Within the year an electric ambulance was being constructed for St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan by Frederick R. Wood and Son who delivered the vehicle in June of 1900, and a handful of others were constructed by Wood during the ensuing months.

The October 1, 1912 issue of Power Wagon gave a few more details of Carroll’s new factory, which was incorporated under his son’s (William A. Carroll) name, not his (William E. Carroll):

“Body Factory for New Bedford

“William E. Carroll, for the last three years with the S.C. Pease Carriage Building Company of Merrimac, has purchased that business and moved it into his new factory at New Bedford. He will build bodies for motor hearses, undertakers cars, fire and patrol wagons.”

Little is known of the firm’s activities during the teens other than the following facts garnered from the New Bedford directories:

W.A. Greenough’s 1913 New Bedford directory lists William A. Carroll, carriage mfr., North cor Lindsey; h. 211 Hawthorne; and William E. Carroll, supt., North cor. Lindsey; h. 568 Kempton. Also listed under automobiles and automobile bodies and automobile painting.

W.A. Greenough’s 1915 New Bedford directory lists William A. Carroll, carriage mfr., North cor Lindsey; h. 211 Hawthorne; and William E. Carroll, supt., North cor. Lindsey; h. 568 Kempton.

W.A. Greenough’s 1917 New Bedford directory lists William A. Carroll, carriage mfr., North cor Lindsey; h. 211 Hawthorne; and William E. Carroll, supt., North cor. Lindsey; h. 568 Kempton. Also listed under automobiles and automobile painting.

The William A. Carroll Co. was briefly mentioned in the funeral trades during the late teens and early twenties. Included was a picture of an attractive 1920 Velie beveled glass 8-column hearse; a second photo shows a slightly more ornate beveled glass 8-column hearse built on a circa 1917 Buick D-6 55 chassis.

Information concerning the firm post-war is lacking and it’s assumed they withdrew from business sometime during the late-1920s.

© 2012 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to Thomas A. McPherson


Their relationship between the two Brownells (George L. and Daniel L.) is outlined in Benjamin Franklin Wilbour’s 1967 history of Little Compton (LC), Rhode Island, ‘Little Compton Families’ as follows:

“(61) DANIEL (6) BROWNELL [George(5 ), Stephen (4), George (3), Thomas (2), Thomas (1)], born in LC 14 March 1782, died there 6 May 1833. He married 11 Nov. 1810 HANNAH ALLEN, daughter of David and Elizabeth (Butler) Allen, born 11 March 1780, died in LC 29 Dec. 1848 ae 69. Children: (81) i. Frederic F., b. 15 Sept. 1811; (82)ii. Leonard Frank, b. 20 May 1813; (83) iii. Andrew P., b. 26 Jan. 1815; iv. Elizabeth, b. in 1818, d. 23 May 1836; v. George L. b. 15 July 1823, d. 13 Jan 1903, carriage manufacturer.

”(82) LEONARD FRANK (7) BROWNELL [Daniel (6), George(5 ), Stephen (4), George (3), Thomas (2), Thomas (1)], born 20 May 1813. Residence: Westport and LC. Occupation bootmaker. He married MARY A. HOWLAND on 17 Oct. 1844. Children: i. George Frank, b. in Westport 9 July 1858; d. in Westport 12 Nov. 1922 ae 64; ii Charles, b. in LC 26 May 1847; d. 14 April 1915 ae 67; iii Daniel L. b. Westport 22 Oct. 1852, d.????; iv Georgeanna, b. 1850”







International Publishing Co. - Leading Manufacturers and Merchants of Eastern Massachusetts, pub. 1887

Biographical Review Vol XXVIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Essex County, Massachusetts, pub. 1898.

D. Hamilton Hurd - History of Bristol County, Massachusetts, pub. 1883

D. Hamilton Hurd - History of Essex County, Massachusetts, pub. 1880

Zeph. W. Pease & George A. Hough - New Bedford, Massachusetts: its history, industries, institutions, and attractions. Pub. 1889

B.F. Wilbour - Little Compton Families, pub. 1967

George H. Dammann and James K. Wagner  - The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury, pub. 1987 

David V. Herlihy –Bicycle, The History, pub. 2004

Extended Auto Warranties
Are you paying too much? Make sure your auto warranty covers your entire vehicle.

Car Shows
State by State directory of car shows; includes new car shows and classic auto events.

Auto Buying Guide
Paying too much? Use this step by step guide to help get the best deal on your next car.

Car Books, Models & Diecasts
Your one stop shop for automotive books, models, die-casts & collectibles.


Submit Pictures or Information

Original sources of information are given when available. Additional pictures, information and corrections are most welcome.

Click Here to submit pictures or information

Pictures Continued


quicklinks|buses|cars|designers|fire apparatus|limos|pro-cars|taxis|trailers|trucks|woodies

© 2004-2012, Inc.|books|disclaimer|index|privacy