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Three Exceptional Automobiles Used By The Edison Electric Co.

The Edison Electric Company was heavily invested in the expansion of an electrical grid in Southern California in the early-teens.’ This set of images shows a small part of the Company’s fleet of automobiles used by Edison officials to tour area operations during that time. The rest of the automobile fleet contained a number of mid-priced roadsters, and the balance, economy cars.

The lead image pictures a circa 1910-’11 Pierce-Arrow 7-pass. 38 or 48 h.p. touring car. It was cared for by the Winston St. Garage in Los Angeles and photographed there. This car and others were used for Company business and for inspecting ongoing construction of new power grids.

Pope-Hartford Model W

  • Circa 1911 Pope-Hartford Model W four-passenger Pony Toneau.

This speedy runabout is a circa 1911 Pope-Hartford Pony Tonneau with individual rear bucket seats and folding backrests. The sporty 40-50 h.p. four-cylinder o.h.v. model was not equipped with a top and was an ideal vehicle for the Electric Company officials to cover some ground quickly in the California sunshine while on business.

The third vehicle is a circa 1911-12 National Demi Tonneau touring car. This high-quality 40-50 h.p. machine was built in Indianapolis, Indiana, where it competed in the early racing action that culminated with Joe Dawson winning the 1912 500-mile race.

The photos are courtesy of the UCLA Library.

  • Circa 1911-’12 National Demi Tonneau touring car.

1912 National Demi-Tonneau

11 responses to “Three Exceptional Automobiles Used By The Edison Electric Co.

  1. These are very beautiful photos of even more beautiful cars! The identifications seem to be rather straight-forward, but still I have a few remarks:
    The presence of louvres on the National puzzle me. After 1909 a National didn’t have louvres on the side of the hood as far as I could check (at least not until 1915). The dating however is correct in my opinion (though I tend more towards 1910-1911).
    My other remarks relate to the Pope-Hartford. This car must be a 4p. roadster instead of a pony tonneau. Moreover for a type W the hood seems to be too long, which would make it a type Y.
    Their drivers however wouldn’t care about this, I guess: they must have felt like a King anyway doing the ‘hard’ job driving these cars for the Edison Electric Company!

  2. The Pierce and the National both have some kind of 2 lug aftermarket demountable rims. Can anyone name them? Maybe Booth?

  3. The Pierce-Arrow is definitely a 1911 model, as evidenced by the tail light and the one-year-only battery box on the running board. The 36 HP and 38 HP Pierce-Arrows had ten spoke front wheels, while the 48 HP and 66 HP models had twelve spoke front wheels. My impression was that the wheels might be a little smaller than the standard 37 X 5s, but I am unable to comment upon the rim type. If anyone is able to read the serial number tag that is mounted on the frame below the electric horn, then we can positively identify this car. Until then, I believe this to be a 1911 “48.”

  4. For the Pierce-Arrow another option is the 6-66. In the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal of 1909 (September issue p.148), showing the Pierce-Arrows for 1910, an almost identical 7p. tourer is shown and captioned as 6-66, whereas in the October issue of MoToR (p.72) the same car is shown, now apparently described as 6-48. In fact, the only visible difference was probably a slightly larger wheelbase. Besides I couldn’t find any difference between the 1910 and 1911 models. As far as I could check, a 7p. tourer in the 6-36 range (the 38hp model) was not available as standard model.

    • Mr. Bos; You are correct in mentioning that the other option for this image is a 6-66. I know of only two ways to determine the differences between the 6-48 and the 6-66 from old images, the first being the height at which the hood meets the cowl. Generally speaking, the 6-66s have a rather flat profile between the two components, while the 6-48s show a definite change in contour. I believe that this is a picture of the smaller model. The other way which one may identify these two models only works well when the image is taken at a ninety degree angle from the long-axis of the vehicle, where angular distortion is eliminated. In these types of images, the length of the hood, relative to the length of the front fender can be compared. The hood length of a 6-48 will be nearly equal to the length of the fender, whereas the hood length of a 6-66 will be longer than the length of the front fender. You are also correct that the seven passenger bodies were not offered on the 6-36 models or the later, 38 H.P. models. As far as I can determine, all models of the 1910 Pierce-Arrows utilized Solar-brand taillights, with bales. Multiple sizes would be anticipated, as occurred with the sidelights. The taillight depicted is an “Adlake X-Rays” lamp, which was used in the 1911 model year through the Second Series (mid-1913 to mid-1914).

  5. The seats of the Pierce-Arrow appear to have fitted detachable coverings. A similar idea was offered on some English cars as “Holland Covers” and appeared to be for the protection of (a) the leather upholstery underneath and (b) the backsides of the driver and passengers in hot weather, when leather becomes extremely unpleasant (no matter how nice it may look).

  6. The PIERCE ARROW – 7 Passenger Touring Reveals 3 items that could be regarded as “avant garde”, for their day: 1. The spring loaded front BUMPER -Bar: I am not aware if this is “stock” or an accessrory? OFFHAND, I would say that IF this car was used by more than one exectutive — that The Edison company chose wisely in installing this device! 2. As this IS an Acetylene / Air Headlamp equipped vehicle, it may —( or may not) have a “self starter” (?) AT any rate, it DOES have an ’08, ’09, ’10 U.S.Patent 6 Volt Electric (Right Angle Drive) Klaxon Horn accessory! A very expensive device with a very authorative “warning device, — a “shreiking” KLAXON horn, (which derives it name from the GREEK Language: “KLAXXE”, —which means: “TO SHREIK!!!) 3. You will ALSO note: An EDISON Iron – Alkaline 6 Volt Battery Box, fastened to the left running board , no doubt to POWER the Klaxon ” SHREIKER “, — as Southern California Edison covers a very LARGE TERRITORY , SURROUNDING the City of Los Angeles Dept of Water & Power territories, meaning that this very loud accessory was important on remote country roads! The vehicle is possibly also magneto powered, so it may or may not have recharging equipment on board —(Not necessary —for a day’s worth of “sounding your Klaxon” ) Note that the 3rd car has a Squeeze Bulb horn !!! This car probably never left town ! Squeeze bulb horns are FUN, but their “voice” is NOT as authoritative as a Right Angle Drive KLAXON is!!! Edwin – 30 –

    • I believe that the spring-loaded front bumper is an accessory, but one would have to verify this with a 1911 parts book, to ascertain if it was a factory option. Oftentimes, these sorts of accessories would be added at the dealerships, complicating the matter. I do not believe that the 1911 Pierce-Arrows had generators available and they weren’t offered with electric self-starters. Ignition was both through a magneto, as well as a distributor tower which was connected to an Autocoil coil box, mounted on the passenger side of the dashboard. The Solar side lamps, and the Adlake tail lamp were “combination” lamps, being operated either with kerosene or electric light bulbs. The license plate illuminator was entirely electrically operated, and the illuminator for the oil gauge and clock/speedometer unit also had small light bulbs in them. I believe that the factory-supplied coil box contained enough cells to power all of these systems. The Klaxon horn was much more of a power hog, and I agree with your assessment that the small box on the running board was for the operation of that unit. The first (undisputed) self starting system was powered by compressed air, utilizing a distributor that was driven off of the oil pump shaft in the First Series cars (mid-1912 through mid 1913). However, the 1912 and 1913 cars had accessory Westinghouse generators, if desired. The only unusual starting/electrical system that was used by the Pierce-Arrow company was in the 1913 48-D models. I believe that there were approximately 200, 1912 48 HP models that didn’t sell in the 1912 model year. Cadillac, in the mean time, came out with an electric starting , lighting and generating system as standard equipment. This had the effect of making obsolete all of the other electrical systems that were then in use. In order to sell these older models, Pierce-Arrow made some modifications to their leftover vehicles, by adding an acetylene starter, electric headlights, a generator (which I believe to be an Adlake-Newbold and a voltage regulator, also Adlake-Newbold. The latter instrument resided in the left side glove box. Evidently, the acetylene distributor evidently didn’t work well, it having been replaced by a 1913-style air distributor on the car that I am restoring, which I believe to be the sole remaining 1913 48-D. The Locomobile Company later used the Adlake-Newbold voltage regulators on their cars, but where they were mounted is unknown to me.

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