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The Atlas Automobile Company, an early Ford Dealer located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Atlas Automobile Company, seen in this circa 1904 photo, was an early dealer for Henry Ford in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The car that is closest to the curb in the center is a Ford Model A Runabout, which is described in glowing terms in the “The Ford” sign just above the garage door.

The other cars in the photo all appear to be earlier models that Atlas was trying to sell. In a quick survey of the five cars (left to right) we see an unknown, one that maybe an electric, the Ford, possibly a Winton and a steamer.

We have to wonder if this might have been the same company, also in Pittsburg that in 1906 and 1907 built the Atlas Automobile. That firm was located on on College Avenue, in the East End of Pittsburgh. Let us know if you can positively identify any of the cars in the photo, or the location. Many other interesting photos from  The Henry Ford, (scroll down) can also be seen here on The Old Motor.

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10 responses to “The Atlas Automobile Company, an early Ford Dealer located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  1. This is how I like them best! From left to right: for the first car my best match is a 1903 Hoffman gasoline car; next indeed an electric, most likely a 1900 Columbia (but Waverley and American Electric are other options), followed by the model A Ford, a 1901 Winton and finally a 1900 Locomobile steamer.
    I would be surprised if there would be any relation with the Atlas motor car, because this car (a Sunset in license) was built from 1906 in Springfield (Mass.) by the Knox Motor Truck Co. (founded by Harry A. Knox , after leaving the Knox Automobile Co.). In the 1906 Atlas adverts the phrase ‘NOT Knox Automobile Co.’ was added (!), but after lawsuits by the Knox Automobile Co. the name was changed to Atlas Motor Car Co. in 1907.

    • Ariejan, There was another Atlas Company that was in Pittsburg for only 1906-07, it appears not to be related to the Springfield Atlas at all. Follow the link in the post to learn more.

  2. Ah, I see, apparently missed the Pittsburg Atlas. Sorry about that! About the Columbia suggestion: first I thought about Toledo too, because of the rounded form of the front. However I was not able to find a Toledo with such a high dashboard. All three mentioned electric cars also have the rounded form and the high(er) dashboard as well. In my opinion the 1900 Columbia has the closest resemblance.

  3. The Atlas Automobile Company in the photo above and the Atlas Automobile Company that made the Atlas in Pittsburg are the same company. They were both run by William H. La Fountain.

    The location of Atlas Automobile Company was 6235 Penn Avenue, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The shop moved to this location in September 1903, and it remained there until September 1906. The firm had one previous address, but it is unclear what the address was or if the name was the Atlas Automobile Company. This business was originally a partnership between William H. La Fountain and Andrew Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick retired on July 31, 1904 and La Fountain became the sole owner.

    Atlas sold new Fords, but possibly only through 1904 as descriptions of the firm selling new Fords appear to cease by the beginning of 1905. It also sold used cars, as stated on the sign, they had a machine shop on site, and one ad confirms the skate grinding part of the business. They usually had between 25 and 100 cars available while at this location.

    Eventually Maxwell and Premier were the primary new vehicles that they sold, but they did eventually take on Chadwick, the Queen Car and the Four Wheel Drive (FWD) truck. They were also agents for the Panther Clincher Tire and the Waterman Outboard Motor of Detroit (they beat Evinrude to the market with the outboard motor).

    In late 1905 they broke ground for a new three-story fireproof facility at Ellsworth and College Avenues, East End, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. This building was not completed until September 1906. When the steel arrived to erect the building they shipped the two upper floors structure first which resulted in a two-month building delay. This building had a showroom on the first floor, and it had indoor space for the storage of 500 cars. An ad from September 23, 1906 states that in the three previous years they had sold 650 cars (there was no breakout between new and used cars).

    With this knowledge, we now know the photo dates between January 12, 1904, based on the Ford speed record on the sign, and September 1906 when Atlas moved into their new location. An artist rendering of the new building is here. The building still exists, but it has been heavily modified.

    The three persons who incorporated the Atlas Automobile Company to manufacture cars were W. H. La Fountain, William G. Hughes, and Alfred F. Bennett. Capital was $200,000. The earliest announcement that I found of this venture was June 7, 1906. A publicity piece in the October 21, 1906 Pittsburg Press states that the car will be called the “Atlas” and that they hope to have a car ready by May 1907.

    Did they actually produce a car? The Standard Catalogue makes it seem so, but I did not find a single advertisement or publicity piece for the Atlas, it was not shown at the 1907 Pittsburg motor show in April (not even a chassis), and the last news piece I saw about the car was the October 21, 1906 mention noted above. Since the Standard Catalogue gives more details that I found, there must be more details in other publications than I was unable to find online.

    The Atlas Automobile Company, the dealership, continued on into 1908. In May 1908 the firm announced that, “Every car must and will be sold by June 1.” In late July 1908 multiple newspaper ads stated that he (W. H. La Fountain) was going out of the automobile business. The building was also put up for sale around the same time. This is the last I found of any company activity. Almost the entire La Fountain family left Pittsburg shortly after the closing of the dealership.

    W.H. La Fountain also served as Vice President of the Automobile Dealers’ Association of Pittsburgh while owner of the Atlas Automobile Company, and he was on the 1907 committee in charge of their annual show at Duquesne Gardens in Pittsburg.

    “Eventually Maxwell and Premier were the primary new vehicles that they sold, but they did eventually take on Chadwick, the Queen Car and an unnamed four wheel drive truck. They were also agents for the Panther Clincher Tire and the Waterman Outboard Motor of Detroit (they beat Evinrude to the market with the outboard motor).”

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