East of Detroit
Many people who come to the Saratoga Automobile Museum are surprised to learn that New York State was once home to over 100 different automobile manufacturers. While most New York automakers were small, there were great successes like the Pierce Arrow and the Franklin. This exhibit, East of Detroit, provides an in-depth look at the automobile industry in New York State and a look back in time at the innovations of different New Yorkers in their quest to create the automobile of their dreams. It also examines New York’s role in importing European-made cars and custom-coach building.
During the early years of automobile production in the 1890s, Detroit was not yet the nation’s “Motor City.” The New Yorkers of the early 1900s owned more than 60,000 cars, that is 50% more cars than the residents of any other state in the nation. With that kind of demand for automobiles, it’s not surprising that New York State had over 100 different manufacturers. New York State automakers of the 1910s and 1920s built tens of thousands of cars. During the 1920s and 1930s, some of the first motor parkways, the precursors to today’s superhighways were also built in New York. By the 1940s, more than three million cars were vying for their share of the roads and highways in the Empire State, and the economic implications of the automobile industry helped preserve New York as the economic center of the nation.
In creating this map of New York State Automakers we present a detailed listing of the cars built in New York, but we had to develop a criterion by which to include or exclude builders. We decided to designate as a production car, any maker who built five or more autos. We did, however, include several unique vehicles from the Capital Region. You may know of a “manufacturer” or custom coachbuilder who does not appear on this list. Their exclusion from this list does not minimize their contribution to the automobile industry of New York; in fact, it reflects just how many people were interested in designing and building automobiles.
Some early New York made cars became famous for quality, reliability and endurance. Buffalo produced the Thomas, which in 1908 attracted worldwide attention by winning the New York to Paris race in just 169 days. The Lozier, made in Plattsburgh won the Vanderbilt Cup in 1911 and placed second at the Indianapolis 500. The H.H. Franklin Company introduced an air-cooled engine in 1904, just two years after building its first car. Other early New York cars faded into obscurity almost as quickly as they emerged on the scene. Have you ever heard of the Jenkins, Klink, O-We-Go or the Cooley? How about the Gagemobile? All of these cars were built in New York, in fact, the Gagemobile was made right here in Saratoga Springs. While we aren’t quite sure what happened to the Gagemobile, we can tell you this car right here was made in Albany, New York.
Currently On Exhibit
• 1931 Pierce Arrow
• Charles Lindbergh's 1928 Franklin Airman
• 1913 Fiat
• 1910 Maxwell
• 1947 Playboy