The Martin Carriage Works

This section is for the Martin Carriage Works prior to merging with the Parry Manufacturing Co. 

YorksPast Blog; #3 Martin Carriage Works; largest West York Factory in 1899.

In 1882, at twenty-two years old, Milton D. Martin went into the carriage making business with his father Hiram Martin in York, PA.  In 1888, the partnership with his father failed due to financial difficulties; whereupon Milton went off on his own to establish the immensely successful Martin Carriage Works.


A letterhead of Martin Carriage Works, dated September 26, 1893, notes two factories are producing 12,000 vehicles annually.  As sales grew and with no room for expansion, construction of a massive factory in West York was begun in 1896.


In 1897 the new four-story factory, on a six-acre site was up and running, with the entire production moved to West York.  The West York factory was soon producing up to 20,000 vehicles annually.  South Highland Avenue, the Railroad and West Market Street essentially bounded this Martin Carriage Works site in West York. The following Birdseye View looks southward; with the factory in the background and the two-story office, located at 1330 West Market Street, in the foreground.

By 1899, the Martin Carriage Works in West York had grown to become the third largest factory employer in all of York County.

The Martin Carriage Works was incorporated on June 1, 1900; with Milton D. Martin as President and Peter A. Elsesser as Secretery-Treasurer.  The MCW logo for “Martin Carriage Works” appeared in catalogs and ads.  I assume the bird at the top is either a house martin or purple martin.


The Martin Carriage Works produced a wide variety of vehicles, such as, pleasure carriages, buggies, sleighs, spring wagons and delivery wagons.


Martin Carriage Works initially dabbled in horseless carriages in 1908.  At the outset they were marketed as Motor Wagons.  However, rapidly greater emphasis was put into these motorized vehicles.  Martin trucks gained publicity by showing at national auto shows as early as 1909. Additional notoriety was gained with successes in reliability runs.  Martin trucks were becoming such an important part of the business that upon the 1912 death of Milton D. Martin, his death notice in the trade journal Motor Age, issue of January 9, 1913, reported:


Death of Truck Maker—Milton D. Martin, president of the Martin Carriage Works, York, Pa., manufacturing the Martin commercial truck, died at his home in York December 31.

Milton D. Martin (From George Prowell’s 1907 History of York County, PA, Volume II, Page 64)


Due to the death of Milton D. Martin, management changes were made on January 17, 1913, to fill vacancies at the Martin Carriage Works.  John J. Landes, the brother of Mrs. Martha Martin, replaced Milton on the Board of Directors.  Milton’s long-time right-hand-man, Peter A. Elsesser was elected President; he had been with the company 21-years. Under Peter A. Elsesser’s leadership, the Martin truck line continued to evolve while maintaining their reputation of producing reliable trucks. The design and development work on the Atlas 3/4-Ton light delivery commercial truck was well underway when Mrs. Martha Martin died and the Martin Estate was put up for sale.


In 1916, there came forth a purchaser for the major asset of the Martin Estate.  The Yorker Frederick S. Small teamed up with a New York financier John Jay Watson to purchase the Martin Carriage Works.  They named their company Martin Truck & Body Corporation, since they did not intend to produce the carriage line any longer.


The Martin Truck & Body Corporation produced vehicle bodies however the prime focus was on producing Atlas 3/4-Ton Commercial Trucks. These trucks had a common chassis with 33 body variations. The Lycoming Foundry and Machine Company in Williamsport, PA, produced the motors.


In 1919, the Martin Truck & Body Corporation purchased the Parry Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis, Indiana; the merged companies taking on the name Martin-Parry Corporation. The York Plant continued to focus on truck production and the Indianapolis Plant focused on producing vehicle bodies.


The Martin-Parry York Plant produced Atlas Trucks into 1924; thereafter the plant produced the Martin-Parry steel partitions. These were not ordinary partitions; they met strict standards set up by the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation. The same partitions were also sold for use in land buildings, contributing to some of the first large scale prefabricated buildings in the United States. Martin-Parry was able to keep partition costs down by utilizing assembly line production techniques perfected while building trucks.


In the build up to World War II, the York Plant developed and produced an artillery gun carriage adapter, which allowed The United States War Department to motorize some of its older field artillery. Thereafter they received orders for this adapter from many of America’s Allies and played a major part in The York Plan during the war.


Following the war, the headlines were not so good in the December 9, 1946, issue of The Gazette and Daily:

Martin-Parry To Move To Toledo

The Martin-Parry Corporation, which employs about 800 here, will move from West York to Toledo, Ohio, possibly within the next two months, Charles McFall, sales manager for the marine division of the corporation, said last evening.  Recently much of the former West York factory, originated as the Martin Carriage Works in 1897 and vacated by the Martin-Parry Corporation in 1947, was converted into the Carriage Works Apartments.  The 118-year-old, four-story structure houses 80 apartments at 50 South Highland Avenue.


The above condensed article published with the approval from the author Stephen Smith from his YorksPast Blog; #3 Martin Carriage Works; largest West York Factory in 1899.


The original blog can be read at: http://www.yorkblog.com/yorkspast/2015/03/11/3-martin-carriage-works-largest-west-york-factory-in-1899/