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The Building of a Buggy




September 14, 1902


Interesting Trip through the Plant of the PARRY Manufacturing Company

Few people realize that Indianapolis possesses the greatest buggy manufacture in the world.  The Parry Manufacturing Company, owing to its rapid growth, is one of the greatest institutions in Indianapolis today, and has, perhaps, attracted more and wider attention than any industrial institution in the West.

Twenty years ago David MacLean Parry and his brother Thomas H. Parry began the manufacture of road carts and buckboards at Rushville, Ind., laying the foundation of the enormous and constantly increasing business of today, the result of their own untiring efforts and keen business acumen.

Up to this time the farmer was accustomed to driving to town to do his week's trading in a farm wagon with boards laid across the sides for seats. He scarcely knew a road cart or what a thing of general utility it was.  But it was for the Parrys to convince the agriculturist that a road cart was just the vehicle he needed, and in doing this they have revolutionized the manner of the building of vehicles in which the Parry Manufacturing Company today leads the world.

Heretofore on account of the high prices the farmer could not afford a vehicle besides his farm wagon.  Vehicles were made by skilled mechanics and without the aid of machinery, and the cost of production was necessarily high.  Firm in the conviction that if the cost of building vehicles was reduced to a minimum all the world would buy them.  David M. Parry, confident in his ability to realize his expectations, with but two score employees and limited facilities, began the work of making buggies.  In 1884 the Parrys were burned out, but they immediately sought new quarters and continued the manufacturing of light vehicles.

Within two years their product had an established reputation, and they were compelled to seek more commodious quarters.  Rushville was now too small a city and the railroad facilities inadequate.  The rapid increase in the output of the factory necessitated a removal of the plant in 1886 to Indianapolis.  From this time the business grew by leaps and bounds.  The plant has been extended from time to time until now it has over twenty acres of floor space, employs over two thousand men and produces annually the astonishing number of 120,000 buggies of various styles.  The average weekly pay of the employees, exclusive of that of the officers, superintendents, foreman, traveling men and including that of several hundred women, girls and boys who are employed in the various departments, is $9.50.  The employees work by piece, and have become skilled and rapid workmen.

The plant of the Parry Manufacturing Company is not only the largest of its kind in the world, but with one possible exception, it is the greatest private institution in existence.  In addition to the assembling works in Indianapolis there is also a supplementary factory for the manufacture of the iron and steel parts that enter in the construction of buggies.  In addition to these, that it may better handle its enormous business, the company has established branch houses in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Kansas City and Dallas.

Twelve years ago the company began making four-wheeled vehicles, such as piano-box buggies, surreys, phaetons and road and spring wagons.

Having established a reputation for the making of the best goods for the least money and with the wide trade connections secured by the sale of road carts, the Parrys fearlessly entered into competition with the oldest and strongest buggy manufacturers in the country.  To meet the demands of the rapidly­ increasing business the plant was enlarged and equipped in every department with all the modem machinery to reduce the cost of the manufacture of vehicles to a minimum.

To how great an extent the Parry Manufacturing Company has succeeded in this may be seen by its enormous plant extending over the acres of ground and larger than the five largest buggy factories in the world put together, in which every portion of the vehicle is manufactured from the raw material.

The present plant numbers nineteen buildings and extends over twenty acres connected with railroad switches which enter every portion of the factory by electricity and an electric plant operated dynamos and 1,500 electric lights is used in illuminating the factory.  The enormous product of the plant has almost the entire civilized world for a market and the Parry Greek Cross trade mark is a common sight in every city of Europe and the Orient, as it is everywhere in the United States.

The officers of the Parry Manufacturing Company are:
President - David MacLean Parry
Vice President and General Superintendent - Thomas H. Parry.
Secretary and Treasurer - St. Clair C. Parry.
Manager of Wheel Plant - E. R. Parry.
Manager of Sales - George I. Keller.
Purchasing Agent - W. E. Maxwell.
Traffic Manager - H. F. Adams.
Cashier - E. H. Habig.
The Company has a new plant under construction on Kentucky Ave., just across White River, but it will be two or three years before it is ready for occupancy.  The buildings will be modem in every respect, extending over fifty-eight acres of ground. The wheel factory of the new plant has been completed and over 300 men are now employed there.

Nearly one hundred employees constitute the office force, over half of whom are bookkeepers.  Twenty-six traveling men are constantly on the road visiting the trade in every state and territory.

The making of the buggy from the different raw materials until it appears in the sales-room a beautiful and finished object, and rapidly with which the skilled and deft workmen assemble the different parts is one of the most interesting of processes. A Sunday Sentinel reporter made a trip through the Parry Manufacturing Company and was astonished at the number of processes necessary for the making of buggies and the rapidity with which the finished product was turned out.

The blacksmith shop was the first place visited.  Here in a great room, gloomy with the smoke from the long row of forges, smutty-faced smithies make the axles and every iron and steel part that goes into the vehicles.

After the parts are shaped they are polished on emery belts and made as bright as a new silver dollar.  The axle cap, which is of the best hickory, is cemented to the steel axle and smoothed to an even surface. Next comes the gear-room, where workmen are busily engaged assembling all the different parts of the gear.  The wooden parts of the gear, such as the spring bars, head blocks, reaches body frames, are made in the gear wood shop, from which they are sent to the gear-room to be assembled with the iron parts.

In the body and seat room the material is made into buggy bodies and seats, the finest quality of yellow poplar being used for these parts.  Clear ash is used in the frames. All the bodies and frames are glued together, the screw heads being covered from sight by glued plugs of wood.  The body and gear of the vehicle have now been completed, and are taken to the lead­ room for priming coats of lead, which are three coats of rough stuff in addition, and then they are taken to the rubbing rooms, where they are made smooth by rubbing with pumice stone.  They are next transferred to another room where the color coats and rubbing varnish are applied, after which they are decorated by hand and taken to the varnish room for the final touches.

The bodies are now complete.  After the gears have been assembled in the gear-room they are taken to the gear painting department where they receive fine coats of paint and are striped and varnished.  All the wheels are made in the new factory, which employs 300 men and has a daily capacity of 500 sets.  The wheels are brought to the wheel-tiring room, where they are tired by hydraulic pressure.  The tires are welded by an electric welding machine which requires but thirty seconds for the work.  Next the wheel goes to the bolting-room, where the tire is fully bolted to its rim.

The hub is bored by a huge machine, after which the hub boxing, having been dipped in white lead to make it is secure in the hub, is inserted by hydraulic pressure.  The wheel is now ready for final coats of paint which are applied in the wheel paint-room, after which the now finished wheel is taken to the storage-room.  All the wheels are made of the finest selected hickory.

The vehicle is now complete, except the top and the trimmings.  In making the top the first step is to fit the top bows into the bow sockets.  Tops for the different styles of vehicles are fitted into their sockets over frames for that particular kind of vehicle for which they are intended. The frame of the top complete, the next step is the making of the back, sides, side lacings, linings, welts, arm rest and the multitude of other different pieces which enter into the construction of the buggy top.  All the sewing is done by about 100 girls seated before a long row of huge sewing machines.  All the cloth used is cut by an electric cutting machine which will cut 120 thicknesses of cloth at one time, which is equal to the work of four men.   In tacking on the covering the skeleton top is placed on a wooden frame of which there is a row over a block long. The cushions are made on forms in various fancy designs, after which they are put in a press and mounted on the finest of coiled springs.  In the lazy-back room half a hundred girls are employed making the comfortable cushions.

The Parry Manufacturing Company makes several different kinds of vehicles each style being made in a separate department, and in this way the one great plant embraces several factories, any one of which will equal in size any of the other buggy factories of the country.


The different parts of the entire vehicles are assembled in the crating­ rooms as the orders are received for that style. Over fifteen thousand feet of lumber are used daily in making the crates. No vehicle is entirely assembled until ordered.  In the storage-room, which is over a block long are kept thousands and thousands of gears, which, standing on end present the appearance of a sea of huge bristles.  In other storage-rooms of similar dimensions are stored the other parts of the vehicles.

In the repository or sales room is kept one vehicle of each style manufactured by the company, where prospective buyers may inspect the finished product in all its beauty and elegance of design and finish.

The old I. B. & W. freight depot is now used by the Parry Company as a private depot from which all its product is shipped to the markets of the civilized world.

The Parry Manufacturing Company has a natural pride in its success as a manufacturer of buggies, the results achieved from the humblest beginnings through no advantageous aids, and by individual efforts that prove how much may be accomplished through pluck and application of the cardinal principles early adopted, namely: persistence, strict integrity, generous dealing and absolute fairness to its workmen. The company's greater satisfaction, however, is in the fact that large as is the number of its employees, and many as have been the periods of great business depressions through which the country has passed since it was founded there has never been a labor strike in the plant of the Parry Manufacturing Company. All the employees will testify to the always liberal management the establishment has maintained in the fullest consideration for their rights and the unusual aid it has given for their material advancement. The employees have never raised their voices in complaint because wrongs have never been permitted, every workman being treated as an equal. A hand is ever extended in the bravest fellowship to them. Not only is the humblest workman listened to, but he is paid the largest wages consistent with prudent management.

The Company is now preparing to inaugurate among its employees a beneficent system of pensions, by which additional generosity everyone who has been for a certain length of time in its employ, and who has reached an age justifying retirement from further labor, will receive a sum monthly proportionate to the amount paid during his active engagement, which, in other words, will be a form of distribution of accumulated and prospective profits, a recognition of the principle which the Parry Manufacturing Company has long upheld, that labor makes capital, and therefore of a right should share equally of its earnings.

Parry Manufacturing Company Logos and Letter Head


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Parry Logo


Parry Advertisement and letterhead


Parry logo

From The Journal handbook of Indianapolis, 1902

The Parry Manufacturing Company, owing to its rapid growth, has attracted, perhaps more and wider attention than any other industrial institution in the western country. The foundation of this magnificent and enormous business was laid fourteen years ago at Rushville, Ind., by David M. and Thomas H. Parry. At that point they began the manufacture of load carts and buckboards. The road cart up to this time had not fully found favor with the agriculturists of America as a general utility vehicle, but the Parrys saw the “ear marks” of popularity in the “two-wheeler,” and that the average man needed only a little persuasion to convince him that he could not be happy without one. Firmly convinced that the world could be converted and made happy by buying road carts and with “the faith that was in them” and with the aid of forty employees, but limited facilities, they began the work. In 1884 their factory was destroyed by fire and they immediately sought new quarters and continued the work of “conversion.”


By 1886 the road cart had established a reputation as “a thing of beauty and a joy forever,” and the Parrys were compelled to seek larger and better quarters for the production of their pet vehicle. In this year they moved to Indianapolis. From this time forth the business grew with leaps and bounds, and from an output of 100 carts a day in a short space of time the factory began to turn out 1,000 carts daily, sending them to all quarters of the globe.


In 1890 the company began the manufacture of four-wheel vehicles on a large scale, such as surreys, piano-box buggies, phaetons, road and spring wagons, etc. With the wide trade connections secured by this time in the sale of carts and the established reputation for making the very best goods for the smallest amount of money, they invaded the field occupied by the oldest and strongest carriage manufacturers for half a century.


The plant was enlarged and equipped throughout with every modern appliance necessary to bring down the cost of production to the minimum. How well the Parry Manufacturing Company has succeeded in the manufacture of carriages is attested in the enormous plant, covering acres of ground, larger than the five largest carriage factories in the world put together in which every portion of a buggy, with the exception of the cloth and leather, is manufactured from the raw material. In all there are nineteen buildings, covering twenty acres, connected with railroad switches running into the factory grounds. Two independent electric plants are used for lighting the factory, and all the machinery is operated by electricity. Over 350 four-wheel jobs are turned out daily, and twenty-two traveling men are constantly employed, visiting the trade in every state and territory in the union. To pack the goods it requires 15,000 feet of lumber daily for crating and fifty-five persons are employed in the bookkeeping department. The trade in foreign countries is constantly increasing. The officers of the company are: David M. Parry, president; St. Clair Parry, secretary, and Thomas H. Parry, superintendent.


Copied from: The Journal handbook of Indianapolis, 1902

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From The Journal Handbook of Indianapolis, page 260.

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Touring the Mfg. plant

Touring the Parry Mfg. Plant and David M. Parry's Views on Organized Labor


The year is 1893. We are touring the "largest vehicle manufacturing plant of its kind in the world", The Parry Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis. The factory builds a full line of buggies: surreys, phaetons, piano-box buggies, spring wagons, etc.


An inspection of the premises on foot is a good day’s work in itself. Such is the multiplicity of departments that the mind becomes somewhat confused, and fails to retain more than an impression that it is something huge.


You've never seen so many wheels and gears under one roof as is contained in the gear and wheel department. The wheels are stored so thick and in such quantity, that it would seem as if they were moving about in a continual stream, propelled by boys. To stand at a given point and observe the movement is to get dizzy.  In the gear room, the axle arms of thousands sticking up in close array gives one the idea of regiments of soldiers standing at "shoulder arms" with the barrels of the guns alone visible.

It's a great sight!


The trim-shop is perhaps the largest on earth, but it is not as impressive as the other departments. In one building where stuff is gotten out for bodies and gears you would suppose you were in a wood-working factory, so numerous are the machines.


The system of work seems to be about perfection. In all the vast place the work proceeds without friction or confusion. Nothing short of executive genius could organize such a plant into its present perfection, and it is to President D. M. Parry that the palm of success must be awarded for producing this highly organized plant.


Barring Parry's general office is a wrought iron fence, the entrance through which is a heavy gate which fastens with a spring lock. Back of the gate is a big, burly "bouncer." A flight of steps leads to Parry's office, and at the head of the steps sits a Negro with a Winchester rifle across his knees. One cannot interview Parry without first stating his business to two persons, and being questioned, scanned and quizzed. When he ventures about the streets of the city, he carries an automatic revolver in each coat pocket and is accompanied by a heavily armed bodyguard.


And when one is face to face with D.M. Parry! He is short and of slight build. His skin resembles parchment. His face is sphinxlike. He is always faultlessly dressed. He never utters an unnecessary word, except when he launches forth in a tirade against labor unions.

Parry's Anti-union Stance

The following article on Parry's views on Organized Labor may, or may not, be accurate.  Other articles seem to indicate that Parry was not as anti-labor as this article would make him out to be.

Parry's Anti-union Stance


In 1902, Parry assumed the presidency of the National Association of Manufacturers, which until that time had focused on promoting trade and reforming tariffs. Under Parry’s leadership, the association adopted a militantly anti-union labor policy. According to a 1903 assessment by Jack London:


The National Association of Manufacturers, is stopping short of nothing in what it conceives to be a life-and-death struggle. Mr. D.M. Parry, who is the president of the league . . . is leaving no stone unturned in what he feels to be a desperate effort to organize his class. He has issued the call to arms in terms everything but ambiguous: 'THERE IS STILL TIME IN THE UNITED STATES TO HEAD OFF THE SOCIALISTIC PROGRAMME, WHICH, UNRESTRAINED, IS SURE TO WRECK OUR COUNTRY. '"


As he says, the work is for 'federating employers in order that we may meet with a united front all issues that affect us. We must come to this sooner or later. . . . The work immediately before the National Association of Manufacturers is, first, KEEP THE VICIOUS EIGHT-HOUR BILL OFF THE BOOKS.’


The "vicious eight-hour bill" was legislation pending before the US Senate that would prohibit contractors supplying materials or equipment to the federal government from working their employees more than eight hours in one calendar day. Parry told the 1903 convention of the N.A.M., the bill might as well be entitled "An Act to Repeal the Bill of Rights Guaranteeing the Freedom of the Individual." Parry's alarm about the unions' drive for an eight-hour day echoed an argument attributed to Edwin A. Pratt that had appeared a year earlier in the Times of London:


It was hoped to "absorb" all the unemployed in course of time, not by the laudable and much-to-be-desired means of increasing the volume of trade, and hence, also, the amount of work to be done, but simply by obtaining employment for a larger number of persons on such work as there was already. The motive of this aspiration, however, was not one of philanthropy pure and simple. When all the unemployed had been absorbed the workers would have the employers entirely at their mercy, and would be able to command such wages and such terms as they might think fit. The general adoption of the eight hours system was to bring in a certain proportion of the unemployed; if there were still too many left the eight hours system was to be followed by a six hours system; while if, within the six, or eight, or any other term of hours, every one took things easy and did as little work as he conveniently could, still more openings would be found for the remaining unemployed, and still better would be the chances for the Socialist propaganda.


Hyperbole? Not compared to Parry's novel, published in 1906, entitled  The Scarlet Empire.


In the novel, John Walker, an impoverished, good-hearted, but fatally naive young socialist, in despair at the evils of capitalist America, attempts suicide by throwing himself off the Coney Island Pier into the midwinter Atlantic. He doesn't drown (even though his pocket is weighted down with a copy of  The Iniquities of the Capitalist Regime). Much to his astonishment and-initial delight, he is rescued by an inhabitant of the "socialist utopia" Atlantis. Using Walker as his point of view, Parry manufactures a crude *Bildungsroman*: Walker learns, as it were, the true lesson of socialism and by the end of the novel has made his commitment to good, old-fashioned American capitalism. We learn that after his escape from the Atlantean dungeon, Walker will return to the United States, change his name, and devote his remaining years to the accumulation of a large industrial fortune.


Throughout the novel, Parry insists on the particular responsibility of organized labor in creating the social-democratic system he portrays as so appalling. The million omnipresent inspectors who peer into every cranny of Atlantean life to enforce the laws of mediocrity are the administrative and ideological heirs of the union's walking delegates. The principles that inform the "damnable Democracy" all have their genesis in an Atlantean labor movement strikingly similar in its agenda to that of the United States at the turn of the century. A dissident doctor, Walker’s confidant throughout the book, outlines the chronology:

But for the Federation of Labor the Social Democracy would never have been. It was the Federation that paved the way. It passed laws providing that the State should fix wages and hours of labor. It declared what should constitute a day’s work in all industries, it limited the number of men who could be permitted to learn the various trades and occupations . . .”


From laws to fix wages and hours of labor, the socialist dystopia progressed irresistibly to a place of relentless and ruthless leveling, of mediocrity canonized, of joyless, uniform gray.


All men being equal, in Atlantis they are forced to be equal in every microscopic detail. Money and private property have long since been abolished, as have any and all appurtenances of status based on skill or intelligence. Every citizen of Atlantis eats the same number of ounces of identically prepared fish gruel and seaweed each day. Everybody wears the same dully colored, crudely stitched clothing and lives in uniformly miserable hutches.


There is no crime in Atlantis. But there are large numbers of people in prison, political deviates, widely understood to be insane, and labeled "atavars". Periodically, at great festivals attended by the entire population of the country, and for which national holidays are decreed, the most notorious and intractable of the imprisoned malcontents are dragged from their cells and grotesquely executed.


The condemned prisoners are marched into a huge amphitheater, which is crowded with thousands of their bloodthirsty socialist fellow citizens. To the ear-splitting applause of that mob, the victims are pushed through an airlock in the base of a large transparent sea wall. Waiting on the other side, ready to ingest them before they can even drown, lurks a nightmarish creature with immense eyes, a dozen great tentacles as large around as a man’s body and a cavernous mouth, which contains teeth like those of a crocodile.


Parry was not a man to stand idly by while America slid inexorably from the eight-hour day to the dissident devouring dodecapuss. Instead he launched the National Association of Manufacturers on a ten-year campaign of lobbying, spying, strike-breaking, influence peddling, black-listing, propaganda (association members were mobilized to funnel their advertising dollars to newspapers carrying sympathetic editorial content) and political slush funding that in 1913 became the subject of congressional hearings and sensational revelations in the Chicago Tribune and New York World.


According to "Colonel" Martin Mulhall, a N.A.M. lobbyist who was himself of dubious character, the association through its agents, successfully conducted a strike-breaking campaign using spies to corrupt minor labor leaders and depending upon the cooperation of politicians in both parties. The N.A.M. conducted a relentless warfare against public officials who opposed its plans, financed the campaigns of candidates against them, and made-up a black list of prominent figures in public life and labor circles.


Commenting on the affair, the American Federation of Labor claimed the revelations:

Revealed to the American people a series of chapters of deception, corruption, and perfidy that has never before been equaled in the history of the United States for scope of operation, audacity of conception and inhumanity of purpose. The correspondence of the National Association of Manufacturers and testimony revealed a treachery and deception which are hardly conceivable as existing among men of this generation.


Parry’s crusade against the "vicious eight-hour bill" floundered in the short term. In 1912, President William Howard Taft signed the eight-hour law. In 1913, the N.A.M. was rocked by revelations about its lobbying activities. In 1914, Henry Ford adopted the eight-hour day in his automobile factory (Parry is said to have given Ford his first financial assistance). Parry himself became seriously ill returning from a tour of Asia in August of 1914 and died the following May. In 1916, the Adamson Act introduced the eight-hour day for railroad workers. During the First World War, the National War Labor Board urged the adoption of the eight-hour day in many industries.


But, as Marx wrote in the spring of 1852, "all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice . . . the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." Parry -- who coincidentally was born in the spring of 1852 -- left behind an incredible legacy of paranoid tactics and propaganda. The propaganda hammered repeatedly on a single theme: the call for an eight-hour day was a socialistic plot by the unions to cripple American industry. To make it more palatable, though, the claim was dressed up in pseudo-economic phraseology. In the 1920s and later, the N.A.M. propaganda insinuated itself into economics textbooks , typically juxtaposed (without comment) alongside more reputable discussions -- as if textbook authors were taking pains to insure a "balanced presentation" of "both sides" of the issue.


Farcically, the Parry-noid view of the eight-hour day -- sans socialist sea-monster -- has come to be accepted unquestioningly by mainstream economists. When, in contemporary discussions of shorter working time, economists refer to a fallacious belief among labor unions that there is only a "fixed amount of work" they are unwittingly paying homage to the prodigious propaganda efforts of David Maclean Parry -- titan of industry , hack novelist , splenetic capitalist class warrior .


(The summary of The Scarlet Empire in the above account was lifted with minor modifications from Peter-Conn 's The Divided Mind)

Personal Interview with J. J. Cole Representing Parry Mfg. Co.

Joseph Jarrett Cole was what we would call today a "Super Salesman".  J. J. Cole started working in the carriage business in about 1888.  He served as a salesman and corporate executive for carriage maker Parry Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis and another firm.


This appears to be a booklet that J. J. Cole would hand out to potential customers as he traveled selling Parry Buggies.  Notice the last line on the cover page.  This booklet must have been used in the 1890's.

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Historical Sketch of the Parry Manufacturing Company

The Parry Manufacturing Company began its business of buggy making in 1882 in Rushville, Rush County, as the C Spring Cart Company. Owners of the operation were David M. Parry and his brother Thomas H. Parry. The factory was destroyed by fire in1884 and the Parry brothers relocated to Indianapolis two years later forming a joint stock company with David Parry as president.

In the early 1890s Parry began experimenting with motorized vehicles. In 1900 Parry Manufacturing Company erected their new factory on 54 acres along the White River on South Street west of downtown Indianapolis and made the claim of being the largest carriage factory in the world. In 1906 David Parry acquired the Overland Company, a producer of automobiles from Terre Haute.

Parry was hit hard by a short economic depression in 1907 and was never able to produce an automobile and had to sell the business to John N. Willys in 1908. Willys renamed it the Willys-Overland Company and moved it to Ohio where it eventually became known for the manufacturing of the Jeep.

Parry quickly recovered from its financial losses and began manufacturing automobiles in 1909 under the name of the Parry Automobile Company. The company produced the Parry in 1909 and the New Parry in 1910. In 1911 the company name was changed to Motor Car Manufacturing Company and began producing the Pathfinder which achieved a certain amount of notoriety for its larger touring cars.

In September, 1917, the company declared bankruptcy. In the meantime, the Parry Manufacturing Company was producing universal commercial bodies and truck bodies until 1919 when it merged with the Martin Truck and Body Corporation of York, Pennsylvania. The Indianapolis facility continued manufacturing truck and auto bodies under the name of the Martin–Parry Corporation until 1930 when the plant was sold to the Chevrolet Motor Company.

Th building of a buggy
Logos and letterhead
from the journal hndbook of indianapolis
page 260
touring the mfg plant
Parry's anti-union stanc
Interview with JJ
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