The Big Car Database


By 1898, the automobile was making inroads into the carriage making industry and some carriage makers were also making automobiles.

Up until now, the only known record of Bailey's entrance into this field in 1898 is in Margaret Rice's book given to me by Bart Bailey, great , great grandson of S. R. Bailey, and I saw a reference to it and starting researching the date. A reference to the date was found in Britannica Encyclopedia.

When the carriage industry was badly damaged by a worker's strike in 1903, most of the smaller companies were forced out of business, but the larger ones began making automobile bodies and Amesbury became known as the automobile body building capitol of the world with its twenty-eight builders.The carriage workers and now the body workers were known as the finest workers any where.

In Margaret Rice’s Book "Sun on the River" 1955, Bailey Family History, she states that when S. R. Bailey’s son, Edwin, returned home from the Spanish American War in 1899, he was taken to the factory to see his father’s surprise. It was a Bailey Electric Victoria Phaeton automobile. He described it to be the most beautifully designed automobile that he had ever seen. He wanted to take it for a drive, but his father told him that the battery was too heavy for the motor. (The 1898 date is also taken from the Britannica Encyclopedia.) This was the first automobile built in Amesbury.

In the meantime, Thomas Edison was experimenting on how to build a lighter and better battery. S. R. Bailey & Co. were masters at square wood bending. Bailey was the inventor of the wood bending and rounders in early 1860's that he used for his carriage making.

The Bailey electric victoria is claimed to be the lightest electric vehicle ever made of its type or size. The battery is hung by three point suspension beneath the floor, and a special design 60-volt motor is used, which is placed well in the rear and from which the drive is delivered to a countershaft by a Morse silent chain and thence by side chains to the rear wheel. One of the unique features of the electric vehicle manufactured by S. B. Bailey & Co. is the control. Although the concern furnishes the conventional wheel, its latest idea in this line is a long lever which is pushed in the direction in which the driver desires the car to go. It is in the form of a D-shaped wheel, carrying the controlling lever, and in appearance greatly resembles the ordinary wheel control.

Several other changes are to be noted, among them being the suspension of the motor by three points which is done to keep it in line with the countershaft during the twisting of the frame while the car is underway. Care is guarding the bateries is noticeable, the companynow keeping them inone box which is placed under the middle of the car where it is figured there is the least possible motion. The battery bx is made of metal hung in three-point  suspension in order to protect the jars from breaking or twisting. The mud guards turn with the front wheels, being placed on the knuckles of the axles. Instead of using chrome nickle and and nickle steel in the axles, the company pins its faith to rewekded mild open R steel. The body. to, is a novelty, being made of bent wood frame and three-ply laminated wood panels. The company's very large Victoria body weighs only 30 pounds in the wood, and will seat three ordinary-sized personscomfortaby on one seat.

(It is to be noted that S. R. Bailey was the first carriage maker in the country to use bent wood  and while in Bath Me., he invented a machine to make wood so thin that when glued together in three layers, it was much stronger and easier to form than ordinary wood. Aso bent wood was much stronger)in construction. His bent wood machines were being used in Austria where bent-wood furniture originated.)

Martin L. Pulcher founded the Bailey Motor Truck Company in Detroit in 1910 three years after he started the Oakland Motor Car Company in Pontiac.

By the time the first truck left the factory that same year, the company’s name had changed to Federal. They were assembled trucks throughout the entire history of the company, conservative and conventional by design in a market where innovation was not always considered a virtue. An early slogan, “Never An Experiment“, reflected their rugged and reliable design philosophy.

Sporting a dump body by Tupper & Steele, Ltd., seen below, the truck in our photo appears to date from around 1918. This was the first year for Federal’s five and seven ton models and its cast steel wheels identify it as one of those heavyweights. It would have had a Timken-Detroit worm gear differential which had replaced chain drive on all models just two years earlier. Power came from a big Continental four cylinder engine. Federal was quite successful in the ensuing years, passing the 100,000 unit production mark in 1939. They were absorbed by NAPCO in 1955. Credit:

Bailey Body Company, 1920s-1930s; St. Louis, Missouri. Satellite assembly plant in Decatur, Illinois 1929-1930s.

Supplied production bodies to the St Louis Chevrolet truck plant and operated an assembly plant in Decatur, Illinois for Frede Chevrolet, one of 7 Chevrolet zone office located around the country. The the Decatur Illinois Chevrolet Zone office which was run out of the Frede Chverolet.

W.V. Bailey, President of Bailey Body Co. of St. Louis; E.M. Bailey vice-president?

Decatur was selected as a Chevrolet zone office in 1929 and knocked down truck bodies were shipped from Bailey’s St. Louis plant for final assembly in Decatur where they were mounted to Chevrolet Truck chassis en route to Mid-west dealers.

“‘Our purpose,’ E.M. Bailey said Monday, ‘is to open an assembling branch in Decatur, where we will have on display and ready for mounting various types of commercial auto bodies.’

“Establishment of the headquarters are to be pushed as rapidly as possible, with expectations of opening sometime in July. The assembling plant here will be under the direct supervision of W.V. Bailey and his brother, though there will be a local manager, yet to be named.”

7-1-1929 Decatur Dailey Review

“Other Firms Coming

“Already the establishment of the Chevrolet offices here has brought inquiries from other manufacturing interests in the automobile industry. At present the Bailey Body company and the Herman Body company are both investigating the field with the intention of locating its offices here. These two concerns are both manufacturers of truck bodies built to specifications that correspond with those under which the Chevrolet trucks are built.”


“The Bailey Body company has moved from 429 East William to 412 East Prairie

The Prairie street building was formerly occupied by the William Frede and Son used car department. E.L. Bailey of factory was in Decatur Thursday and today inspecting the local branch, of which C.E. Granfield is manager. The old location of the body company will be taken over by Talbott Motors.”