The George N

Thursday 26th April 1906

The George N. Pierce Company purchased a 16-acre plot of land that had been the site of the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York with the intention of making the site their new production facility. In 1872, George Pierce of Heintz, Pierce, and Munschauer, a houseware manufacturing firm whose products included birdcages, bought out his two partners and reorganized the company as the George N. Pierce Company. By the mid-1890s, the company had begun manufacturing bicycles; and when car production began in the late 1890s, company executive Charles Clifton began investigating the possibility of entering the industry. The summer of 1900 saw the company’s first car produced, a steamer that turned out to be a dismal failure. Clifton traveled to Europe, and returned insisting that Pierce purchase DeDion gasoline engines for car production. Pierce’s first production car was the Motorette. The car enjoyed great success in reliability trials, and it established Pierce as a dependable brand in the early car market. In 1904, Pierce took a giant leap forward when they produced their first Great Arrow. The four-cylinder Great Arrow sold for $4,000, making it a luxury car. Pierce rode the success of the Great Arrow for the rest of the first decade of the century, and, in 1909, the company changed its name to Pierce-Arrow. Pierce-Arrow established itself as the only car company to exclusively produce luxury automobiles, and for the next few decades it would battle Packard in that marketplace. The company is credited with being the first car manufacturer to bring aesthetics to the forefront of the marketing race. Pierce-Arrow employed major working artists including N.C. Wyeth and J.C. Leyendecker to render their cars on advertisements that were literally works of art. By 1915, Pierce-Arrow had established itself at the highest echelon of the luxury car market. Its cars brought with their fine aesthetics a 6-cylinder 824.8 cubic inch engine, America’s biggest production engine ever. Pierce-Arrow remained a profitable name throughout the 1900s and 1920s, although sales fell steadily due to the company’s unwillingness to modernise its 6-cylinder engine. The Depression buried Pierce-Arrow. Thus, when Time Magazine published their piece on the company they entitled it “From Birdcages to Bankruptcy.” Still Pierce-Arrow enjoys a prominent place in car history as America’s first great luxury marque.

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