The rapid and almost universal spread of the automobile the past few
years finds a striking illustration locally, not only in the number of
machines owned and operated in the district, but in the development of
various lines of business connected with the automotive trade. Among
the instances of the business development there is none in the local
district that has been more rapid and substantial than that of the
Farnham & Nelson Co., of Jamaica Plain, the large and well-known
concern engaged in the building of high-grade automobile bodies and
all that pertains to the automobile above the engine and running gear.
This firm is located at 47 Union Avenue, Jamaica Plain, in one of the
best of the large brick buildings formerly a part of the Sturtevant
blower works. The proprietors are J.T. Farnham and F.D. Nelson and the
business was established in December, 1908. The concern is, therefore,
just beginning its fourth year, and some idea of the rapid rise of the
business can be had from the fact that the volume of business done
during the year just closed will approximate $75,000.00.
Previous to establishing their business on Union Avenue, both Mr.
Farnham and Mr. Nelson were superintendents of different departments
in two large automobile concerns, one in Boston and one in Cleveland,
and are, therefore, men of large experience. That they are successful
businessmen is shown by the fact that they started with nothing, in
the way of trade, and the second year more than doubled their volume
of business, while the third year will yield a one-third increase over
the second year.
The secret of success of the firm is due, in additon to the skill and
business ability of the two proprietors, to the fact that they supply
a special product for a special class of people. They are designers
and makers of special automobile bodies, tops, windshields and other
equiptment for people who cannot purchase ready-made cars that are
entirely to their liking, so that a large portion of their trade is
making bodies for imported and domestic cars which are purchased
without bodies by some customer who then engages them to design and
build a special body to suit their particular taste or requirements.
It is interesting to note, and it may be a surprise to some, that
people cannot buy an automobile ready-made from the fatory that is
satisfactory to them in all respects any more than they can get a
custom-made suit of clothes that is to their liking in fit, style,
etc., so they buy the chassis and have the body of the car built to
In the factory, they have a large portable blackboard, some 20 feet in
length by 10 in height on which they draw the designs at full size so
that the customer can see exactly how the finished body of his car is
to look. In addition to building bodies, they make and repair all
other parts of the car above the engine, making a special windshield
and doing a fine class of leather and upholstering work, and making
the tops for high-grade cars. All of their work is of the
highest-class and their customers include the owners of the largest
and most expensive cars in use. The firm handles the line of work both
for private individuals and manufacturers.
A considerable portion of their factory work is also supplied in
making bodies for those cars whose owners desire a closed body for
winter, and an open one for summer. If a machine has a limousine top
they will build an open type for the summer, and vice versa.
An intersting feature of their business is that of a large proportion
of the bodies they build are of aluminum and their factory is equipped
with the latest devices for metal working, including a power trip
hammer, and other appliances.
The firm employs 50 men and its factory includes a woodworking,
painting, upholstering and blacksmithing department. The large factory
building is heated by steam and equipped with electric power, with
separate motors for all departments. The factory thus being heated
makes a desirable place for automotible owners to leave their cars
during repairs or through the winter when they are having a new body
built, and a walk through the building reveals about 75 cars in
various stages of completion, some entirely new with bodies being made
for their first use, and some limousines for which the firm is
building open bodies for summer use. All cars for regular customers
are stored free of charge. Special bodies for cars devoted to special
uses such as hospital and sanitorium use are also built there. One
that attracts particular notice of a visitor to the factory is a body
specially constructed to admit sick persons who are obliged to ride on
a cot and which is used for carrying invalids to and from trains, and,
for other private purposes.
In brief, the firm makes and repairs everything about the automobile
except the engine and running gear, and the rapid development of the
company’s business in the last three years it has been established
shows clearly the large and growing field its particular line of work
fills, as well as proving the fact that the firm meets the demand well
with its equiptment and qualtiy of work.
From the Jamaica Plain News, January 27, 1912