1911 Maxwell Model EA

The Maxwell automobile company produced automobiles from 1904 through 1925. The operation began in Tarrytown, New York, under the name of Maxwell-Briscoe Company. The name was chosen after its founders, Jonathan Dixon Maxwell, and the Briscoe Brothers Metalworks. Jonathan Maxwell had gained experience while working for Oldsmobile, and Benjamin Briscoe was one of the early industry pioneers. Their factory was the former location used for John Brisben Walker's Mobile Steamer.

The twin-cylinder Maxwell runabouts were popular due to their competitive price tag and durable engines.

In 1907 a fire destroyed the Tarrytown, NY factory. A new location was chosen in New Castle, Indiana, and the Maxwell Company created what was, at the time, the largest factory in the world. The factory would be used by Chrysler until its demolition in 2004.

By 1909 the company was third in the industry in terms of production figures. During that year, Alice Huyler Ramsey and three female friends made an all-girl coast-to-coast journey in a Maxwell. This was unheard of and unthinkable for an all-woman crew at the time, which made the accomplishment even more memorable and astonishing.

The Maxwell company became a part of the United States Motor Company, formed in 1910. It was the only profitable company in the union. The United States Motor Company failed due to conflicts between two of its backers and disbanded in 1913. Maxwell was the only surviving marque to emerge from the failed company.

In 1913, the Maxwell assets were purchased by Walter Flanders, who reorganized the company as the Maxwell Motor Company, Inc. The operation was moved to Detroit, Michigan, with other facilities located in Dayton, Ohio.

In the post-World War I era recession, many manufacturers were devastated by a poor and slow-moving economy. Maxwell found themselves in peril after over-extending themselves, resulting in large amounts of debt and over half of their production unsold. In 1921, Walter P. Chrysler took a controlling interest in Maxwell and the company was re-incorporated in West Virginia with Walter Chrysler as the chairman. Chrysler, a name associated with Buick and Willys-Overland Company, had stepped in to sort out quality problems and boost sales. Around the same time, Maxwell was merging with the ailing Chalmers Automobile Company. Production of the Chalmers Company ceased in late 1923.

In 1925 Walter Chrysler formed the Chrysler Motor Corporation and the Maxwell line was phased out, and its assets were absorbed by Chrysler. The Chrysler automobiles in 1926 were basically four-cylinder Maxwells from the year before.


by Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2014

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