House of Carts… Carriages… Cars…
If you’ve followed HI articles in the past few weeks, you already know that HI just celebrated it’s 5th birthday at the newly-renovated Parry Mansion in the Golden Hill neighborhood. HI Team members, sponsors and HI-est level Booster Club members gathered for an exclusive tour of the historic Parry home, lovingly restored by Jerico Properties. While walking the hallways and grounds of that property it was impossible not to wonder what massive industry had financed and facilitated the building of such a home. That night, while researching what was to be this week’s article on a form of advertising called “trade cards,” (that article will come next week, instead) I discovered a card with a familiar name!
David M. Parry (1852—1915) followed the same career trajectory of so many successful 19th century entrepreneurs: bottom-up. He began as a lowly clerk, then bookkeeper, then traveling salesman. By 1882 he built a successful hardware concern and was in the position to purchase a Rushville, Indiana cart and carriage manufacturer. Parry moved that company to Indianapolis in 1886 where it prospered. It was among the largest carriage factories in the world by the 1890’s.
Prior to converting the carriageworks into the Parry Auto Company in summer 1909, David M. Parry had been president of the Parry Manufacturing Company for 27 years. Parry auto production took place in seven Standard Wheel Works facilities at 1140-60 Division Street, before Parry buildings were completed at great expense. The newly retooled company offered “The Parry” model as a two-passenger roadster and five passenger touring car priced from $1,285 to $1,485. Unfortunately, a December 1909 issue of Motor Age quoted the ever-ambitious Parry, saying he planned to build 5,000 such automobiles in the next year (1910). When Parry production didn’t meet this benchmark, the company was forced into receivership due to heavy equipment outlays.
The next year, the firm reorganized as the Motor Car Manufacturing Company, and the car’s name was changed to The New Parry (the only thing new being the name). Additional models were a four-passenger touring car and a four-passenger demi-tonneau. These models were priced from $1,350 to $1,750.
The company was again reorganized as The Pathfinder Company in 1916 after a car design of the same name was released. That year also saw the introduction of a model with a 12 cylinder engine called “Pathfinder the Great, King of Twelves.” These models ranged from $2,750 to $4,800.
After 32 years of continuous activity as a manufacturer of vehicles, Parry retired from active business with the best wishes of his associates. In 1914, on a return voyage from a world tour to study economic conditions in other countries, David Parry was suddenly stricken ill aboard the steamer Korea. He arrived in San Francisco in very serious condition from which he never fully recovered. He peacefully slipped away in his beloved home in the early hours of May 12, 1915, with his family at his bedside.
Parry’s company continued only a short while after his death. A shortage of materials during World War I severely handicapped Pathfinder operations. In December 1917, the company was liquidated in receivership.
This company, along with the Cole Motor Car Company, could have kept Indianapolis “on the map” as a headquarters town for auto and truck manufacturing, versus strictly a “sideline” operation for parts plants for auto companies. The “spinning off” of parts plants into independent operations being at the mercy of major auto and truck manufacturers headquartered “elsewhere” hasn’t helped the Indianapolis economy in the least, unfortunately….