AUTOMOBILE PRODUCTION IN MARYLAND
Between 1850 and 1891, prototype and two fully operational steamed powered road vehicles were built in the state of Maryland. This was followed by a fledgling automobile industry in Maryland with 22 different makes of automobiles being built in the state between 1891 and 1942. These automobiles iare listed in the following table:
Waldhauser & Grill
American & Manufacturing
Carter Twin Engine
Hamilton Fire Truck
New York Six
Havre de Grace
one prototype built
THE BURNS BROTHERS
George and Anna Burns lived in the Bay View area of Cecil County, Maryland on a farm that George had inherited from his parents. The Burns family had roots in that area since the early 1800s. George and Anna had 12 children, ten of which lived to adulthood.
of the Burns Family with Spouses and Grandchildren
1896, George and Anna moved the family across the Susquehanna River to
Havre de Grace where George opened a carriage shop.
The eldest son Walter managed the carriage factory, assisted by
his brothers John, Reese, Alfred, and Charles.
The company was officially named the W.E. Burns and Brothers
Carriage Works, but locals often referred to the company simply as
“The Burns Brothers”. Another
brother named Ira did not go into the carriage business, but instead
became a well known doctor and was a pioneer in radiology.
Walter Elsworth Burns
Jonathan Issac Burns
|Reese Norris Burns||Alfred Grant Burns||Charles Brittingham Burns|
The Burns Brothers had a reputation as being thrifty businessmen that were reluctant to part with their money. The carriage works prospered and became a well known and respectable business selling carriages across the US and to some foreign countries. The company’s sales brochure showed 44 different carriage designs ranging from a simple buckboard wagon costing $35 to fancy carriages costing over $1,000.
has ever been, and always will be, our aim to give the very best value
for the money, without any catch pinching or misrepresentation methods
about it. Whatever we sell you must be just as we represent it, if it
costs us twice what you give us to make it so.”
Included in the brochure were photographs of the
five Burns Brothers and the following text:
“With your kind permission, and a sense of modesty (on our part) allow us to present to you on the following pages our portraits, showing that we are comparatively young people, and with reputation at stake for future years in the business, and ever having before us the highest degree of perfection in carriage building.”
The company also built special order designs and specialty equipment, such as the hose carts for fire departments and ambulances for hospitals. In addition, they sold a large line of carriage accessories.
1899, the company outgrew its original small building and moved into a
four story, brick factory located in the town’s “business
district”. A fire started
in a nearby building destroyed the factory in 1902 but another, larger
four story factory was built to replace it. The Burns factory was one of the largest buildings in the town
at the time.
In 1908, the Burns Brothers adapted a gasoline engine to one of their carriages, and by the end of the year, had developed the Burns automobile. Meanwhile, the company continued to manufacture carriages that they were so well known for.
The Burns was an assembled automobile, with engine and drivetrain parts manufactured by other companies installed on a Burns chassis and body. It was a highwheeler design weighing 1500 pounds and having a 90 inch wheelbase. No photos of the original Burns Highwheeler are known to exist.
The car was right hand drive with spark and fuel controls
located in the center of the large, wooden steering wheel. A large lever mounted to the right of the driver was used to
control the vehicle speed. A
button on top of the lever was depressed and the lever could be adjusted
to one of 25 positions. The
automobile had a top speed of 25 miles per hour.
The car was powered by a two cylinder; air cooled engine producing 16 hp. The engine was transversely mounted in the front of the vehicle. Cooling of the engine was accomplished by integral cast flanges on the engine and fan blades around the periphery of the front mounted flywheel. Engine power was transferred through a longitudinal shaft and universal joint to a friction disk driving a friction wheel and the dual chain drives. Other features included brakes on the rear wheels and an 8 gallon, cast iron gas tank.
body of the Burns sat on a wooden frame reinforced with 1½ inch steel
plates. The frame had a three point suspension supported by four
elliptical springs. A
Timkin rear end and Timkin bearings were used.
The car came with 40 inch wheels on the front and 42 inch wheels
on the rear, onto which were mounted solid rubber tires.
body had a rigid top supported by four supports.
A plush, 36 inch wide seat accommodated the driver and a
passenger. Armrests were
mounted between the seat and front roof supports.
The interior was trimmed in leather and two brass lamps were
mounted below the windshield on the firewall.
The car had running boards that led into long, sweeping front and
rear fenders typical of carriage fenders of the time.
Later models had the fenders more closely following the curvature
of the tires. A small
package tray was mounted on the rear of the vehicle for carrying items.
The Burns had a price of $800.00
Burns was advertised as “The ideal car for physicians and
businessmen” probably due to its high stance over the rutted dirt
roads of the time. It was
displayed at the 1909 Auto Show in Baltimore, Maryland.
Articles on the Burns automobile appeared in several national
automotive magazines including “Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal”
and “MotorAge”. The Burns was also included in the annual edition of new
automobiles printed by “Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal” each
year the automobile was produced.
A few months after the Highwheeler was debuted, the Burns Brothers introduced another model called the Transformable Coupe. The Transformable Coupe used the same chassis as the Highwheeler, except that it came equipped with 36 inch wheels in an attempt to lower the vehicle. For an additional cost, 30 x 3 inch wheels and pneumatic tires could be added as an option. Below is a photo of the Transformable Coupe.
Photo of the Burns Transformable Coupe
Highweeler model was discontinued in 1911.
The engine in the Transformable Coupe was changed to a 2
cylinder, air cooled engine with the cylinders cast in the block and a
rating of 12 hp. The rest of the automobile remained the same as the 1910
model and still had a price of $800.00.
1912, the wheelbase was lengthened to 100 inches and the car was powered
by a 2 cylinder, air cooled engine with separately cast cylinders and
producing 15 hp. The engine
was equipped with a Schebler carburetor and electrical power was
provided by a Splitdorf magneto. The
transmission was changed back to a friction drive.
The front tires remained the same but the rear tires were widened
to 3 1/2 inches. The cost
of the Transformable Coupe was still $800.00
Burns Brothers discontinued production of their automobile after 1912.
It is believed that the antiquated “buggy design” inhibited
sales of the car, which were described by one source as “dismal”. This was at a time that cars were being designed longer
and lower to the ground, and with greater speed.
Added to this, was the fact that a Ford Model T could be
purchased for roughly half the price of the Burns.
is not known why the company changed the engine and drivetrain so often.
It is possible that the Burns Brothers had a problem with parts
suppliers or they simply could not come up with an “optimum”
configuration that they were looking for.
There have been no production records located and it is not known
how many Burns automobiles were produced.
It is likely that the Burns Brothers, being the thrifty and no
nonsense businessmen they were, simply discarded all records of the car
after it failed and never looked back.
Instead, they put all their energy back into continuing
production of the carriages that had made them prosperous.