Today's update comes courtesy of Mr. Eldon Pitts of Mooreland. He was a local reporter for a near-by local paper for several years until he decided to take life easy and semi-retire. Eldon is a freelance reporter now doing articles for the local papers and other venues. He very generously offered the following article to HCGS as our latest update.
NEW CASTLE, IN -- Maxwell motor car enthusiasts are planning
perhaps the largest celebration of their prized automobiles ever.
Organizers are gearing up for the "Maxwell Centennial
Celebration Tour 2004," celebrating the 100th anniversary of the
founding of the Maxwell-Briscoe Co., which is planned for June 21-24, in
New Castle, Indiana.
Jonathan Dixon Maxwell and Benjamin Briscoe formed the
Maxwell-Briscoe Co. and produced their first 532 Maxwell cars in 1904,
in Tarrytown, NY.
The pair didn't build their plant in New Castle -then billed as
the largest automobile manufacturing facility in the United States-
until 1907, but organizers said they wanted to celebrate the centennial
The New Castle facility -which later became part of the Chrysler
Corp.- "is the only remaining building of the Maxwell factories at
all," said Maxwell owner Vern Campbell, a Michigan resident and
co-chairman of the celebration steering committee.
"And that is a draw to a Maxwell car owner, to come to a place
where at least many of the Maxwells were built," Campbell said. In
addition, he said, New Castle is centrally located in the United States.
"And we are going to get cars from both coasts."
With about 500 cars listed in the Maxwell registry worldwide,
Campbell said, "our goal all along was to see if we could get 100
Maxwells in the same location to celebrate the 100th anniversary."
"We have names of people who are coming from east and west, all the
way from California to New York."
And, Campbell added, there are a lot of good country touring roads
around the New Castle area for vintage automobiles. "A lot of these are
2-cylinder cars that travel 25 miles per hour, tops. And you just don't
run those down (Ind. 3) in comfort. You get paranoid pretty quick."
Several tours in East Central Indiana are planned during the 4-day
event, reminiscent of tours that were made at the time. Organizers
expect to attract thousands of people to the centennial celebration, and
not just Maxwell owners and automobile enthusiasts.
It will be an historic event, Campbell said. "Never
in your life before have you ever seen that many Maxwells together, and
probably never again will you see that many Maxwell automobiles in the
same location," Campbell said.
"It has never happened before, at least since 1911, and the 'run'
that we are going to re-enact. It's a piece of history here that's going
to be unfolding before you. So we think it's quite significant."
And there are other reasons to celebrate the historic event in New
Castle, according to Maxwell owner Paul Niles, a local resident who is
co-chairman of the centennial celebration along with Campbell.
"Maxwell is what really brought New Castle to the
forefront. It was the 'spirit' of the community that started it," Niles
A group of local business leaders raised money and
convinced Maxwell and Briscoe to build their facility in New Castle
instead of nearby Muncie. The facility covered four city blocks.
"Without that (facility) where would New Castle really have been,"
said Niles, proud owner of a 1911 Maxwell AB roadster.
In addition, Niles said, "there are so many people who
have been involved in that (New Castle) plant in their lifetimes; not
only they themselves, but their mothers and fathers."
The cornerstone of the New Castle facility, which would then employ
1,500 workers, was laid on June 22, 1907, under the auspices of the
Junior Order of United American Mechanics, assisted by the Knights of
The 500,000 square-foot facility was built at a cost of $675,000.
The event was significant enough to attract Charles W. Fairbanks,
then Vice President of the United States.
"This factory will give employment to many hundreds of
wage-earners," Fairbanks said, according to historical accounts of the
day. "It will open up a new avenue whereby workmen may make provision
for themselves and for their families."
"While you have given yourselves over to stimulating industry,"
Fairbanks told those gathered for the event, "while you have in a
general way contributed toward the erection of this great factory, you
have looked beyond the mere increase of population it will bring to this
"You have looked beyond the increase of the aggregate payroll of
your manufacturing establishments to the improvement of the community
along social, educational, religious and patriotic lines."
Maxwells were among the earliest motor cars on
American roads. The cars were designed by Jonathan Dixon Maxwell
(1864-1928), a native of Howard County, Indiana.
Maxwell and Benjamin Briscoe formed the Maxwell-Briscoe Co. in
1903, and produced their first automobiles in Tarrytown, NY, in 1904.
The New Castle plant was built in 1907, with the first automobiles
In 1910, Briscoe formed the United States Motor Co., which failed
in 1913. The Maxwell assets were then purchased by Walter Flanders, who
reorganized the company as the Maxwell Motor Company, Inc., and
continued to produce the popular Maxwell cars.
In 1920, Maxwell Motor Co., owing some $43 million, was on the
verge of bankruptcy. Walter P. Chrysler, who had retired as president of
Buick and vice-president of General Motors, headed a reorganization
The committee arranged for purchase of the combined assets of
Maxwell and the Chalmers Motor Co., to which Maxwell had leased one of
its facilities in 1917.
The Maxwell Motor Corp. was formed in 1921, with Chrysler
as chairman of the board, and continued to build Chalmers cars and an
improved Maxwell, advertised as the "good Maxwell."
Chrysler continued to use the Maxwell name until 1925, then phased
it out, according to information from Wilmer B. Maxwell, Carlisle, PA.
For several years, what had been the Maxwell was called the
Chrysler Four, which became the Chrysler Plymouth and eventually the
In their heyday, according to Wilmer Maxwell, Maxwell motor cars
were prized by their owners and sported the latest innovations. A 1921
advertisement touted the Maxwell's "side curtains on really solid rods
and supports, and a special curtain compartment in back of the front
The Maxwell is perhaps most famous and best remembered as the
vehicle driven by the late comedian Jack Benny on his radio and
television programs decades after the Maxwell ceased production.
Actually, Benny never owned a Maxwell.
Schedule of events for the 4-day "Maxwell Centennial Celebration Tour
2004" in New Castle, Indiana, includes:
Monday, June 21 -- Scenic drive to Knightstown, Indiana, with lunch at
the historic Hoosier Gym, a restored piece of Indiana basketball
history, which was the site for filming part of the movie "Hoosiers." A
train ride is an afternoon option. Every Maxwell driver may make a lap
around the Mt. Lawn Speedway, which has summoned race fans since 1932. A
swap meet for Maxwell era parts and vintage clothing will be the evening
event in the host motel parking lot. There will be an optional gaslight
tour following the swap meet.
Tuesday, June 22 -- The day begins with a recreation of the Broad Street
scene at the beginning o the 1911 annual Maxwell Run. Vintage clothing
is encouraged, since many photos will be taken. Then, it's off to the
New Castle plant, where each Maxwell will be photographed in front of
the Maxwell-Briscoe cornerstone of the original building. A tour of the
factory will include lunch and will pass some of the factory workers'
housing built in the early years. The evening will feature a pig roast
and "Maxwells In The Park" at New Castle's showplace Baker Park. This
will be a program involving the community, with all Maxwells
participating in a "pass in review."
Wednesday, June 23 -- The run for the day will retrace as much of the
1911 route as possible, with a morning stop at the Indiana Soldiers'
and Sailors' Children's Home in Knighstown. Lunch will be in Roberts
Park, Connersville. Total distance for the tour is about 75 miles, with
a couple of service stops on the way back to the host motel. The evening
will feature seminars on Maxwell authenticity, repairs and
Thursday, June 24 -- More scenic take the tour through the Blue River
Valley to the Wilbur Wright Birthplace & Interpretive Center, birthplace
of the aviation pioneer and a fine aviation history museum, near
Millville, where lunch will be served. The evening will feature a
celebration banquet, with vintage clothing encouraged.
For more information, contact:
Vern Campbell, 4491 St. Anthony Road, Temperance MI, 48182;
Paul Niles, 3215 E. Brown Road, New Castle, IN, 47362;
Tom Reese, 5641 Bartlett Blvd., Mound, MN, 55364;
Richard Wilcox, 2704 15th St., Columbus, IN, 47201;