Story & Photos – Joseph Boyle
Great weather brings out great cars and this weekend I was at the right place at the right time. I have included two photos of a car I got close to. The first photo (above) is an example of the Pierce-Arrow hood ornament called the Bareheaded Archer.
The second photo (below) is the car I found underneath the Bareheaded Archer, a 1935 Pierce-Arrow convertible.
Many of us may have heard of the Pierce-Arrow, but do not know much about the car. I learned that it was American made and on par with the British Rolls Royce.
Mr. George N. Pierce (1846-1910) started out manufacturing gilded birdcages, iceboxes, tin ware, washing machine, children’s tricycles, adult bikes, motorcycles and finally motorcars.
Of the 8,500 motorcycles Mr. Pierce manufactured, only about 15 are known to exist today. 36 Pierce Arrow bicycles survived.
Of course what he is most well known for is his Pierce-Arrow motorcar. The company started working on developing an automobile in about 1898. The effort included a failed attempt to utilize a steam engine. The first gasoline engine car was manufactured in 1901. The last Pierce-Arrow was manufactured in 1938 when the company succumbed to the stress of the great depression.
Marc Ralston stated in his book, Pierce Arrow, “The Pierce-Arrow Company had an uncompromising dedication to producing the finest automobile possible.” Mr. Pierce was like that with everything he built, including bicycles. Everything was the very best. He never had an inexpensive line of cars to go along with the Pierce–Arrow.
During WWI years, the Pierce-Arrow was known to be the most prestigious American car one could own. Famous people, including Hollywood actors and the wealthy, had a penchant for owning the Pierce Arrow. There was nothing like it.
In about 1928, the Pierce-Arrow Company was in some financial trouble. It was at this time that the Studebaker Car Company purchased Pierce-Arrow. The business marriage lasted about 5 years, before Pierce-Arrow reverted back to private ownership.
In 1928 the Helmeted Archer hood ornament was added to the car.
In 1931 the Bareheaded Archer hood ornament was introduced. My attached photo captures the image of the Bareheaded Archer.
1931 also marked the year of the V-12 engine that would carry the 5,500-pound Pierce-Arrow down the road at 80 mph.
When we entered the depression years the owners of Pierce-Arrow refused to compromise quality in order to start building a “cheap” car. Unable or unwilling to adapt to the conditions present during the depression, the Pierce-Arrow died like the dinosaur.
Friday, May 13, 1938 symbolizes the date the last Pierce-Arrow automobile was manufactured. Of the 85,000 built, less than 2,000 are thought to have survived, based on a count made in 1980.
With that story and background, I have to say, that it was a thrill to gaze upon a 1935 Pierce-Arrow automobile. The car is still being driven on our public roads. I was not inside a car museum when I saw this car. This was a rolling piece of history.
The end of the Pierce-Arrow automobile marked the end of a time of Edwardian splendor, opulence and gracious living according to Marc Ralston’s book, Pierce-Arrow.
During WWII, scrap drives were very important for the war effort. A great many Pierce-Arrows were melted down to help our country attain victory and peace.
1957 is the year the Pierce-Arrow Society was formed. Anyone interested in the Pierce-Arrow is free to join. You do not have to own a Pierce-Arrow. Check out the website. I liked the article written by a young Pierce-Arrow owner whose car ownership follows in the footsteps of her daddy.
Pierce-Arrow website: www.pierce-arrow.org/
In closing, let me invite you to write or call if you have a Pierce-Arrow bicycle, motorcycle or automobile hidden away under a tarp in your garage or barn. I would love to see it and to hear your Pierce-Arrow story.