California Pierce-Arrow Dealership – 1920s

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    In January 2011 I visited the Seaver Center for Western History Research located in Los Angeles, CA. My goal was to find information and documented proof of a pre-war car which I own. While going through one of several boxes of photographs I found the attached pictures. I know the dealer, as I have a car sold by Ralph Hamlin, but I am not able to determine the location of this dealership. According to the dash plaque on the car, Hamlin had dealerships in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and San Diego. I know that this is not the Los Angeles dealership as I have documented proof of that location.

    Does anyone know which dealership this is?

    Our two choices are Pasadena or San Diego.


    Here is the backside of the same building.


    William Bush was the Pierce Arrow distributor and main dealer for LA

    up to about 1928 and there were sub agencies.I own a very original C-3 Pierce Arrow that was a Pasadena car and was delivered new by Bush or possibly a sub agency such as Hamlin at the beginning of 1915.Bush was on South Grand Ave in Los Angeles and now a freeway overpass is at the location.

    The nephew of the original owner told me a California dealer delivered my car new.Can you get an address of Hamlin”s dealership?”


    William – I have looked through all my resources and can not find a address for either the Pasadena or San Diego locations. I do know that some trade publications would list the dealers name and address but I have not found any for Hamlin. Short of purchasing all 1920’s editions of Motor Magazine, I’m stuck.



    One could try to contact the historical societies for Pasadena and San Diego and check city directories for the Hamlin Dealership.He was a major Franklin dealer and also apparently did Reo and Pierce Arrow so as to cover all price ranges.


    I did a google search for ralph hamlin+pasadena+car dealership and came up with Thurston’s City Directory (1918).

    Says 254 W Colorado. Ralph Hamlin Franklin Distributor and Scripps-Booth. Appears quite a few car dealerships on W Colorado.

    I hope this helps.



    Motor West, Volume 32 p.104 dated 1 Apr 1920, says Pasadena, Cal: “Ralph Hamlin, Inc of L.A. Franklin Dealer will erect new sales branch building…on ground bought on W. Colorado St. Claude Eaton manager.”



    Additional searching found a San Diego city directory from 1925 (p.83 et al.)

    Se Corner of B and India Streets, San Diego


    Hi All:

    In doing some rehearse a few years ago I found the following info on the dealership in Pasadena, CA

    The Flickr Collection: Commerce and Culture: A History of Colorado Boulevard

    You might give it try through a GOOLE search in the Pasadena Public Library

    There is a picture of the Hewson Motor Co. Inc. Building in the collection.

    Good hunting.

    Bob Lind

    ID#: ppl_483

    TITLE: Hewson Motor Co. Inc. Building

    DATE: 1927?

    NOTES: The car at the curb with 1927 dealers’ plates is most likley a 1927 Pierce-Arrow Model 80. In 1928 Studebaker took over Pierce-Arrow and in 1930 local Studebaker dealers Keller Brothers and Marcy Auto operated at this location. In 1935 is was called Earl Lundy Motor Company. Currenly (2011) it is Rusnak/Pasadena. Trolley rails in the street. back “Frederick Kennedy Jr. Architect Pasadena”

    SOURCE: on back “American Engraving and Electrotype Co. Trinity 5631 Rc’d no. 7898 227 West First Street. Los Angeles, California.”

    REPOSITORY: Pasadena Public Library

    RIGHTS: All rights reserved.

    SEARCH the Pasadena Digital History database

    Flickr Collection: Commerce and Culture: A History of Colorado Boulevard

    missrosecity and jonesjh_2736 added this photo to their favorites.


    My ’35 has a registration showing Burbank, Cal. in the ’50’s. Would

    LA or Pasadena most likely be it’s dealership? My ’36’s first home

    was Bakersfield, Cal. What agency was closest to it?


    Attached is a picture of the Hewson Motor Co. Inc. Building on Colorado Boulevard circa 1927.

    I think is still being used as dealership for Rusnak/Pasadena.


    Does anybody know when Hamlin started the Pasadena Pierce Arrow store?


    Per the previous description of Bob Lind:

    Hewson Motor Co. Inc. Building

    315 W. Colorado Blvd.

    Pasadena, CA 91105

    NOTE: The car at the curb with 1927 dealers’ plates is most likely a 1927 Pierce-Arrow Model 80.


    I did a search on Google street-view and found the attached picture. This was taken within the last 2 years. As you can see the dealership is still being used for “high-end”” luxury cars – Rolls Royce.”


    I think I have found the answer to my question!

    After Bob Lind posted the information about the Pasadena Pierce-Arrow dealership I came across the idea that the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Co. would not allow two dealers in the same area, much less on the same street. This allowed me to strike Pasadena as a possibility and focus on San Diego.

    While doing several Google searches, I found a scanned copy of the 1925 San Diego City and County Directory. A quick look in the index showed an advertisement of Ralph Hamlin on page 83. The advertisement is attached. As you can see, the ad notes Franklin-REO-Pierce Arrow. This is correct to what the dealership sells.

    Thanks again to everyone who contributed.

    William: In preforming this research I don’t think Hamlin actually had a Pierce-Arrow dealership in Pasadena. My understanding is Hewson had Pierce-Arrow while Hamlin focused on Franklin. It is confusing to offer different makes of cars and put the locations of all dealerships on a dash tag when not all makes are sold at all dealerships.

    Anthony: Los Angeles and Pasadena are about the same distance (since they are in the same metropolitan area) from Bakersfield. Approximate distance is 115 miles. In any respect, your original owners would have a drive unless there was a Pierce-Arrow dealership in Bakersfield area, of which I do not know. It’s also possible that the car could be shipped to Bakersfield from one of several distributors. It is very possible that your ’35 which lived in Burbank could have been sold at Hewson in Pasadena but there is no way to know for sure.


    James – Thank you for the link of the San Diego directory. I found the same information through a different site.

    Again, thanks to everyone who posted.


    Ralph McQuoid has been in the area all of his life and has been collecting PA cars since the 50’s. He may have additional information. Both his cars were local if I remember correctly.


    I would suspect that this Pierce Arrow dealership was a subagency of William

    Bush.Pasadena had a large number of Pierce Arrow owners.I am wondering if this might be the agency at which Albert Boosing started his career with Pierce Arrow in 1913.In a phone visit with him in 1990,He mentioned he knew the original owner of my C-3 Five Passenger Touring Car and remembered my car.It would have made sense to have a facility close to your clients.


    Posted is a continuation of Pierce-Arrow dealership “stuff” found on-line from the University of Southern California’s Digital Library.

    According to the information posted, Pennzoil sponsored a photo shoot to display their products. As you can see from the following three photo’s, work is being done to car(s) inside the maintenance department.

    These works are dated 1932 although location of the dealership/maintenance department is not mentioned.

    As before, this is another installment of the Dick Whittington Studio Collection.



    1932 – Service work being performed.

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