Do 1936 Philadelphia dealership records exist?

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    I’m a new member researching the history of my parents’ 1936 Pierce-Arrow, Model 1601, 7-passenger Sedan, 8-cyl, 144-in wheelbase. They purchased it from the original owner in Philadelphia in 1958.

    I’m trying to identify the original owner, an elderly wealthy matron who lived on Philadelphia’s Main Line. My parents don’t recall her name. Her nephew handled the transaction, so my parents had no contact with her. She probably purchased the vehicle in Philadelphia. Bob Jacobsen told me there was a Foss-Hughes dealership at 21st and Market. I’m hoping a Society member might have Philadelphia dealership records from 1936.

    Two details indicate the vehicle was custom-made for her:

    1. It came with a woolen lap robe that matched the car’s interior, with the original owner’s monogrammed initials in gold lettering on a leather tab stitched to the edge of the fabric. The blanket itself is still in the trunk but no sign of the monogrammed leather piece.

    2. It was originally manufactured as a 7-passenger Sedan. However it looks like a limousine since the original owner apparently requested a factory-installed sliding window for a chauffeur partition.

    Was this sort of customizing handled through a dealership or directly by the factory?

    Thanks for your comments. — Jennifer Bexley


    Hello Jennifer,

    Do you have the Serial number of the car?

    If so, I can look it up and see what the records indicate.

    Also, what is your parents’ last name?

    The records indicate that there is no Bexley and only one 1936, 1601 Sedan associated with Philadelphia and I believe that is not the Pierce-Arrow for which you seek information.

    Be in touch, if you wish.



    Hello Jennifer,

    You may want to contact the Pennsylvania Dept. of Motor Vehicles, they may still have micro-fiche records from 1958 with the owner’s name and address traceable through a make, VIN#-S/N cross reference.

    This would make an interesting article (with photos) for The Arrow when you’ve completed your history on the car.

    Good luck with your search and welcome to PAS. Stu Blair, Cincinnati, Ohio


    Johnston is another possibility in Philadelphia. If you search this forum using “Johnston”, you find some details.


    Thanks for your responses. As Stuart suggested, I called PennDOT. They keep title records that far back and can provide a “vehicle information abstract”” showing the previous owner. I’ll update when info from PennDOT arrives.

    Wishing everyone a safe Memorial Day. — Jennifer”


    Hi Jennifer,

    I’m a reference librarian in the Philadelphia area, so if you come up with a name I might be able to dig some information out about the original owner. Just email me at [email protected] if you want.



    Update on my search for original owner’s identity…

    I found the classified ad from 1958, but seller’s phone number is illegible! That’s just wrong.


    Some old / used / antique book stores also sell old newspapers, you may want to call around Philadelphia and see if you can locate the above issue with a legible phone number. Or try another library with perhaps a better micro-fiche copy. Finally, back then, newspaper classified ads usually ran for more than day, so look in the day before and day after.

    Please post a photo or three of your 1601, we’d all like to see it!



    I bet you that the either the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or the City of Philadelphia, or both, collected taxes on that Pierce-Arrow and the old tax records may exist somewhere.



    I’m pretty sure that neither the state nor the city keeps tax records that far back for anything other than real estate. It’s amazing enough that they’ll provide an abstract of title for automobiles dating back that far, if in fact it does.


    Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

    I hope to make significant progress on my research in time for the Buffalo meeting. I’m building a factual narrative about the car’s history using relic documents that reinforce my parents’ recollections. Like a scrapbook…all about the car.

    In response to Stuart, lots of photos are in the scrapbook which Mom and I will bring to Buffalo in July. We’d like to properly introduce ourselves in person and get expert opinions from the Pierce-Arrow Society about restoration options. My dad is a purist, who’s deeply nostalgic and protective of his car. Ultimately my mission is to ensure a meticulous restoration as a tribute to him.


    Jennifer, this is already a great story.

    As you can see, the PAS is the right place to get the answers you need to fulfill your ultimate mission-I’ll add it is indeed honorable.

    Great to hear you’re planning to be in Buffalo.



    Thanks for your encouragement John!

    Matt found a better copy of the 1958 classified ad and traced the phone number to a body shop in Philadelphia. I don’t know how that ties into the story, and still don’t know the original owner’s identity. Hopefully that will be revealed through other avenues of investigation.



    So excited to have just found the original owners’ name!

    They are Mr. and Mrs. William Albert Rumpp of Philadelphia, whose family-owned business was a “manufacturer of pocket books and leather goods” at Fifth and Cherry Streets.

    Now I can put most of the story together in time for the Buffalo meet, and later for The Arrow, as Stuart suggested.

    Also I finally realized this car is a Berline, which explains why it’s neither a sedan nor a limousine. It’s a hybrid. The body has a sedan designation, but the sliding window makes it look like a limousine, except the upholstery in front and rear compartments is the same. I’ll provide full details in Buffalo. Just had the car professionally photographed today, so the pictures will be ready just in time.

    Back to my research. — Jennifer


    Jennifer, great news about finding the original owners!-many folks pursue such data without much success.

    A Berline may be the Derham designation for a “Enclosed Drive Limousine’ or EDL, which was a common term used by PA. Also, there may be an aluminum tag on the right side of the cowl under the hood with 444-L for EDL or 444-M for a 7 Pass Sedan. I believe Derham kept this nomenclature. If present, the tag will have a third value after ‘L’ or ‘M’ that will indicate the production number. 78 EDL’s were believed built in Model 1601, and perhaps 7 remain. Checking for that tag would be nifty. Given your diligence, I suspect you may may know these things already!



    John, the body serial number is 444-M-115 which makes it a sedan according to the PAS Identification Guide. But the car has a sliding partition window like a limousine. This puzzled me for weeks… Shouldn’t the car have an L designation if it’s a limo? A couple days ago I found the 1965 vehicle registration that lists the car’s type as “BERLINE”. Years ago Dad explained what that meant but I had forgotten.

    I searched the PAS Message Board and Google to find an exact definition. The most thorough one I found is in the CCCA’s Pacific Northwest Club’s newsletter called Bumper Guardian, Spring 2011 issue on page 5 (see link), which says:

    Berline, a dual purpose 4-door automobile, typically with blind rear quarters, (5- or 7-passenger) trimmed and appointed similarly in front and back with a partition and roll-up divider window behind the driver’s seat for use with or without a chauffeur (often called an “Imperial Sedan”) — in contrast to “Limousine” having a Spartan leather front compartment dedicated to use by a chauffeur, and with “Sedan” having no partition and divider window.

    The car fits this definition exactly, which puts to rest my confusion about sedan versus limousine.

    Even better, finding the 1965 registration gave me whole new appreciation for Dad’s understanding of the car and of esoteric terminology. Only my dad would have thought to insert the term Berline on the car’s registration form!



    Jennifer, thanks for sharing this info.


    The Berline should also have the standard sedan seat position, allowing more legroom in the front than would any Limo. Is the front seat adjustable as would be the case in a sedan? I’d expect so.



    Yes, there’s a silver knob on the left side of the driver’s seat. It looks like sliding the bench part of the seat forward would cause the seatback to tilt. And the reverse action would allow more legroom, but make the seatback more upright. I’ve never done this though.



    Spent the day hunting through my parents’ old records and just found these April 1958 photos taken the day Mom purchased her Pierce Arrow!

    There are nine photos in all. I’ll post them one by one.

    Photos don’t show the partition window (two glass panes that slide left and right) and the leather roof (a black rectangle with rounded corners that’s only visible if you’re 8 feet tall).

    Does it look factory made, or might the original owner have customized it? Can anyone tell if it’s a Berline? Just wondering if Dad’s description was accurate.

    Thanks very much for your help. — Jennifer

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