The Glidden Tour Years


1909 Pierce Arrow Model 24R Runabout
1909 Pierce Arrow Model 24R Runabout

By 1905, the George N. Pierce company was producing some of the biggest and most expensive automobiles available. The mainstay of 1905 was the Model 28-32NN, with about 200 made. Available in four body styles, the 28-32NN had a 4 1/2″ x 4 3/4″ four cylinder engine mounted on a 109 inch wheelbase. The 28-32NN was priced from $4000-$5000. Color was optional. Also available in 1905 were the smaller Model 24-28N and the larger Model 40-P.

1911 Pierce-Arrow 36-UU Toy Tonneau
1911 Pierce-Arrow 36-UU Toy Tonneau

The first Glidden Trophy was awarded in 1905, with the winner being Percy Pierce driving a Great Arrow. There were 33 cars entered in the run from New York City to Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, a distance of 1100 miles. The Glidden Tours were endurance runs with the Glidden Trophy being awarded to the most roadworthy car on the tour. Percy Pierce, accompanied by his parents, fiancee, and mechanic, won the 1905 trophy scoring 996 out of a possible 1000 points. Pierce continued to win the Glidden Trophy for the next four years. Pierce’s victories in the Glidden Tours are summarized in the table:

Pierce Performance in the Glidden Tour
Year Route Distance(miles) # Entries Score
1905 New York City – Bretton Woods, NH 1100 1 996/1000
1906 Buffalo, NY – Quebec – New Hampshire 1134 4 4 Perfect
1907 Cleveland – Chicago – New York 1570 4 4 Perfect
1908 Buffalo – Saratoga Springs 1670 3 3 Perfect
1909 Detroit – Kansas 2637 1 Perfect

While the Great Arrow’s were winning trophies, the team back at Buffalo was busy too. In 1906, a new factory was opened at 1695 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. The 44 acre site was the site of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, the place President McKinnley was assassinated. The new Pierce factory eventually covered 1,500,000 square feet with all the modern conveniences, including a chemical laboratory, power plant, laundry, two dining rooms, and snack counters offering coffee, pie, ice cream and fruit to the employees.

Pierce brought out their first six cylinder car in 1907. The Model 65-Q Great Arrow had a 135 inch wheelbase and weighed over 4000 pounds. Prices ranged from $6,500 to $7,750. There was little doubt that Pierce was aimed at a very wealthy market. These were good years at Pierce. The reputation earned on the Glidden Tours, as well as other trophies and awards, put Pierce in the very enviable position of being able to sell an entire year’s production before the year began!

The Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company was officially launched in 1908. Prior to this year, the company had been known as The George N. Pierce Co. The Great Arrow cars were named Pierce-Arrow. This was also the year that the Pierce family left the company. Percy Pierce remained active for a few years, concentrating his efforts in the old Hanover Street factory with the Pierce Cycle Company. Pierce continued to build bicycles and also one and four cylinder motorcycles until 1914. The bicycles continued on, however, as the tooling was sold to the Emblem Mfg. Co., in Angola, New York, that continued to build “Pierce” bicycles for almost twenty years.

1907 Pierce Great Arrow
1907 Pierce Great Arrow

Pierce-Arrow’s prestige continued to grow in 1909 when President Taft ordered two Pierce-Arrows, a Brougham and a Landaulette, for the White House. President Taft was the first President to use an automobile for official occasions. This tradition would continue into the Roosevelt administration, when the last Pierce-Arrows, 1935 models, were ordered by the White House. The cars used by the White House were leased to the government, however it was not uncommon for the President to buy the cars when they left office.

For 1910, the Pierce-Arrow line was established in a form that would continue for the next decade. Three basic chassis were offered, the 36, 48, and 66. All cars now had six cylinder engines. Prices ranged from $3850 for the 36hp runabout to $7200 for the 66hp landau. This triple line of cars would continue to propel the Pierce-Arrow reputation of quality and luxury.