My 1931

Body by Willoughby

An anecdotal historical narrative of a man and his car

By Frank Beebe ~ August 1931

I would like to introduce myself, although it is hard to think you haven’t heard of me, Frank Huntington Beebe. I am, after all, one of the wealthiest men in the Cape Cod area, and well known in the community.

I know I have been criticized as a do-nothing, but I see no shame in tending the fortune left me by my father. I do not feel that I spend extravagantly, in fact I am very frugal with my money, a trait honored here in New England. I do not mind giving money to charity, but when workers expect a tip, it is just a shakedown tactic. One of my gardeners once asked me for a raise, as his wife was pregnant. The nerve of the man, I told him he had the pleasure, why should I pay for it? I did relent later and give him a modest sum.

Of course, even being frugal, a man must have the necessities in life. Our Pullman train car, of course, to get to Boston and back from Cape Cod, along with a second rail car to carry luggage and my sister Emily’s hats. As to automobiles, I have always considered Pierce-Arrows the finest car built. My brother and I bought a pair of them right before The War to End All Wars, World War I, and I just ordered two more custom bodied ones from a dealer in Brookline.

I would have much preferred to have bought the Pierce-Arrows in Boston, since I have two houses there on Beacon Street. However, C.H.G. Cederborg in Brookline gave us a much better deal than the larger Pierce dealer in Boston. Each of the two cars were quoted at over ten thousand dollars, but I was able to get him down eight hundred dollars each on his price. One just cannot let these people take advantage of you or there is no end to it.

I do like the arts and serve as a trustee of the New England Conservatory of Music. My real passion is planting rare trees and plants to enhance the natural beauty of our property. I consider myself an Arboriculturist, and I spend a lot of time in Beebe Woods here in Cape Cod. I have never considered marriage, and my brother Pierson and sister Emily felt the same. We all lived here in Highland Hall on Cape Cod, our main residence, though we did venture to Boston quite often.

Not long ago, my Teahouse gardener came to me and asked if I would be willing to help his son. Fearing the worst, I let him continue, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that his son wanted to attend college and major in horticulture. My word, a man who knows what he wants and is not afraid of having his father ask for it! Any other profession request would have elicited a no, but horticulture…an absolute yes, I will pay for his education. Living things, humans excluded, are my passion.

But enough about me, even though it really is not, you want to know about Redbird and Bluebird. Before the Great War, as mentioned, Pierson and I bought two Pierce-Arrows with custom coachwork. We each wanted high headroom in the cars, such that we really did not have to stoop to enter the back seat. Both cars were identical, except for paint. Pierson had his painted robin’s egg blue, and used a bluebird as a radiator mascot. Mine was red, and my love of dogs necessitated a sculpture of a dog as an ornament, of course. Those who have walked my Woods know of the fine headstones I have commissioned for my beloved dog companions.

It is now 1931, and though both Pierson and Emily have met their maker, I am buying two similar cars and will call them the same names. I still want the high headroom, though I am told the running gear will be much superior to the older cars. They will be delivered in November of this year, 1931, and that’s only a couple of months away. I am very excited about seeing them finished!

Editor’s Note: The two cars were delivered November of 1931. Frank Beebe would enjoy the cars, but only for a year. He died November 21, 1932 at the age of seventy nine. Redbird remained in the family for decades, until it was purchased by the current owner, John Gambs of Lafayette, Indiana, who has graciously loaned it to our Museum. Bluebird was converted at some point to a tow truck, and though it was displayed a few years ago in the International Towing Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee, its whereabouts now are unknown. ~ David Coco


It is human nature to want to personalize objects one owns, and the automobile is no exception. From the very first cars running the roads at the turn of the century circa 1901, owners were putting “lucky” mascots on their cars.

One of the first official mascots placed on automobiles was the Rolls Royce “Spirit of Ecstasy”, sculpted by Charles Sykes and appearing on this marque in 1910. Hundreds of other radiator ornaments would be put on different make cars, including our own Pierce-Arrows, from Pierce Motometers to the arrowed wheel and the kneeling archer. While factories were putting mascots on their production which were associated with their particular cars, there was a large aftermarket supply of replacement mascots, everything from crystal birds to airplanes to various representations of the devil himself.

Frank Beebe loved dogs, and that personality trait is reflected in his choice for a hood ornament on the Model 41 Willoughby featured here. While the car now sports the more common Archer, while in possession of Mr. Beebe it featured a dog mascot on the radiator cap. Depicted sitting up on his hind legs, this could be any one of the many beloved dogs kept by Beebe prior to the car being delivered in 1931.

Frank Beebe so loved his dogs that, when they departed the earthly realm, he buried them within the 400 acres of Beebe Woods and erected ornate granite headstones at their graves. Granite was in ample supply in the Woods, as were many trees and shrubs that were “foreign” to the local soil. Beebe labeled himself a “arboriculturist” as documented on his death certificate, and imported much of the flora that even now grows in the Woods bought by his father in 1872.