The life story of one old Pierce Arrow (chassis No. 30275)

1909 Piece-Arrow (chassis 30275) circa 1960 - prior to restoration
 Sometimes in life you simply get lucky. Twenty four year's ago, just such a bit of good fortune shined upon Dad and I when a new acquaintance mentioned that a family friend of his might be willing to part with an old Pierce Arrow. This family had favored Pierce Arrow's over the past three generations; owned quite few; and still had half a dozen quietly tucked away when we went to visit. This car - a 1909 model 6-36 five passenger touring [chassis number 30275] - was the oldest of the fleet and had been in the family for over seventy years.

However, the story of this car starts in Buffalo, NY - where all Pierce Arrow stories start. By 1909, Pierce Arrow had won the Glidden Trophy five years in a row (they won the Hower Trophy in 1909 as well) and were a well established small volume, premium car manufacturer. Pierce Arrow had dealers in the major markets for automobiles, such as New York, Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco and others. Pierce Arrow would take advance orders and build the season's output within the course of the year (for the most part). However, dealers would also order cars as demonstrators or simply to have inventory on hand for eager buyers.  This car's chassis number (30275) would indicate that it was built in the later part of a total production of 300 model 6-36's for that year. In 1909, finished cars were then driven to the east coast dealerships from the factory. This car was driven from Buffalo to Boston and delivered to the J.W. Maguire showroom.

James W. Maguire (photo credit: The Automobile Journal, February 25, 1917)

James W. Maguire was born in South Malden, MA in December of 1865. According to The Book of Boston: Fifty Years' Recollections of the New England Metropolis by Edwin Monroe Bacon, James left the family farm at a young age and joined the Boston Rubber Shoe Co. as a stock boy. Eventually hiring on as a sales person for a bicycle retailer, he would soon leave and start his own business selling bicycles. In short order, Maguire was selling automobiles as well, and in 1903, would focus on automobiles exclusively. It was around this same time (1903) that he would become associated with Pierce-Arrow motor car. Maguire became the exclusive agent for Pierce-Arrow for Boston, Worcester County, all of Eastern Massachusetts, and the state of New Hampshire. J.W. Maguire would become a notable member of Boston society with a home in Melrose and membership in the Boston Automobile Association, Belmont Country Club, Commonwealth Golf Club, and the Masons (Thirty-second degree mason). Maguire sold Pierce automobiles and trucks - and one 1909 Pierce-Arrow model 6-36 to Harold Murdock. It's unclear whether this car was ordered by Murdock or sold off the floor.

Harold Murdock (1862-1934) was born in Boston and a banking executive. Additionally, he was an amateur author of some note, researching and writing books including: The Reconstruction of Europe (1889), Earl Percy's Diner table (1907), and The Great Boston Fire (1909). In 1906, the National Exchange Bank, where Murdock was President, would be bought by the Shawmut National Bank of Boston and Murdock would be named a Vice President and board member. In 1908 or 1909, Murdock celebrate his status with the purchase of a new 1909 Pierce-Arrow model 6-36 five passenger touring car (chassis 30275). The Pierce-Arrow was a fitting purchase for a banking executive - a car of status and stature. The model 6-36 was new to the Pierce line up in 1909, and Murdock would choose the five passenger touring with a square dash, no windshield, and a top. Ironically, today this car is the only known surviving 1909, model 6-36, five passenger touring. In 1919, the Cambridge Chronicle reported that Harold Murdock was named director of the Harvard University Press. His son, Kenneth Ballard Murdock, was assistant dean of Harvard college at the time. This same year (1919), Murdock would sell his beloved Pierce-Arrow to another Harvard graduate and Chestnut Hill neighbor - William Goodrich Thompson. Thompson family oral history states that the car was given to William to satisfy a debt of roughly $700.

William G. Thompson was born in Peacham, VT in 1864 and would attend Worcester High School - going on to graduate from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1883. Thompson would get his law degree from Harvard and pass the Massachusetts state bar in 1891. As a partner in the firm of Matthews, Thompson, & Spring (Boston), Thompson would take on the case that would mark his place in history soon after acquiring the Pierce-Arrow. William Thompson was a well known and a well regarded member of the legal community when he agreed to take over the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti - two Italian immigrants accused of murdering two men in an armed robbery of a shoe factory in 1920. The case brought national attention to Thompson who would take the case to the Massachusetts Supreme Court before loosing in 1926 (both men were put to death and the case is still debated to this day). It is unlikely that Thompson would have used the 1909 Pierce-Arrow during the case, as the car was know over a decade old. The family believes that car was kept at the their home in Chestnut Hill for a couple years before being sent up to the family's farm in New Hampshire where the body was removed (replaced with a wooden flatbed) and the car was used as a farm truck. In 1934, the car was re-united with it's body and put into storage in New Hampshire (the same year the original owner died). The family kept most all it's cars in careful storage, and as testament to their care, the 1909 Pierce-Arrow retains its original leather upholstery to this day. In 1962, the car was pulled out of storage and send for restoration in Colorado by William Thompson's grandson. The car was well used and the restoration lasted over a decade, finally returning to the family stables around 1975.

The car saw little use after it's return with family member's preferring newer Pierce-Arrow's from the collection (with self-starters). We saw the car in the family's garages (in Hew Hampshire) for the first time in 1989. Surrounded by other wonderful cars, this car was offered to Dad at a very fair price with the expectation that our family would care for it, use it, and keep it in New England. Although the car has been through a restoration, it retains it's original engine, chassis, body, and upholstery. I consider the car to be a very special artifact and hope to keep in our family for generations to come.

Pierce-Arrow (chassis 30275) in process of restoration

Pierce-Arrow (chassis 30275) as found

The 1909 Pierce-Arrow on the road after the purchase

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