Orient (automobile)

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Orient (automobile)
Former type Automobile Manufacturing
Industry Automotive
Fate 1908 take-over, 1910 absorbed
Founded 1893
Founders Charles Herman Metz
Prof. Herbert L. Thompson
Elmer G. Howe
Frank L. Howe
William Parrot
Defunct 1910
Headquarters Waltham, Massachusetts, United States
Area served United States
Key people Charles Herman Metz
Leonard B. Gaylor
Charles A. Coffin
John Robbins
Albert Champion
Leo Melanowsky
William H. Little
Products Bicycles
Motorized tricycles & quadricycles
Gasoline engines
Automotive parts
Employees ca. 200 in 1909
Late Waltham Orient Buckboard (1906)
1905 Orient 20 HP De Luxe Touring priced at $2250

Waltham Manufacturing Company was a manufacturer of bicycles, motorcycles, motorized tricycles and quadricycles, Buckboards, and automobiles under the brand names of Orient, Waltham, and Waltham-Orient in Waltham, Massachusetts. The company was founded in 1893, moving to self-powered vehicles after 1898.


Waltham Manufacturing Company (WMC) was founded by Waltham businessmen around engineer Charles Herman Metz (1863-1937), who was the 1885 New York State champion on the high wheel bicycle. Metz encouraged two employees to build a steam car of their own in the WMC premises, which led to the Waltham Steam. Metz imported French Aster engines, and secured the US distributorship for De Dion-Bouton engines. Further, he imported this maker's tricycles and quadricycles. Using De Dion-Bouton patents, WMC started building their own Orient Autogo and Orient Autogo Quad in 1899.

An early investor in WMC, Charles A. Coffin (1844-1926), first president of General Electric, ordered an electric prototype in 1898, which went not in production. Metz' experimented with engines mounted on bicycles. The evolving Orient Aster was one of the very first, U.S. built motorcycles. He was assisted by famed French bicycle racer Albert Champion (1878—1927) who arrived in the U.S. around 1899, becoming one of the first professional motorbike racers. Metz is even claimed to have found the expression "motor cycle" for his new vehicle, first used in a 1899 ad. Further, engines of Metz' design were developed and produced.

WMC's first car was a motor buggy called the Orient Victoriette, followed by two runabouts in 1902 and 1903. About 400 of the earlier model were sold; the younger Orient Runabout No. 9 was not a success with about 50 examples built.

In 1902, Metz left the company, founding Metz Motorcycle Company and C.H. Metz Company in town soon after. Engineer Leonard B. Gaylor succeeded him at WMC. Still in 1902, Gaylor introduced a very light model with friction drive, sold as the Orient Buckboard. It seated 2 passengers and sold for just US$425, making it the lowest-priced automobile available. The vertically mounted air-cooled single-cylinder engine, situated at the rear of the car, produced 4 hp (3 kW). The car had tiller steering, weighed 500 lb (227 kg) and had a 100 mi (161 km) range, though minimal springing and the complete lack of any bodywork made it less than practical for a long journey. In the next years, it was offered in several models (including a diminutive delivery car), got an improved suspension, steering wheel, two chains instead of one belt to transmit the power to the rear wheels, and an optional 8 hp (6 kW) two cylinder engine. It remained in production until 1907.

Plant superintendent John Robbins left in 1904. He was replaced by Leo Melanowski who had apprenticed at Otto Gasmotoren Gesellschaft in Vienna, and then worked for Panhard & Levassor, Clément-Bayard, and Winton (co-working on their Bullett racecars). At WMC, he also had the position of a chief engineer.

More conventional cars came in 1905 with front-mounted, water cooled inline 4-cylinder engines of 16 or 20 hp (12 or 15 kW) and chain drive. They were made until 1908. These powerplants were of own design and consisted of four singles mounted on a common crank. Although of good quality, the cars were too expensive to become a success.

Meantime, Metz formed a joint-venture with the Marsh brothers from Brockton, Massachusetts, effective from 1905. He brought in his Metz Motorcycle Company, and the Marshes their Marsh Motorcycle Company. The new company was located in Brockton and organized as the American Motorcycle Company. Their products were sold as Marsh-Metz or just MM. The other Marsh venture, the less than successful Marsh Motor Carriage Company founded in 1899, was set up with the machines brought to Metz in Waltham, who might have sold them as Walthams. Not many were built, anyway.

Melanowski stayed for less than two years. He left in 1906, to help racecar driver Joe Tracy starting the Dragon Automobile Company in Detroit. After that failed in 1908, he worked for the Aerocar Company which very soon folded, too. His position at WMC took William H. Little, but also only for a short time. William C. Durant hired him as Buick's general manager, and then partnered with him in founding the Little Motor Car Company.

Little developed for WMC a nice small runabout with a 10 hp (8 kW) V-twin engine, and friction drive. Alas, shortly before production started in 1908, WMC got into financial troubles. To avoid bankruptcy, their credit bank negotiated with Charles Metz. In July 1908, the C.H. Metz Company bought WMC, making him the single person with the largest automobile manufacture in the U.S. Reorganisations followed in 1909 and 1910, when the C.H. Metz Co. and WMC together were reorganized as the Metz Company.[1]

The small car that Little left became the Metz Two, sold by a completely new marketing in 14 part deliveries that were put together by the customer himself, who thus got a car for a really unbeatable low price. It worked, and the company was not only out of debt in less than a year but also sold its huge stock of parts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kimes, Beverly Rae; Clark Jr, Henry Austin (1996). Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805–1942. Iola, WI: Krause Publications. p. 1511. ISBN 978-0-87341-428-9. 

Further reading[edit]

  • G. N. Georgano (editor): Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars, 1885 to the Present; Dutton Press, New York, 2nd edition (Hardcover) 1973, ISBN 0-525-08351-0
  • Beverly Rae Kimes: Pioneers, Engineers, and Scoundrels: The Dawn of the Automobile in America. editor SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Permissions, Warrendale PA 2005, ISBN 0-7680-1431-X (Hardcover)
  • Madsen, Axel: The Deal Maker: How William C. Durant made General Motors, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., ISBN 0-4713-9523-4 (pbck)
  • Mirco de Cet: Illustrated Directory of Motorcycles, Motorbooks International (Dec., 2002), ISBN 978-0-76031-417-3 ISBN 0-76031-417-9 (soft cover)

External links[edit]

Bicycles, motorcycles, and Autogos[edit]