Northern (automobile)

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Northern Automobile Company
TypeAutomobile Manufacturing
GenreRoadsters, touring cars, limousines, runabouts[1]
Detroit, Michigan,
United States
Area served
United States
Automotive parts
Northern Runabout 1902

Northern Manufacturing Company was a manufacturer of Brass Era automobiles in Detroit, Michigan, automobiles designed by Charles Brady King.[2] Early advertising included catchy phrases such as "Utility is the Basis for Beauty" and "Built for Business" and the famous "Silent Northern".[3]


King was born in 1868 in California his family moved around eventually settled in Detroit in 1888.[3]

In 1893 King worked for the Russell Wheel and Foundry Company and was put in charge of their display at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.[3] He immediately started working on his vehicle and is recognized as the first person to drive a horseless carriage in front of a large crowd on the streets of Detroit on 6 March 1896.[3] King became a mentor to Ford, Olds and many others.[3]

In 1902 Charles B. King and Jonathan Maxwell created the Northern Manufacturing Company, which eventually went on to be the gasoline automobile portion of Studebaker via EMF. Though the automobile industry was in its infancy, both of these men had already compiled a resume of automotive experience. Both had worked for R. E. Olds. King, who had an engineering degree from Cornell and had moved to Detroit in 1891, was the chief designer at Oldsmobile but left the company after the 1901 fire at the plant. Four years after moving to Detroit, he formed the American Motor League to promote good roads.

Maxwell had produced a single-cylinder 5-horsepower engine which was used to power the new Northern automobiles. The design was similar to that of the Oldsmobile's and with the relatively advanced engine.

In 1902 King joined with Jonathan Maxwell to form the Northern Manufacturing Company in Detroit.[3] Maxwell was an accomplished engineer and had built a single-engine cylinder engine that would power the first Northern runabouts.[3] Maxwell left shortly after that to start his own company with Benjamin Briscoe.[3]

The first Northern roadsters produced strongly resembled the curved dash Oldsmobile that both Ben had King helped to design.[3] They were all single-cylinder roasters with tiller steering, a 67-inch wheelbase and two-speed planetary transmission.[3] They sold 300 in 1903 and the cars were well received.[3]

In 1903, Maxwell was lured away by Benjamin Briscoe, and the Maxwell-Briscoe Motor Company in Tarrytown, New York, was formed. The Maxwell car was introduced in 1905. Maxwell was absorbed into the newly created Chrysler Corporation in 1925.

King did all engineering after 1903.[3]

By 1904 the company was offering a two-cylinder touring car as well as the roadster.[3]

The engineering was advanced for the period and included shaft drive and left-hand steering.[3] Air-operated brakes and clutch were featured by 1906.[3] To support the growth, a second plant was opened to build the two-cylinder cars in Port Huron, MI. [3] A limousine was also added to the model choices in the two-cylinder cars.[3]

In 1906 a 30 horsepower four-cylinder touring car was introduced, and in 1907 another larger version with an advertised 50 horsepower engine was introduced.[3] The car was available as a touring car, runabout or limousine.[3] By 1908 the model choices were somewhat reduced but still included the original one-cylinder runabout.[3]


In June 1908 Northern merged with Wayne Automobile company.[3] and production of the cars with the Northern name ceased.[3] However the two companies would soon be taken over by EMF.[3] After the bitter court fight in 1912, EMF production was taken over by Studebaker.[3] King left the company earlier in 1908 to go to Europe to study automobile design and returned in 1910 to start the King Motor Car Company.[3] which may have produced the first practical working V8-powered automobile.[3]


The 1904 Northern was a runabout model. It could seat 2 passengers and sold for US $750 ($18,460 in 2007). The flat-mounted water-cooled single-cylinder engine, situated at the center of the car, produced 6 hp (4.5 kW). A 2-speed transmission was fitted. The tubular-framed car weighed 950 lb (431 kg) and used Concord springs.[2]


1905 Northern Advertisement
Northern Motor Car Company, 1906


  1. ^ Automotive Industries, Vol. 12. The Class Journal Co., 1906. 1906. p. 257. Retrieved 5 August 2011. syracuse.
  2. ^ a b Frank Leslie. Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly. January 1904.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Ladd, Bob (June 2021). "The ABC's of the Brass Era. N is for Northern". HCCA The Gazette. 38 (3): 16–17.

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