Marcy Fuller on her Great Grandfather Fred A. Law, and the origins of the Connecticut EA Plates Graphic
(This page originated 12/25/2007; reactivation in process as of 2/13/2011)
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Something Special Indeed!
It was like an early Christmas present when we received an e-mail dated 12/16/2007 from Marcy Fuller, with some wonderful background info and attachments.
Quoting Marcy's letter:
"I have the 1952 newspaper article that introduces the new EA plates by the DMV. In that article it states that the two men featured on the plates sitting in the Columbia Mark VIII vintage 1897 are: Hiram Percy Maxim, which everyone seems to agree on; and Fred A Law. Fred A Law is my great-grandfather. He was the model room foreman at Pope Manufacturing and he was the one who actually built the car. No on gives him the credit he deserves. I have a lot of documentation about Fred A Law's many accomplishments in the auto industry. I also have another photo that shows Burt Holcomb behind the wheel of another auto that Fred A Law designed but that is not the vehicle featured on Ct EA plates. See attachments. Marcy Fuller"
I can't tell you how exciting it is to have received the wonderful correspondence from Marcy Fuller, who has provided us with some most interesting information about the origins of the CT EA plates graphic, and also about the very significant contributions to the automobile industry made by her great-grandfather Fred A. Law!
For those who've been following our and others' research over the past several years, attempting to track down the origins of the horseless carriage graphic that is used on the Connecticut EA ("Early American") registration plates, we have accumulated a whole bunch of that and other related information on the SAAC web site page "Connecticut Automobile License Plates" (which we've only just started reactivating as of February 2011, and which may well become signifiicantly simplified as we move forward)...
As per much of the input I had received and read over the years about the CT EA plate graphic, it was/is thought that Bert Holcomb, Henry Cave, or even Pope Automobile Company president Colonel Albert A. Pope himself was the passenger in the car being driven by H.P. Maxim (Pope Co. Chief Engineer), which Marcy Fuller identifies as a Columbia Mark VIII, vintage 1897 (identified elsewhere I've seen as simply a "pre-1900 Pope Gasoline Car").
As you can read from Marcy's words from her 12/16/2007 e-mail-and referencing the 1952 newspaper clipping scan that she also supplied--featured at the upper left, the passenger in the car turns out to be Fred A. Law. If you wish to view the newspaper clipping more clearly, click HERE or directly on the image itself, to bring up a higher-quality presentation, and then be sure to use your internet browser's "back" button to return to this page.
The text of the 1952 newspaper clipping reads as follows:
"Something Special - Special License Plates for 'ancient' cars, 1925 models and earlier, are now available at the State Motor Vehicles Department for a special $5 fee. Authorized by the 1951 Legislature, they are porcelain-covered with the picture of Percy Maxim driving a Mark VIII Columbia of 1897 vintage. The car, designed by Maxim, was built by the old Pope Manufacturing Company of Hartford. Fred Law, who built the experimental model, is pictured beside Maxim. Henry Cave, Hartford expert on old-time cars, originated the plate design from which 100 sets have been made. Left is Mrs. John E. Dolan in Motor Vehicles Office displaying the plate. In the background is a painting by French artist George Redon of a car believed to be a French-made Renault."
A September 21, 1944 "Hamilton Standard Blade" clipping scan that Marcy also supplied details much of Mr. Law's extremely significant contributions to the birth of the automobile. The clipping scan, which I've croppped slightly from the original, appears at the right.
If you wish to view the entire, uncropped clipping more clearly, click HERE or directly on the image itself, to bring up a higher-quality presentation, and then be sure to use your internet browser's "back" button to return to this page.
The text of the September 21, 1944 Hamilton Standard Blade clipping reads as follows:
"Former Chief Inspector of HSP Retures from Consultant's Duties.
Fred A. Law, Inspection Consultant since April, 1943, and prior to that time Chief Inspector at Hamilton Standard for 11 years, retired from active service on September 15.
A hundred guests, including friends and co-workers from both Hamiton Standard and P&WA, honored the veteran inspector and pioneer in the automobile design field at a party held for him at the Oasis Club on the night of his retirement. Following the dinner and a round of reminiscences Law was presented with a handsome remembrance gift.
Few of the younger generation know the 76-year-old engineer and inventor was in at the birth of the automobile before the turn of the present century when Hartford was one of the principal automotive centers of the nation.
It was about 1896 that he first went with the Pope Manufacturing Company, having charge of the model room, in what was then known as their motor carriage department. A few years later he designed the Mark VIII, Lot 5, which was the first gasoline car that company put on the market.
Col. Pope bought out the Riker Motor Company of Elizabethport, N.J.,. in 1900 and the automobile division of the newly organized Hartford concern became known as the Electric Vehicle Company. One of these cars, built by Law in 1903, made a record run between Chicago and New York in 76 hours.
The young inventor designed every part of it even to the spark plugs and carburetors. The first model was completed in seven months and at that time the Electric Vehicle Company bought it out completely and Law went back with that concern under a new contract. During this time he built Columbia cars.
In the years that followed, his car designs brought out features that are still in use today, and Law's basic patents included such important things as the selective gear shift.
By 1910 the Electric Vehicle Company had successively passed into the hands of receivers, undergone reorganization and finally faded into automotive history.
The next few yearss found him with various machine and automotive companies in managerial and design capacities. Law ended his auto design career building a model known as the Charter Oak in the old Pilgard Building, Hartford, where he made actual size drawings on a huge blackboard.
He became an inspector at the New Britain Machine Company and its chief inspector siz months later. Law's health failed in 1922 and he spent the next six years operating portable saw mills throughout the state. In 1928 he began to feel that he'd better get under cover.
Law foresaw the rise of the airplane business and became an inspector at P&WA under Peter Gydesen, Chief Inspector. In 1932 General Manager Raycroft Walsh of Hamilton Standard and now Vice-Chairman of UAC, asked Law to take over the job as Chief Inspector at HSP. At that time the Division could boast only about six inspectors. Today there are 800 of them in four plants."
A third attached clipping scan (original source not identified) that Marcy Fuller supplied with her e-mail was an image of another Columbia automobile, with Fred Law clearly identified in the caption as the designer. The clipping scan, which has been reduced slightly from the original, appears at the right. If you wish to view a larger, higher-resolution of the clipping, click HERE or directly on the image itself, to bring up a higher-quality presentation, and then be sure to use your internet browser's "back" button to return to this page.
The text of the caption for this clipping reads as follows:
"Fred Law designed this car, one of the Mark VIII series, in Hartford in 1902. It featured double chain drive, Panhard type of engine cooler, and steering wheel on the right. Burt Holcomb, pioneer driver, sits at the wheel at the finish of the car's record run in 1903 from Chicago to New York in 76 hours." (it can be seen that this particular automotive accomplishment was mentioned in the Fred A. Law article from the Hamilton Standard Blade, presented above)
Needless to say, Marcy Fuller has greatly enriched our knowledge about Mr. Fred A. Law's contributions to the automobile industry, and also about the origins of the Connecticut EA plate graphic, for which we are extremely grateful.
I would like to insert two other related images that are very helpful to this discussion. The first, shown at the right, is a scanned graphic from a booklet entitled "Hartford's Golden Automobile Jubilee, 1897-1947" (click on the preceding hyperlink to see the an image of the booklet cover that is hosted at the Belltown Antique Car Club web site), reprinted with authorization in 2005 by the Belltown Antique Car Club of East Hampton, CT; it originally appeared on page 11 of the 76-page booklet. Contact the Belltown Antique Car Club for further information about availability of their reprints of this fantastic historical reference; the official BACC web site is located at: http://www.belltownantiquecarclub.org/ (please feel free to mention that you were referred by the Shoreline Antique Auto Connection). If you wish to view a larger, higher-resolution of this graphic, click HERE or directly on the image itself, to bring up a higher-quality presentation, and then be sure to use your internet browser's "back" button to return to this page.
The original caption for this image from the "Hartford's Golden Automobile Jubilee" book, which I've cropped here and also on the enlargement, read as follows:
"Sir Hiram Percy Maxim (left) and Bert Holcomb in a pre-1900 Pope Gasoline Car (Courtesy Henry Cave)"
Based upon the historical documents supplied by Marcy Fuller, which we are pleased to have recorded on this page, it appears now that this captioning is incorrect, and rather that Fred A. Law is the passenger with H.P. Maxim, who is driving.
It can be seen that the image of the two men riding in the horseless carriage appears to have been the basis for the more "streamlined" black & white image that serves as the CT EA registration plate's graphic-a "first generation" example of which (appearing on the three-digit porcelain EA #277) I'll also insert at the below right.
This very nice #277 plate image came from an apparently CT-DMV-authorized web site entitled "Connecticut Marker Plate History," on the specific EA marker plates history page: http://homepage.mac.com/aysmith/Sites/ctmarker/EA.htm .
I hope you've enjoyed this interesting new information as much as I have and I again wish to thank Marcy Fuller for taking the time to enlighten us!
In the interest of the pursuit of historical information related to the history of Connecticut's Early American registration plates, I absolutely welcome any and all other input on this subject. Do you have more information, old documents, what-not, that can possibly add to this discussion? We are interested! Please feel free to contact us at any time, via email: CommonGear@aol.com or by snail mail: Shoreline Antique Auto Connection, P.O. Box 3353, Stony Creek, CT 06405.
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