Empire Auto Company Announced - 1909

The article in the attachment below reports on the establishment of the Indianapolis-based Empire Automobile Company in 1909. It was published in the July 5, 1909 Indianapolis News. Investors included three of the four Indianapolis Motor Speedway co-founders: Carl Fisher, Art Newby and Jim Allison as well as a gentleman by the name of Robert Hassler. I have no evidence but I have to wonder if Hassler was not related to one of Fisher's girlfriends, opera singer Gertrude Hassler who filed a suit against him - effectively a palimony suit - upon finding out about his surprise marriage to ambitious Hoosier socialite Jane Watts. Who knows?
I think it is particularly interesting that the concept behind Empire was to come in at the low price point end of the market at $800. This undoubtedly was a response to the value pricing of low cost manufacturers best represented by the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. In general, Indianapolis manufacturers seemed to be more focused on performance and luxury while Ford and other Detroit companies such as Oldsmobile cars were more utilitarian and manufactured on assembly lines to produce volume, efficiency and economy of scale to allow them to operate with healthy margins despite a low price targeting the large segment of middle-income consumers.
While Empire was destined to fail, its founders clearly understood the importance of addressing this sweet spot in the market even if they were unable to pull it off. One issue may well have been that the company founders were spread way too thin with an array of business interests not limited to, in the case of Fisher and Allison, the Speedway and Prest-O-Lite. While Newby was not invested in Prest-O-Lite he was one of the founders and top executives at the National Motor Vehicle Company.
The article mentions National as well as Marmon, American, Premier, Overland, Waverly and Marion as other prominent Indianapolis-based car manufacturers. Again, the differentiator for Empire was its price. The business was reported to be located in a building formerly occupied by "Rumsey or old Mohawk bicycle works" at West Twenty-ninth Street and the canal on the north side of the city as its boundaries were defined at the time.
The Empire's car design is described as four-cylinder "selective type" with a "sliding gear transmission" and a wheelbase of 96 inches. It came with 32x3.5 inch detachable rims and tires. Only a few cars were planned to be manufactured in the company's first year, but upwards of 2,000 in 1910. Obviously they must have had some kind of forecast for market acceptance.
The overall article is a digest of three items. The second is a notice about a garage business changing ownership. In this we learn that Gibson Automobile Company of principals Cecil Gibson and C.R. Newby (I do not believe this man was any relation to the Speedway founder with the same last name) had just acquired a similar enterprise called the Delaware garage on North Delaware Street. Curiously, this article shares the the Delaware business was only a few weeks old, estalished by two people only identified as "Johan and Moran." From the report it appears Johan remained as perhaps a minority investor and senior manager of the establishment. The garage business of Gibson was combined with Delaware and consolidated into the latter's facility.
The final item discussed the Outing Automobile Club's French Lick, Indiana tour the previous Saturday. Those involved spent the night at the French Link Hotel and returned to Indianapolis on Sunday. They followed the route selected by the Indianapolis Automobile Trade Association the previous autumn.

EmpireNews070509.pdf755.14 KB