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McCabe-Powers

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James H. McCabe was born on February 2, 1846 to Thomas and Anne McCabe in Carigallen, County Leitrim, Ireland. The McCabe family emigrated to the United States in 1855, arriving in New York and eventually settling in Providence, Rhode Island.


mccabe powers logo

McCabe-Powers logo.

An old-world craftsmen himself, Thomas McCabe apprenticed James to the firm of Moulton and Remington, a Providence carriage builder. Following three years learning the trade, James was loaned out to the famous Boston carriage smiths, Whittier and Bros. before returning home to Moulton and Remington where he completed his apprenticeship and contemplated his future.

An old-world craftsmen himself, Thomas McCabe apprenticed James to the firm of Moulton and Remington, a Providence carriage builder. Following three years learning the trade, James was loaned out to the famous Boston carriage smiths, Whittier and Bros. before returning home to Moulton and Remington where he completed his apprenticeship and contemplated his future.

An opportunity soon presented itself and James traveled to the frontier outpost of Crete, Nebraska where he repaired wagons for settlers traveling on the famed Westerling Trail.

Following a year of backbreaking work as well as a visit by some Indian Braves who were looking for sandpaper to sharpen their arrows, McCabe called it quits and traveled east where he found employment with Thomas O’Farrell, an established St. Louis, Missouri carriage builder. O’Farrell soon made him a full partner and the firm of James H. McCabe and Thomas O'Farrell, Carriage Builders undertook the building of wagons, light buggies, and a few fine carriages.

The firm prospered, especially after the War’s end, but McCabe became frustrated with the firm’s small size and limited capitalization. In 1871, he sold his share in the firm and began working for the Michael-Young Carriage Company, another St Louis maker who enjoyed the benefits offered by a large factory and capital to match. By 1877 he had saved up enough money to purchase a full partnership in the firm which was renamed the McCabe and Young Carriage Co.

McCabe and Young relocated in 1884 to larger facilities at 1122-28 N. Main St. (now N. 1st St.) where they remained until 1893 when McCabe erected a new modern factory 3 blocks west at 1213-21 N. Broadway. Between 1885 and 1901 they established a permanent salon at St Louis’ magnificent Exposition Building, the first building in the country to have a built-in 5000 lamp lighting system operated by its own generator.

In 1889 John J. Rich made a substantial investment in the firm, and they adopted a new name, McCabe-Young and Company, as well as the indicia and motto of Rich’s ancestral home, the Isle of Man.

The firm survived the panic of ’93 and spent the rest of the decade exploring new vehicle types, producing an entire range of vehicles that included huge overland stage coaches, hearses and invalid coaches and rubber-tired buggies. Promotional wagons were popular and one memorable design was the giant gold-skirted globe built for St Louis’ Globe Shoe and Clothing Company.

Enter Edward J. Powers (187?-1937), a recent graduate of St Louis’ Christian Brothers College, who started working for the firm in 1896. The following year, both Mr. Rich and Mr. Young passed away and their shares were purchased by Powers and a new partner named Paul H. Bierman. The firm was renamed the McCabe-Bierman Wagon Company.

After selling his father’s shares in the firm, William Young established his own St. Louis carriage works, Wm. Young Carriage Company, at 4524 Delmar Ave., where he produced carriages, wagons and later on automobile bodies.

The close of the century saw the McCabe-Bierman Wagon Company well established as St Louis’ leading carriage maker. Many of the firm’s specialty products were advertised in the leading trade magazines of the day. For instance, a 1900 issue of Ice and Refrigeration included a large McCabe-Bierman display ad which pictured the firm’s ice wagons, brewery wagons and delivery and transfer trucks.

At the large Broadway plant, steam powered milling equipment cut dimensional lumber into pieces that were then assembled into the vehicle bodies. The McCabe-Bierman blacksmith shop produced many of the metal components used in the manufacture of buggies and specialized delivery vehicles.

James H. McCabe was one of the two hundred organizers of the 1904 World's Fair, which was held in St. Louis. The firm’s Palace of Transportation exhibit earned them a silver medal and a wagonette shown at the Fair and restored by the firm in 1969 is on display at the St. Louis History Museum.

Bierman retired from the firm in 1906 and sold his stock to Edward J. Powers resulting in the firm’s reorganization as the McCabe-Powers Carriage Company.

(source: Coachbuilt © 2004 Mark Theobald)


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