I had a real treat this past August at the Northeast Pennsylvania Steam Engine and Old Equipment Association show in Portersville, Pennsylvania.
Several times in past years at the show I’ve seen a huge, shiny old touring car, painted a deep maroon and sporting acres of polished brass on the outside and under the hood, high wooden spoked wheels, and a right-hand steering wheel.
The seven-passenger touring car is a 1909 Huselton that was built in nearby Butler, Pennsylvania. After talking for a while with John Pro, who was there with the car this year, he generously offered to take me for a ride. The engine started right up when John gave it a crank and ran smoothly while I climbed into the left hand front seat.
The size of the Huselton and the height of the seat, plus the openness of the car with its high folding top and lack of side curtains was certainly different than sitting in a modern car and the leather seat was quite comfortable.
Anyway, we went around the show grounds and the car went and stopped well. I asked John if he had any qualms about taking such a rare and priceless relic out in traffic, but he didn’t. He said the only thing he had to worry about was anticipating stops because the brakes are on only the rear wheels and are mechanically operated. It was a fun ride and I’m grateful to John for the opportunity to take my first spin in a 1909 automobile.
Edgar C. Huselton was born July 5, 1883, in Butler, Pennsylvania. His father was a prominent businessman in Butler, owning a successful shoe store. After high school, Edgar went to Mercersburg Academy and graduated in 1902 with a degree in business administration. He joined his father in the shoe business, but it soon palled on him.
Horseless carriage craze
It was the beginning of an exciting new time, especially for a young man, and in 1906 Edgar turned his back on shoe leather and he and a partner, Fred Wright, jumped on the new horseless carriage craze, becoming the first automobile dealers in Butler County.
They obtained the agency for the Detroit built Reliance, a two cylinder car with a sliding transmission and shaft drive and are said to have sold the first automobile in Butler County.
Reliance stopped making cars in 1907 and a 1927 Butler County history tells us: In 1907 Huselton took on the agency for the Maxwell-Briscoe automobiles, and in 1911 became the Hudson agent.
In 1916 he took on the Cadillac agency. The Cadillac and Hudson cars were closed out in 1920, when Huselton became agent for the Reo and Pierce Arrow cars. Huselton has built up a well ordered and prosperous business, his garage being modern in equipment and facilities required for giving service to his patrons.
Building a car
About 1909 Edgar began to think of building a car of his own. He determined to build a top-quality car and chose the best parts then on the market. The four cylinder, 40 HP, dual ignition, ignition with open valve springs and lifters on one side, was by Wisconsin but the maker of the four speed and reverse transmission is unknown. Timken axles front and rear, a Bosch high-tension magneto, and 36 X 4 1/2-inch Continental rims were used.
The brass radiator shell, which closely resembled that of a contemporary Pierce-Arrow, is highly polished, as are the huge brass acetylene headlights, the acetylene tank on the running board, the tail light, horn, outside mirrors, hub caps, steering column, windshield frame, and many of the parts under the hood.
The car is huge, the 30-inch wheels and 123-inch wheelbase, as well as the high seven-passenger touring body make it really imposing in appearance.
The machine was originally built as two-seater runabout and it is said that young Edgar was quite successful in the weekend races that took place on the three-mile stretch between Butler and East Butler.
Between then and 1915 a total of 13 Huselton roadster and touring cars were built, while about 1913, Huselton made at least one 3/4 ton truck that had a 30 HP engine and cost $1650.
Edgar was married in 1909 and as his family grew, he changed the two-seater body on his car to the seven-passenger touring body as it now exists.
About 1915 Huselton seems to have decided to leave car manufacturing to the big boys and reverted to being just a dealer. Over the years he sold many different brands and GMC and International trucks, retiring in 1958.
When Edgar died in 1966 his son inherited the car and eventually a grandson, B.C. Huselton III. The grandson donated the Huselton to the city of Butler in 1984, with the stipulation that it be cared for by a local car club, the Butler Old Stone House Region of the American Automobile Club of America.
These dedicated guys have spent a lot of time, and undoubtedly money, making the old Huselton look and run like new, and they’re the ones who take it to events such as the Portersville Show. Check out their web page at www.aacabosh.org.
The number of cars built in Butler over the years is kind of astonishing.
First was the Huselton, then from 1915 to 1923, the Standard Steel Car Company, established in Butler in 1902 to build steel railroad cars, jumped into the car business in 1914.
Large and expensive
Standard six and eight cylinder cars, dubbed by the company Monarch of the Mountains were built until 1923. The old Standard factory became the home of the tiny and inexpensive American Austin cars in 1930. That firm went broke in 1934, but was reconstituted as the American Bantam Car Company in 1937.
The American Bantam Company designed the first successful military jeep in 1940, but was muscled out by Ford and Willys and built the last Bantam car in 1941.
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