1901: George Holley on his Motor Carriage

Photo Credit: "Historical Bradford Illustrated 1901"

1901: Hotel Holley erected

Holley's Original Factory

George Holley's Motor Carriage

George Holley's Motor Bicycle


George Holley was 19 when he designed and built a three-wheeled single cylinder buggy which hit an impressive speed of 30 miles per hour in 1897. The car weighed 306 pounds, had a 60-inch wheelbase and a two-cylinder, nine-horse-power engine, with 2 speeds forward and no reverse. You can see that there is no steering wheel but instead a steering lever. Both this three-wheeled motor carriage and their four-wheeled model were called "motorettes." The Holleys' produced 150 motorettes while still in Bradford either on Davis and Main streets or at the larger factory on Holley Avenue. It is interesting to note that there were no known original Holley motorettes left in exsistence until the 1940s. Then, on a farm in Maryland , the second story floor collapsed and down fell a brand new Motorette which had been stored up there for 35 years. That car is now on display at the Holley Company's factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

History of the Three-Wheeled Vehicle
As told by George M. Holley himself

This 3-wheeled automobile was built by me a few months after I left the Stevens Preparatory School of Hobokan, New Jersery, in 1897, when I was 19 years old.

I made the drawings myself, and then went to a pattern shop to learn how to make patterns, so that I could make the patterns for a single-cylinder motor. I then went to a foundry to learn how to make the castings. Believe me, these were quick courses, as it did not take me more than a month to learn pattern making and casting.

It was finaced by a good friend of mine, Mr. J. E. Cochran, the President and General Manager of the Bovaird and Seyfang Manufacturing Company at Bradford, Pennsylvania. Of course, some of the parts I bought. The car ran up to 30 miles an hour; and it had a single-cylinder motor and transmission, with two speeds forward and no reverse.

Whenever I took the girls out for a ride, they always carried 5¢ carfare along with them; and I followed the trolley car tracks to East Bradford, so that they could get a ride home if the car broke down.

Later on, this finally brought the development of what we called the "Holley Motorette" and motor bicycles; and we also built the first motors for the Willys-Overland Company of Indianapolis, Indiana.

This is a portion of a letter written by George M. Holley to his children.

"I have tried to set down incidents which I feel wiil be of interest to my children- not because I think that my life to date should be recorded for posterity from the standpoint of my own achivements- but because I feel that these events which have taken place during the past years and the men who have taken leading roles in the nation's growth, will be of interest for many years to come. The automotive industry is only one part of our lives for quite a long time- our whole life in fact- and those of us who were in on the beginning are happy to have been a part of the contribution that it has made to the progress of our nation.

Special thanks to the Bradford Landmark Society, Bradford Public Library, and Mary Pierotti for all their time and hard work. It was greatly appreciated.