|If the history which has passed down through Jeff Harrison's four generations is correct, we are seeing the first Flint built Buick engine, for the first Flint built Buick automobile, being cast. The reason the previous sentence sounds redundant is because in the beginning Buick was making stationary engines and marine engines. They also advertised their engines for car builders. This is what was done by Buick in Detroit and continued when they first came to Flint. The decision to make an automobile came later. In the photo above Robert Wilmont Harrison is at the left with no hat. Jeff said the notation on the back of this photo says: first Buick upper and lower case being poured. He also mentions numbers on the back: 10-6. I do not know what 10-6 is. My first guess would be some type of model number but I can find no number matching this. The date on the back says April 22, 1904. History shows Barker & Hamel starting January of 1904 with the first Buick auto 'running around' the Buick factory in late May of 1904. Buick could never keep up with orders right from the beginning. This kind of constant 'hurry up and wait' philosophy is what led to the lawsuit in 1907 against the Reid Manufacturing company. That lawsuit came about for lack of payment on engines delivered but never paid for. If you need the in depth story on this you will need to read the second edition book: "David Buick's Marvelous Motor Car" by Lawrence Gustin and Kevin Kirbitz. Buick had taken the Reid orders on December 14, 1903 with a promise to deliver the first one by Christmas while construction of the new Buick plant had just been started in September. Since David Buick was promising engines by Christmas he would almost surely have had a casting plant lined up to pour the parts needed. Maybe he was still using the foundry in Detroit (Leland & Faulconer) (Shorpy Leland Failconer) (Leland Faulconer foundry 1903) until they could get settled in Flint. The Detroit foundry did their work during the flood in Flint that caused the scramble by raft for rescuing the patterns used in making the molding cores. David Buick was not the brightest bulb in a room of businessmen. He was a hands on kind of guy who really understood mechanics and seemed to have a mindset that would let his thoughts wander onto other matters once he had gotten bored with something. One thing that makes this photo ring true is that Jeff said his ancestor told the story of the flood in the last week of March 1904. His understanding was that his ancestor had given a bottle of scotch whiskey to a man with a raft so they could save the patterns from the foundry. This story sounds a lot like the transcripts from the Buick & Reid lawsuit. David Buick said the same thing "minus the scotch". One thing Jeff knows for certain is that his great grandfather, Robert, had always claimed to have poured the first Buick automobile engine in Flint. It is also possible that he was pouring the warmed over L-head marine engines, for use in automobiles that Reid was planning on using in the Chainless Wolverine. Reid did not cancel their orders until the summer of 1904. Lets not forget that the Wolverine prototype was mistaken for the first Buick prototype for nearly 100 years until someone finally noticed that it had a differential that required a drive shaft instead of a chain. A photo in the "Buick's First Half-Century" book in 1953 shows this exact engine and states it was the first Buick engine. I know of several books put out by Buick concerning their own history that are riddled with errors but I do believe Jeff's great grandfather poured the first automobile engine for the Buick Motor Works. I have no reason to doubt Jeff's family history and I just need to see all the pieces fall into place. I'm still researching and trying to answer some of these questions. I will give more clues in the post after this one. Link for first Flint Buick Buick Jackson Michigan Buick Foundry.|
|This Pentons foundry list shows the foundry still in place as of 1912. The abbreviations GI-MS mean Grey Iron and Malleable steel.|
|This annual factory inspection shows the maximum number of employees that I have ever found listed for the Barker & Hamel foundry. The red arrow shows the foundry listing with the blue arrow showing the breakdown of employees. They have 16 total with only one being a woman. I won't post anymore but I did find that in June 1904 they only list 2 employees. Between 1905 and 1906 they gained 1 employee. This report is from 1909. Also notice the Buick factories. Factory #08 is the last one shown which just by coincidence was built in 1908.|
|From Michigan Federation Of Labor.|
This article from the Wolverine Citizen dated April 2, 1904 is explaining that the buildings located on Water street, which includes the Barker & Hamel foundry will probably be too badly damaged to stay standing. The April 22, 1904 date on the photo showing the pouring means they were doing it in Barker & Hamel and that it did survive the flood inspection. There would have been other buildings left standing after the flood that could have supported this kind of work. One in particular comes to mind and that would be the old Peerless plant on Mill street that was used at one time for casting parts for the first mass produced automobile in Flint "The Flint Roadster" built by A.B.C. Hardy. This is only speculation on my part and should no way be taken as a fact. Peerless did buy out the Flint Brass & Aluminum foundry that Thomas Buick was involved with. Chasing down history like this can often be confusing and can not always come out with a clear conclusion. All I know is that the Barker & Hamel foundry was still listed as being in operation throughout the teens, being listed in different publications and also the Flint City Directory.