Remington-Alberta Carriage Center
Room 106 Provincial Building
576 Main Street
Attention: Mr. William R. Robbins, Curator
Dear Mr. Robbins,
Thank you for your very interesting and friendly letter in reference to our Palace Coach. We are indebted to Ms. Cynthia Gaynor, at our local Library, for putting you in touch with me. Incidentally our Library is located next door to an old Riddle factory building which is now a very nice apartment house. All of the buildings are at the edge of the business section of our town of 12,000 people.
"The Carriage Journal" article you enclosed with your letter gives a thumbnail sketch of the Company. Merts (Charles) was married to my Grandfather's (Henry S. Sr.) sister. He left the Company in 1890 to go into banking. The two of them built (almost) twin houses right across the street from the Factory. Both houses were spectacular and both are gone. The Merts Carriage House is still standing, is in use and is considered a show piece.
The Journal Article outlines evolution of the funeral business. It really started to evolve after the Civil War, the funeral vehicle became more elaborate, embalming fluid was introduced and licenses with controls became the custom and the law.
When Merts left the Company in 1890, Grandfather changed the name to Riddle Coach & Hearse. That name carried on until 1920 when Grandfather died. My father who was then 40 years of age, incorporated the Company to include key employees and heirs of Grandfather. It then became Riddle Manufacturing Co. Only six years later they realized the carved hearse would have to give way to the motorized stamped steel body hearse with or without elaborate carving. At the age of eight (1924) I recall a team of ten men with mallets, hammering sheet aluminum over a large hardwood frame. This was an experiment to see how practical it would be for them to produce a General Motors type hearse. They sold several of these, but the shareholders were reluctant to raise the funds to produce them. The alternate was to liquidate, which they did in 1926.
I should mention that the first motorized hearse was sold in 1915 and bodies were of carved wood just as they were for a horse drawn vehicle. A copy of a direct mail piece is enclosed. You will notice the year of 1915 is mentioned. It was very unusual for the campany to date any piece of literature except the direct mail pieces.
Now getting back to the Palace Coach, which is what prompted your inquiry to me, let me make some observations:
- You mentioned that there is no indication of the makers name on the body or Hub Caps. Some of the vehicles I have seen, the Company name is stamped on the top of the front axels; removing a wheel or wheels might expose the name and year of manufacture.
- The Palace Coach photograph shows its comfortable capacity for six persons; the two seated in the rear are Henry W. Riddle, Sr. and his older son, Maxwell F. Riddle.
- Mr. Thomas Hannon has put the beginning of manufacture of the Palace Coach as "During the 1890's". The other picture of a Palace Coach (enclosed) is from a direct mail piece sent out by my father, Henry W. Riddle, Jr., and it is dated 1915; so the same model lasted quite a while.
After World War II, I moved back to Ravenna to start a machine shop. Wandering thru the top stories of the old factory to study the feasibility of tearing off one of the floors, I discovered a finished hearse body mounted on a dolly, ready to be put on a chassis. I spoke for it with the idea of putting one side on a wall in a new home. My wife liked the idea and in 1960 we did just that.
Now thirty one years later we (the living grandchildren of Henry W. Riddle, Sr.) are putting the other side of the hearse on a wall in a new addition to our local Library. The family names of all the people who ever worked there will be inscribed on a suitable plaque.
Thomas Hannon is a former customer of mine and, of course, an acquaintance. I called him to report on your letter and his article which you enclosed, from the "Carriage Journal 1983". The Hannon Family have a Carriage Museum on their homesite. It compromises 28/30 units - all of the luxury class = no meat wagons or buckboards.
I have enjoyed gathering these thoughts and printings together and hope they are sufficient to meet your desires. If you think I can be of further help, don't hesitate to let me know.
We are within a very few miles and minutes from the Hannon Museum of carriages and the Thompson Museum of cars. So should you journey to Cleveland or Akron, we will be pleased to be your hosts.
Hugh W. Riddle
P.S. You requested information on where the equipment was sold. My Grandfather's goal was to cover a radius of 400 miles. This declaration is written in his handwriting. My father's direct mail coverage, however, was broadened to the east coast, to Florida, and as far west as Texas. This started in 1913. The Palace Coach brochure shows their distribution all over the country.