East of Detroit

Ongoing: Wayne & Debra Freihofer Gallery - 2nd Floor

New York State was once home to over 100 different automobile manufacturers. While most New York automakers were small, there were great successes like the Pierce Arrow and the Franklin. This exhibit provides an in-depth look at the automobile industry in New York State and a look back in time at the innovations of different New Yorkers in their quest to create the automobile of their dreams. It also examines New York’s role in importing European-made cars and custom-coach building.

During the early years of automobile production in the 1890s, Detroit was not yet the nation’s “Motor City.” The New Yorkers of the early 1900s owned more than 60,000 cars -- 50% more cars than the residents of any other state in the nation. New York State automakers of the 1910s and 1920s built tens of thousands of cars. During the 1920s and 1930s, some of the first motor parkways, the precursors to today’s superhighways were also built in New York. By the 1940s, more than three million cars were vying for their share of the roads and highways in the Empire State, and the economic implications of the automobile industry helped preserve New York as the economic center of the nation.

Some early New York made cars became famous for quality, reliability and endurance. Buffalo produced the Thomas, which in 1908 attracted worldwide attention by winning the New York to Paris race in just 169 days. The Lozier, made in Plattsburgh won the Vanderbilt Cup in 1911 and placed second at the Indianapolis 500. The H.H. Franklin Company introduced an air-cooled engine in 1904, just two years after building its first car. Other early New York cars faded into obscurity almost as quickly as they emerged on the scene. 

Currently on Display

1909 Paterson Motor Buggy

1910 Maxwell

1928 Franklin Airman: Charles Lindbergh's personal vehicle

1931 Pierce Arrow 

1936 Ford

1947 Playboy

1966 Corvair "Fitch Sprint"