Often overlooked in Lebanon’s industrial past is Upton Motor Company, one of the earliest automobile manufacturers in America.
Automobile designer Colcord Upton left the Masschusetts-based Upton Machine Co in June 1903, over some unspecified argument with the ownership, and by the fall of 1904 he had partnered with another man (Milton H. Schnader) to manufacture automobiles in Lebanon, PA. By that time, the earlier “Upton” company had been renamed Beverly Manufacturing and updated the car’s name accordingly, so he was free to use the name. Success did not come quickly, however.
By 1905, only 15 cars had been produced, and the rate apparently dwindled after that. The first car shipped to New York on January 11 1905 made the front page of the Daily News. Colcord however continued with his transmission company and in the mechanical business. The Upton Touring Car used a shaft drive and had headlights that turned with the front wheel.
Because of this local heritage, the Upton is also the car featured in the logo of the PA Dutch chapter of the AACA.
The Upton company occupied a building that had been previously used by the Keystone Match & Machine Company as a plant for what was actually the first car manufactured in Lebanon, the Keystone Steamer, which had an even shorter active lifespan of just two years, 1899-1900. (Thanks to John Nye for pointing this out to us.)
The factory would later be leased by the Hershey Chocolate company as a wrapping facility. Prior to being purchased by the Jubilee Ministries in 2000, the plant had been home to Milsan Mills.
Sadly, it does not appear that any Upton autos remain in existence today, although surprisingly there are cardboard versions available.
Know something about Upton we missed? Secretly have one of those sitting in your barn out back? Let us know in the comments.