“Rock Hill’s first architect, builder, and contractor was Captain A. D. Holler. A native of North Carolina, he and his brothers surrendered with General Lee at Appomattox. In 1870 he built Rock Hill’s first two-story building erected for commercial purposes. He also built another next to it on the corner of Main and Caldwell streets. The corner building was first used as a furniture store under the management of Holler and Gill, the other being occupied for many years by Captain A. E. Smith and later by Mr. and Mrs. Markham, who ran a bakery. It was in the rear of these buildings that the Holler and Anderson Buggy Company had its first home.” (Information from: The City Without Cobwebs – Douglas S. Brown, 1953)
City Directories and History: Perhaps the greatest industry to develop in Rock Hill during the 1880’s, and one which
owed its origin, as well as its success, to one man, was the Rock Hill Buggy Company, out of which the Anderson Motor Company grew. It started as a small shop on a side street and grew to be a large automobile manufacturing concern-the first of its kind in the South-turning out 25 cars a day. The story of its origin and the struggles of its founder, John Gary Anderson, is an American saga. John Gary Anderson, the founder and owner, was of the generation and school of Henry Ford and other pioneers in the automobile industry. In many respects, he was not unlike them. He was of that type of Americans who with energy, mechanical genius, and inherent business ability have made our country the greatest industrial nation on earth. His story is a typical American success story. With better luck, John Gary Anderson would have made Rock Hill the Detroit of the South. That he failed to do so was through no want of vision or effort on his part. To read the story of his struggles is to realize that he had an element of greatness in him if not genius.
A native of Lawsonville, North Carolina, he inherited his mechanical genius from his grandfather, John Wesley Thomas, who made wagons for the Confederate Army. After the death of his parents in 1877, he came to Rock Hill to live with his grandfather, Gary Anderson, who was
superintendent of the Strawberry Hill plantation, then on the edge of the village. His education was limited because of the times in which he lived. He learned the three R’s in school and whatever else he knew came by experience. Of an unusually quick mind, a sensitive spirit, and a lively imagination, he required little incentive to improve himself and make the most of every opportunity that presented itself. Working first at hard labor on the farm for poor pay, he soon came to town to work for Bill Roach in his combination grocery store and saloon. Then he tried his hand at many jobs, including typesetting, before he began his little shop. It reveals something of · the man and his methods when you learn that once in the early days of this little shop he did a small job for Miss Mary White, one of the venerable ladies of the town. He did it so well that she wrote him a note of thanks which he kept as long as he lived. It read, in part, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business; he shall stand before kings.”
Ten years after Anderson went into business for himself he was operating the Holler and Anderson Buggy Company with his father-in-law, A. D. Holler, and his brother-in-law, A. E. Holler. The first shop occupied the rear of A. D. Holler’s furniture store on Caldwell Street. It was chartered in 1886 and organized in 1889 with a capital of $8,000. Its first stockholders were A. D. Holler, J. G. Anderson, A. E. Holler, David Hutchison, W. L. Roddey, W. J. Roddey, Rev. James Spratt White, A. H. White, Miss Mary White, J. H. Miller, and J. M. Cherry.
It was the day of the horse and buggy. The pride and care now given to automobiles was then put upon horses, buggies, and carriages.
The Herald reported Nov. 12, 1890 – “Mrsrs A.D. Holler, W.J. Roddey, J.G. Anderson and A.E. Holler have applied for a charter for the Holler and Anderson Buggy Company with the Sec. of State.
The Charleston News and Courier reported on June 7, 1890 – “Another establishment is that of Holler and Anderson who manufacture buggies and wagons, and harnesses on a large scale. They also manufacture ax handles, shuttle blocks, and other articles used in the manufacturing of buggies. The business of manufacturing brick and tiles is also carried on here with success. Mr. W.D. Holler has a tile and brick factory and is very successful in his business.”
On Feb. 19, 1896 an ad was run for the Rock Hill Buggy Co., stating they have become agents for Royster Bicycles.
The Herald reported on Aug. 29, 1896 – “The RH Buggy Co., has secured the services of one of the finest painters in the country, Mr. J.W. Garwood of Cin. Ohio.”
The Herald reported on June 13, 1896 – Containing a description of the RH Buggy Company which stated, “It was started in 1886 with $10., today the main building is 200-50 feet, their is a show room with a number of buggies which are built on sight. Departments include; the trimming department, painting department and smithy. They will now errect another building parallel to the smithy and right angles to the main building.”
The Herald reported on June 13, 1896 – “John Harvey Neely sold 31 buggies in four days for the RH Buggy Company. ”
On August 22, 1896 – “The new building at the RH Buggy Company is now being covered. It is three stories and measures 40-125 feet. It is built along the OR and C railroad at angles to the old building. When completed, the buggy company will have a capacity of 3,000 buggies per year. ”
The RH Herald reported on Aug. 23, 1899 – “The RH Buggy Co., has plans for the erection of a large building on its lot fronting on Wilson Street. The building will be of brick and two stories in height and forty feet wide and seventy feet long.”
The RH Record reported on June 24, 1907 – “Mr. H.H. Goodall of Cincinnati, Oh., is the new general manager of the Rock Hill Buggy Co., and has bought an interest in the company. The Goodall family will occupy the house of George A. Buchanan on Oakland Avenue. The Buchanan family has moved to Darlington, S.C.”
The Record reported on Sept. 3, 1908 – “Mr. W.B. Clendening of Lancaster has secured a position at the buggy company as a coach painter.”
The Fort Mill Times reported on April 14, 1910 – “The first S.C. built automobile was seen on the streets of Fort Mill Saturday afternoon. The automobile, a “Rock Hill 30,” was the output of the Rock Hill Buggy Company, which recently began the manufacture of “gasoline buggies”. It is said to be one of the biggest and handsomest cars in the country.
The Herald reported on Oct. 1, 1918 – “The stockholders of the Anderson Motor Company have met and voted to increase the company’s capital stock by $1,125,000. to a total of $2.5 million. They plan to greatly enlarge the plant as soon as permitted by the government. (WWI restrictions were in place.) They plan for a new building of 100-400 feet and other improvements. Mr. Anderson says the entire sales force is now selling liberty bonds.”
Sometimes a family’s social and economic standing could be gauged by the kind of horse they owned or the carriage they used. There were several livery stables in town where those who did not own equipages could hire them; but every family of means owned at least one horse. Those of larger means kept several. Some were trained as riding horses, others were especially trained for buggies or carriages. Large stables stood in the rear of each house to accommodate the horses and the carriages. They were usually divided into two sections, one where the horse, or horses, were stalled, the other to store the carriage. Practically all these old stables and carriage houses have disappeared or been converted into garages, but in grandfather’s day they were as essential as the main dwelling. The livery stable offered convenient services for those who for various reasons did not own their own vehicles and horses.
The young beaus of the town were usually among this group. One livery stable on Black Street tried to promote business by advertising this way: “For horses sleek and buggies fine There’s none like Moore’s nice livery line The swiftest horse and safest hack To carry you there and bring you back The safest horse for ladies’ use So enjoy your self; there is no excuse. Watch his teams and get in line Spend your money and have a good time For a drive with your sweetheart behind Moore’s teams Is like a trip to paradise in a dream.”
It was to fill the partial needs of this carriage trade that the Holler and Anderson Buggy Company existed. That it met these needs so well is one of the reasons its business in buggy building continued to grow so rapidly. As a matter of fact, within three years after the first organization of the company business had grown so, and Anderson’s buggies were so much in demand, that it became necessary to launch a program of expansion. So, in 1892, the firm was incorporated with a capital of $25,000. A new plan~a large frame building- was built on Laurel Street near the “Three C’s” Railroad. Following this expansion, the company entered national competition in the buggy business, bidding for orders with the largest manufacturers in the country. Mr. Anderson, all this time, was both president and general manager of the company, but the Holler interests had been sold and James M. Cherry became a partner. The name of the firm was changed to The Anderson Buggy Company. The success of the business lay not only in Anderson’s genius and executive ability, and in the fine quality of assistants with whom he surrounded himself, but in the fact that he saw to it that his buggies were the best that could be made for the money. Moreover, he carried on a large and continuous advertising campaign, telling the whole country that Anderson buggies were “A Little Higher In Price But … ” Such extensive advertising was not usual in those days. Wherever buggies were sold, this slogan went, and where the slogan went, the buggies usually followed by the carloads to the dealers-Mexico, England, Cuba, and all the Southern states. Wrote one commentator on the local scene in 1901, “The Rock Hill Buggy is the buggy that made Rock Hill famous.”
Anderson made four-wheeled vehicles of practically every type. There were wagons-farm wagons and delivery wagons. There were buggies, buggies with open tops, plain surreys, hacks, phaetons, gigs, surreys with fringed tops that were lovely and substantial things, with their shiny black paint, red and yellow trim, and fine upholstery. Every part was made in Rock Hill except the wheels, and from 1905 to 1912, the Anderson Buggy Company set a record in which a complete buggy was built, painted, trimmed, packed, and shipped every twenty-five minutes of every working day during all those years. This concern not only brought new money into the town and employed large numbers of men, but it also let the world know that in South Carolina there was a lively little town called Rock Hill.
With the invention of the automobile, the carriage trade dwindled and motor cars gradually began to appear on the streets and highways, replacing buggies and wagons. W. L. Roddey owned the first automobile in town. By the end of World War I, the buggy business, on a large scale, was at an end. The coming of the automobile would revolutionize Anderson’s business even as it would revolutionize almost every area of American life. Some manufacturers, without vision and without courage, refused to see what was happening and continued as they had always done. But Anderson and his colleagues accepted the fact that “the horseless carriage” had come to stay. During World War I the company made trucks and trailers for the United States Government, while plans were being formulated to convert the buggy factory on Laurel Street into an automobile factory.
John G. Anderson’s son, J. Wesley Anderson, who had gone into business with his father when he was only nineteen, had been general manager of the business for several years and was largely responsible for the details in converting the business from buggies to motor cars. He also helped build and design the first automobile made by The Anderson Motor Company, as the firm was now called. By 1916, the service of Joseph A. Anglada, an automobile engineer of New York, had been secured and six cars designed, built, and tested. The Anderson Motor Company was organized with a capital stock of $1,500,000, and in 1916 the following men were serving as officers and directors : John G. Anderson, president; J. W. Anderson, vice-president and general manager; Joseph A. Anglada, chief engineer; C. J. Henry, secretary and treasurer; C. W. Roberts, advertising manager; C. D. Mainer, factory manager;W. A. Anderson, sales manager; J. W. Sealey, purchasing agent; and Hiram Hutchison, stock department.
The Anderson cars instantly won public approval and the business grew tremendously. As in the days of the large demand for the Anderson buggies, so now it was necessary to add materially to the plant. A large steel building was erected across Laurel Street and a smaller V-shaped building at the rear of the old buggy factory. The whole plant covered almost ten acres and was one of the points of interest pointed out to visitors in town. Once during the development of this business, J. B. Duke was so impressed with its success that he offered to go in with the company on condition that the plant be moved to Charlotte, but the Andersons, with a love for and a faith in their native city, decided to stay in Rock Hill.
The peak of success for this motor company was reached in 1920. At that time, about thirty-five automobiles a day were coming from the plant and dealers in all the larger cities in the United States were selling them as fast as they could be produced. The company was also being represented by agents in foreign countries, where the Anderson was as well known as some of the other famous early automobiles.
In 1922 the Anderson Light Aluminum-6 was put on the market, and in one single day an order for 5,000 was received. The total sales value of this order was $5,000,000. This was the climax, for when the boom burst, following World War I, The Anderson Motor Company was one of the casualties. It was one of many automobile manufacturing companies that went down at that time. Its operation ceased in 1924, but it left a two-million-dollar plant and property that proved to be the trump card when the city of Rock Hill was trying to induce the Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Company to locate here. As a result of having a plant already built, The Bleachery came, and for twenty-five years now has given employment to innumerable men and women, thereby increasing the prosperity of the city.
Aside from this lasting contribution to the industrial and economic life of Rock Hill, The Anderson Motor Company made two original contributions to automobile history. It was the first to introduce the convertible car and the first to use the foot-dimmer to control head lights. The latter is the invention of C. A. Deas of Rock Hill. [Information taken from The City Without Cobwebs by Douglas S. Brown, 1952]
The Herald reported Nov 12, 1890 – “Messrs. A.D. Holler, W.J. Roddey, J.G. Anderson and A.E. Holler have applied for a charter for the Holler and Anderson Buggy Company with the Sec. of State. The capital stock is proposed to be $25,000. with shares at $25.00 each, they have ordered a complete line of woodworking machinery. They commenced business four years ago and are now doing a most satisfactory business. During the present year they have shipped 315 buggies to foreign buyers as well ass a number sold to local patrons. J.G. Anderson is to be the manager of the new company.”
The Herald reported Jan 14, 1891 – “The Holler and Anderson Buggy Company was organized last night with the following officers: Pres. D. Hutchison, V.P. A.D. Holler, Treasure – Gen. Manager – J.G. Anderson, Sec. A.E. Holler. Directors: D. Hutchison, A.D. Holler, J.G. Anderson, W.A. Steele, and J.B. Johnson. Stock of 12,500 shares have already been subscribed.”
The Herald reported on Aug 29, 1896 – “Mr. J. W. Westerlund has almost completed the work on putting the roof on the large new building at the Buggy Factory.”
The Rock Hill Journal reported June 12, 1901 – “That the Rock Hill buggy company 509 buggies during the month of May. Their average monthly production is 475.”
The Rock Hill Journal on June 12, 1901 – “J.B. Martin of Hickory Grove, S.C. has the contract for moving two houses on Wilson Street across the street and remodeling them and also for two new five room cottages on Wilson Street.” J.G. Anderson and J.M. Cherry are making these improvements.
The Herald reported on June 12, 1901 – “Plans have been drawn for the erection of a club house for operatives of the Rock Hill Buggy Co and their families. It will be located on the old Steele Lot on Ebenezer Ave., where now stands the old Steele House, surrounded by a grove of large trees. The Clubhouse will include a lecture room, kindergarten room, reception room. billiard room, dining room, and bathrooms. The building and grounds will be furnished by the buggy company and maintained by the operatives.” (R&R is unclear as to this location or if it was ever constructed.)
The Rock Hill Journal reported on June 22, 1901 – “Notice is hereby given to the stockholders of Rock Hill Buggy Company that a meeting of stockholders of the company will be held at the company office at Rock Hill, S.C. on Monday the 15th day of July 1901. The purpose of the meeting is to consider and adopt a resolution to increase the capital stock of said RHBC to an authorized maximum of $250,000., by order of the board of directors of said company. J.G. Anderson, Sec.”
The Herald reported Oct. 4, 1902 – “Four skylights have recently been put in the main building of the RH Buggy Co., the building has also been repainted and a number of other improvements have been made.”
The Herald reported on Oct. 15, 1902 – “The RH Buggy Co. is very busy. It now has 125 operatives and a payroll of $1,000. per week.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on April 12, 1904 – “The RH Buggy Co., has received an order for three buggies to be shipped to Auckland, New Zealand. They have also shipped buggies to London and South African.”
The Herald reported on the same day, “Claude Simpson had the index finger of the right hand badly lacerated in machinery at the buggy company one day last week and is still carrying his arm in a sling.
The Record reported on Jan. 21, 1907 – “The RH Buggy Co., has used a new copyright law to register the names of its buggies “Rock Hill” and “Carolina” and to register their slogan, “A Little Higher in Price, but…..”
The Herald reported on July 28, 1919 – “That the Anderson Motor Company has purchased two acres opposite the existing plant on Laurel Street so they can erect an additional factory building. Anderson plans a reinforced concrete and steel building to house the painting, upholstery and finishing departments. Also, a section by the railroad will be the shipping room so they can load finished autos directly on the railroad. The probable contractor is Austin Construction of Cleveland, they built the just completedbuilding. When completed Anderson will have eight acres under roof. Located on the land to be purchased are nine houses which will be sold and moved. The sellers include: Mrs. Sally Long, James I. Allen, E.S. Wallace, E.B. Hough, J.M. Stewart, Jones Motor Company, J.W. O’Neal of the Citizens Bank, George H. Harrill, and Spencer Coke.
ANDERSON CAR ASSEMBLY LINE by Louise Pettus
By 1923 John Gary Anderson’s Anderson Motor Company in Rock Hill had the process of manufacturing and assembling fine cars down to an art. It started in the woods where Anderson’s sawmill crews cut the trees, mostly oak, which would provide the “Coachbilt” body. Anderson owned a small logging railroad to bring the wood into Rock Hill to be turned with lathes following patterns designed for particular parts of the car’s body. The pieces were put together with screws. The wooden frames were given a rigorous inspection and if passed they went on to the next phase of the assembly line. At the next step aluminum panels were cut by a special machine and then carefully hammered into shape by an electric hammer. The metal was twenty-two thousandths of an inch thick. The panels were then bent to follow the wooden framework. The seams were hand- welded and the metal hand-rubbed with pumice stone until it was smooth. The paint shop was next. Six coats of paint went on the chassis, two on the engine, and sixteen coats went on the body. The paint was baked on in a kiln set at one hundred and fifteen degrees. When dry, the body was then taken along the chassis assembly aisle way to the “trimming room.” In the trimming room, seats, upholstery, curtains, and tops were added. The seats and upholstery were made of a leather composition material. The upholstery varied. For some models the upholstery was cowhide purchased from a factory in the West, in others velvet corduroy, and in the ultra-sport model, moleskin was used.
In groups of six, the automobiles were assembled step by step as they proceeded down the long aisle. Finally, the body was suspended and dropped down on to the chassis. It took two weeks to complete a car. The last thing added was a tank of gasoline. Mr. Anderson sold the gas at cost. The Anderson car was built in the building that Anderson had built originally to make buggies. The Rock Hill Buggy Company had furnished most of the capital for the Anderson Motor Car Company. At the present time the building on West White Street is the main area of the Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Co., a subsidiary of Springs Industries. Four Anderson cars were on display at the “Made-in Carolinas Exposition” in Charlotte in 1922. Anderson had the only car company in the southern states and this helped to attract crowds to the exhibit but the cars were handsome enough to attract crowds in Detroit. The cars displayed in Charlotte were the coach, the five-passenger touring car, the 30-series speedster, also called the big six, and the ultra-sport model. The coach was painted Packard blue and had a “tent-folding” front seat. The interior was blue velvet corduroy. A steel running board, extra large doors and a luggage trunk ran the price up to $1950 f.o.b. Rock Hill. The five passenger touring car with leather upholstery and a 6-volt 50 hp engine was similar in appearance to the coach except that it had no luggage trunk. It was priced at $1495 f.o.b. Rock Hill.
The Naples yellow speedster was described as “natty” and displayed on a revolving table. The 66 2/3 horsepower car had six wire wheels, leather upholstery, natural wood doors, and nickeled top trim. The f.o.b. price was $1785.
The ultra sport model was similar to the speedster except that it had bumpers in the front and rear. It also had the newly patented foot dimmer invented by Anderson Motor Company’s chief design engineer, C. A. Deas. The price of the ultra sport model in moleskin was $1945 f.o.b. Rock Hill.
Anderson Motor Company not only displayed their cars out of town but also had conventions in Rock Hill for dealers from across the country. After the unveiling of new models, orders were taken on the spot. One year over $6 million worth of Anderson cars were sold in Rock Hill at one such gathering of dealers but in the long run the Anderson car couldn’t compete with Henry Ford’s cheap Model T “tin lizzies” which came in only one color—black. (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
Additional links:See More Information in the picture column as well as Anderson Auto Company
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