Let’s go Metz: Museum celebrates Waltham family’s role in automotive history

Daily News Tribune
Posted Mar 29, 2009

His is a story that is often left out of the American automobile narrative.

One day in 1898 Waltham resident Charles Metz put a motor on the back of a bicycle and created both what some historians believe to be the first motorcycle and the Metz Automobile Company.

At the Waltham Museum yesterday antique car enthusiasts from near and far gathered to compare notes and stories of the Metz Automobile Company.

“This family was an exciting part of Waltham history, they changed the city” museum director Al Arena said to the group yesterday. “Everything was horses and wagons when they came in here, and it was all automobiles by the time they left.”

“People usually think of (Henry) Ford when they think of American cars,” Waltham native Howard Randall said. “But, really, New England was a hub for automobile manufacturing in the early 1900s. There’s a history here that needs to be told.”

Randall, who owns a seven-seater bicycle made by the Metz family in the 1890s, has been interested in Metz creations since childhood. Randall said his family would ride the bicycle down Moody Street in the Waltham Christmas Parade.

“That bike had only one handlebar for seven people, and the bike itself weighs 300-some-odd pounds,” he said. “My biggest nightmares came out of riding that bike and trying to steer without killing people.”

Arena opened yesterday’s event with a Metz family slide-show that explained the family’s transition from bikes to motorcycles to automobiles. Arena said the company hit its peak in 1914 when it was manufacturing 7.5 million cars a year(correction:7,500 cars a year) and was the largest automobile manufacturer east of Detroit.

In 1915 when the Lusitania, a British ocean liner, was sunk by a German U-boat, Arena said Metz sales dropped. Area attributed this decline to Americans not wanting to buy cars with German-sounding names and opted for Ford motorcars instead.

Those who collect Metz cars have formed a “grass roots support system” for tips on how to restore, rebuild and repaint cars with appropriate colors explained Eric Haartz of Concord.

Haartz is a second-generation antique car collector and said the first car he drove was a 1912 Metz Roadster “at the ripe old age of 12.”

Haartz’s Roadster is no longer running, but he hopes to have it ready for the July’s Historic Waltham Days celebration.

As part of this annual celebration, the Waltham Historical Society  (Correction: Waltham Museum not historical society) plans to show some restored Metz cars and bicycles on July 11 at the Gore Estate, which was the Metz family home from 1911 to 1922.

While most of the group assembled yesterday was from New England, Michael Patris, who works for the Mount Lowe Preservation Society in California, traveled from Los Angeles to attend the event.

Patris, who is a third-generation antique car collector, learned about Metz when he was researching the history of a railroad for a preservation project. Patris said that in the early 1900s, the Metz company drove one of their cars over the railroad tracks “to prove the car could go over anything. And it did.”

Patris said he then became obsessed with the company and bought two cars for the Mount Lowe Preservation Society, one of which is “100 percent original.”

Patris said he was happy to meet the people he’s been e-mailing with for years.

“It’s great to be able to put some faces to names,” he said. “We’ve got a small group of people with a common but rare passion. Now we can finally say we know each other and, of course, get some restoration tips.”

Arena, who helped organize yesterday’s event, said he was glad that so many people could come from so far away, and that he could share with them one of the treasures of Waltham.

Arena said the Waltham Museum on Lexington Street is home to the only 1905 Waltham Orient in existence. Though the car is worth up to a quarter of a million dollars, Arena said the museum would never sell it.

“It’s a part of history,” he said. “It’s a part of the city.”

Published in: on May 31, 2009 at 4:28 am  Leave a Comment  

1913 Metz 22 Serial # 18426

1913 model 22. Serial # 18426

1913 model 22. Serial # 18426

1913 model 22. Serial # 18426

1913 model 22. Serial # 18426

1913 model 22. Serial # 18426

With 136 original miles on it, this Metz still wears its original blue paint and pinstriping. The car has been in the family since new.The only thing touched has been the tires and upholstery to the seat. Additional photos coming.

Published in: on May 14, 2009 at 10:50 pm  Comments (1)  

History drives home to Waltham

History drives home to Waltham

Posted Aug 16, 2007 @ 10:00 AM
Waltham —

Thanks to a Florida collector and avid automobile historian, one of the first four-cylinder cars made by Charles Metz’s Waltham Manufacturing Co. has found its way home at last.

George Albright III, a Florida attorney, donated his 1905 Waltham-Orient touring car to the Waltham Museum. Albright believes the 16-horsepower automobile to be the only one of its kind in existence.

“Even though I’m a Southerner, I enjoy history and Waltham was one of the manufacturing capitals of the United States,” Albright said. “Charles Metz was every bit as interesting as Henry Ford.”

Al Arena, director of the Waltham Museum, said the donation adds a historically significant piece to the museum’s collection. Arena said the museum is waiting for the space at its new Lexington Street location to open a Metz room that will be named the George Albright Sr. Room, after Albright’s grandfather.

In 1893 Metz started the Waltham Manufacturing Co. on Rumford Avenue, 10 years before fellow entrepreneur Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Co. in Detroit. Metz’s company started out making bicycles built for as many as 10 riders. From 1903 to 1904 the company manufactured one-cylinder Orient Buckboard automobiles.

“In 1905 and 1908 they (Waltham Manufacturing Co.) went to bigger vehicles like the one donated to the museum and called them Waltham-Orient cars,” Arena said, adding the company reorganized in 1909 and was called the Metz Automobile Co. “In 1915 they were the largest producers of automobiles east of Detroit.”

Albright, 51, said his grandfather got him interested in cars as a teenager. One of the first cars he bought as an adult was a Metz. In the mid-1990s, Albright said he came to visit the Gore Place where he met Arena and the two history buffs instantly “hit it off.”

Albright said he was excited to hear the Waltham Museum was moving to the old police station on Lexington Street from its former cramped location at 196 Charles St. In November, he said, he toured the new museum before it officially opened to the public in May.

“It’s just magnificent,” said Albright, who praised Mayor Jeannette A. McCarthy for making the move happen. “You want that museum to become a destination for tourism.”

Albright said he bought the 1905 Waltham-Orient from a man in New Jersey who had restored the car in 1965 but had it sitting in his garage ever since. He guesses that on the right day with the right buyer, the car, one of the first to use air cooling, could bring in as much as $250,000.

Arena said the museum now has seven Orient Buckboard, Waltham-Orient and Metz cars waiting to come over from the Charles Street location. In addition to donating the car, Arena said Albright committed to adopting the Metz room.

“There’s still other rooms that need adoption,” said Arena, who listed the museum’s Waltham Watch room and Fire Department room among those without official sponsors.

Local donors for the museum to date include: Lou Nocera, former owner of The Chateau restaurant, who adopted the Early Waltham Room; Rick Gordon, owner of Gordon’s Liquors who adopted the 20th Century Room; Waltham High School Class of 1949 basketball star Walter Bartlett adopted the Sports Room; and Herb Everett of Everett and Sons Insurance adopted the Army Room.

Rob Vandermark of Seven Cycles Interview discussing Charles Metz

Published in: on May 7, 2009 at 5:41 am  Leave a Comment  

1914 Metz 22 #27081

1914 Metz 22 Egine #27081

I am the owner of the 1914 Metz 22 with engine number 27081. I saw the car advertised in, I think, Cars and Parts magazine and subsequently purchased it in late 1999 from Dr. Art Burrichter, a dealer in collector cars in Monticello, Iowa. He had it on consignment from the family of the previous owner who had titled it as a 1912. It was in good running condition but the tires were shot and the fiber drive pulley had flat spots. After replacing the tires and the fiber drive pulley with a new one from Paper Pulleys, I would take it for spins around the block. I couldn’t make too many trips around before I needed water since the radiator leaked very badly.

I started the restoration process in February of 2004 and by the end of the year had it all apart except the engine which I elected not to tear down since it has great compression and runs well. I also had the front axle and frame straightened since they were bent and had the frame rails and the engine painted and back together by the end of 2004. Since I knew it was going to take some time and I don’t trust my memory, I documented the vehicle tear down in pictures, drawings, and words so I would be able to assemble the car as I got the parts restored. I have placed some of the disassembly and reassembly pictures on a website that I created for information that I found about the Metz car company and the Metz car. The address for the website is http://home.earthlink.net/~metz1914

The car was painted yellow with black radiator and fenders when I bought it. I liked the sporty look so am painting it yellow with black pin striping instead of the original colors. Again, see the reassembly pictures on my web site. When I stripped the yellow paint, I could see some of the original cream pin striping on the wood rear cross piece. It was obviously on the original blue paint; however, the blue had changed to almost black. Also I found traces of the original black pin striping and bolt head dots on the original cream paint of the wheels when I scraped the yellow paint off (see pictures on my website). When I used paint remover to remove the black paint that had been used on the inside of the hood when the car was painted yellow, I found the number 29 written in some kind of thick white pencil on the two top pieces of the hood. I am guessing when I assume that this was to keep matching pieces identified when the car was built.The two pictures that I am including show the car when I first bought it and at its present state of restoration.

Gordon E. Carlson

1914 Metz 22 #27081

1914 Metz 22 #27081

1914 Metz 22 #27081

1914 Metz 22 #27081

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 5:17 am  Leave a Comment