The Staver is a Stayer

When Todd Staver started West Coast Auto Enthusiasts in 2007, he knew that he had a passion for cars.  He soon learned that cars were in his blood.  Evelyn, a friend of Todd’s, sent an email that contained some information about an early 1900s car company by the name of Staver.  Todd researched more about this company and discovered that the Staver family began making horse drawn carriages back in the late 1800s, and then added motorized carriages to the lineup starting in 1907.

The first Staver to venture into the carriage and buggy business was Henry Clay Staver, born in 1844.  An entrepreneurial businessperson at-heart, Henry explored various business ventures throughout his years, and created the Staver Implement Co. in 1884.  The Abbot Buggy Company joined forces with Henry Staver in 1890, creating Staver & Abbott Manufacturing Company, Chicago, Illinois.  Henry Staver became the President and Treasurer.  In 1893, the Staver & Abbott Co. featured the Spider Phaeton, French Buggy, Stanhope Phaeton and the Two Seat Phaeton plus a few others.  Unfortunately, in 1896, Staver and Abbott closed their doors due to debt, but the Staver story does not end there.  In 1899, Henry Staver revived the brand under the name Staver Carriage Company.

In 1902, Henry Staver became the President of the National Carriage Builders Association.  Then in 1905, Staver was featured as a vehicles exhibitor at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Fair in Portland, OR.  (Little did Henry Staver know that many members of the Staver family would reside there 50 years in the future.) Henry Staver made the first leap into motorized carriages by filing a patent for a belt-type friction drive arrangement to be placed in an electrically powered self-propelled vehicle.

The 1907 Staver Model C Stanhope Highwheeler was the company’s first full production automobile.  Other models followed including the Model D Buggyabout, which retailed for $1,000 and had a top speed of 30 mph. Unfortunately that same year, the great Henry Staver passed at the age of 63.  Harry B Staver, Henry’s son, had been in charge of the company for a few years as Henry’s health declined.

Over the following three years, Harry Staver increased the types of cars manufactured, and he also improved their speed. The models ER, H, I, J, K and L were more modern and higher performing.  The Model I, for example, had 30hp and retailed at $1,850.  Henry phased-out some of his father’s Highwheelers as well.

The Staver line was bolstered to 16 models.  He offered as much as 40hp in the beautiful Racing Roadster.  Staver even won an engine efficiency contest in 1910, outperforming some famous brands of the time.  The marketing team was also hard at work as they developed a slogan that said “The Staver is a Stayer” and even created a march song.

Staver’s addiction to speed was pronounced.  He entered a car in the 1909 free-for-all race at the new Indianapolis Speedway, with a Staver car dealer by the name of Victor Bendix at the wheel.  Gus Monckmeier began racing for Staver and winning.  Monckmeier placed top three in the Fox River trophy followed by a win in the Algonquin Hill Climb while driving a Staver.  Staver returned to Indiana for the Indianapolis 500 where he entered two cars.

From 1910 to 1913, life was good at the Staver Carriage Co. Staver was building on three chassis, four different body styles.  The large Greyhound 65 had a powerful 71hp inline 6 and could seat four people.  Stavers were becoming famous in the racing scene and even famed stunt driver Curran drove one on the board track at Chicago’s Riverview Park.

Staver had reached his pinnacle in the automobile business.  The following 12 months showed a steady decline in models offered.  Key innovators began to seek employment outside of the Staver business, which was devastating to the company.  One bright spot was the record-breaking performance of the Staver 65s at the Newport Indiana Hillclimb with Monckmeier again at the wheel.

The Staver Carriage Co. closed their doors in July of 1914.  For Harry, the car business was just one of his adventures; Harry transferred his interests and talents to finance.  Harry became President of the Chicago’s Citizen’s Trust and Savings Bank in 1922.  The Staver Carriage Co. continued as a properties company that Harry ran for another decade as well.

Harry passed away at the age of 56.  He lived an exciting life during the birth of American horseless carriages.  His is just one story among hundreds who attempted to become automobile greats.  His story is of course very special to our company and is one that we will continue to explore.

There are five known Staver cars that have survived to modern times.

~ by WestCoastAutoEnthusiasts on November 1, 2012.

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