Pierce-Arrow was an American automobile manufacturer based in Buffalo, New York, which was active from 1901-1938. Best known for its expensive luxury cars, Pierce-Arrow also manufactured commercial trucks, fire trucks, camp trailers, motorcycles, and bicycles.
In 1903 Pierce decided to concentrate on making a larger, more luxurious car for the upscale market, and the Pierce-Arrow car was born. This proved to be Pierce’s most successful product, and the solidly-built cars with powerful engines gained positive publicity by winning various auto races. During this period, Pierce’s high-end products were sometimes advertised as the Great-Arrow. George Norman Pierce sold all rights and the company in 1907 — he died in 1910. In 1908, Pierce Motor Company was renamed The Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company. The Pierce Arrow Factory Complex, designed by noted industrial architect Albert Kahn in about 1906, was constructed at Elmwood and Great Arrow Avenues. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The Pierce-Arrow’s engine capacity started as 11.7 L and later was 13.5 L.
In 1909, U.S. President William Howard Taft ordered two Pierce-Arrows to be used for state occasions, the first official cars of the White House. An open-bodied Pierce-Arrow carried Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding to Harding’s 1921 inauguration. A restored 1919 Pierce-Arrow is on view at the Wilson Presidential Library.
Herbert M. Dawley (later a Broadway actor-director) joined Pierce-Arrow in 1912, and designed almost every model until 1938. In 1914, Pierce-Arrow adopted its most enduring styling hallmark when the headlights of the vehicle were moved from the traditional placement on either side of the radiator into flared housings molded into the front fenders of the car. This gave the car an immediate visual identification from the side; at night it gave the car the appearance of a wider stance. Pierce patented this placement and it remained in place until the final model in 1938, although Pierce always offered customers the option of conventional headlamps.