December 20, 2020


Holley Motor Co. (1900-1904)

Bradford, Pennsylvania

This is a Holley emblem (date unknown)     mjs
Size: 64mm high 54mm wide    MM: None

George M. Holley built his first automobile in 1897. This was a small single-cylinder three-wheeled motor car called the "Runabout", which reached up to 30mph, a surprisingly high speed at that time. George Holley and his brother Earl set up the Holley Motor Company in 1899 to manufacture motor cars, motorbicycles and motors. George Holley built his first motorbicycle in 1901 and in 1902 he won the motorcycle endurance contest from Boston to New York and set motorcycle world speed records at the Pan American races.

The Holley brothers then built a 5 hp four-wheeled touring runabout car called the Holley Motorette, which looked French, with a coil radiator and a lot of brass. The Holley Motorette was offered for sale in 1902. Although the Holley had features that were advanced for the time and the price was attractive, the business was not successful.

The Holley brothers were also the sole US agent for the French Longuemare carburetor, and in 1904 they decided to abandon their motor vehicle business and go into carburetor manufacture ( this was to become a highly successful business, which continues today, as of 2021). The Holley Motor Company was sold to a group of local investors in 1904 and renamed Bradford Motor Works, which sold the left over Holley parts as a kit car called the Bradford.

Research has shown that the Holley Motor Company announced in the trade press in March 1904 that the ownership of the company had changed hands and the last advertisement for the Holly Motor Company appeared in the trade journals in April 1904. In June 1904, the Bradford Motor Works advertised themselves as "the successors of the Holley Motor Company" and were offering for sale stock acquired with the take-over of Holley, including a few complete cars as well as car parts and carburetors. 

Manufacture of the Holley motorcycle was taken over from the Holley Motor Company by Phillips and Hamilton of Bradford, Pennsylvania and continued until 1911 but no further details could be found regarding Phillips and Hamilton or their relationship with the Holley Motor Company.


It is not surprising that the Holley Motor Company used a holly wreath as a logo in advertisements, see example shown below:

Holley car ad with holly wreath (1903)  catj 

The beautiful multicolored enamel Holley Motor Company emblem shown above is unlikely to have been used on the Holley motor car but it is extremely rare and, if the Holley Motor Company had ceased to exist by June 1904, as research suggests, then the emblem must have been made no later than that date. This would make the Holley Motor Company emblem the earliest example of an enamel auto emblem used in America, whether for a motor car or a motorcycle. This is just possible, as the Holley brothers had close links with France, where enameled emblems were being used by 1904. Further research is required to establish whether the Holley Motor Company continued to exist after 1904 for the manufacture of the Holley motorcycle when this was taken over by Phillips and Hamilton. 

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