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Trumbull Motor Car Company 1913-1915

Lizzy Jones

Originally called the American, the Trumbull Cyclecar was designed in 1912 by Harry J. Stoops of Detroit for the American Cyclecar Co. Before production began the American Cyclecar Co. was purchased by Alexander and Isaac Trumbull and they renamed the cyclecar The Trumbull.

Original Sales brochure for 1913 American Cycle car Trumbull | carmanualsdirect

Original Sales Brochure for the 1913 American Cycle Car

The manufacturing of the Trumbull was moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Initially, two different models were produced. A two passenger roadster and a two passenger sedan. Prices ranged from $475 to $600. Later, in 1915 a delivery van was also made.

Trumbull 2 Seater Roadster 1915

The four cylinder engine was designed by K. L. Hermann of the Hermann Engineering Company of Detroit. It was a side valve inline four cylinder with 86.4 cubic inch that developed 14-18 horsepower. According to their advertising, the Trumbull could reach 50 mph.

Trumbull Delivery Van 1915

Between 1913 and 1915 about 2,000 Trumbull cyclecars were made. It was estimated that 1,500 units were exported to Europe and Australia. Advertising called the Trumbull "America's first fully-equipped light car," because standard equipment included electric lights and horn, a top, side curtains and windshield, along with tools and a tire pump. These items were considered extras on many other automobiles.

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On May 1, 1915, Isaac Trumbull boarded the RMS Lusitania in New York  heading for Liverpool UK. He was expecting to negotiate a contract for 300 Trumbull Motor Cars. Cargo on board the RMS Lusitania included 20 Trumbulls to be used to show prospective dealers and distributors in the UK and Europe.

RMS Lusitania at Port in New York
RMS Lusitania at port in New York

The RMS Lusitania was considered one of the fastest steamers of the day with over 200 transatlantic journeys to her credit. Although more than 9 years old she was also considered very luxurious.

RMS Lusitania Lounge and Music room
RMS Lusitania Lounge and Music Room

With Britain already at war (World War 1) with Germany, the threat from Germany wanting to gain an advantage on the Atlantic, decided to step up their submarine campaign. On 4 February 1915, Germany declared the seas around the British Isles a war zone. Accordingly, allied ships in the area would be sunk without warning.

In April 1915 a meeting took place between some German–Americans and the German Embassy in New York, hoping to avoid controversy if RMS Lusitania were attacked by a German U-boat. The German Embassy in NY decided to warn passengers before her next crossing not to sail aboard Lusitania. On 22 April 1915, the Embassy placed a warning advertisement in 50 American newspapers, including those in New York.

TRAVELLERS intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.
Washington, D.C. 22 April 1915

Notice from German Embassy in Washington 1915 - sailing on the RMS Lusitania

After a foggy start to the day on May 7th 1915, by mid day the weather had clear to become a beautiful sunny day. Off the cost of Ireland German U Boat U-20 surfaced at 12:45 and 40 minutes later sighted a large steamer on the horizon. At 13:25 the submarine submerged to periscope depth of 11 metres and set a course to intercept the liner at her maximum submerged speed of 9 knots. At 14:10 U-20 fired a gyroscopic torpedo at a depth of three metres. The torpedo struck RMS Lusitania under the bridge, sending a geyser of water, coal, dust, steel plate and debris high above the deck. Within 20 minutes RMS Lusitania had sunk.

Lusitania had 48 lifeboats, more than enough for all the crew and passengers, but only six were successfully lowered, all from the starboard side. Of the 1,959 passengers and crew aboard Lusitania at the time of her sinking, 1,195 lost their lives, including Isaac Trumbull aged 33. His body was later recovered.

Many of the passengers and crew were trapped below deck as bulkhead doors were closed as a precaution before the attack and could not be reopened to release trapped passengers.

By December 1915 the board of director of the Trumbull Motor Car Co. consisting mainly of Issacs brothers decided to place the business into receivership. As a result his grieving brothers quit the car business, declaring they would produce munitions as a way of avenging his death.

1915 Trumbull in receivership

A newspaper article published at the time states:

President John H. Trumbull of the Trumbull Electric Company of Plainville, brother of Isaac B. Trumbull of Bridgeport, who lost his life on the Lusitania, admitted Tuesday that the company is seriously considering the manufacture of rifles and other munitions of war for use by the allies against Germany, thus making possible the avenging of the death of Mr. Trumbull. The company has received opportunities to bid upon large supplies of rifles, shrapnel, and other munitions of war. The cost of the special machinery necessary is now being figured by the officers of the company.

Mr. Trumbull regards the death of his brother and the other passengers on the Lusitania as deliberate murder. He does not believe, however, that the sinking of the vessel is sufficient cause for war on the part of the United States, and is inclined to criticize the naval authorities of England for their failure to have convoys for the ship.

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