Monday, February 9, 2009

Stella's Streetcar

The Perley A. Thomas Story

Perley Thomas Survived Two Depressions and Created an Icon of American Literature.

Thomas 900
A Thomas 900 Series Streetcar in New Orleans. I photoshopped the line placard.

Perley A. Thomas was born in 1874. He was trained as a millsmith and his specialty was woodworking. He found employment with a streetcar manufacturer in Cleveland Ohio. Wanting to improve his situation, he studied engineering at Case Institute of Technology's night school. This background helped him as the industry moved from wood bodies to steel.

In 1910 he went to work for the Southern Car Company in High Point North Carolina. The company went out of business in 1916 but Thomas was able to get a contract on his own to renovate streetcars for the Charlotte North Carolina transit company. He used Southern Car Company's old plant and many of his former coworkers. A year later he founded Perley A. Thomas Car Works. The company sold its product to many American cities, among them was New Orleans. This company built the streetcars that were in use when Williams wrote his famous play.

As streetcars faded into history in the 1930's, Thomas transitioned his company into the manufacture of buses. In 1936 the company was actively manufacturing buses.

The depression cut demand and when orders were few Thomas survived by returning to his woodworking skills. If you visit some of the finer homes in High Point North Carolina you may find some particularly fine hand-carved mantle pieces that are the work of Perley A.Thomas.

The company was reorganized as the Thomas Built Buses Incorporated during this period. As orders increased the company grew to be one of the largest of its kind in the world. Today it is part of the Freightliner Group of Daimler/Chrysler.

Thomas continued to work for the company and was design advisor well into his eighties while his children actually ran the company. He died in 1958.

Thomas 900
Thomas 900 Series Streetcar.

Past Milestone Monday Features:

Dr. June McCarroll and the White Line
Henry "Box" Brown Ships Himself to Freedom
Richard Ankrom's 'Guerrilla Signage'
Preston Tucker and John DeLorean
General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. [1], [2], [3]
Meta Warwick Fuller
Franklin Graham [Son of Billy]
Francis Collins and Jedadiah Hotchkiss
Motherhood and Invention
Eric Liddell
Bob Childress
William H. Howland [Mayor Who Made a Difference]
Tolbert S. Dalton
Davy Crockett and Mark Warner
Noam Bedein
The Nehemiah Project
Perley A. Thomas

Warning: The above articles might prove inspirational to "Dangerous" Home Schoolers, as described in my piece: Public Servants Should Remember Who They Serve.

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