Edwin Ross Thomas

Male 1850 - 1936

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  • Born  3 Nov 1850  Webster, Westmoreland, PA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender  Male 
    Died  13 Sep 1936  Miami, Dade, FL Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried  Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, Erie, NY Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Father  Joseph Batty Thomas,   b. 28 Mar 1821, Rostraver, Westmoreland, PA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Jan 1892 
    Mother  Elizabeth VanHook,   b. Abt 1823,   d. Aft 1870 
    Family  Flora M. Lozier,   b. Oct 1857, Dearborn, IN Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 2 Aug 1921, Miami, Dade, FL Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married  24 Feb 1880  Aurora, Dearborn, IN Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Edwin Lozier Thomas,   b. Jan 1881, Evansville, Vanderburgh, IN Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 13 May 1924, Washington, DC Find all individuals with events at this location
     2. Elizabeth Vanhook Thomas,   b. Oct 1886, Memphis, Shelby, TN Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 4 Sep 1924, Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location
     3. John Grammer (Jack) Thomas,   b. Feb 1895, Memphis, Shelby, TN Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 5 Mar 1939, Florida Find all individuals with events at this location
    Last Modified  20 Apr 2015 
    Family ID  F3241  Group Sheet

  • Notes 
    • From: The Americana: a universal reference library ...
      By Frederick Converse Beach, George Edwin Rines
      Published by The Americana Co., 1911

      Edwin Ross Thomas was born at Webster, Westmoreland County, Pa., in 1850, one of the four sons of Joseph Batty and Elizabeth (Van Hook) Thomas. His father was one of the pioneer coal merchants of Pittsburg, floating his coal to Southern ports before the days of steam towing. Later he was a coal operator in Kentucky and at Evansville, Ind.

      The son was educated in the high schools at Evansville, Ind.. and later supplemented this by a course in Duff's College, Pittsburg, Pa. Immediately after leaving college he engaged in business life. From 1863 to 1879 he was in the marine transportation business on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers; from 1879 to 1882 he was a coal mine operator in Evansville, Ind. ; and from 1892 to 1895 he conducted a railway and steamboat agency and was also a real estate operator in Memphis, Tenn., where he contributed largely to the growth and development of the city. He was also a director of the Mechanics' Savings Bank and of the East End Railway. He then embarked in the manufacture of bicycles, from 1895 to 1899, being the managing partner in the firm of H. A. Lozier and Company, manufacturers of the Cleveland bicycle, at Toronto, Canada. In 1899 he became vice-president of the Canada Cycle and Motor Company, of Toronto, but resigned to engage in the manufacture of automobiles. The next year he founded the E. R. Thomas Motor Company, of Buffalo, manufacturers of the "Thomas Flyer" automobiles, one of the oldest and largest automobile manufacturing companies in the United States, and of which Mr. Thomas was the sole owner. In 1906 he founded the Thomas Detroit Company, now the Chalmers Motor Company, of Detroit, in which he is a large stockholder and director.

      Though of well-to-do parentage, Mr. Thomas has been engaged in some sort of business since he was nine years of age— even when going to school— and it is a singular fact that, with the exception of three years as a coal operator, almost his entire career has been connected with some branch of the transportation business— first steamboating, then railroading, next the manufacture of bicycles, and at the present time the building of automobiles. In addition he was president and proprietor of the Taxi-Motor Cab Company, of Boston, and president and proprietor of the Federal Taxicab Company, of Washington. At the same time, however, transportation did not monopolize all the great business ability possessed by Mr. Thomas, for he was also connected with several other corporations of a distinctly different character, among which were the E. R. Thomas Realty Company, of which he was president, the Central National Bank of Buffalo, of which he was a director, and the Iron Elevator and Transfer Company of Buffalo, of which he was a director. Mr. Thomas has now retired from active business affairs.

      Mr. Thomas has always taken great delight in traveling and has indulged in this pleasure as much as his large business interests would permit. He has traversed almost every section of the United States, and has also covered large portions of Alaska, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, Italy, France, Germany, and England. His favorite recreations are yachting and automobiling. He is also extremely fond of social life and enjoys the pleasures and companionships to be found in the various clubs of which he is a member, among them being the Ellicott Club, of which he was at one time president, the Buffalo Club, the Country Club, the Park Club, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (Toronto), the Buffalo Motor Boat Club, the Niagara Golf Club, and the Automobile Club. He was married at Aurora, Ind, in 1879, to Flora Lozier, daughter of Abram Lozier, and to them three children have been born : Edwin Lozier (b. 1880) : Elizabeth Van Hook (b. 1887) ; and Jack Grammer (b. 1893). Of the children two have been married : Edwin L. in 1906, and Elizabeth in 1909.

      In 1923, when Edwin was 72, a widower living in Miami Beach, applied for a passport to "travel around the world". He left San Francisco and arrived back in New York in Feb of 1924.

      From 1924 publication by George Ryerson, Edwin's son-in-law...
      "ON JUNE 8th, 1916, I married Elizabeth Van Hook Thomas, only daughter of Mr. Edwin Ross Thomas and Mrs. Thomas, of Buffalo. Mr. Thomas was formerly vice-president of the Canada Cycle and Motor Company, of Toronto, and afterwards president and owner of the Thomas Car Company, of Buffalo, from which position he retired some years ago. My wife was born in Memphis, Tennessee, her grandfather, Mr. Joseph Thomas, being one of the pioneer coal mine owners of the South, but like all Southerners he suffered greatly by the Civil War, his family being Union sympathizers, in consequence of which they had to fly to Indiana. He owned a line of steamboats on the Mississippi, which were seized by the Secessionists, to his great loss. Mr. E. R. Thomas, while only a boy of fifteen years of age, ran away and joined the Union Army, but as he was only a boy he was enlisted as a drummer. went South with the army, but in Texas he was discharged as being under the enlistment age. He was left to his own resources to find his way home, but so resourceful was he, that after walking across a great part of the State of Texas, which was in a very unsettled condition, he managed to make his way home to Indiana and his family. Mrs. Ryerson's maternal grandfather was a banker in Aurora, Indiana, and built the first stone house in that State, a house which is still standing, so substantially was it built. Mrs. Ryerson, a gifted and charming woman, passed away, after years of suffering, borne with great fortitude and patience, on September 4th, 1924. "

      U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925
      Name: Edwin Ross Thomas
      Birth Date: 3 Nov 1850
      Birth Place: Webster, Pensylvania
      RESIDENCE: Miami Beach, Florida
      Passport Issue Date: 3 Apr 1923
      Father Name: Joseph B Thomas
      Father's Birth Location: Pennsylvania
      Father's Residence: Deceased
      Passport Includes a Photo: Y
      Source: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925 (M1490)

      New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957
      Name: Edwin Ross Thomas
      Arrival Date: 13 Feb 1924
      Estimated Birth Year: abt 1851
      Age: 73
      Gender: male
      Port of Departure: Southampton
      Ship Name: Berengaria
      Port of Arrival: New York, New York
      Nativity: Pennsylvania
      Line: 5
      Microfilm Serial: T715
      Microfilm Roll: T715_3451
      Birth Location: Pennsylvania
      Birth Location Other: webster westmoreland
      Page Number: 20

      The Thomas Company was founded in Buffalo, NY in 1900 by Edwin Ross Thomas, who had been involved in the railway business. He bought part of the Moribund Globe Cycle Company, and began building bicycles and motorcycles. In 1902, automobile production began in a new factory; the first car was a light single-cylinder car, joined shortly thereafter by a two-cylinder model and, eventually, a three-cylinder model which bore the name 'Thomas Flyer.' By 1907, the output was some 700 cars and 400 taxicabs, and each car produced had to prove itself capable of climbing Brewery Hill in Buffalo. In 1910, Thomas production has slipped to 913 units, due in part to the poor reliability record of the Model L. This example was raced in California, and was a part of the Harrah's Collection in Reno. It is one of two know to exist. E.R. Thomas, who in his decade in the motor industry had never learned to drive a car, sold his interest in the company in 1910, and the assets were eventually sold off in bankruptcy in 1913.

      Sales literature claimed the 1909 Thomas was the most powerful, complete and luxurious stock car made. Superiority was not due to any single item but a result of attention to every detail that earned its rank as the world's most perfect car. Thomas offered four lines in 1909 and the K 6-70 was the largest. The engine is a 784 cubic inch, 6-cylinder, developing 70 horsepower with 5 and 1/2 inch bore and 5 and 1/2 inch stroke.

      The Erwin Ross (E.R.) Thomas Motor Company produced automobiles from 1902 through 1919. Production transpired in Buffalo, New York. The first cars produced by the company appeared in 1903 and were mostly small runabouts with seating for two. The company had begun like so many other auto-manufacturing firms at the time - through a bicycle business. Thomas had been building bicycles for several companies before making the switch to automotive production.

      The first E.R. Thomas Motor cars were powered by a vertically-mounted water-cooled straight-three cylinder engine that produced just over 20 horsepower. The engine was mated to a two-speed planetary gearbox.

      As times progressed, so did the E.R. Thomas Motor Cars. The Company did much to promote their vehicles and to attract customers, such as painting the cars in bright and attractive colors. The cars became more powerful and elegant and became renowned for their reliability and endurance.

      In 1908, an E.R. Thomas Car was entered into 'The Great Race' which ran from New York to Paris. The decision was made at the last minute and there was little time to properly adapt the car for the race. Instead, the company pulled one from the production line and entered it into the race. The race began at New York during the winter and proceeded for San Francisco. The entrants then loaded onto a boat and traveled to Alaska and then Siberia. Once they arrived at Siberia, the race continued. The Race was actually won in 169 days, and covered 22,000 miles. 13341 miles were actually driven. At the conclusion of the race, ending in Paris, it was an E.R. Thomas in first place, claiming the overall victory.

      Demand for the E.R. Thomas Motor cars increased after the heroic victory. In 1911, the company only produced six-cylinder cars. Within a year, the car had entered into receivership and purchased by C.A. Finnegan of the Empire Smelting Company.