son, John W. Henney
, born in 1842 learned the carriage building trade under his
father's watchful eye and left the firm to apprentice with several regional firms before becoming superintendent of the Wiley Carriage Shop
of Kansas City, Missouri.
returned to Cedarville in 1868 and assumed control of his
father's shop, modernizing it with steam power and modern milling machinery, being one of the first builders in the nation to utilize it.
business and reputation grew and in 1879 he
moved the business to Freeport naming it, John W. Henney & Company
The first Henney plant was located adjacent to Freeport's main rail line on South Chicago Ave and West Jackson St. Most of their early business was focused on fine carriages and buggies, but they also offered a line of commercial vehicles and funeral coaches starting in the late 1890s.
In 1912 Henney's son and namesake, John W. Henney, Jr. became superintendent of the busy plant at the age of 29.
A new larger plant was constructed that totally filled half of a city block, but his
timing was unfortunate as the golden age of carriage building was coming to an end.
Now called the Henney Buggy Company
, the firm was eventually liquidated and the modern factory sold to the Moline Plow Company
enlarged the plant and built the Stephens Salient Six automobile there from 1916 to 1924.
With plenty of cash in hand, young John W. Henney, Jr.
was soon back in business as the John W. Henney Co.
after purchasing the former Maurer building which was conveniently located between the Illinois Central Railroad lines and the Pacotonica River.
Early production consisted of truck bodies and a motorized Henney funeral coach was added late in 1916, built on an assembled chassis with a six-cylinder Continental engine.
also purchased the building now known as the Lena Casket Company in East Freeport to make wooden frames for the coach bodies as well as walnut gun stocks for the US Army
In a speech given to the Professional Car Society in 1978, H. Reid Horner, Henney's director of personnel from June 1928 through November 1954 recalled that the firm utilized Dodge Brothers chassis in the period immediately following World War I.
The Moline Plow Company
liquidated the Stephens car operations in 1924, and Henney
moved back into their old building offering a full line of limousine-style coaches on their own assembled chassis which included a 70hp Continental six-cylinder engine.
In addition to their distinctive cycle-style front fenders (Henney's resembled the popular Kissel Kar), these unusual coaches were now available with imitation leather - called Meritas fabric, a nitrile-coated imitation leather similar to Zapon - stretched over an ash frame.
Like a Weymann, the body was incredibly light and the heavy Meritas fabric prevented the drumming frequently heard in other coachbuilt metal-bodied vehicles.
Meritas-covered bodies were anywhere from 300 to 500 lbs lighter than a comparable metal-clad body.
A new funeral coach for 1924 was the landau-limousine, a Meritas-bodied coach which featured a Meritas-covered top with nickel-plated landau bars on the very attractive rounded rear quarters.
also offered a Meritas-clad short-wheelbase combination sedan-ambulance that also featured the increasingly popular landau bars.
The name of the business was changed to the Henney Motor Company
in 1927 and shortly thereafter John W. Henney Jr.
interest in the firm roughly a year before the stock market crash in 1929.
absence the Henney Motor Co.
produced 100 taxicabs on stretched Model A Ford chassis as well as their normal professional car line.
They also supplied 3-piece ash roof rails to Ford
who used the sub-assemblies on the 1929 Model A Fordor body framework.
According to H. Reid Horner
, from the late twenties until the adoption of the Packard chassis in 1937, Henney
frequently mixed-n-matched chassis and engines from different manufacturers.
In 1927 Henney introduced the NU-3-Way coach, a funeral car equipped with a three-way casket table patented by a Los Angeles inventor, William H. Heise.
A bronze Heise tag can be found on the table framework of Henney's
was repelled at the way hearses had to be backed up to the curb for loading, which he
thought was very undignified.
The 3-way feature added about $100.00 to the price of the car but Henney
did very well with it.
was soon selling more than half the 3-ways in the industry, and we sold side-servicing equipment, including the mound, track and carrier to some of our competitors."
The Henney Deluxe line continued mostly unchanged as did their lower-priced Light-Six models which were easily distinguishable by their old-fashioned artillery wheels.
Henney coaches were offered with either a leather-back landau roof or a plain painted-metal roof treatment.
As always, plain, frosted, leaded or combination frosted/leaded windows were available on all of their coaches.
In 1928 Henney
was awarded a government contract to supply 23 ambulances to the United States Veterans Bureau
(now the Veterans Administration) for use at their medical facilities.
The NU-3-Way funeral coach featured prominently in their print advertising.
claimed that the wide pillarless door opening could support over 1500 lbs. at its center.
Heavy wrought-iron bracing placed within the strong ash-framing made it possible.
During the year, Henney
launched what amounted to a smear campaign against Eureka, Sayers & Scovill
, Meteor and Silver-Knightstown
falsely accusing them of marketing side-servicing coaches built with bootleg casket tables.
Ads that appeared in the nations funeral and mortuary magazines falsely stated that Henney
was the exclusive licensee of the patented Heise casket table.
In 1930 Eureka, Meteor and Sayers & Scovill
filed suit against Henney
and eventually won an injunction against them.
In a year when they could ill afford it, Henney's
victims' business suffered, while Henney's
As a direct result of their attack on Eureka, Henney
won a contract to supply REO-chassised coaches to the National Casket Company
who had just canceled their contract with Kissel because Eureka supplied Kissel with their funeral coach bodies.
Having survived the crash with his
cash reserves, John W. Henney Jr.
easily regained control of the company in 1930 and soon conceived a high-priced luxury car similar to the L-29 of his
good friend, Errett Lobban Cord.
The magnificent convertible sedan that resulted was powered by a Lycoming straight-eight and set on Henney's
137-1/2-inch wheelbase chassis.
Only four examples were built and all were sold to Henney's friends and large customers.
1930 and 1931 Henney's
rode on a purpose-built chassis that closely resembled that of the auto industry's style leader, Cadillac.
Their ambulances were advertised as being completely equipped, and their NU-3-Way side-loading coaches were racking up sales at the expense of their competition.
In addition to the frosted/leaded/beveled or plain rear quarter-window options, new interior window treatments were available as well and included wicker window inserts, mini-blinds or airline-style draperies.
Henney offered the industry's first electric-powered casket table in 1932 which was designed by William H. Heise, the designer of the original 3-way table.
introduced beaver-tail styling to their coach bodies in 1933.
By 1934 they had abandoned assembly of their own chassis and were building on Cadillac, Lincoln, Oldsmobile, Packard
and Pierce-Arrow chassis.
Less expensive models were built primarily on Oldsmobile chassis during the mid-Thirties and were designated as Henney Progress coaches.
Heise's electric 3-way casket table was marketed as the "Elecdraulic" and was standard equipment on a few high-priced NU-3-Way coaches.
The Henny Arrowline was introduced in 1934 and was built exclusively on Pierce-Arrow chassis.
Unfortunately, Pierce-Arrow went bankrupt during 1937-8, so Henney
looked to Packard
to furnish chassis for their high-priced coaches.
By the end of 1935 Henney
introduced the popular Henney
800 series that was built on a Packard
The Funeral Auto Company
of Louisville, Kentucky purchased eight identical Arrowline funeral coaches during 1936.
Funeral Auto Co.
were just one of the many funeral livery services across the country that rented out hearses and limousines to metropolitan funeral directors who either couldn't afford to own one, or didn't have the room to park these huge coaches at their place of business.
As today, hearses are an extra-cost item in most funeral services and can be rented as needed by smaller funeral homes.
In large cities like New York City, the cost of parking a large coach can quickly exceed its cost, so funeral and limousine livery services remain popular to this day.
also built a handful of 1935-36 coaches on stretched Auburn chassis.
Henny Arrowlines were built from 1934-1937.
1937 was the final year for Oldsmobile-chassised Henney-Progress coaches