by Mary Goljenboom
Harriet White Fisher was a woman of action and independence. When her husband died, she took over running his family’s business, Fisher & Norris Eagle Anvil Works in Trenton, NJ. To make sales calls, she traveled around the country by chauffeured automobile. In early 1908, with the anvil business slow because the country was in a recession, she started a reduced-rate automobile repair business.
It made perfect sense. It allowed her to keep all her workers busy instead of having to lay some off. It generated revenue. There was room in the factory to do the work. And it injected competitive pricing into a business where mechanics, Fisher felt, colluded and were “practicing extortion on the automobilists.”
To oversee the department, Fisher hired an experienced manager, Harold Fisher Brooks. He knew marine engines as well as automobile, so they included motorboat repairs in their services. The business was limited to machinery repair—no painting or upholstery work. Fisher guaranteed the workmanship, promising that it would adhere to Eagle Anvil Works’ reputation for quality.
Fisher invested in some machinery for the repair department and began advertising in the Trenton Evening Times classified advertising pages in late January 1908.
AUTOMOBILE Repairs, motor boat engines repaired and installed, by expert machinist and engineer; first-class work guaranteed; no trust prices. Fisher & Norris Anvil Works, Fair Street, Trenton, N.J.
Slow economic times caused Harriet White Fisher to think creatively and act decisively. She found a niche that utilized some of her business assets, required a manageable amount of investment, and was personally satisfying.
Trenton Evening Times 23 January 1908; 21 January 1908; and 21 April 1908 via newspapers.com
New York Times 24 January 1908
Philadelphia Inquirer 24 January 1908 via newspapers.com
The Motor World magazine 6 February 1908 via Google Books
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