The records and blueprints of the Holsman Automobile Company appeared to have remained with H. K. as at the time of his death, they were discovered in his home. But as far as his twin sons were concerned, there did not appear to be any reason for retaining them, so they were placed at the curbside for pickup by the trash man. {His oldest son, H. T. was unaware of this}. Thankfully, his grandson, Barry Holsman, thought they might be of value and he managed to rescue a few records and blueprints. Unfortunately, all the records were not rescued, so the original information which exists today is incomplete. It should be noted that some of the figures in their reports differ from one report to the next. Thus, we have had to estimate several of them due to missing items or conflicting figures. Here are the production figures as reflected by their records, including some educated estimates.


             YEAR CARS ON HAND JAN. 1st          ORDERS REC’D                CARS SHIPPED  


1902    0 0 1 0
1903    – 17 11 13 6
1904    2 43 47 50 2
1905    5 120 110 129 12
1906  24 526 359 389 179
1907  54 763 750 748 192
1908  52 398 503* 451* 87
1909    0* 428 515* 659* 0
1910 144* ? ? 20*
TOTALS 2295 2460

A n early 1910 factory report listed the 1905 – 1909 figures under “Vehicles Shipped” rather than “Vehicle Orders Received.” From examining all the existing papers, it is apparent that these figures represent the vehicle orders received and also represent the fact that these orders were eventually filled and shipped, but not necessarily in the year they were received.

H. K. Holsman, when he was interviewed, at the age of 94, made the two following statements: “They built the cars in the winter-time and delivered them in the summer” and, “They built 1,000 cars per year.” From all available data, they could not possibly have produced 1,000 vehicles per year. At 94 years of age, and over 55 years after the fact, H. K. Holsman’s memory was probably playing tricks. Their own records show that in their peak manufacturing year of 1907, their production was 748 cars. Also, there is no record of them ever receiving 1,000 orders in a year. In 1907, their best year, they received 763 orders. They may have set a goal of 1,000 cars, or orders, per year, but it does not appear that it was ever reached.

In early 1991, Henry T. Holsman, H. K. Holsman’s oldest son, noted that the winter working months were December

through April, and sometimes into May. This meant that they then had a 5 to 5½ winter month period, and possibly a 6 months manufacturing time.

Their new plant became operational by the latter part of May 1906, and they were obtaining sufficient orders for cars to continue manufacturing beyond the normal working hours and the winter months. In fact, in 1905 and 1906 they were working a night force to keep up with the orders. The new plant capacity, beginning in late May of 1906, was more than six times that of the old plant capacity. In 1907, they stated that they were then manufacturing at full capacity for that year in their new plant.

Holsman, in their 1908 advertisements, stated that their sales in 1907 were over $600,000. This was stretching the facts, as their records show that their gross vehicle sales for 1907 was $576,048, and their gross repair sales $47,498. Apparently, they used their total gross sales figures of $623,546, which is over the $600,000 figure used in their advertising.


Vehicle & Motor Numbers

The vehicle number for those numbered 1800 through 2999 appears on the brass name plates with the digit number followed with the suffix “V”. On the earlier Holsmans the number did not appear on the nameplate, but was stamped on various parts of the body. Vis: Inside the front storage box, under the rear front floor board, on the seat frame or underneath the rear body cross frame. On those Holsmans with vehicle numbers 3000 and up, the “V” suffix was not normally stamped on the nameplate.

Since H. K. Holsman, as well as many other automobile manufacturers during this period, referred to their vehicle engines as “motors”, we will also refer to them as motors. The Holsman motor numbers were stamped on the periphery of the flywheels. The second and third series motors added the suffix “M” to the digit number. There are some exceptions where the “M” suffix was omitted for an unknown reason. These numbers appear to be the only true serial numbers that Holsman used, as will be seen later.

No known recorded of any Holsman vehicle or motor numbers exists nor have any original bills of sale yet been located which would tie down a serial number of any sort to the year of sale or manufacture. However, Holsman vehicle number 1893, with motor number 883, has a 2″ metal disc mounted on the front with the following inscription: REGISTERED in the office of the SECRETARY of STATE for the State of SOUTH DAKOTA under motor vehicle law – 738. Mr. J. B. Howell of St. James, Missouri, in 1978, at the age of 91, sold this car to Memoryville U.S.A., a museum in Rolla, Missouri. He advised that he had purchased it from a Doctor in South Dakota, whom he believed to have been the original owner. Checking with the South Dakota State Historical Society, Pierre, S.D., we found that this car was originally registered by a J.R. Wallace of Pine Ridge, South Dakota on 13 June 1907, and later transferred to A. C. Lindbo of Wallace, S.D. on 21May 1910. It would then appear that Mr. Wallace was the original first owner.

Assuming one to two months from the time of manufacture until it was shipped, received, assembled, and registered, it may then be assumed that vehicle, number 1893, was manufactured in early April 1907 as the 94th vehicle in lot 18.

There is a large gap in the known vehicle numbers, 657 to 1893. From the existing facts we can arbitrarily assume that they began a new series of numbers at 1800 as they had planned to begin using the THIRD variety motor, but first used up the balance of the SECOND variety. We can therefore assign the 1907 Vehicle numbers using the balance of the SECOND variety of motors as being in the 800- to 1100- ranges. Then, the balance of vehicles manufactured in 1907 using the THIRD variety motor, is (746-206) = 542, which gives us Vehicle numbers in the 1800- through the 2200- ranges. (We obtained 206 from a formula shown later on) Thus, the overall vehicle numbers for 1907 appear to have begun with 818 and ended in the 2200- range.

Below are the approximate vehicle numbers listed according to their years of manufacture, plus a listing of the estimated number manufactured in the respective years. Even though they were working on their four cylinder motors in early 1908, they did not advertise these “H” & “K” type motors until 1910 when they first appeared in that years catalogs. However, they were being manufactured, installed, and sold in their cars by at least mid-1909.

In the following chart, each vehicle number range may or may not have been completely assigned to Holsman vehicles. Thus, if only 69 vehicles were manufactured in lot number 21, the highest number would have been 2168, and the next vehicle manufactured would be assigned number 2200, indicating that it was the first vehicle in the next lot number, 22. Holsman, vehicle #310, has the date 3/13/05 also stamped on the flywheel. This indicates that they probably began with #300 it 1905. DO NOT consider these figures to be exact. They do represent the best possible estimate based on the known facts and qualified estimates.

Vehicle No. Ranges Year No. Mfg. Orders Received
100- 1903   13 17
200- 1904  50 43
300- 400- 1905 129 120
500- 700- 1906 389 526
800- 1000- 1907 (206)†    
1800- 2200- 1907 (542)** 748 763
2300- 2700- 1908** 451 398
2800- 2900- 1909 (200)**    
3000- 3399- 1909 (459)§ 659 428
3400- 1910§     20*     20*

Approximate total mfg.


Approximate number of orders received  


         (*) Approximate

         (†) SECOND variety motors.

         (**) THIRD variety motors.

         (§) Fourth & Fifth, types “H” & “K” motors.


Note also that some of the manufacturing figures listed above vary from others listed elsewhere in this history. Determining these figures is only an estimate, thus the difference occurs from using two different methods to arrive at these results, plus the fact that the HACo’s summation reports varied from year to year.

One method of determining the approximate number of motors used, thus the number of vehicles manufactured, is by calculation using the known existing motor numbers. Take the highest found numbers from each type of motor, 1 through 3, [1893], and of types 4 and 5 (“H” & “K”), [3333], remembering that types 4 and 5 began with serial number 3000, and place them in the following equation: (1893 – 100 + 1) + (3333 – 3000 + 1) = 2128, the number of motors used.

The Henry Ford Museum has an early Model 3 for which they list a number 10 on the motor. This number also appears on another early Holsman motor, and it proves to be a part number rather than a motor number. The number 0010 is stamped on one cylinder and the number 0011 on the other, plus the letters HOL. This might indicate that the castings were made outside of the Holsman factory. We are assuming that Holsman began his motor numbering system with #100. This assumption is based on the fact that many early automobile manufactures started their numbering system with a number higher than 1. This was purportedly to give the impression that they had been in business for a time. Undoubtedly, there were some numbers above 3333, so let us assume that this number is under by approximately 10%. Then the total number of motors manufactured and installed in their cars would have been (2128 x 1.1) = 2341, which is an approximation of the total number of vehicles manufactured during the active lifetime of the Holsman Automobile Company, and close to the calculated 2439.

As of this writing, there are known to exist Holsmans and Holsman motors only, with the motor numbers in the number ranges 100 through 600, 800 through 1800, and 3100 through 3300. It is assumed that there are motors with serials in some of these missing hundred ranges not yet located.

Actually, Holsman vehicle numbers are not true serial numbers at all, but represent a type of numbering code used by Holsman. Quoting directly from their NAME PLATE Blueprint #6L12: Vehicle No.’s to start with 00 and run to 99 for each lot, prefixed by the lot no. FOR EXAMPLE – 2600 to 2699 the first two figures indicating the lot, the last two figures indicating the serial number of said lot. This means that the serial number of the vehicle within each lot is 1 less than the actual number of vehicles manufactured within the lot i.e.: Number 600 would be lot 6 vehicle number 1; number 2453 would be lot 24 vehicle number 54; number 1499 would be lot 14 vehicle number 100, etc.

Thus far, no information has as yet been located which would indicate that each lot number was completely filled with the allowable 100 vehicles. To the contrary, the number of extant vehicles together with their numbers leads one to believe that the lots were not completely filled with 100 vehicles each.

Another factor to bear in mind when trying to determine the year of a Holsman is that the company sometimes manufactured the next years’ model as early as July of the preceding year in which they advertised that it would be available and so shown in the upcoming catalogs.

On the other hand the THIRD variety motor was shown in the 1905 catalog as being available in the 1905 model cars. They apparently did not use up all of the SECOND variety motors until 1907, thus the THIRD variety motors did not appear in any of their cars until that year.

Holsman manufactured four known variations of his 2 cylinder opposed, air cooled motors. Their records indicate that the THIRD variety motor was assigned serial numbers 889 and up, plus numbers 878 & 886. Totaling the above figures for the initial four production years we have a total of (13 + 50 + 129 + 389) = 581. This figure includes the early FIRST variety motors as well as a portion of the SECOND variety motors. We can then complete this equation: (889 – 2 – 581) = 306, which equals the number of the SECOND variety motors used in their early 1907 production.

But, since we assumed that Holsman began numbering his motors with #100, the serial #889 actually covered 789 motors, not 889. Thus, this equation becomes (889 – 100 – 2 – 581) = 206.

For the FOURTH & FIFTH variety motors, Types “H” & “K”, Holsman assigned both the motor and vehicle numbers in the 3000 & up series. The early 1909 cars first used up the balance of the THIRD variety motors, then began using the “H” & “K” types which were introduced in 1909. At this time, their sales were down, but instead of manufacturing cars at full capacity, they were spending time developing more models and motors. We have calculated a total 1909 production of approximately 659 vehicles with a portion of these using the balance of about 300 THIRD variety motors which were placed in vehicles using the 2800- & 2900- vehicle number range. The 3000- & 3400- range used the types “H” & “K” motors.

There is one Holsman motor mounted in an AUTOBUG high wheeler with serial #212 on the flywheel. The Autobug was manufactured by the Reeves Pulley Company of Massillon, Ohio from 1909 through 1910. There have been some erroneous assumptions that Reeves manufactured the Holsman motors, however, they did not develop and advertise their similar 2 cylinder motor until 1907. There is though, a possibility that Reeves purchased some excess Holsman motors from either the Holsman Automobile Company or the Independent Harvester Company of Plano, Illinois, who took over the Holsman Company’s remaining stock of parts. Or, that an earlier enterprising owner of this car replaced the original motor with a Holsman motor.

Motors (Engines)

H. K. Holsman designed the motors, which he called them rather than engines, used in the manufacture of his cars. In their advertising it was stated that, we build our own motors. There have been rumors that the Independent Harvester Company of Plano, Illinois, probably made the motor castings, and possibly also the pistons, rods and crankshafts, all to Holsman’s specifications. Holsman did the finishing, assembling, and testing.

Several designs, all 4 cycle, opposed, and air cooled, were manufactured. The following list covers all known motor designs:


1 1903 5 3 3/16” 4” 2
  1A 1904 6 3 3/16” 4” 2
 2* 1905 10 4” 4” 2
3 1907 10 4” 4” 2
   4** 1908 26 4” 4” 4
   5** 1908 12 4/5 4” 4” 2

(*) Also used in 1906.      (**) Used in 1909-10.

NOTE: The years listed above are approximate as some designs were completed and used earlier than the listed year. Also, a surplus of a particular design might run into the next year, even though they had advertised the next design as being available in their vehicles for that particular year.

Design 1: This motor had cast single cylinders, opposed, bolted at the center of the crankcase, heads bolted to the cylinders, eight piece assembled crankshaft, hand crank mated directly with the crank shaft, and a spark plug in each cylinder head. They also on occasion advertised it as a: 7HP calculated by the French method at 1800 RPM.

Design 1A: This is the same motor as design 1, but the horse power was computed differently.

Design 2: This type “G” motor was cast en-bloc, crank case cover on the top, and cylinder heads screwed into the cylinders. Only the early motors maintained the eight piece assembled crankshaft for a short time. Holsman then went to the forged crankshaft, two spark plugs for each cylinder, with one on the cylinder head and the second on the side intake chamber. The original design had separate upper and lower main bearings. Some time in 1906, the shape of the upper main bearings was changed and the crankcase cover also changed by the addition of two downward projecting pieces which held the bearings in position.

Design 3: This was apparently to be the year that they changed the mounting to a two point motor mount on their type “G” motor. Also, for some unknown reason, in one of their ads, they indicated that this motor was rated at 12 4/5 HP, but reverted to the 10HP rating in subsequent ads.

Design 4: Holsman began working on this motor before February 1907, and possibly as early as the latter part of 1906. It was similar to design 5 but with 4 cylinders and designated type “H”.

Design 5: Even though it’s bore and stroke was the same as designs 2 and 3, Holsman evidently used a different HP formula which mathematically increased horsepower from 10 to 12 4/5. This motor could be cranked from either side, had 2 outboard flywheels, ball and roller bearings throughout, which eliminated the bronze and Babbitt bearings, no gears, and designated type “K”.

He also designed the updraft carburetor used on his motors, but apparently the company sometimes used an updraft Schebler as a substitute. Later, a similar carburetor was designed by H. K. Holsman, except of the side draft type. The carburetor used on the later motors appear to be the only design on which the Holsman name appears. Note that the Holsman name appeared on the carburetors used by the Independent Harvester Company on their cars after H. K. Holsman went with them.                (Note that the Holsman name appeared on the carburetors used by the Independent Harvester Company on their cars after H.K. Holsman went with them)


The drive, or power transfer device, from the crankshaft to the jack shaft is shown in Holsman’s first patent drawing, #697,720, as a link chain. Evidence shows that this type of chain was probably used, but discontinued and replaced with a silent chain. From at least 1905 until the introduction of the vehicles with the “H” & “K” motors, this drive was by means of a Morse silent chain. There is a possibility that earlier cars used the Link Belt Renold Silent Chain, as it was available as early as February 1902, but no definite information regarding this is available. Less than a half dozen Holsmans have been located in which the high gear was driven by a roller chain similar to that used on some early farm machinery, while the low gear used the silent chain. The vast majority of those Holsmans remaining today used the silent chain for both gears. Several of the later model vehicles with the roller chain appear to have had this added by their owners.

The drive from the jack shaft to the rear wheel sheaves used four different types over the years.

FIRST: A blind spliced manila (hemp) rope laid in graphite. However, this proved unsatisfactory as it tended to stretch and eventually stretched more than the take-up adjustment could handle. This necessitated the removal of the original splice and resplicing in order to make the rope loop smaller.

SECOND: A patented special 7/8” steel cable, called by many, “wire rope”, replaced the manila rope in late 1906. This consisted of a special highly flexible steel wire with each strand wrapped with marlin, giving the steel cable the proper friction and driving qualities required. The wire prevented the stretching. There were apparently problems with the cable also, as very few survive today.

THIRD: A built up “rope” consisting of a 3/16” link chain, cut to the correct length, with the ends connected using a chain link connector. Then a standard clothesline was laid into each quarter of the chain, as you looked at it from the end, for the entire length. Friction tape was then wound around this followed by wrapping 1/8” x ½” cotton webbing around it, at about a 45° angle, with the ends butted and sewn with a needle and palm. This drive “rope” was developed by Clarence H. Bryan, who was a Medical Doctor, a family friend, and a fishing buddy of H.K. Holsman. The Doctor also delivered all three of Holsman’s children.

FOURTH: The later vehicles, using the “H” & “K” type motors used a chain drive, which was not a change for the better, as it would frequently jump and/or run off the sprocket. Used on the 1909 & 1910 models “H” & “K”.

Reverse was originally designed and incorporated in his patent #697,720. It consisted of two small diameter, concave, friction wheels on each end of the drive shaft which, when placed in contact with the rear tires, drove the car in reverse. Introduced in 1908, (development started in 1907), against patent #878,955, was his new design of larger, two piece metal wheels which contacted the two outer edges of each rear wheel rim, to move the car in reverse.

H.K. Holsman designed a novel friction drive, patent #878,954, but never placed it into full production.