Edwin Ross Thomas (1851-1936) was a Buffalonian who began his career as a bicycle manufacturer just as the
gasoline-engine era began. In the space of a few years he moved from bicycle manufacturing to making
motorcycles, to building a 1-cylinder automobile in 1899.
In his large complex on Niagara Street, Thomas began building expensive, high-powered automobiles he called the
"Thomas Flyer." His main competitor was contemporary entrepreneur George Pierce, who built the Pierce-Arrow automobile.
The Thomas Flyer made its claim to fame when its 1907 model 35 was entered at the last moment in the 1908
New York to Paris Race. The 4-cylinder, 70-horsepower vehicle was one of 5 vehicles to make the trip and the only
American entry. Thomas employee and Springville native George Schuster was the only member of the Thomas crew
to complete the entire 170-day, 12, 427 land mile trip. The Thomas Flyer won the race and Thomas sales increased
as a result of the advertising, from 816 automobiles in 1908 to 1,035 in 1909.
E.R. Thomas sold the failing company in 1911 to a financial firm that tried to save it. But by
1913, a bankruptcy sale was held and nearly all that remained of the company was its
factory complex, adaptively re-used in 2006 by the Rich Products Corporation.
Also extant were Thomas Flyers, one of which has been acquired by James &
Mary Ann Sandoro and is on display at their Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow
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