While the Pierce-Arrow became one of the most prestigious automobiles made, the beginnings of Pierce-Arrow were humble. At the time of the Civil War, George Pierce began his career in manufacturing household items, including ice-boxes, birdcages, and bathtubs. After being associated with several companies, he formed his own company, the George N. Pierce Company, in 1878. At first, the new company followed the product line of earlier companies. As the bicycle craze hit the country in the late nineteenth century, Pierce found that the experience gained making wire products, like their bird cages, easily transferred to the manufacture of bicycles. High quality standards and an attractive price made Pierce cycles highly desired.
By the turn of the century, the Pierce company began experimenting with automobiles. While early efforts involved a steam-powered unit, the first production Pierce automobile of 1901 used a single cylinder, 2 3/4 hp deDion engine. In 1903, Pierce replaced the deDion engine in the Motorette with one of their own manufacture. About 170 Pierce Motorettes were made between 1901 and 1903. In mid 1903, the Pierce Stanhope was introduced. Similar the the Motorette, the Stanhope used a Pierce made engine mounted beneath the driver’s seat. An additional fold-out seat was added in front of the driver. The Stanhope had two forward speeds, plus reverse.
The George N. Pierce company started toward the line that would make them famous in 1903 with the introduction of the Arrow. A bigger car with the engine mounted in the front of the car rather than under the car, the Arrow carried four adults and was powered by a 15-hp deDion engine. A Pierce made engine followed in 1904. The Arrow paved the path for the Great Arrow, which made its debut in 1904. The Great Arrow used a 93 inch wheelbase and featured a four cylinder Pierce engine. The Great Arrow also introduced the user of cast aluminum body panels. The Great Arrow also had a great price: $4000! The Great Arrow defined the basic car that Pierce would produce, with refinements, for the next several years. It was the Great Arrow that helped gain Pierce its great reputation by winning the first five Glidden Tours.