Born in 1892, Christian (Chris) Bohman had been apprenticed as a coachbuilder in his hometown of Stockholm, Sweden. He immigrated to New York City in 1910 and quickly found work fitting interior woodwork and hardware to completed coach bodies at three of Manhattans most famous firms; Holbrook, Brewster and finally Healey & Company. Following the purchase of Healey & Company (his current employer) in 1921 by the Walter M. Murphy Co., Bohman moved to Pasadena and became chief body assembler for the new firm.
Bohman & Schwartz’ direct antecedent, The Walter M. Murphy Co., Coach Builders, came into being with the advent of the Lincoln car. William H. Murphy (Walter M’s uncle), a wealthy Detroit lumberman, helped finance the Lelands new venture and helped his nephew, Walter M., to get the West Coast distributorship.
Unfortunately the ultraconservative styling and paintwork of the Lincolns kept Los Angeles’ wealthy movie industry stars and executives out of Murphy’s Lincoln showroom. Aware of the success that Don Lee had with Cadillacs and custom bodies he purchased Healey & Company of Keyport, N.J. from Colonel Healey in 1921 and moved it to Pasadena lock stock and barrel. George A. Fredericks, Walter Murphy’s shop manager, induced Bohman and several other skilled Healey craftsmen to move to California as well.
Shortly thereafter every Lincoln offered by Murphy was first routed through his body plant, where the top was lowered some six to seven inches and repainted in more saleable colors.
Bohman left Murphy in 1930 to establish his own shop, but faltered and joined forces with his friend Maurice Schwartz when Murphy closed in April, 1932. Together they purchased some of Murphy’s shop equipment at auction and arranged to take over some unfinished Murphy contracts from their new headquarters, which was located in the back of Prosser's Garage at the intersection of Delacey and Green Streets in Pasadena, California.
Early B & S work consisted of repainting and collision repair work for their automobile row neighbors in Pasadena. As news of their previous association with Murphy got around, they found that the were able to inherit Murphy’s fine reputation as well as quite a few of his employees. Under their own management Schwartz took charge of the manufacturing and Bowman became sales and business manager. Bohman was blessed with a wry sense of humor that took the edge off his rigid discipline. Later, it also helped greatly in putting Bohman & Schwartz clients more at ease during contract discussions. He was an excellent businessman and could easily level a supplier or designer with an unblinking eye and yet hold the meeting with casual informality. Consequently business increased and the pair soon located to larger quarters at 326 West Colorado Avenue in Pasadena, California.
Workmanship of the highest quality was the only standard acceptable to Schwartz, and it was on this basis that Bowman was successful in selling the craft of the shops whose personnel included Milt Pfeiffer, metal man; Lou Morse and (later) Rufus L. (Whitey) Compton, trimmers; Frank Flores; Gatford (Bill) Williams, power hammerman; Mark Farlow, metal fabricator and finisher; Bill Courtemange, painter; Jack James, general delivery and customer liaison; and Lamar Bresee, interior designer and salesman. Bresee was an accomplished artist and sculptor and his beautiful renderings and suave presentations won over many of the firm's celebrity clients.
All of the work to be performed on Bohman and Schwartz bodies was done in their own shops under the scrupulous eye of Maurice Schwartz. This included initial woodwork, metal skins for the bodies, the upholstery, top work, painting, interior woodwork, hardware, etc. Almost all work commenced with new chassis, although, at the insistence of some owners, considerable modifications were made to existing bodies created by others. Hollywood’s elite also sought them out to restyle existing chassis that still had some miles left, but whose bodies were too outdated to be seen around town. Some bodies were dramatically re-styled, but most of their work consisted of cosmetic changes such as bullet headlights, fender skirts, and new moldings and paint schemes. Many of the Duesenbergs bodied by Bohman & Schwartz were put on existing earlier chassis that had formerly been limousines.
B & S survived WWII by doing sheetmetal subcontract work for aerospace industries and moved to a two story shop at 306 North Hudson Avenue in 1945. The partnership was amicably dissolved in 1947, and Bohman formed a new partnership with his son, Lawrence Christian Bohman, called C. Bohman & Son which was housed in the first floor of the building.
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