The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

The Sewell Cushion Wheel Company

By Diana Kennedy

This article was originally published in the April 2004 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

Mary Lynne Farrell the Granddaughter of Herbert James Sewell, supplied the following information and accompanying photographs. Mary Lynne is looking for more information on her 2x Great Grandfather the Rev Robert Sewell and Jane Herbert. Diana Kennedy


James Herbert Sewell born in 1851 and his brother William Herbert Sewell born in 1854 were the sons of the Rev. Robert Sewell a Protestant Minister and his wife Jane nee Herbert. They were born in Mallow, County Cork in Ireland. In the 1880’s the two brothers James Herbert and William Herbert left Ireland for the United States and founded the Sewell Tire Company. From this company their sons Herbert James and Robert William founded the Sewell Cushion Wheel Company whose tyres were to be found on Fire Engines in over ten states of America in the early twentieth century.


Herbert James the son of James Herbert applied for a patent in 1911, which was granted in 1912, for the Sewell Cushion Wheel. Robert William son of William Herbert applied for another patent in 1909 that was granted in 1913. These two patents were to be the foundation for the Sewell Cushion Wheel Company. This company with Herbert James as President expanded to include offices in over ten states including Detroit, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.


The wheels were used on many types of fire engines, such as the Ahrens-Fox, the Seagrave and the South Bend. Advertisements for Sewell Cushion Wheels boasted that they were ‘rightly regarded as affording the highest desirable degree of safety’. The wheel was built by the use of a rubber flange construction that doubled the resiliency of the live rubber cushion, and added to the life of the tyre. ‘It is this Rubber Flange Construction that gives Sewell Wheels the REQUIRED DEGREE of resiliency for FULL protection of truck and tires from road jars’. Most fire departments regarded them as standard equipment and specifically requested the Sewell Cushion Wheel be put on their fire engines. Throughout America fire engines and heavier trucks were equipped with Sewell resiliency!


Growth of the company was steady and continuous and for over 10 years Sewell Cushion Wheels were used in 236 cities in America. However as ‘pneumatic’ tyres became more popular, the company evolved into ‘Sewell Manufacturing’ and began to make other components for the auto industry in Detroit. Herbert James continued as President of the Sewell Manufacturing Company.


William Herbert married Lucy Lee Aitken. His granddaughter, Lucy Forsythe married Arthur Brian Dean Faulkner a former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. James Herbert Sewell died in 1906 aged 55 and William Herbert Sewell died aged 54 in 1909. The Rev. Robert Sewell their father in about 1886 was instrumental in the restoration of St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry, North Ireland. Both the Rev Robert born in 1823 and Jane born 1826 remained in Ireland and both died in 1905 in County Derry.


Below from left to right we have William Herbert Sewell born in 1854,  James Herbert Sewell born in 1851 and Herbert James the son of James Herbert


William Herbert Sewell born in 1854    James Herbert Sewell born in 1851    Herbert James the son of James Herbert


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