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Manufacturing in Cambridge in the early part of the present century was confined principally to soap, cordage, and leather. In 1828 a young man named Charles Davenport, then but sixteen years of age, was apprenticed to George W. Randall, of Cambridgeport, to learn the woodwork of the coach and carriage making trade. In 1832 Captain E. Kimball and he bought Mr. Randall out, and he started for himself with two journeymen and four apprentices. Captain Kimball was landlord of the Pearl Street Hotel, and, in connection with a livery stable, ran a coach two or three times a day between Cambridge and Boston. He furnished the money. Mr. Davenport thereafter built all the carriages of the establishment. In 1833-34 the firm built a large number of all kinds of vehicles, including sleighs, and the first omnibus built in New England. In 1834 they took the contract to build some four-wheel railway cars for the Boston & Worcester Railroad, to seat twenty-four people each. They were the first ever designed with a passageway running from end to end between the seats.

In 1836-37 he built for the Eastern Railroad twenty four-wheel cars with platforms and doors on the ends and a passage through each car. His shop at this time was located on Main Street, where the Morse Building now stands. The firm names of Kimball & Davenport and Davenport & Bridges will long be remembered by railroad men. Mr. Davenport was the first large car-builder in the United States, and the first typical American railway passenger car was built in Cambridge from his design.

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