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::: [  Probably cca 1909 NAG Sightseeing-Bus   ] ::

Another puzzling photo received from Tom Cosens from Yorkshire (UK) of an old car he didn't recognise. This is from his collection of postcard curiosities on which he has no other background, but which are needing identification. 

Really lovely photo of a three level mall 'sightseeing bus'. Solid roof, beautifully built coachwork body and not a charabanc. Seems like a cca 1910 Benz but not quite. Chain Drive, multiple wheelnuts at back and front. It also does not match Daimler-Mercedes either. 

Looks like a 'works outing' and seems to have been posed in front of the Polsen Silversmiths shop somewhere in Germany. All the signs are German. Perhaps finding out the location of the Polsen Shop may help in determining the town of manufacture of the vehicle. We thought it may be interesting to make a note of all the avenues of explorations that are needed and encountered in trying to resolve such an enquiry which comes to us with no background to help.

The shop in background has a hording advising : " L Polsen Wwe, Silberwaaren-Fabrik". Quite a bit of digging established that there had been a company in Frankfurt started by a man called Lazarus Polsen. "The firm was founded in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1869 by Brendina Wetzlar, the widow of Lazarus Jacob Posen, a silversmith and retailer of Polish descent. Under the widow Posen's stewardship, the firm became the largest supplier of Judaica in the late 19th century. ……They received a royal warrant in 1903 and opened a second shop in Berlin. ….. In the 20th century the firm was under the direction of Brendina's grandsons Jakob, Hermann and Moritz Posen. The exact date of the company's closure is not known, but it seems certain that the wealthy Jewish-owned firm was a victim of the terrors of the Nazi regime."

Having two possible locations, it became necessary to determine which shop is in the photo. Careful study of the photograph shows it was next to a "Bristol Restaurant". Study of the Posen visiting card above suggests that the Berlin shop was part of the Bristol Hotel in Berlin, so the photo would be Berlin, in the famous street 'Unter den Linden'. The street was originally developed as an equestrian path by John George of Brandenburg in the 1500s. He needed an easy way and direct route to reach his hunting grounds that were located in Tiergarten. Eventually linden trees were planted to adorn the length of the street, and  extended to reach the city gates from the palace. The street is now a broad boulevard in the central Mitte district of Berlin from the City Palace to the Brandenburg Gate. Linden trees that line the grassed pedestrian mall are a variety of lime trees.

Hotel Bristol was designed by architect Gustav Georg Carl Gause and opened in 1891, - and was totally destroyed on 15 February 1944 when the  hotel was demolished during an air raid on Berlin. In its early days the hotel's bar was popular with wealthy young naval officers especially during the First World War.  Incidentally researches also advise that on "September 30, 1897, the first German automobile exhibition took place in the heart of Berlin. Eight resplendently polished motor coaches stood on the boulevard Unter den Linden in front of the posh Hotel Bristol. The occasion was the founding meeting of the Central European Motor Car Association, followed by a drive through the Grunewald forest." 

On some of the photographs of the Hotel Bristol it is possible to see that the front of the whole ground floor was separate individual shops and that the Posen shop was the last two bays on the right. The address of Hotel Bristol  was Unter den Linden No 5/6. After much in depth research it was not possible to link that the the vehicle in the top photo had anything nothing to do with the Posen company, although it did help to lead us to where the photo was taken!

Although the location of the photo was now known, we were no further on the identification of the vehicle. In some respects it had the look of a Benz and also the look of a Daimler Mercedes. In those days the two makes were serious competitors and did not come together until a much later 1926.  As the vehicle was likely cca 1908, there was only a limited number of German manufacturers who were into making bigger multi-seat tourers and/or commercial vehicles

So we contacted our 'veterans expert' Ariejan Bos in Holland with all of the above information and he suggested that the vehicle may have been used by Weltreise Union. who were 'travel agents' based in Berlin. Further research determined that the Weltreise Union had a shop in Unter Den Linden, variously described as 5/6 or 7/8. It seems they had the Thomas Cook agency and the agency for North German Lloyd. Either way it seems the shop was next door to the Posen shop and that is why it is probably in the background of this photo. Photo below shows the Weltreisebureau Union  premises with a slightly later Touring Bus
just having embarked passengers for a 'Round Town' tour. 

Ariejan Bos also advised that he has a number of photos of vehicles being used by Weltreise Union in previous and subsequent years for tours of Berlin and the surrounding areas. It seems that obe of the regular operators were Wellroth Auto-Fahrt Geselldchaft.  Many of these were charabancs of differing sizes and many of then were of the NAG make. Main reason that Nag was popular was presumably because NAG Vehicles were made only a couple of miles down the road in the nearby suburb of Oberschoneweide.

'Neue Automobil-Gesellschaft' was founded in 1901 by the Electrical Company AEG buying the Kühlstein coachbuilders and renaming it NAG. In 1915 it was again renamed Nationale Automobil Gesellschaft , remaining known as NAG.. They made sturdy basic cars much on the principle of the contemporary Daimler Mercedes. Some of their vehicles were big and had very powerful engines (7.9L in 1907). They carried on with cars until closing in 1937, but they began very early on to expand into coaches and busses, and into commercial vehicles. They became for a while one of Germany's biggest vehicle manufacturers. The closed coach below was available as early as 1906. Most of the early Sightseeing Busses were roofless Charabancs, and quite basic. 

Ariejan suggests that our mystery vehicle is very likely a NAG being used by Weltreisebüro Union, It looks like being one of a fleet of such vehicles, this one being No 4 , Each vehicle was capable of carrying nine passengers in the rear cabin in potentially weatherproof luxury and having three tiers for better vision, with a room for three at the front in the rain. The bonnet  is slightly unusual but as the vehicle is coach-built, this may have extended to the bonnet. It does however have the identification features of cup handles for lifting the bonnet and has multiple hubnuts which are both features of a NAG. The other feature which could have confirmed NAG is the oval shape of the radiator, but this is not visible as the car is fully side-on, unlike on the photo above.

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