A short ride for Nova Scotia Carriage and Motor Car Company, dating back 155 years

Posted on April 21, 2023 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


The Nova Scotia Carriage Company’s factory in Kentville, Nova Scotia (photo credit: British Library “Canada Collection Archives” Louis Comeau Collection & Vintage Valley N.S. Photographs, Moments & Memories on Facebook)


Responsible for the first car ever manufactured in the province, the Nova Scotia Carriage and Motor Car Company has origins dating back over 150 years. Although no longer in operation, the company’s mark on the province is still remembered today.

First came carriage

The Nova Scotia Carriage Company was formed by a group of entrepreneurs in Kentville, Nova Scotia in 1868. The company manufactured a variety of horse-drawn carriages and sleighs and had some initial success. However, as more Nova Scotians adopted cars, business slowed and the company was liquidated in 1907.

The following year, the business was purchased by John and Daniel McKay.


An advertisement of the Nova Scotia Carriage Company from the 1897 McAlpines Illustrated Tourists’ and Travellers’ Guide (photo credit: Vintage Valley N.S. Photographs, Moments & Memories on Facebook)


New drivers

Originally from P.E.I., brothers John and Daniel McKay moved to Kentville in 1908. The brothers learned the trade of carriage craftsmanship from their father while working at their family’s business back home.

Sticking with what they knew, they exclusively produced and sold horse-drawn carriages for their first two years of operation. Their product quickly became known for its quality and demand soared as the brothers promoted their carriages through event marketing.

In 1910, the brothers began also manufacturing cars and renamed the business Nova Scotia Carriage and Motor Car Company. Car bodies were initially constructed of wood and made in-house, while other parts were imported and then assembled in the McKays’ factory. The company’s inaugural vehicle, the McKay, was the first car manufactured in Nova Scotia. It was modelled after a popular car from Pennsylvania.

The McKay hit the market in March of 1911 and 12 vehicles had been registered on the road across Nova Scotia by September. At $1,450-$2,300 per vehicle, the Nova Scotia Carriage and Motor Car Company marketed high-quality, premium products.

By 1912, the company had surpassed 100 employees to manufacture its 12 different models of cars and 137 styles of carriages and sleighs. At this time, the company had built 25 cars in total.


An advertisement for the Nova Scotia Carriage and Motor Car Company’s 1913 model of their McKay vehicle (photo credit: Vintage Valley N.S. Photographs, Moments & Memories on Facebook)


A big move

In 1912, the Nova Scotia Carriage and Motor Car Company had the opportunity to build a second factory in Amherst, N.S. to expand. With incentives from the city in the form of tax breaks and cheap land, construction of the new factory was completed in 1913.

Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end. Construction in the thriving railway town was quite expensive and this coupled with a downturn in the economy due to the War proved to be an insurmountable challenge. The Nova Scotia Carriage and Motor Car Company ceased production of automobiles in 2014 and faded away soon after.


A restored and reassembled McKay vehicle (identified as number 170), which is on display at the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry (photo credit: the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry)


Remembering history

While the Nova Scotia Carriage and Motor Car Company is no longer active, its mark on the province’s history remains. A remake of the company’s McKay vehicle is on display at the Canadian Automotive Museum in Ontario. A restored version is also displayed at the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry; the vehicle was found in a barn in pieces and was reassembled and restored by Pictou County Antique Auto Club.

A short ride, but still remembered 155 years later.

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