Trucking…When it was young
original story by Sal DeFrancesco. re written here by Frank Nathanson
My copy is covering the early years of trucking ad then into the years of 1930 and 1940.
Here again I’ve gotten so much copy together, I’m going into 3 parts. The truck above picture, is a nice rare shot of an early delivery truck used by W. & J. Sloane, that famous furniture store that’s located now on 5th. Ave., the corner of 38th. street in New York City.
As for the make of truck, it may be an early Packard. Notice the line breaking the top of the radiator.
Those Omnibuses, above picture, are nice reproductions of some earlier vehicles. I won’t even try to guess at their makes. So, I will let you get into the story and I welcome any comments, pro or con. Sal DeFrancesco
GALLANT & WEIN, Puro, Bilkays Express, Teitler Linen, Lehigh Air Concitioning, Dellwood, Bonny Box, Renofab, Hi-Vue-Daiy Farms, Ryder, Hittner, Menella’s Poultry, Broadway Maintenance, U.P.S., Waldorf Carting, Streit Matzoth, Consolidated Laundries, McGlynn Hays, Embassy Grocery, S & S Soap… The trucks clattering down the avenues, locking grids, and double-parking on the side streets of Manhattan are, generally speaking, nothing much to look at. Their business is usually stated in simple terms in plain type on the sides of the vehicle, and that’s that. There are, fortunately, exceptions. Brunckhorst (Boars Head meats) has a striking truck, for example, and Zampieri Brothers Bakers resents a stylish baseball script rendered in gold on a rich-red background.
For general magnificence, however, we like the trucks of the universal Sanitation Corporation. Five of these dark-green beauties roll through t the streets at an hour when most people are still asleep; they pick up prestige slops at the Plaza, the Waldorf-Astoria, the New York Hilton, and other hotels.
Since it is difficult to appreciate fully the complex splendor of a Universal when it is moving, and moving in semidarkness at that , we went up tot he company’s garage, 1381 Oak Point Avenue, in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, to get a look at one standing still, in daylight. We met the owners, Benny Villani and Marty Sternberg, and Tom Ceglio, the foreman, and we all stood around their big garage admiring of the trucks. It was basically a deep green–more blue than yellow–and Mr. Sternberg told us, “The city requires private garbage trucks to be green. Beyond that, you may decorate as you choose.” There were white letters with red drop-shadows; yellow letters with redlines inside them; a variety of typefaces; white pin-striping and decoration; a bold logo featuring a blue glove with a yellow continent on it–shaped sort of like South America–and a red scroll across part of it saying “UNIVERSAL” in white letters; and a lot of additional information here and there, including several listings of Universal’s phone number (RE4-4080).
“These trucks carry twenty-five cubic yards of garbage compacted, which would be seventy-five cubic yards loose,” said Tom Ceglio. “They’re 2R Leach Packmasters with a Model 600 Mack in front. They pick up an average of one and a half loads a day at each of the hotels. Conventions, of course, produce more garbage.”
“The logo with the globe goes back thirteen years,” said Mr. Villani. “I designed it with a free-lace artist named Al Mancuso when Sternberg and I bought the company, and that was thirteen years ago. We like an attractive, clean look.”
Mr. Sternberg nodded.
The next morning, we spotted a Universal compacting at the Plaza, so we stopped and said hello to the driver, a short, cheerful man. We asked him what he thought of the Universals.
“They go good,” he said enthusiastically. “Are they the best-looking trucks in NEW York?” we asked.
He thought for a moment. “No,” he said. “The D.V. Carting Company trucks, from Utica Avenue, in Brooklyn, are better-looking.”
In the late 1890’s the railroad had become the most important link between cities all over the world, in countries which had become industrial. They carried people and goods to the train depots. To get the goods from the train depot and further away, where no trains reached, was the job for the horse, and later the truck. On roads that were just a little better than trails, these horses and trucks were short extensions of the railroad network. Many were founded by them.
In the early day the truck was no more than a passenger car with space for carrying whatever would fit in areas not taken by passengers. In 1896, the German Daimler company took the driver and placed him in the front, leaving the rest of the body for loads. This was OK for a while. Then in 1898 they took the engine, which was in the rear of the vehicle, and placed it in the front, under the driver. This became known as cab-over-engines. About 1914, most trucks had the driver sitting behind the engine with a hood over the engine. This gave the driver more safety and comfort. But the C-O-E was to return in the 1920’s.
Gasoline engines were not the only type of propulsion used for trucks. Steam and electricity played a very important role in the development of trucks. England was very big with steam. The earlier type of engine & boiler layouts gave way to a more convenient type layout introduced by Foden in 1901. This new layout which at least fifteen British makes adopted, was the horizontal boiler with the engine mounted over it. These were continually produced until Diesel Engines appeared in 1928. Diesels were cheaper to run than steam. The Sentinel was the last steam wagon built in 1939 for the British market. Yet, in 1950 they filled an export order for Argentina.
Meanwhile the Electric Truck was very big in the United States. Their limited range did not affect their use in cities. They were built up to a load capacity of 10 tons. usage was from 1898 to at least 1925 when they were started to phase out. Those were their peak years, for some were built up until World War II. Most of these Hugh electrics had soid rubbe tires and moved slowly around the cities with their enormous loads.
This is the Commercial Electric Truck produced in 1913 by the Commercial Electric Truck Company of America, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The truck weighted seven tons and was powered by four General Electric, 16 ampere, 85-volt motors, one driving each wheel. The batteries were stored in compartments on each side of the truck. One of these trucks remained in continuous service from1913 to 1963! A cover was often fitted over the driver’s seat. Four-wheel steering was optional!
Most of these vehicles had a 50 mile range before having to have the batteries recharged; they were dubbed Homing Pigeons. Yet they served a number of uses. Department stores had fleets, Beer distributors, Coal and Trucking Firms, like Railway Express utilized them during the daylight hours ad had them recharged at night. This turned out good for the fleets with a short radius of stops within it’s batteries endurance. With extra batteries for emergencies and sophisticated charging machines the vehicles lasted a long time and were found to be very economical in comparison to Steam or Gasoline engines. What really killed the electric was the distance to be traveled, because many more trucks had to venture further afield from home in order to deliver or pick up the loads they were carrying. With a gasoline engine all you did was carry an extra can of gas and a funnel. You put the funnel in the gas tank, pour the gas into the funnel an d off you went.
While these early trucks were challenging each other, as to which type of propulsion the people would choose, the horse, which had done all this type of work, was slowly being replaced. Just before World War I, some truck companies were advertising that to care for horses was costing more than if those people had trucks. They used every trick and finally the end came for the horse. Yes, there were a few die hards that still kept horse and wagons for many years. In fact, I remember riding in a wagon being pulled by a horse in my early teens. That was during World War II.
In order to prove to the world that the motor car was here to stay, they had contests. The competition was heavy, whether it be a race of a long distance run. One of the first races was completed in Nov. of 1895. Of the 6 cars that entered, only two finished. A Duryea Motor Wagon driven by J. Frank Duryea came in first, followed by an imported Mueller-Benz. The other four autos which dropped out were 2 electrics and 2 gasoline powered. A three inch snow fall had added to the hardships of the 53.5 mile run from Chicago’s Jackson Park to Evanston and back. As the years passed, there were more races and runs, but mostly they were for autos. The truck was being tested on the job. In 1903 the first contest for commercial vehicles was sponsored by the Automobile Club of America, the first in History. Of the fourteen entries, only eleven participated. It was a two day event and it took place in New York–in fact, Manhattan mostly. The outstanding vehicles which fared best on both days was a Waterless Knox. It was a converted pick-up type automobile. This was classed as a light weight. The other was a real heavy–a Herschmann Steam truck. For fuel it used hard coal & water.
1909 Rapid’s body allowed cases of Coke to be loaded flat except for topmost tier, which was supported by flare boards.
Stroh’s used straightforward stake-bodied Rapids for delivering cases of beer.
In 1904 another contest was staged, this time with eighteen entries. Prizes were awarded in different weight categories. In the lightest category a now famous name took the prize–Olds. These contests were staged for carrying & delivering, which most of the entries performed well. The contests also proved that the commercial vehicle was becoming a very important item to many businesses. The year 1906 shows the commercial vehicle really coming into it’s own. Two trade periodicals were published which were devoted to the truck industry. “Power Wagon” was one and the other was the Commercial Vehicle. Also in New York’s Madison Square Garden, during the auto shows, they had separate areas for trucks. They were showing at least 25 of them in the basement of Madison Square Garden. Many of us today are still familiar with the names of the trucks, but associate with the automobiles. A Franklin, an Olds, a few Studebakers and a Packard were there along with some others which are not remembered.
The Duryea motor Wagon entered production in 1896, becoming the first gasoline powered motor car to be manufactured in quantity from a single basic design. This 1896 Duryea, which is housed at the henry Ford Museum, was the third produced and the only survivor of the 13 built in 1896. (Photo courtesy Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Mich.)
While these truck manufacturers competed with each other in contests and show, many more new ones were showing up with slightly different innovations. Some truck makers even went in for staging their own contests–mainly against the clock and how fare they could go. One went from Denver to Los Angeles, from there to San Francisco, then shipped by train to Pueblo, Colorado from where it’s destination was New York. The year was 1911, the truck–a Swiss Saurer. In 1912 a Packard truck went the opposite way–from New York to San Francisco in 46 days, 20 less than the Swiss Saurer of the year before. This type of “contest” was being done all over the country with trucks loaded with freight going from city to city. They had signs on them proclaiming what they were doing. Names of sponsors were readily seen, Goodyear Tires, Goodrich Tires, and Zeroline Lubricate were some, along with the truck names. As all these contests went on, a lot of the earlier names disappeared. The first contest winner, the Waterless Knox, was no more. The coal burning steam trucks, like Herschmann steam trucks from the Columbia Engineering Works from Brooklyn also disappeared. As they left, others took their place on the roads–dirt roads that is.
This 1904 Knox Circus Wagon is a direct descendant of those early contest winners.
One Truck company pulled a great stunt in the years. 1919-20. FWD (Four Wheel Drive) Corporation took a small, pretty woman and had her drive a three-ton truck from Clintonville, Wisconsin to New York for the N.Y. Auto Show of 1920. Miss Luella Bates was one of 6 females to drive the FWD trucks on a transcontinental trip to prove how easy it was to handle their trucks.
World War I also was a great proving round for trucks. Quite a few became well known for their performance in the army. The Jeffery Four Wheel Drive became known as the Nash Quad. FWD Corporation had a number of trucks serving. White Trucks were used in a crossing of the Chihuahua desert, in an expedition against Pancho Villa in 1916. Of the 74 vehicles, 20 were Whites. This happened before the World War and 128 different makes of vehicles were used before the 11 month campaign ended. This helped the army get started with motorized transportation. The fleets kept expanding especially during the World War as they were shipping thousands of trucks to Europe. The favorite of the doughboys was the “Bulldog” Mack. For it was easily recognized because of it’s unusual looking hood.
A typical mid 20’s truck being used by a Florida farmer shipping baby chicks.Delivery van. Meyer’s.
Baby Trailer Checks Students’ Driving Skill
This half-size trailer rig is powered by a jeep engine. It had dual drive, two transmissions giving nine forward and three reverse speeds, and air brakes. Rolling along on midget-racer tires, it travels to high schools carrying equipment used for testing professional truck drivers. The electronic devices are set up at the roadside, and students seated before them check vision and reflex actions. The equipment measures in split seconds how long it would take a “driver” to put on the brakes or to turn on a given signal if he were really driving for Pacific Intermountain Express.
Truck Maker Casualties
“How many heavy-duty truck makers have fallen by the wayside in recent years?” asks Rudy Jacoby, Hinsdale, Ill. The 1973-74 recession claimed three major victims — Diamond Reo, Brockway and Chrysler. More recently, White filed for protection under federal bankruptcy laws. It will continue operations while the court tries to work out an arrangement with creditors. Big trucks’ Big Three now are General Motors, Ford and International Harvester. Other major builders are Mack and Paccar, Inc. (Peterbilt and Kenworth). A record total of 223,166 heavy-duty trucks were sold in 1979. But production is down 50 percent in 1980 from 1979 and sales projections for the next few years are conservative. End of Part 1
Because of many different trucks being used, a great problem developed. Maintenance and replacement of parts became a gigantic task because of differences. Parts from some trucks were not usable on other marques. The army decided to standardize their vehicles. So by the end of the war, the Quartermasters had developed the Standard B heavy truck, known as the “Liberty”. They also had a Standard A truck which was the smaller White model. The war showed the whole world what the truck was capable of doing and after the war, thousands of trucks were surplus and put on the civilian market. Now the truck industry had a war of their own. With so many surplus trucks, they were hard pressed to make new ones, yet alone sell them. Many companies went into financial difficulties and then bankruptcy. Here again some managed to hang on, and trucking moved into the 1920s. Many of these surplus trucks found their way into being used on road building and highway projects.
In the teen years many roads and highways were started but in the early 20s it really took off. A Federal Highway Act in 1921 was defined to develop a giant road network nationally. Over 25,000 surplus army trucks plus other equipment were distributed to state highway departments for road building through the Kahn-Wadsworth Bill. The surplus trucks were used for testing concrete, asphalt and brick roads. With loads from 5 to 15 tons they were driven over different sections continuously in order to determine what effect the weights had on the different types of roadway. The experiment know as the Bates Road Test was a yardstick in the future of new and better roads.
As the 1920s came in, so did the pneumatic tires. Most trucks were running on solid rubber tires which were said to shake early-day trucks to pieces. What hey did to the kidneys and spines of the early truckers is something else. The pneumatic tires made for a softer ride. Yet there were different problems. The hard rubber tires were puncture proof, not the pneumatics. The smallest nail or piece of metal was enough to puncture them. It was considered very bad that the Nevada Department of Highways came up with an unusual magnet truck. This magnet was hung under the chassis of the truck, a couple of inches off the roadway and managed to pick up quite a bit of metal.. It is said that I did a good job.
The 20s brought another luxury to the truck driver. Many manufacturers were making trucks with completely enclosed cabs. For years they were exposed to the weather. They had started with only a seat, then a canopy. Then a windshield to block the wind. Half doors were next and finally a solid roof with doors with glass windows. Quite a difference from the highway haulers that we know of today.
Prior to World War I, most commercial vehicles only had two axles, similar to passenger cars. So in order to extend the length of the chassis to enable the tucks to handle a heavier load, another axle was added to the rear. It was first done by the Goodyear Rubber Co. in 1920 to help demonstrate it’s pneumatic tires. Their six-wheeler was not for sale, but a few years later, White, Safeway and others did produce them. Even Ford and Chevrolet.
During the late 1920s, the multi-stop delivery van was replacing one o the last horse strongholds. The house-to-house delivery, basically of bread and milk. A number of different designs were produced, making it easier for the driver. A couple of the better known makes were Divco and Pak-Age-Kar, which was a product of Stutz and then Diamond T. Twin Coach Company, a bus manufacturer also made multi-stop vans from 1929 thru 1936. Among them were both front- and rear-wheel drive. They also produced battery electric vans. A Mount Vernon, N.Y. based company, The Ward Motor Vehicle Co., also made electric delivery Vans.
Another important development during the 20s was the articulated trailer. Although the tractor dates back to the mid 1800’s, it took a while before it developed to a gasoline powered vehicle that we are more familiar with. It had a number of obstacles to overcome including restricting laws which were imposed on them. It took over the heavy pulling work that horses did on farms. From 1880 on, the tractor became the “work-horse” for heavy work of all kinds. Their sizes varied from 30 to 100 bhp and pulled 5 to50 tons. All this weight was usually in a 4-wheel wagon with steerable front wheels which horses had pulled for years. Occasionally they would like these wagons together, sometimes as many as 4, and the tractor would pull all of them, looking like a train without tracks.
1912 is the year that the first articulated trucks were produced. The design is credited to C.H. Martin and built by the Know Automobile Co. of Springfield, Mass. It is interesting to note that the tractor was a 3-wheel tractor. It was used mainly to replace the horse for pulling trailers, trailers which were originally designed for horses. Another conversion was a 1911 Ford that F.M. Sibley asked August Freuhauf to change for him. He wanted something to haul a boat with. So Freuhauf changed the rear end of the Ford with a Smith-Form-A-Truck unit and devised a hitch and trailer. This so impressed Sibley that he had other trailer built for him by Freuhauf which he used in his lumber business.
The Knox Automobile Company of Massachusetts produced this three-wheeled Knox-Martin tractor from 1912 to 1915 Designed by C.H. Martin of Pennsylvania, the tractor came with either 45 or 55hp. The very versatile unit replaced the horse for many heavy hauling duties.
These basic designs again were improved on. Eventually the connecting area between tractor and trailer which was a turntable device came to be known as the Fifth Wheel. Not only is it a connecting point; it also serves as a pivot for the trailer. This pivot point sat above the rear axle of the tractor (truck) and only required the trailer to have one axle. These were then referred to as three-axle-layouts. As time progressed, another axle was added to the tractor. In this way it was capable of hauling a heavier load.
Ford had an example of this in 1928. They built a car transporter truck, using a 6-wheel Model AA chasis, pulling a flat bed trailer. Four cars were the most they could carry. More powerful tractors, and specially designed trailers through the ears have made them capable of carrying many more cars.
In the mid 30’s the articulated van had received many features which are quite familiar today. The long-distance hauler received the sleeper cab and also the refrigerated trailer van for perishable food products. The van was also receiving another axle, making it a 2-axle van, capable of increased loads. The mid 30’s saw a number of three-axle tractors with two-axle trailers in the woodlands. They were a tremendous help to the logging industry. Streamlining came in also in the mid 30’s. Square edges were giving way to rounded curves, giving the vehicles a smoother appearance.
Top image. Double-bottom trailers aren’t a new development. These ginger ale transporters are pulled by a 1930 White model 64 tractor. Bottom image. A White on a smaller scale; 1933 model 162 with lockable beer deliver body. Note prices for beer
End of Par 2
These panel trucks are 1931 Graham. These vehicles were used by Coca-Cola route supervisors and salesmen.
This truck to the left is a 1931 Chevrolet Series M. Equipped with a factory supplied stake body.
1932 Studebaker Tank Truck. This 2.5 ton truck is powered with a 6-cylinder L-head engine capable of 75 bhp. In this time of history, there was a short-lived merger of Studebaker, Pierce-Arrow and White
This is a 1 1/4 ton White truck, Model 701, with a panel delivery body. Under the hood, a 240 CID White 8A six- engine powered this 1934 White
Right, Lined up, getting ready to deliver Stroh’s Beer to many thirsty customers are these Dodge trucks. This is also 1934.
This was an ad that was used for Steward Motor Trucks in 1929. The company was located in Buffalo, New York. Their wide range of models used Lycoming Four and Six-cylinder engines, with Fuller clutch and transmissions. Clark and Timken supplied the rear axles. Chassis prices ranged from $695 for the Model 30 1tonner to $4990 for the heavy duty Model 31X.
Due to the stock market crash of 1929, the early 1930’s were not good years for truck makers. Many of them went out of business. those that remained were looking for a more economical way of running their trucks. In Europe and the U.S.A. the move was towards diesel engines. in 1932, Cummins introduced the Model H Cummins’ diesel rated at 85 bhp. It was installed in a truck carrying 17750 lbs. Then they tested it at the Indianapoli9 speedway clocking 14,600 miles non-stop at an average speed of 43.397 mph. The engine was later fitted to a Mack Bus, and tested in a 3200 mile test speed run. During this time G.M. had a two-stroke it was developing. It was installed in a rail wagon in 1934. The Cummins engine found it’s way into a number of truck companies– International Harvester, Diamond T, Mack, FWD, Oshkosh, Kenworth and White. Yet, because of gasoline being so cheap in the U.S., a straight-six gasoline engine was being developed for more powerful pulling engines. The first V-8 gasoline engine that was put in trucks showed up in the 1930’s in a Ford light truck.
1926 light delivery T truck with new-style body and disk wheels. Note battery under the door.
Typical of the attractive White designs produced in the 1930’s is this 1938 Model 800 delivery van.
Steward Model 27X 5–7 tonner with 4-cu. yd. dump body. This tuck had a Waukesha engine and Timken worm-drive rear axle. 1930/31.
Power steering also came into being in the 30’s. It’s said that Diamond T was the first to apply it in their heavy vehicles. Hydraulic breaking also was being more expanded on all four wheels of the medium weight trucks. There were also semi-automatic transmissions installed in trucks. In 1939, General Motors announced a great breakthrough, a Hydramatic completely automatic transmission was available for their light trucks. Body materials were also changing. Aluminum alloy was tried for replacement of heavy steel and hardwood panels. Many truck manufacturers now offered a complete vehicle, chassis & body to their customers, built entirely in one factory. Previously only the chassis was available, and sent to a truck body builder for completion.
1949 Mack. This was typical of the tractors of the late 40’s.
Here’s a note of interest: in Britain they were using containers. They were used on road-rail goods and short sea routes to Ireland. This was a couple of decades earlier than when they became internationally used. The freight container boom came in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
By the end of the 1930’s, most of the well known trucks were being produced–the ones we are familiar with. A latecomer popped up in Oakland, California in 1939. Peterbilt came on the scene with heavy duty outfits. They’re still around today.
The 1940’s brought around another profussion of changes. The Second World War, which started in 1939, saw the truck going back to the armed services to serve again as it did in World War I. This time it had a much broader scope of services with the modifications it received. One prerequisite was a very strong chassis–one strong enough to held up on the most difficult type of terrain. The chassis had to be high enough to clear ground obstructions, and multi-wheel drive was a necessity. The U.S. had it written into it’s specifications for Military Vehicles in the 1930’s. If the tries weren’t holding up too well, someone decided to put tank tracks on trucks, hence was born the very popular Half-track The White truck manufacturer built many of these vehicle. Remember, they had quite a number of trucks in the First World War. Marmon-Harrington from Indianapolis was one of the main suppliers of trucks to the U.S. It specialized in 4×4 and the larger 6×6-units. They also handled all-wheel drive conversion for Ford. FWD, which was an early all-wheel drive company came into the picture with a strong 4×4, 6 tonner with a Waukesha engine. Other known truck companies were well represented. Autocar, Diamond T, Kenworth, Oshkosh, Mack, reo, Brockway and G.M.C. G.M.C. became the leading truck supplier with it’s 6X6’s. 600,000 were built, the engine a 6 cylinder producing 104 bhp, dubbed “Army Workhorse Engine”. This was the same engine used in the famous amphibious “Duck”. DUKW. These units were put together by Sparkman and Stevens (an American company) on a G.M.C. truck chassis. This was one of the more successful amphibious vehicles built.
The Omaha branch of the Manchester Biscuit Company operated this 157-inch wheelbase International Model C-30 with special body in 1936.
Some of the other trucks that were used in World War II on the Allied side. Chevrolet trucks n civilian guise went all over the world. They were used in Burma, India and North Africa. Dodge, another well known company, produced many smaller vehicles. Many were ambulances and command cars. They looked like smaller versions of the larger trucks. Chrysler and Cadillac are missing from this list; but they were present, alright. Their engines were being used in Tanks and Personnel Carriers. This is only a couple of companies. There were a number of others. Continental engines were being put in certain Sherman tanks. They even had an auto with the Continental name for a couple of years.
After the war, the technology gained in the services was put to use in civilian endeavors. The heavy 6-wheel drive trucks found their way to construction firms. Many heavy duty, off the road vehicles used in highway construction benefited from the knowledge acquired from the trucks used for war.
Due to the devastation in many parts of the world when the war ended, there was a great demand for trucks. This was a boon for the U. S. truck manufacturers. In 1947 they shipped 267,379 trucks overseas, and another 204,831 in 1948. Those countries that received them needed them to help rebuild their countries.
This was also the time for “West Coast Type” heavy duty tractors pulling articulated trailers–the start of hauling huge loads over long distanced, and as heavy as 35 tons. The shift was on for the most heavy duty road work to be done by articulated vehicles.
Those last few years of the 40’s were good for the truck firms. They had ideas which came from the aircraft industry. Aluminum alloy was being used more in body construction. The company that built the chassis also built the body. Many companies which hadn’t done so before, moved into this area of construction. This was happening in the late 1940’s and moved the trucking industry into the 1950’s with changes throughout the country. An industry that has been changing year after year to become what we know and see today–one of the biggest industries in the U.S.A.
Below some pictures of old trucks