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Fruehauf History - Semitrailer History

In 1882 a Michigan farm the American born sun of German immigrants of 14 years went to seek his fortunes in "the big city". The boy's name was August Fruehauf. Fruehauf, which literally translated means "up early," proved a fitting surnamefor the boy who was destined to become the pioneer of American freight transportation. In 1903 August moved to Detroit and opened his own blacksmith shop in a converted feed store. In 1911, August's reputation as a horseshoer and carriage builder was well established. When August opened this new shop, he brought along a husky youngster, Otto Neumann, who had joined the Fruehauf blacksmith team the year before. It was a wise decision. Otto's ability to design, create, supervise and sell during Fruehauf's early business days was to prove highly instrumental in the later success of the company as a semi-trailer manufacturing firm. In mid-1914, Frederic M. Sibley, Sr., a Detroit lumber manufacturer, came to see August about a problem. It was a fateful visit for it changed the company's destiny, carrying it far beyond the horse and into the motor age. He had a fine boat he wanted to get to his summer place on a lake in Upper Michigan but a horse and wagon would take days and days. Piece by piece August and Otto beat out and bolted together a sturdy two-wheeler that hooked to the rear of Mr. Sibley's Model-T frame with a pole acting both as a tongue and brake. They called it a semi-trailer. The semi-trailer got the boat to Sibley's lake. And Mr. Sibley, impressed by its performance, decided that such a rig with a platform would be most efficient for running about his lumber yard. So August built Mr. Sibley a stronger semi-trailer with a platform. It worked just as Mr. Sibley thought it would. The practical and economic advantages of Fruehauf's maxim, "A horse can pull more than it can carry ... so can a truck", caught on slowly and took hold initially with other lumber dealers in Detroit. To capitalize on this audience, the first Fruehauf trailer advertisement appeared in a national lumber journal in April 1916. Soon other major trade publications, vocational magazines, and newspapers were carrying the Fruehauf message. On February 27, 1918, the Fruehauf Trailer Company was incorporated and a year later with the nation in a postwar business boom Fruehauf sales zoomed to a whopping $302,000. Early in 1919 the manual coupler was introduced to the industry by Fruehauf and the jacks acting as front supports for the semi-trailer were supplanted by wheels, raised and lowered manually. In this same year the reversible 4-wheel trailer was offered by the company, permitting the trailer operator to pull the vehicle from either end. The new factory in Detroit was completed in 1920. Fruehauf moved in that year to tackle the growing stream of orders. About this time, the van-type trailer was introduced, and it was utilized by professional haulers who had once operated with horse and dray. Then, construction men saw the adaptability of the semi-trailer to their special problems, and groundhugging carryalls were developed to get heavy machinery and immense installations to places inaccessible by less versatile means. The early 1920s also saw the birth of the "refigerated" trailer body manufactured by Fruehauf. These units had 4 and 6 ton capacities and were generally used to haul ice cream in cans. After the cargo was loaded, a trap door on the roof of the van would be opened to allow pulverized ice and salt to enter through spouts keeping the cargo cold. In 1926, Fruehauf introduced the automatic semi-trailer in which the coupling and the uncoupling of the tractor were accomplished mechanically by the motion of the tractor. Fruehauf's introduction of the automatic semi-trailer was instantly recognized by transportation experts as a major contribution to the industry. By the late 1920s Fruehauf was building drop frame semi-trailers on which a tank was mounted for the transportation of gasoline and oil.

His heritage lived on.

"Do a good job ... Put Everything into it of materials and workmanship ... take pride in your work."

August Fruehauf

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Fruehauf history

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