Truckin’ Awesome: You’ll Dig Our Look Back At Turn Of The Century Trucks

Truckin’ Awesome: You’ll Dig Our Look Back At Turn Of The Century Trucks

(Photos: DPL Digital collection) – Back when I was a kid, my grandfather gave me an old book called “This Was Trucking” and it was spellbinding. I read it about 300 times over the years and it got me hooked on an obsession for learning about these early working trucks. Yes, you could get a Model T with a bed but when you really needed to get some work done it called for a heavier duty piece of equipment. That’s where all the freaks and weirdos below come in.

Much like the auto industry of the day, there were a TON of companies producing trucks. Many of them regional. Builders in the Northeast may not have actually been competing with the people in the midwest and western USA because driving was a mostly regionalized activity then. We are long before the interstate highway system so when you see some of these photos featuring trucks that “won” city to city races, the guys were likely on them for weeks to do it.

To be a truck driver in this era took massive courage because we’re talking overloaded machines, mechanical brakes, chain drives, and absolutely zero protection from the elements for the most part. Very few of the rigs in this photo collection actually have a windshield! Combine that with the virtually complete lack of suspension, minuscule speeds, and labor required to load and unload them and you have a job description made in hell.

Can you imagine operating one of these suckers every day?!

Let’s take a trip through time! Check out photos and captions –


This Cass was a pretty good looking rig with its enclosed body, windshield, and other “luxuries”. Lots better than others.


Here’s a Reliance truck, around a ’10 model with a load of tires heading to tire shops across the city of Detroit. Note the kid on the back. Blowing tires was a way of life back then, except on the trucks which typically wore solids.







This one ton Federal truck is parked in front of a Cadillac dealer and garage. Note the sign on the back. It was the winner of a Detroit to Chicago reliability run. Wonder how many weeks it took?














Check this out! Surely one of the first pivoting style trucks out there, this Dominion was made in the 1910ish era. The stake sides of the bed could be pulled out and all. Pretty awesome little rig if you ask us!








Note the dual tires in the rear and the house in the background. They likely just drove this thing down a street and decided to shoot these photos. This one is a great way to show off the capabilities of the rig.


Here’s a 1912 Federal Truck that looks like it was a delivery unit for a stove company. Pretty luxurious! Federal was around right up to the 1950s.


This is a 1910 “Rapid” truck and it is hauling a load of bed springs. Again, driver comforts are nil.


These happy gents are posing around a 1911 Universal truck that looks to be hauling some precise cement beams or something of that nature.


You probably knew this already but that is a 1910 Randolph truck. We’re not sure what’s in the boxes but we know it cannot be too heavy as lots of the load is hanging way of the back of that sucker.


This 1910 Grabowski truck has a windshield a couple of headlights and the driver position on the right. It also has a tiller instead of a steering wheel. Chain drive was the way to go back then. If those sacks are filled with dye, they better not get caught in the rain!


This picture is fun not just because of the 1911 Morgan truck but also because of the horses that surround it. Truly the changing of the guard here. The horse drawn wagons may have been more comfortable though.


See that big transfer case smack dab in the middle of the truck? Oh yeah, this is an FWD Model B and it is an Army truck like thousands of other Model Bs were.


Sure the 1910 Rapid is little more than a chain driven Conestoga wagon but look at the name of the company and all those crates!


Here’s another 1910 Rapid but this one is loaded with pipes, twine, and all different kinds of stuff. We have no idea where all this would be headed unless it was to multiple locations. The knobby rear tires must have helped for traction.


You think delivering beer is a tough job nowadays? It is, trust me. Back in about 1910 it had to be ridiculous. Here’s an unknown brand of truck from the Central Brewing Company heading out on route.


This 1910 Gray is hauling a big load of chairs somewhere. They look like they belong in some sort of drinking establishment. Need beer!


If you look closely at the crates in the back of this 1910 Rapid you’ll see what looks to be some kind of spoked wheels in them. Whoever loaded this sucker was either drunk, in a hurry, or in a hurry to get drunk. Note the folding top. This was a low option truck.


This is a 1911 Sternberg truck and it is carrying a load of barrels freshly built by the Federal Cooperage company. There are a handful of coopers left in the country but in this era it was a huge business.


This is a 1915 GMC Model 41 truck, a two ton, driving down a dirt road. Where was this guy heading? You finish the story because we sure do not know.


This is a Mais truck on some sort of a multi-state tour. That would have been as horrid an experience as one could imagine having because the roads were terrible and you had no protection from the elements.


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