1911: A New Era in Freight Transportation Began

April 7, 1911

An early experiment in long-distance truck delivery took place between New York City and Philadelphia. A British-made Commer truck was used for the Friday morning delivery by New York City’s automotive firm Wyckoff, Church & Partridge (WCP), which owned the U.S. rights for promoting and selling those heavy-duty vehicles.

As the New York Times reported, WCP’s executives “were struck with the fact that much of the transportation of goods from city to city can often be more specially carried by motor truck than by [railroad] freight.” The firm decided to verify that possibility by enlisting the assistance of John Wanamaker’s department store business.

The New York City store loaded one of WCP’s 4.5-ton (4.1-metric ton) Commer trucks with goods to be taken as quickly as possible to the Wanamaker store in Philadelphia. The goods amounted to four tons (3.6 metric tons) altogether and consisted of furniture, a piano, marble slabs, and general merchandise.

The truck departed the WCP building in New York at 3:55 a.m. for what Automobile Topics magazine called “a strenuous test” of 216 miles (347.6 kilometers) during which the vehicle had to withstand generally poor road conditions. The truck’s driver for the New York City-Philadelphia run was someone named Joe Deaton, and he was accompanied by six WCP employees. The truck was followed on the trip by racecar celebrity Cyrus G. Patschke, who drove himself and two passengers in a Guy Vaughan automobile.

The truck arrived at Philadelphia’s Wanamaker store at 11:30 a.m.  The goods were removed from the truck and three tons’ (2.6 metric tons’) worth was loaded in their place for the return trip to New York City. “The run simply confirms the faith we have in the Commer Truck – a faith founded on two years of expert investigation of motor trucks both here and abroad,” WCP subsequently proclaimed in an advertisement.

For more information on WCP’s 1911 experimental truck run between New York City and Philadelphia, please check out https://digitalcollections.detroitpubliclibrary.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A175286 and https://books.google.com/books/content?id=ZudZAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA84&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3CNg_KTA99-oQfN7TXGQJnGpgYnQ&ci=83%2C98%2C877%2C1264&edge=0

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