1930: The End of the Road for a Freight Transportation Pioneer

May 11, 1930

August Charles Fruehauf, a freight transportation pioneer, died at his home in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan, at the age of 61. Fruehauf was born in Fraser, Michigan, in 1868. By 1914, he had established himself in Detroit as a blacksmith and carriage builder. 

The turning point in Fruehauf’s career took place that same year when a lumberman named Frederic M. Sibley, Sr., asked him to build a semi-trailer to hook up to a Ford Model T. Sibley wanted to use the semi-trailer to transport a sailboat to a lake in Upper Michigan. Fruehauf successfully constructed such a semi-trailer – a sturdy two-wheeler — for Sibley’s purposes. Sibley was impressed by the contraption, and soon asked Fruehauf to build semi-trailers that could be used for moving lumber and other wood products. 

Fruehauf’s semi-trailers and other types of trailers were soon very much in demand. In 1918, the Fruehauf Trailer Company was established. The company expanded dramatically, as trailers were requested by not just lumber dealers but also businesses involved in transporting such commodities as dairy products and fuel oil.  

The Fruehauf Trailer Company handled an ever-growing stream of orders for semi-trailers as well as both two-wheeled and four-wheeled full trailers, and became a formidable and influential giant of freight transportation in the post-World War I era. Fruehauf’s far-reaching innovations included a refrigerated trailer body with four-to-six-ton (3.6-to-5.4-metric ton) capacities that was used to haul ice cream and keep that cargo cold in transit; and a time-and-labor-saving automatic semi-trailer that could be coupled to a powered vehicle by one driver rather than a crew and detached in a similar manner. 

Not long before his death, Fruehauf retired and left the company in the hands of his three sons. The company remained in the family until 1964, and was sold to Wabash National in 1997. In 2017, Fruehauf was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

Photo Credit: Coachbuilt.com

For more information on August C. Fruehauf, please check out https://www.automotivehalloffame.org/honoree/august-fruehauf/ and https://www.hemmings.com/stories/article/august-fruehauf

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