1914: A “Small Beginning” for a Major Bus Company

May 21, 1914

With 1914 nearly halfway over, 28-year-old Swedish immigrant Eric Wickman was dealing with more than his usual share of challenges. He had arrived in the United States in 1905, and found work as a drill operator in iron ore mines in the northeastern city of Hibbing, Minnesota. In 1914, however, Wickman was laid off from that job. He then went into the automobile business locally as a salesman for the Huppmobile, a vehicle manufactured by the Detroit-based Hupp Motor Car Company.

Wickman’s recent string of bad luck seemed to carry over into his new career – at least initially – when he was not able to sell the first Huppmobile shipped to him by the company. He ended up buying that seven-passenger vehicle for himself. 

With his fledgling sales business continuing to perform poorly, Wickman decided to put his own Hupmobile to work to help earn needed money. He established a transit route in the Hibbing area for those still employed at the mines where he had recently likewise worked. 

It was on May 21, 1914, that Wickman launched his pioneer venture shuttling passengers between their homes and the mines. The fare for a one-way trip aboard that Huppmobile was 15 cents. This maiden run on that springtime day in 1914 marked not only Wickman’s debut in the then-nascent bus industry but also the birth of one of the most famous and wide-ranging transportation enterprises still in existence today.      

That transit service quickly caught on among his one-time workers and proved to be so popular and profitable that Wickman – with the help of his new business partners Andy Anderson and C.A.A. (Arvid) Heed, who both likewise had labored in the mines as drill operators – further built up those operations. Wickman joined forces with Ralph Bogan, another entrepreneur who ran a similar bus service between Hibbing and Duluth, in 1915. Together, they formed the Mesaba Transportation Company. 

Within just a few years, business was thriving for Wickman and the 40 buses he owned at that time. He continued to prosper in the following decade, as he and Bogan partnered in 1924 with the Wisconsin-based Superior-White Bus Lines owner Orville Caesar to form the Northland Transportation Company. In 1929, Wickman’s ever-growing transportation operations acquired the name Greyhound – a reference to the gray color and sleek appearance of the buses. It was also during that year that the now-iconic running dog was first used for the company’s logo.

In the century since the present-day Greyhound Lines had what Chicago’s Southwest Economist newspaper called its “small beginning” as a local shuttle service in Minnesota, that company has become very much a cultural touchstone (appearing in such film classics as It Happened One Night and Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and also the largest provider of intercity bus transportation in the world. 

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the origins of Greyhound Lines, please check out Tracing the hound : the Minnesota roots of the Greyhound Bus Corporation / Margaret Walsh. (mnhs.org)

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