1919: The Start of a Multi-State Motor Truck Tour

August 4, 1919

A convoy of flag-decorated motor vehicles, which consisted of both trucks and automobiles, left Chicago’s Grant Park for a 3,000-mile (4,826-kilometer)-journey through the rural regions of six Midwestern states. “The object of the enterprise, which is the first of its kind, is to demonstrate to the farmers of Illinois, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin the varied uses of motor equipment in agriculture,” reported the Chicago Tribune. “In virtually all of these stops will be made exhibitions of motorized farming equipment and addresses at farmers’ meeting which will have been arranged for in advance.” 

This convoy, officially known as the National Motor Truck Development Tour, had been organized by the National Association of Truck Sales Managers. William F. Sturm, an Indianapolis News reporter who had achieved considerable renown by that time as an expert on motor vehicles and long-distance travel, served as the tour’s director-general. This tour reflected and even built on the steadily growing use and appeal of trucks nationwide in the years immediately following World War I. 

A total of 13 automotive companies, represented by one truck each, participated in the journey.  Along with those trucks and a few automobiles, there was a service truck for repairs and a gasoline tank truck. Three of the trucks on the tour carried U.S. Navy Band members. These servicemen, under the command of Navy Lieutenant F.M. Willson, provided music along the way and sought to enlist recruits at the various stops. There was also a crew filming the tour for a motion picture that would be given to and shown by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for promotional purposes. (The above photo depicts several of the trucks lined up at Grant Park for the start of the tour.)

This multi-state trek lasted nearly nine weeks and finished up in Milwaukee on October 4. “The success of this motor truck tour has been beyond expectations,” proclaimed the Chilton Tractor Journal. “Technically, the trucks have performed with entire satisfaction,” that journal also reported. “There was not a single real delay to the convoy through mechanical troubles.”

Photo Credit: Lumber World Review (10 August 1919)

For more information on the 1919 National Motor Truck Development Tour, please check out Hardware Dealers’ Magazine and The Elk Mountain Pilot

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