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Fruehauf Trailer Company - Lehman Brothers Collection

Fruehauf Trailer Company

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The Fruehauf Trailer Company was founded on February 27, 1918, in Detroit, Michigan. August C. Fruehauf, the company's founder, was a blacksmith and carriage builder conducting business in and around Detroit in 1897. At the request of a local lumber merchant, Fruehauf built a trailer that was to carry the merchant's pleasure boat and then be hauled by a Ford automobile. The resulting trailer was such a success that the merchant asked Fruehauf to build something similar to haul lumber. The business became so successful that four years later Fruehauf incorporated his company, the Fruehauf Trailer Company.

The company became one of the largest manufacturers of truck-trailers in the United States. The chief business was the manufacture, assembly, sale, and distribution of truck-trailers and their associated parts and accessories. Due to the diverse requirements of the company's customers, Fruehauf catered to its market by producing truck-trailers in numerous body and chassis designs with varying load capacities. Among the most popular types of trailers were van, refrigerator, tank, and heavy-duty flat-deck trailers.

Additionally, the company manufactured all of the component parts for its products.

Operations were located in plants in Detroit, Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City, Kansas; and Bessemer, Alabama. Iowa Engineering Company, a wholly owned subsidiary, processed parts for use in the company's plants and its subsidiaries.

Fruehauf also manufactured many types of truck-trailers and associated parts for the government and government contractors. During WW II, the company and its subsidiaries attributed approximately 65 to 68 percent of its consolidated net sales to government contracts and sub-contracts.

In a five-year period of business development during the early years of the company, Fruehauf found it desirable to increase the number of its sales and service branches to promote more channels of distribution and to decrease the number of independent distributors of its products. The company acquired all the capital stock of Missouri-based Indiana Carriage Company in 1936. Fruehauf of Kansas acquired all of the assets of the Indiana Carriage Company in 1937, and then dissolved the company. In further business developments, the company acquired the physical assets of the Bunnell-Kirksey Trailer Corporation in 1936. In 1938 the company partnered with Detroit Compensating Axle Corporation, later known as the Differential Wheel Corporation, covering the construction of differential dual wheel assemblies for trailers. The company built a plant in Detroit, Michigan, in 1939 at a cost of $210 million, in which the body assembly and press departments were located. Finally, the company created an agreement with Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company in 1939, the purpose of which was to purchase within a four-year period, effective January 1940, the fabricated stainless steel sets for making 10,000 trailer bodies and frames.

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