An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

1920 Buldog Mack tractor and Morris & Company Refridgearated Tralier

How The Motor Truck Began To Replace The Horse And Wagon

By Ace Zenek: I enjoy solving mysteries and digging deep to find information on vintage motor vehicles. A post back in July of 2011 on The Old Motor of the press photo above interested me and today I am sharing what has turned up in the research. The Editor included the following information that was with the image:

“The caption with this circa 1920 press photo, tells us that this is the “Largest truck in the world”. It is a 15-ton Mack tractor and refrigerated trailer, the latest method of moving freight that distributes dressed beef quicker and cheaper than shipping it on congested railroads. Morris & Company has a fleet of these Mack trucks at both their Chicago and East Saint Louis, Illinois plants and expects to equip their other plants elsewhere in the like manner”.


An interesting article was found in The Power Wagon, June 1913 issue on pages 40, and 41 titled – $75,000 Invested in Motors by Morris Companies, and I have condensed the 2000-word article as follows:

“Twenty-one Alco Power Wagons Operated in Six American Cities Are Reducing Morris’ Delivery Costs and Doing Remarkable Work in the Distribution of the Company’s Products”.

“In August 1911, Morris & Company, large Chicago packers, operated but two power wagons. Today their fleet includes 21 machines, a dozen of which have been purchased within the past 12 months. The company’s motor experience began in 1908, when a 3-ton Reliance truck was put in service. This machine was operated successfully for several years and was finally displaced, in May 1911, by two 3 1/2-ton Alcos. From that time forward the company confined its buying strictly to trucks of that make”.

Vintage Antique Old Alco Motor Trucks

  •                    Alco Truck advertisement on the cover of the “The Power Wagon”, June 1913 issue.

“The machines in the Chicago service are operated out of the Union Stock Yards, where the company’s plant, stables and garage are located. The short-haul work – deliveries over distances of two, three, four and even five miles is handled almost entirely by the horse and wagon equipment, although the trucks are sometimes given work of this kind of special rush orders”.

“The company is anxious to displace the horse as far as possible, and is sparing no pains to find the class of work for which the machine is best adapted. The machines (power wagons) cover from 45 to 55 miles daily and often make as many as 48 stops and are governed to a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour”.


  •                       Five of the nine Alco power wagons in the Chicago service of Morris & Company.

Each Truck Displaces Five Horses: The work given each truck varies from day to day, as the machines are assigned to different duties dependent on the rush of business in any particular district. For that reason, it is difficult to determine accurately just how many horses each machine has displaced. In the general run of business, however, Morris & Company have found that one of the 3 1/2-ton trucks is equivalent to about 2 1/2 double wagons. This conclusion is based on the tonnage handled and the mileage covered, with due regard to the time element”.

“On some days, in making long runs to the suburbs, the trucks make deliveries that were utterly impossible with horses, while at other times the machines handle in a forenoon what formerly required all day with two teams used on alternate shifts”.

Vintage Old Antique Alco Motor Trucks

  • Seven of the Alco 3 1/2-ton trucks in the service of Joseph Stern & Sons, New York subsidiary of Morris & Company, the greatest national packing concern.

“The Morris machines are housed in the company’s stables, where they are under the supervision of a highly skilled mechanic. This man has been trained in the service by the manufacturer of the trucks and receives $— (amount illegible, but possibly $35) a week. He is assisted by a helper who is paid 30 cents an hour. Each machine is thoroughly inspected each night by the mechanic and any trouble discovered is at once rectified”.

“The company still owns 78 horses, although this number will be reduced just as rapidly as certain business conditions can be adjusted to make machine operation advisable. There are 30 double and 18 single wagons now in service, and it is in the former that the greatest reductions will be made when further additions are made to the power wagon equipment”.

“The average team and wagon in the Morris service represents an investment of close to $900. Horses  average $250 apiece. The saving in labor alone has been sufficient to determine the direction of future investment in vehicle equipment”. You can view 100s more photos of Trucks, Buses and Equipment here.

  •                 A later ad in the December 28, 1918 “Scientific American” showing Morris GMC Trucks.

vintage Old Antique GMC Trucks

9 responses to “How The Motor Truck Began To Replace The Horse And Wagon

  1. David, a new project for me is a WW1 military truck. In researching it I found a statement that said WW1 was partially responsible for the advancement of both truck and tractor development. With thousands of mules and horses being sent for war duty it left a shortage leaving the door open for trucks and tractors to be improved.

  2. Interesting landing gear on the trailer in first picture. Looks like a fold-away design, unlike the telescoping legs I thought we’d used forever .

  3. Missouri will be surprised to find that East Saint Louis has moved across the Mississippi from Illinois. The move must have been tough on the Eads Bridge.

  4. Regarding WWI, a snippet from an article about a pending White / Studebaker merger:
    “White made both passenger cars and trucks until the end of the War. The War brought it big orders and a reputation for performance. in the Battle of Verdun the only White trucks to break down were those disabled by shells. ‘The result was that 2,500 of them received the distinction of France’s Croix de Guerre.”

    – Time Magazine – Monday, Sep. 26, 1932

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *