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Refrigerator and German Lover Cigar Automobiles

Our recent post “Before there was Greyhound” showed how large cars were used for “stages” before buses were commercially available. The same situation existed before light trucks entered the market place. To meet the need, automobiles were converted into light trucks by having a coachbuilder construct a commercial body on a automobile chassis.

The J.M. McNamara’s “Refrigerator Auto” in the lead image allowed him to sell his meat door to door, which probably increased his sales and paid for the new body he had built on a 1914 Cadillac chassis. His market was located at 257 Law St. in Hartford, CT.

Charles Soby, a cigar manufacturer, had the circa 1911 to ’12 Packard Model 30 (below) converted to a delivery truck. Soby’s shop was located at 855 Main St. in Hartford, CT.

Please share with us what you find of interest in these photographs found at the Connecticut Digital Archive.

29 responses to “Refrigerator and German Lover Cigar Automobiles

  1. I love the Packard truck…Aside from the obvious but of history regarding cigars, it reminds us of a time when local firms were vital suppliers to the community. Sure there were well publicized national brands of most products, but there was still room for small local producers. As a kid in the ’60s, it seemed many towns still had local bakerys, brewers, potato chips and coffee brands.
    Imagine, 8 proprietary blends of cigars from a local shop. Not being a smoker, I have a hard time imagining that there could be much of a difference, but it would be interesting to learn how they differed from one another.
    Probably the closest thing we have today are micro-brews. I would guess the firm used the truck to deliver to dealers, back in the day when tobacco shops were common, as well as to drugstores and news stands.

    I would also guess that the “German Lover” brand was discontinued or renamed in 1917!

    • This guy in Hartford was selling German Cigars, I’m assuming made in Germany. The Connecticut River Valley from New Haven to Greenfield Mass. at one time was one continuous White Tobacco Netting canopy with cigar wrapper tobacco growing underneath. Probably hundreds of square miles. And this guy was importing. The blank with him.

          • My husband picked tobacco in the mid 1960’s on a farm on Nod Road at the foot of Avon Mountain in Avon, CT. He recalls the tar from the tobacco leaves was hard to get off your hands. On pay day, on a dare and for $5.00, a few of the kids would eat a big green tobacco worm while the rest of them watched.

        • I never would have guess they grew tobacco in Connecticut! I would have thought it was too far north.
          Learn something every day.

          • As Mr. Greenlees says, “It isn’t fun and it’s very hard work”. My parents worked tobacco. The girls worked in the barns, the boys picked it. The girls would sew the tobacco onto wooden rods that hung in the barns. They were used because they didn’t have calluses on their hands. You nick a leaf and the leaf is useless. This is cigar wrapper tobacco, you can’t have any blemishes. When I came of age, I asked my parents if I could do it. “NO”. We weren’t rich, but they wouldn’t put their kids through that.

            In the 70s on, most of the fields were turned into housing and business parks. CCC was big developer in the Windsor CT.

            CCC stands for Consolidated Cigar Corporation. They had all the land, literally square miles of it and business parks for warehouses and office buildings made more money than staying in the tobacco.

            Do a google image search for “shade grown tobacco aerial view”

        • Then I apologize. Just a weird name for a cigar. I live in Westfield. MA about 12 miles north of Granby. Tobacco was everywhere. When I say hundreds of square miles, I meant it. Mile after mile of white nets.

      • That’s not what I get from reading the side of the truck.
        It clearly states “Copyrighted Brands” which makes it seem like it was their own proprietary product, not just selling imports.
        If they grew tobacco in the region, that adds credence to the theory.

    • Hi John, my grandfather smoked cigars, Antonio and Cleopatra, I believe. Who knows what the difference was, like why there were 100 brands of cigarettes. Back then, smoking a cigar was a sign of affluence. My grandfather was an upholsterer, but he had like 4 successful brothers in law, that all smoked cigars, so he did too. We’d come home smelling of cigar smoke. To this day, when I smell a cigar, it instantly reminds me of my grandpa, and I usually thank the person for the memory.

    • When I was a youngster in the ’50s, we lived in a suburb right next to the growing LAX. At the time we had an iceman come by to supply ice to real ice boxes I imagine, a blade sharpener to do knives, saws, lawn mowers (everyone had a well manicured lawn), the Helmsman with bakery goods and our favorite donuts, the Good Humor truck, the diaper laundry truck, as well as our coterie of traveling salesmen like the elderly Fuller Brush man. Interesting times, a deeper feeling of community I guess.

    • A perfecto is a particular style that has a closed foot, a bulge in the middle, and a rounded head. Poking around a bit, there’s really not much that I can find about Soby’s specific brands, but the Our Bachelors was a five-cent cigar and the German Lovers cost ten cents. Soby’s father-in-law had imported Cuban tobacco seed for his fields, which were used for both of those cigars.

      The trademark on “German Lovers” was filed in 1908, and yes, it was renamed after the war (and after Soby had sold the business) to “Soby’s Lovers.” He sued and won an injunction against using that name, and I’m not sure what happened after that.

      Soby apparently owned a cigar store previously. A 1908 issue of Tobacco Leaf notes that Hartford’s new Weeks & Woods cigar store had been acquired from “Chas. Soby,” who had operated it for the previous twenty-six years.

    • I’m sure it was there was a big anti-german push during the World War 1 in the US a lot of German clubs were closed and German brands were changed the
      U.S. government actually seized Bosch’s Assets in the US as War reparations and for a long time there was a US Bosch and a German Bosch brand.
      My wife’s great-aunt was an artist and she had a book called the toys of Nuremberg but after the more she reprinted the second version “the toys of old Europe”

  2. I’ve never been convinced the above types were ever cars and expensive coachwork was jettisoned to be “converted” into trucks. I suggest the owner bought a running gear from the dealer and had commercial body added. In later years big out of date cars were converted into wreckers etc, but the above look new and too perfect.

    • fashion played a big part in the rapid replacement of prestige cars.I n Europe 2 seasons then something newer and often much better.

      • But at the same time, say pre-1930, but especially in the teens and 20s, a lot of European luxury cars were rebodied to fit new tastes.
        A lot of Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts have been rebodied, likewise a lot of Bentleys were changed in period, and many more have been changed from saloons to open types in later years.

  3. My stepmother was from Ivoryton and told me you did not want to get stuck behind a truck hauling migrant workers on a 2 lane road in the Conn. Valley .The stench they’d get from working tobacco
    was never forgotten.

  4. First picture reminds me back in the 1950s in our rural area, there were guys going door to door with a chest freezer full of meat in the bed of their pickup truck. Must have plugged in it all night and loaded it up in the morning. Meat was cold but not frozen when he sold it to you.

  5. There is a teens or early 20’s Cadillac converted to a truck that shows some years at the Mississippi State Fair. It was done in New Orleans for a grocer or something like that. It is original and looks pretty good. It was described as a conversion.

  6. They’re still growing it in the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts — Hadley, Sunderland, Hatfield. We live in the hill towns to the west of the Valley, and there are still a few barns standing out here with louvered slats on the walls for drying tobacco.

  7. Given the state of commercial refrigeration in the teens, I wonder if the “refrigerated truck” wasn’t simply a large icebox. Perhaps blocks of ice were spread on trays in the ventilated section of the roof, and the cool air simply seeped down.

  8. Thank you David , for the beautiful old photos and the incredible amount of time you dedicate to our enjoyment of our hobby via THE OLD MOTOR . There is always something to be learned from the experience and comments from you and your readers . You are a true servant of humanity , and I will be eternally grateful to you for your seemingly limitless generosity. Peter

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