Bus travel is a mode of transportation that many people may take for granted, but its role as an integral part of America’s infrastructure for the past century was commemorated earlier this month at the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington.
“One hundred years ago, Carl Eric Wickman, a Swedish immigrant and drill operator laid-off from Minnesota’s iron ore mines, began a modest bus service to take miners from Hibbing to nearby Alice, a town known for its saloons,” Anne Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, wrote on Fast Lane, the official blog of the Transportation Department, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Greyhound Bus Lines and the intercity motor coach coach industry.
“He charged 15 cents a ride in a Hupmobile. A year later, Wickman joined forces with a similar service running between Hibbing and Duluth. In its first year, the Mesaba Transportation Company earned an $8,000 profit, and American intercity bus travel was born. During the 1920s, Wickman’s buses –with their sleek lines and grey paint– become known as “greyhounds,” and in 1929 the company officially became Greyhound Lines.”
The government event was part of Greyhound’s Centennial Tour, launched earlier this year, which will have visited nearly 40 cities across the United States by the end of the year. The tour features two buses converted into mobile museums with displays of memorabilia like signage, vintage driver uniforms, driver pins and badges, and a historic timeline wall with interactive touch screen displays. Guests can view videos of vintage ads, movie clips and other historic images.
Greyhound lays claim to being the first to introduce rear-mounted engines with its 1936 Supercoach “giving the driver better visibility of the road ahead, along with the first belly compartments for luggage.” And in the late 1930s, the company said, “Greyhound brought on-board air conditioning as a new feature, along with other passenger comforts such as washrooms and an air-suspension ride.”
Historic vehicles on display as part of the Centennial Tour include:
The Hupmobile: In 1914, it was the first Greyhound bus and was used to transport iron miners from Hibbing to Alice, Minn.
The Mack Bus, built in 1931 by Mack Truck Company, included amenities such as mohair seats with horsehair stuffing and side curtains to keep out roadside dust and glaring sunlight.
And bus rides have become a significant part of our nation’s history, Ferro noted. “More than 50 years ago, motorcoaches carried Freedom Riders into the Deep South to challenge segregation. During World War II, motorcoaches carried soldiers from coast-to-coast.”