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Fruehauf Trailers For Over 100 Years

The name Fruehauf was an everyday sight on American highways for decades and though not as common, we still see plenty of them today. Fruehauf revolutionized the transportation of goods and single-handedly created an industry, yet only a small percentage of the general public recognizes the name. Fewer still, are the folks who know their remarkable history. 

In 1882, in Detroit Michigan, a young August Fruehauf took a job as a blacksmith's apprentice. It was hard work, but Fruehauf persevered and became a master smith. Constructing a two-story shop of his own in 1901, he began to build and repair wagons in addition to his normal duties. 

By 1912, the business had grown so much that a larger shop was constructed. It was in this brick shop where the tractor-trailer was conceived. As the story goes Frederick M. Sibley, a local lumber baron, had acquired a lakefront home some miles away. Mr. Sibley was possessed of a sizeable boat which he wished to transport to the lake, but doing so by horse and wagon would be an arduous process. Fruehauf was enlisted to devise an apparatus that would hook to Sibley's Model-T Ford roadster in order to haul the boat. 

Fruehauf and employee Otto Neumann pieced together a strong two-wheel vehicle with a long pole that attached to the rear of the Model-T. This pole acted as both a tongue and brake. They called it a trailer. The contraption was a success, so successful in fact that Mr. Sibley ordered several more to be used in his lumber yard. The seed for Fruehauf Trailers had been planted. 

In German Fruehauf means "up early" and true to his name, August Fruehauf worked tirelessly to improve the design and function of his trailer. A significant improvement was the so-called fifth wheel coupling and trailer kingpin. Over the course of time, Fruehauf would obtain over 2000 patents. 

By 1918, orders were pouring in. Despite having both day and night shifts, sales were significantly outpacing production capability. It became clear that a new facility would be required.  In February of 1918, the Fruehauf Trailer Company was incorporated and by 1925 orders for Fruehauf Trailers had topped one million dollars. 

The company continued to grow and became a dominant force in global trailer manufacturing until internal strife ripped it apart. The U.S. division of Fruehauf Trailers declared bankruptcy and was purchased by Wabash Trailers in 1997. However, Fruehauf France, Fruehauf New Zealand, and Fruehauf Mexico continue the tradition of excellence and innovation begun by August Fruehauf in 1912.


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