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Classic Ads  All Classic Ads Vintage Collection - Greyhound Bus Lines related ads

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Greyhound

History of Greyhound Bus Lines(1926) 

1914 HupmobileCarl Wickman was born in Sweden in 1887. He moved to the United States, and in 1914 began a bus service in Minnesota where he transported iron ore miners from Hibbing to Alice at 15 cents a ride in a 1914 Hupmobile.

In 1915, Wickman joined forces with Ralph Bogan, who was running a similar service from Hibbing to Duluth. The name of the new organization was the Mesaba Transportation Company, and it made $8,000 in profit in its first year.

By the end of World War I Wickman owned 18 buses, and was making an annual profit of $40,000. In 1922, Wickman joined forces with Orville Caesar, the owner of the Superior White Bus Lines. Four years later, Wickman reached an agreement with two West Coast operations, the Pickwick Lines and the Pioneer Yelloway System.

In 1926, Wickman's bus operations became known as the Greyhound Lines. Ed Stone, who set up a new addition from Superior, WI to Wausau, WI, - during his inagural run, passing through a small northern WI town saw the reflection of the 20's era bus in a store window - it reminded him of a greyhound dog and he renamed that segment of the "Bluegoose Lines", as the Wickman lines were known - later the entire system became Greyhound. Mr. Stone later became General Sales Manager of GM's Yellow Truck and Coach division, which built Greyhound buses. (At the Greyhound Bus Museum in Hibbing, MN, a plaque displays this information.) Wickman, who was president of the company, continued to expand it, and by 1927 his buses were making transcontinental trips from California to New York.

Wickman's business suffered during the Great Depression, and by 1931 was over $1 million in debt. However, with the improvement in the economy, the Greyhound Corporation began to prosper again. In 1935, Wickman was able to announce record profits of $8 million. By the outbreak of World War II the company had 4,750 stations and nearly 10,000 employees.

During the following years Greyhound revenues climbed steadily, reaching $6 million before the end of the decade. In 1939 management of Greyhound anticipated the coming war, and began to stockpile parts. Greyhound suspected both that its buses would have a part in the U.S. war effort and that its supplier, General Motors, would be busy manufacturing jeeps. Both intuitions were correct.

One of Greyhound's principal duties during the war was to transport workers to shipyards and munitions factories. Military personnel were often transported via Greyhound to their bases. Wartime responsibilities and gas shortages made it difficult for Greyhound to serve all its civilian customers, and the company actually used advertisements to discourage ridership. 'Serve America Now So You Can See America Later' and 'Don't Travel Unless Your Trip Is Essential' were two Greyhound advertisements during World War II.

A 35 m.p.h. speed limit, imposed to save rubber, and a continual shortage of parts vexed Greyhound management throughout the war. America's most well-known motorcoach company found consolation in its balance sheets, however, as profits climbed to $10 million by the mid-1940s. At that time, Greyhound served more than 6,000 towns and carried one-fourth of all U.S. bus passengers--more than any other company. Its bus routes stretched like a net across the continental United States and Canada.

Increased Competition in the Postwar Era

In 1946 Carl Wickman retired as president of Greyhound and returned to Sweden. There he was knighted by King Gustav V 'for serving the unserved.' Upon Wickman's retirement, Orville Caesar became president of Greyhound. Caesar lobbied intensely for wider highways to accommodate his buses and fought to change the laws restricting the length of a bus to 35 feet. His new 'Scenicruisers' were 40 feet long and illegal in certain states.

The growth of Greyhound slowed to two percent a year in the late 1940s. Postwar prosperity brought with it thousands of new passenger cars, and the increase in cars meant fewer bus patrons. In addition, severe labor problems did not help the company. A series of walkouts in 1950 was prompted by a well-publicized incident in which 19 drivers suspected of skimming fares were lured to a hotel and held there against their will for 36 hours. Labor difficulties were nothing new for Greyhound. During World War II the Navy commandeered shipyard buses when the Greyhound drivers decided to strike.

In 1956 the company's president, Arthur Genet, decided to move Greyhound into the car rental business. There were several reasons for this move. One reason was that the car rental offices could operate out of Greyhound's urban terminals. The rental business would allow Greyhound to capitalize on something that had been a problem, namely, the popularity of the automobile. There was an unforeseen problem with the car rental strategy, however, and this was that the typical Greyhound bus passenger, to whom the rental business was geared, was not likely to rent a car. Within two years the car rental division was depressing revenues and had to be abandoned.

Not all of Greyhound's early attempts at diversification were as unsuccessful as the car rental business. Beginning in the 1940s Greyhound established a chain of restaurants, called 'Post Houses,' in its larger terminals. These were successful, as was the express package business, the implementation of which cost almost nothing at all.

Until the mid-1960s, Greyhound was primarily a bus company, and company management did everything it could to prevent passengers from defecting to trains or planes. Studies at the time showed that a large proportion of Greyhound's passengers were African American, and by the early 1960s Greyhound's marketing strategy was oriented toward this demographic. In fact, Greyhound was the transportation of choice for the freedom riders of the civil rights movement, and Greyhound buses were sometimes attacked by the Ku Klux Klan. While the company's promotion of black ridership was motivated by its quest for profits, Greyhound was also one of the first companies to implement something resembling an affirmative action program.


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