The moving industry is wide-spread today – from big corporate companies to small local businesses. But unlike modern days where we face an overpopulated scene of the moving business, a long time ago there were barely any moving companies worth talking about. Here is some info about the moving industry history and how it all began.
Origins of the Moving Industry Business
In reality, the moving business, as we know it today, did originate in the USA, back in the days when newcomers and colonists traveled to populate the west. It is speculated that the first do-it-yourself movers were exactly those immigrants that favored the use of the famous covered wagons (which we often see used in the “western” movie genre).
They used the wagons to pack their belongings and relocate to populate new areas, essentially making them the first people that used a primitive form of moving. One could argue that the act of moving as described is not similar to hiring professional moving help for that purpose, but there is a small fact that balances the scales – when immigrants would travel west, it was an easier and generally smarter decision to travel in groups along the trails, with each group consisting of 3-5 wagons (or even more), so that people could help each other – it probably included packing and loading goods onto the wagons too. Of course, the main reason for people banding up was better survivability on the road (groups like that were often the target of Indian raids, diseases, wild beasts and so on), but the very fact that the need for moving companies was there is considered the spark that started the fire.
The Moving Industry History and World War I
The first moving companies that resembled the modern day business model were being created parallel to the development of the railroad industry. With railroad transport becoming the main means of transportation in the US during the 40’s – 60’s period (of the 19th century), small moving companies created their first warehouses near railways for convenience. They used pack animals to drive wagons to the warehouse in the city where the order originated, then they would unload them into the warehouse, after which they would load everything in a train car. As soon as the train arrived at the destination, another local company would unload the goods into their warehouse, then use their wagons to finally transport everything to the desired home. Most of the so-called “wagon firms” had other main activities, moving was an “extra” service that they could provide occasionally. By the end of the period, railroad transport had blossomed, but the moving business would not achieve the general form which it has now until World War I.
During WWI paved roads were becoming a necessity to support the war effort. Motorized trucks were scarce, most of them were being redirected to the military, and so was most of the fuel and accessories needed for their servicing. Therefore, not many companies could afford to possess moving trucks. At that time, the main cost that the growing population had to pay when moving into a new home was being directed at either the creation of new furniture in every town, or at the handling of old furniture throughout the railroad station warehouses (where it had to be loaded and unloaded several times before it would reach its destination). That was a concern for a guy known as Ward B. Hiner, the founder of a moving company, who figured out that it would be more profitable and cost-effective to move household items not by train, but rather by a motor-van (thus the origination of the term “Van Company”, synonymous to “Moving Company”). That turned out to be an incredible idea, supported heavily in the first few years after 1919, during which the government was desperately trying to lower the economic dependence on railroad transport as the dominating means of transportation of both goods and people.
The Moving Industry and World War II
When the moving business of transporting goods with motor-vans started gaining popularity, many of the companies were small and the industry was fragmented. The situation did not bode well for the drivers that worked on interstate orders, simply because they had to either postpone the execution of the first errand in order to gather enough goods to fill their whole truck for the same or a similar destination, or drive with just that one order all the way to another state. This increased the cost substantially or resulted in angry customers whose goods were delayed too much. That problem was resolved as the industry steadily intertwined unto itself, resulting in many co-operation contracts.
During World War II, the industry was forced to briefly revert back to train cars, but when the war was over in 1945 profits spiked upwards as all the soldiers returned home. Some of the oldest companies in the line of business have even survived to present day, companies like the Aero Mayflower Transit Company of Indianapolis (now known as Mayflower Transit) and Johnson Storage and Moving United (now an agent of United Van Lines). The moving industry history remembers many more moving companies, some of them are still operating and some of them have closed.
The Moving Industry – Present Day
Up till today, where we have a developed, unregulated (in terms of rates) industry that provides moving services. Information about the line of business is rich, detailed and widespread, and can be accessed by anyone. The U.S. Census Bureau, as cited by Wikipedia, informs us that around 40 million households perform a move annually, which is an incredible number in itself. Knowing that, and the whole path that the moving industry had to take so that today we can order a moving crew with one click, an e-mail or a phone call, makes you wonder – what was the business like in the old days, and how can we, eventually, bring back its unequaled charm, which we have forsaken in the search for utility and profit.
The moving business history features a lot of professional moving companies that are still operating today. If you are looking for a professional moving company, it is always a good idea to select experienced movers that know what to do and how to properly handle your belongings.
Posted on Mar 22, 2012; Last updated: Apr 14, 2014