History of Fruehauf Trailers on display in Detroit

May 12, 2015
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The Fruehauf Trailer Historical Society (FTHS) announced today the opening of an exhibit on Sunday, June 7, at the Detroit Historical Museum (DHM).

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1952 Federal 45M truck with a 1946 Freuhauf trailer

Ruth Ann Fruehauf, granddaughter of the Fruehauf Trailer Company founder, August Fruehauf, will introduce Fruehauf, the First Name in Transportation display exhibition with a presentation and opening remarks beginning at 2 p.m.

Ruth Fruehauf founded FTHS and, with associate Darlene Norman, recently released their book Singing Wheels, August Fruehauf & The History of the Fruehauf Trailer Company.

Michigan native, August Fruehauf, well known blacksmith and wagon maker, with partner Otto Neumann, invented the semi-trailer in 1914 for a local lumber tycoon, hitched it to a modified Ford Model-T roadster and founded an industry that would have a major impact on world commerce to this day.

The Fruehauf Trailer Company operated from 1914 to 1997 across the United States, Europe and Asia introducing such revolutionary inventions as hydraulic dump trailers, bulk tanker trailers, the automatic fifth wheel hitch and the shipping container in 1956.

“In exploring company archives I began to realize the vast scope of inventions and patents developed over its lifetime,” said Fruehauf.  “Over 1,000 inventions, 150 for the military alone, helped the Fruehauf Trailer Company attain the rank of 75th largest company in the world, so I felt compelled to tell this story,” she continued.

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August Fruehauf’s blacksmith shop in Detroit circa 1917

The DHM exhibition will feature photographs and company memorabilia from the family’s collection focusing on the key Fruehauf patents and innovations to the trucking industry. The exhibition inaugurates a new DHM gallery and will remain on view for the next nine months.

Following the presentation at DHM, guests will be invited to visit the Ford Piquette Plant where a restored 1916 Fruehauf trailer with a matching Ford Model-T will be on display.

Surviving grandchildren, Ruth Fruehauf and Rick Neumann, will also be available to sign a 100th anniversary historical poster, answer questions about their grandfathers and tour the exhibition with visitors.

The DHM is located at 5401 Woodward Ave.

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