Historical Markers
Allentown [Mack Truck] Historical Marker
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Allentown [Mack Truck]

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
N. 19th St. at Roth Ave., Allentown

Dedication Date:
September 3, 1947

Behind the Marker

Black and white image of a Hutchinson Baking Company Truck. On the side of the truck is a sign which reads: Hutchinson Pies Crisp and Delicious.
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An AB Mack Truck used by the Hutchison Baking Company of Philadelphia, PA, circa...
The bulldog, sitting proudly on the hood of Mack trucks since 1932, has served as an appropriate mascot for the medium and heavy duty trucks that have earned a reputation for toughness and durability. The bulldog nickname was given by British military engineers to the new model AC during World War I.

In 1917, a trade publication noted that "In appearance these Macks, with their pugnacious front and resolute lines, suggest the tenacious quality of the British bull dog." Between 1916 and 1938, Mack produced over 40,000 ACs, the model most responsible for establishing the company's reputation. The loyalty of Mack owners has helped the company to stay in business for over a century, even though it has had serious financial problems and has been bought and sold several times.
A twenty passenger vehicle without windows.
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Mack Truck's 20-passenger tour bus, 1904.

The origins of Mack were as ordinary as its longevity has been extraordinary. In the 1890s men with mechanical interests were experimenting with internal combustion engines and ways to use them to marker propel horseless carriages relatively low power output of these early engines prompted many inventors to build light-weight automobiles that would be used for Sunday drives. It would not be long until some mechanics began to develop more powerful engines that could compete in freight hauling with the venerable horse and wagon. The need was pressing.

At the turn of the twentieth century, railroads efficiently transported goods over an extensive network. However, within America's rapidly expanding cities horses did most of the work of distributing goods from the railroad depots; and in the countryside those living miles from a railroad also had to rely on old-fashioned horsepower. Like many other truck manufacturers, the Mack brothers began by building horse-drawn vehicles.
Filed July 21, 1932 this patent, numbered 87,931,  pictures two bulldog Automobile Radiator Caps.
Mack Truck Bulldog patent illustration, 1932.

In 1893, Lackawanna County natives John (Jack) and Augustus (Gus) Mack bought out an old Brooklyn carriage and wagon factory. Twenty-year-old Gus had been working as clerk for the firm for three years. His older brother Jack had held several engineering jobs in which he was responsible for the operation of steam engines. The Mack brothers, soon joined by their older brother William, concentrated on building quality milk wagons, along with brewery and contractors" wagons. After the economic depression of 1893 nearly ruined them, the Mack brothers began repairing gasoline engines.

In 1900, Gus obtained an order for a bus to transport sightseers around Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Starting a Mack tradition, Jack chose to build the engine, rather than purchase one. His thirty-six horsepower engine could transport up to twenty passengers at a speed of twelve miles per hour. The success of this bus led to more orders, and the shop in Brooklyn became too small for a manufacturer who not only assembled buses but also made engines, transmissions, and axles.
Photograph of Mack, head and shoulders, wearing a suit coat and bow tie.
John M. "Jack" Mack

Another Mack brother, Joseph, who operated a markersilk mill in Allentown, suggested that Jack move his company there to occupy a large iron foundry. In 1905 Mack moved its automotive operations to Allentown. Once established in the larger facility, the company began to make gasoline-powered railcars and motor trucks. Jack Mack designed a dependable fifty-horsepower engine that powered a variety of Mack trucks, rated to carry between two and five tons.

In the 1910s the motor truck came of age in America–a New York Times headline declared "Motor Trucks Fast Crowding Out Horse-Drawn Vehicles." As truck manufacturing was evolving into a significant industry, building more trucks required access to more money. The need for significant amounts of capital, both for plant and operations, would be a problem for Mack throughout most of its history.
Manhattan Trucks for Modern Breweries save money and satisfies. For long hauls use the Manhattan Truck. The 5 ton truck has an economical range of 60 miles full load per day. Can you beat it with three teams? Our Motto. Simplicity, Strength, Durability, and plenty of reserve horse power. There is an image of the truck in the center of the ad. Open fence style siding along the back of the truck. Text continues after the image. This image represents the Manhattan 5 ton Brewery truck, capacity 56 half barrels of beer. We build trucks of all capacities - from 2 to 10 ton - also sight seeing cars. Bodies built to suit individual requirements. Write for our new catalog or ask to have our representative call.  Mack Bros. Motor Car Co., Allentown, Pa.
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Advertisement for the Mack Brothers Motor Car Company's 5-ton Manhattan truck,...

To improve its financial situation, in 1911-1912 Mack merged with Sauer Motor Company and Hewitt Motor Company to form what was called the International Motor Company. The new company, like many other others in this period, was controlled by financier J.P. Morgan, who installed his own executives. Perhaps unhappy with the loss of control of his company, Jack Mack resigned in 1912. Although the brothers all left, the Mack brand survived because it was better known than either Sauer or Hewitt.

Although the new company got off to a shaky start because the truck manufacturing field had become very competitive, two new models the AB (medium duty) and AC (heavy duty) introduced in the mid-Teens secured a prominent place for Mack in the American truck industry. Much of the credit for the design of these highly successful trucks goes to Edward R. Hewitt, son of noted iron manufacturer Abram Hewitt and grandson of the famous inventor Peter Cooper.

The new Mack models proved themselves on the home front and in Europe during World War I. After the war, the state and federal governments funded the construction of a national network of roads that cemented the importance of trucks in the American economy. By the late 1930s Mack produced heavy-duty trucks, small delivery trucks, dump trucks, buses and fire trucks, making it the most diversified American truck maker.
Color photograph of a sleek, red, tractor trailer truck.
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The Mack Truck CX600 Vision Tractor.

Although Mack trucks have continued to play a prominent role in commerce, the heavy investments required to be an independent truck manufacturer that made its own parts meant that Mack never yielded a high return on its investment. When combined with the company's periodic financial crises, especially during recessions, Mack's low stock price made it a takeover candidate. As early as 1953 a group of outside investors bought control of Mack. In 1966, the company completed a merger with Signal Oil and Gas Company. Later Mack would become part of Renault and then Volvo. Despite these management changes, the Mack bulldog still commands considerable respect.
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