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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Star Vehicle: 1920

Star Vehicle: 1920

Washington, D.C., 1920. "Mack truck." As seen in the major motion picture "What's Your Hurry?," starring Wallce Reid as truck driver Dusty Rhoades. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Reid's Accident

Every film book will tell you "Valley of the Giants" was filmed in Oregon, but it's just not true. The 1919 newspapers all say it was filmed in Humboldt County, California, and a review of the film--recently discovered in a Russian film archive--confirms it.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch of August 23, 1919 mentions Wallace Reid's accident in a "railroad wreck scene which was so realistically produced that Reid was injured in it and forced to take a vacation which gave him an opportunity to visit St. Louis, his 'old home town.'"

Scared Me!

When I was a small boy in the early fifties I used to play in a closed coal/lumber yard near my home. One morning I ran around a corner and head on into one of these HUGE Macks - it scared the bejeebers out of me! I have never forgotten the look of that truck.

Turnbuckle stars!

What? No one gets excited over architectural star turnbuckles anymore? Ach! You kids today!

This old Mack.

It's a nice pre-WWI, C-cab Mack AC. You can tell by the mesh covering the sides of the radiator. Newer models had louvers instead, plus a bigger radiator several inches wider than the hood.

Apparently this truck was recently painted for the occasion; I can see several dents and mends in the hood. Its original color would have been "Mack green," a dark and rather nice shade. The paint was lead-based varnish.

Those trucks carried the gas tank inside the cab, right under the seat cushion, a-la Ford T.

Optionally you could get a wooden-framed, two-piece windshield that bolted to the cowl and the underside of the roof.

Also worth noting, they already had adhesive tape back in 1920, and they used it to affix the photo to the sides of the cab.

Next in line

I see a beautiful piece of machinery. I'd love to look under the hood and take it for a test drive.


Mack trucks are from my hometown. I learned to drive a Mack just like that in the 70's, we had a 1912 but with a flatbed as a yard hack. It was a bonebreaker, you could only steer when it was moving. Oh god crank start was soo scary but kinda fun. No differential either, turning was crazy. No need for a windshield, it would not go faster than 20 MPH! and at that speed every bump and jolt was worse, it was like riding in an earthquake. Imagine trying to drive this beast, and having to manually advance the timing while steering, shifting, trying to stay in your seat and not crashing into anything.

Mack Maintenance

The brakes on this Mack are on the rear wheels only. The brake band can be seen around the circumference of the large hub the small chain sprocket is mounted upon, the actuating lever from the foot pedal to the front of the brake hub draws the band tight.

To adjust the brake slack as the band wears, or after being renewed, the wing nuts below would be tightened or loosened as required.

To the rear of the small driving gear, inside the upper and lower chains, the slack adjuster for the chain can be seen on the hinging axle arm.

Threading the slack adjusters out on both sides will move the rear axle back, tightening the chain. Think of the chain on a single-speed bicycle, the rear wheel being moved back to tighten the chain.

The rear axle would have to be kept at right angles to the frame to prevent undue tire wear and the truck travelling straight rather than at an angle.

The much-larger driven gears can be seen through the spokes of the rear wheels.

The differential, normally between the rear wheels inside the axle housing under a vehicle is inside the frame of this truck, the two small chain drive gears on it's outer axle shafts outside the frame rails.

Heavy oil or chain lube grease would have to be liberally applied to the chain and the gears from time to time.

Eventually, wear from constant forward motion, sand and grit thrown up by the wheels, and chain stretch would wear the gear teeth and the chain would catch, or jump, and the gears and the chain would have to be replaced.

If a chain broke or jumped off the gears ( a la a single-speed bicycle again ) that wheel would no longer be driven nor have brakes.

The radiator on this model of Mack was behind the sloped engine hood between the engine and the dash.

The cooling fan was on the crankshaft behind the motor and blew cooling air out thru the rad cores and the louvers to each side next to the marker lamps.

On top of the rad is the radiator cap with a built-in thermometer often known as a 'Moto Meter' which had a thermometer that showed red inside a bulls-eye as the engine and rad water heat increased.

Operating a hard-rubber-tire truck over cobblestones, trolley tracks and bumpy roads would have been a real treat.

Driving this truck in winter ice and snow, even with chains, would have been a nightmare, and COLD.

Chain drive trucks, ( not only Mack marketed them ) albeit on pneumatic tires and with air brakes, were offered NEW into the early Fifties, their approach heralded by the rapid metallic clacking/buzzing sound of the chains gnashing around on their orbits.

Another great photo on mechanics from Shorpy.

Thank You.

Legendary Ride

My father, who was 16 years old in 1920, used to say of some cars, "Rides like a Mack Truck." It was never meant as a compliment.


DC still had Mack garbage trucks with chain drive and solid tires in the mid-1930s.

Reading Brewing

Below, a 1912 "City Bulletin" from the Washington Post. To survive during Prohibition, Washington's breweries switched to selling low-alcohol beers, as well as various cereal- and malt-based soft drinks.

Big as a bread box

I've noticed these bread (pie, cake) lockers in some other Shorpy pics. I have read about bakeries making regular deliveries just like the milkman or ice man, and finally put 2 and 2 together -- these boxes are where they left your loaves, pies or cakes! What a fascinating detail of everyday life. It looks like this address also received deliveries of beverages from Reading Brewing.


Driving this thing must have been a bone breaker, hard on the eyes (no windshield), a bear to control, and a lead-sled to stop. Pneumatic tires would have helped the ride a little.

In the stone age

of product safety - look at that open chain drive! How many fingers/hands/arms lost out to that beauty?

What's Your Hurry?

Wallace Reid should have stuck with trucks.

After he was injured in a train wreck in 1919 while on location in Oregon making "Valley of the Giants," he was prescribed morphine so that he could keep working. He got hooked, and in 1923 died of an overdose.


What a dinosaur of a dumper. Chain drive, open cab and solid tires!

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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