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Monster Truck: 1918

San Francisco circa 1918. "White 5-ton motor truck loaded with Sperry Flour bound for Los Angeles." Guarded by what looks to be a prototype version of the Cookie Monster. 5x7 glass negative by Christopher Helin. View full size.

San Francisco circa 1918. "White 5-ton motor truck loaded with Sperry Flour bound for Los Angeles." Guarded by what looks to be a prototype version of the Cookie Monster. 5x7 glass negative by Christopher Helin. View full size.


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Re: "We didn't make good time"

Although these trucks seem slow by today's standards, they were much more efficient than what was used previously to haul heavy loads - the horse and cart.

"The American Contractor," a trade publication, published in their October 23, 1920 issue, on page 21, a comparison of what the truck was doing compared to a horse. Mr. Olaf Nelson, the man mentioned in the article, owned a quarry, and he was using two 5-ton White trucks with trailers to haul gravel for a road construction project. The trucks were delivered to him in July and August 1919.

"A team of horses, Mr. Nelson had estimated, could accomplish the maximum haul of 16 miles, making one round trip with a wagon containing two cubic yards of gravel, in an 8-hour day. One truck on the other hand, could make six round trips daily and carry five cubic yards of gravel each time. One truck alone would thus do the work of 15 horses; with a trailer equipment, the truck could do the work of 20 horses."

"Random glances at the record book showed each truck to have hauled an average of 45 tons a day over one seven-day period. Over another period of six days, hauling various distances, one truck hauled a total of 317 tons of gravel. The weight of one cubic yard of gravel is 2,800 pounds.

"'I regard my two White trucks with their trailer equipment, as better than 70 head of horses,' remarked Mr. Nelson.

"During the long severe winter months when road building was necessarily at a halt, Mr. Nelson's trucks were not. They were busy on numerous hauling jobs. Not only were the trucks idle fewer days during the winter than horses would have been, but when they were idle they did not eat into profits which they had previously earned by piling up feed bills on their owner."

The picture below shows one of Nelson's trucks from the same article.

Those are the Brakes

Note the lack of brakes on the front axle. Driving down a San Francisco hill with a 5-ton load might be a hairy experience !

No seat belts and no doors - because jumping overboard might be the most sensible thing to do if she runs away on a hill !

Yep, two wheel brakes, no windshield, solid rubber tires......that trip to LA is going to be a memorable adventure, sheerling coverall or not.


Notice the great shoe-shines all around! Also, love the boy with the screw-on skates - I had those. Now, where is my skate-key??

Keep it flowing

Solid rubber tires and lack of springs must of made it a very bumpy ride. The ride was probably measured in bathroom breaks rather than MPG.

Heavier Duty

The truck may be heavy duty, but it looks like the operator needs to be even heavier duty. There's barely the bare necessities, let alone creature comforts.

We didn't make good time

I'm thinking at best this vehicle would average about 12 mph loaded like that and travelling on what was likely a very winding route with many grades, completing the trek in about 40 time lost for maintenance stops, filling the radiator and whatever other nonsense trucks in those early days required. Not a fun or very efficient trip.

No run-of-the-mill vehicle

I'm sure a rig like that cost a lot of dough. Thanks for enriching our lives once again.

[You've got some crust making remarks like that. -tterrace]

Dump Truck

It's an early dump truck, complete with remote tailgate lock. Unlike modern dump trucks, the bed trunnion is well forward, partially balancing the load, thus reducing the weight that the hoist needs to lift. The big chain is apparently part of the hoist, acting on the bottom of the triangular frame just in front of the rear axle.

Carbide headlights, but the light by the windshield appears to be kerosene. I recently saw carbide headlights in operation. They are surprisingly bright, with a near-white light.

Appears the driver has thrown his insulated coveralls on top until time to depart.

Wonderful picture.

Sasquatch Suit

I'd want a yeti-skin driving coat if I had to pilot an open cab truck like that down CA 1 or US 101. I imagine they took the old Spanish route. I think the coastal highway was a depression-era WPA project.

The caption doesn't say what time of year they started the trek, and it's hard to tell by clothing in San Francisco.

"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." (attributed to Samuel Clemens)

Okay, I give up!

A partly squashed giant mutant lemur? An old bear rug ravaged by acid rain? A besotted sloth fallen from a tree? The world's most hideous fur coat?

Funny how absence of natural visual context can render what is probably a most pedestrian item mystifying.

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