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Mack Brothers Get Their Start
In 1890, John “Jack” Mack takes a job as a stationary steam engineer at the carriage and wagon ﬁrm of Fallesen & Berryin Brooklyn, New York. Born in 1864 to an immigrant familyof teamsters, Jack is one of nine siblings raised on a farm in Mount Cobb, Pa. Possessing great mechanical aptitude, Jack works as a mule driver, machinery supervisor and second engineer of a ship traveling between the United States and the Panama Canal construction project before moving to Brooklyn.There he joins his youngest brother, Augustus “Gus” Mack,who works at the carriage factory as a clerk.
In 1893, Jack and Gus purchase the Fallesen & Berry operation at 3rd Avenue and 22nd Street in Brooklyn. The company’s lightweight, horse-drawn vehicles are known for their strength and durability, as is their proprietary ﬁfth wheel that allows the front axle to pivot when cornering — similar in purpose to the modern ﬁfth wheel used to connect a tractor and semi-trailer.
In 1894, William Mack joins the venture. The eldest of the ﬁve brothers who will eventually work for the company, Willie brings with him the experience of running his own wagon-building plant in Scranton, Pa.
After phasing out the carriage-making business to focus on building milk wagons,the brothers realize they need a larger space. In 1897 they move their factory to 532-540 Atlantic Ave.in Brooklyn.
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Using their own design for a motorized wagon, the brothers open an omnibus manufacturing plant in 1900. Their ﬁrst successful vehicle is a 24-horsepower, 13-passenger bus with a 4-cylinder engine, sliding gear transmission and double chain drive. It has semi-elliptical springs for a smoother ride. Designed by Gus, the tonneau passenger body is open to the elements. The bus goes12 mph. Built for sightseeing concessionaire Harris and McGuire,the vehicle operates in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for eight years.The right-hand-drive bus is the ﬁrst Mack Brothers-built vehicle called the Manhattan. Old No. 1 racks up a million miles of service before retirement,the ﬁrst in a long line of Mack®vehicles to do so. The success of the bus establishes Mack’s reputation for building reliable and durable motorized products.
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Following the ﬁnancial panic in U.S. markets in 1911, the International Motor Co. ﬁnds it difﬁcult to raise working capital.Plant expansion in 1911 and 1912 and industry consolidation leave IMC with excess inventory. In 1912, the company borrows$1.5 million from its stockholders but the price is high. In addition to 6 percent interest, stockholders are told to surrender 55 percent of their shares. Having worked with integrity to build their company and their vehicles, the Mack brothers leave to pursue other interests. Four of the brothers receive either cash,preferred stock in IMC or both.
Gus settles near San Diego and buys a farm that produces ostrich feathers, highly valued as decoration for women’s hats.Charlie also moves to San Diego. Joe remains in the textile business in Allentown and New York. Willie remains with IMC until he retires in the 1920s. Jack and Roland Carr produce the Maccarr line of 1,500-to-3,000 pound capacity delivery trucks in Allentown.
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In 1919, the U.S. War Department organizes a cross-country trip using 72 Army vehicles to show the importance of motor trucks to national defense. Mack vehicles comprise a signiﬁcant number of trucks used on this excursion from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco.The trip is intended to determine whether it is practical to move military-sized vehicles and loads over existing roads and bridges.Some vehicles fail to navigate muddy roads, get stuck in the mud and slide into ditches. The heavy-haul AC models carry equipment needed to shore up weak bridges and repair vehicles. An observer in the convoy, Dwight Eisenhower, never forgets the lessons of the trip. In 1954 the future president sponsors legislation to create the nation’s interstate highway system.
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The Roaring Twenties ushers in an era of prosperity. The nation starts paving its roads with asphalt. Manufacturers begin enclosing cabs and replacing hard rubber tires with pneumatic ones. It becomes practical to move larger quantities of goods over longer distances. This combination requires vehicles with greater power and speed.
Mack responds by developing a line of 6-cylinder engines and 6-wheeled vehicles, which when coupled with semi-trailers can haul more than straight trucks. The company expands the A model line with the introduction of the 150-horsepower AP engine and the chain-drive AP truck, a favorite of the heavy construction industry. For the medium-duty market Mack introduces the ﬁrst of the early B models, the 126-horsepower BJ, and the cabover CH and CJ models for the urban delivery market.