While in Allentown, PA in spring, 2019, Ruth and I went to the Mack Truck Historical Museum. This museum is constantly changing what visitors see. For example, the big show we saw called “Building America” was ending the next month. In other words, the ancient tour bus I was looking at might no longer be where I saw it. This 28 passenger sightseeing bus made by Mack was once used in Chicago and New Orleans and is now the oldest operational Mack vehicle in existence. Perhaps the curators will find a permanent place in this museum for a history-making people mover.
Mack closed its main Allentown facility in the 1980s, so Allentown is probably no longer the truck capital of the world, but its main museum remains there. I do recommend this tour at 11 Grammes Road for anyone who delights in industrial tours. It’s in a Mack building that once contained corporate offices. Tours are limited to 10. The last one is at 3 pm. It’s all free but donations are welcomed. If getting there by GPS, use the address above to avoid ending up in a yard waste site.
Mack is without a doubt North America’s oldest trucking company. “The Mack Museum was born as a non-profit corporation in 1984 and provides a unique special service. It honors Mack’s local history by preserving truck build records, service and parts information, engineering drawings, photos, memorabilia and maintains a collection of vintage Mack truck models. This is all here, so if you bring in a model and serial number, there’s a good chance this museum can answer unusual questions about its products by digging into these archives.
The Mack Brothers Motor Car Company was incorporated in 1905, the year 4 Mack brothers began building railroad passenger cars. They moved their facilities from Brooklyn to Allentown where the company remained until 2009. In that year Mack’s headquarters moved to Greensboro, NC, but this American business icon does retain manufacturing plants in Lower Macungie, PA near Allentown and in Hagerstown, MD.
The four siblings built and introduced their first heavy-duty, 5-ton truck in Allentown, and a 5th brother went to work in their Mack plant in 1910. World War I followed the Panic of 1911 when the brothers were unfortunately trying to expand, but then Mack became the US’s primary supplier of military vehicles to the Allied powers and their outlook improved. British soldiers in this war named these trucks Bulldog Macks, so the bulldog became the company’s symbol. In World War II, Mack built 35,000 military trucks for the war effort and Sea Wolf planes for the army. Mack made fire trucks between 1911 and 1990, only ceasing this operation during WWII.
Today Daimler produces more trucks than Mack under the Mercedes Benz and Freightliner brands, but many big city (New York, for example) refuse trucks are made by Mack, which is introducing an all-electric version this year. Their large vehicles are familiar sights on highways and at construction sites. Mack trucks have become movie stars thanks to the Cars and Transformer series. Like other vehicle museums, Mack tends to focus on temporarily displayed classic Macks that are on loan from loyal, company-loving fans. This museum reminded me of the devotion lavished on the Harley-Davidson Motor Company by long-time enthusiasts.
ps The eagle baring, flag-waving Mack truck above participated in the 31st annual Rolling Thunder–Ride for Freedom rally in Washington DC and was also temporarily on display outside the Mack Truck Historical Museum when we were there.