'MOTOR TRUCK BODIES'
Although the General Body Company of Chicago is mainly remembered as the constructor of the original Oscar-Mayer Weinermobile, more significantly it introduced streamlining to the commercial body industry, which up until that time had been producing boxes on wheels.
Our subject was unrelated to similarly-named firms located in Defiance, Ohio; Bemidji, Minnesota; Kansas City, Missouri, Everett, Massachusetts and Detroit, Michigan.
General Body Co. was founded by Chicago native William R. Hoyerman (b. May 11, 1903 – d. 17 July 17, 1989) on November 11, 1932.
William R. Hoyerman was born on May 11, 1903 to William Fred (b.Oct 23, 1867-d. Mar 2, 1917) and Emma J. (Moeller) Hoyerman (b.Feb. 1875) His parents were married on November 26, 1894 in Chicago, his father’s profession at the time of his birth was insurance salesman. William R. Hoyerman’s grandparents (William Fred Hoyerman’s parents) were born in Germany, His grandparents William (b. 1837-d. Sep. 10, 1904), and Wilhelmine Fisher Hoyerman moving to Chicago in the 1860s where his grandfather ran a well-known tobacco shop.
William Fred and Emma J. (Moeller) Hoyerman had two children, our subject, William R. (b. May 11, 1903 and Andrew Orville Hoyerman (b.January 1899-d. April 22, 1948 – attend Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois). William Fred Hoyerman (b.Oct 23, 1867-d. Mar 2, 1917) died unexpectedly at the age of 49. His widow Emma J. Hoyerman (b.1874) remarried Oct 8, 1919 to Herman J. Krueger.
William R. Hoyerman’s son, William Henry Hoyerman was born on May 11, 1926 and passed away on Mar 21, 1987 at Sanibel Island, Florida at the age of 60, preceding his father in death by a little over two years, the senior William passing away on July 17, 1989 at 86 years old in Winnetka, Cook County, IL.
William F. Hoyerman's Insurance Agency was originally located inside the Chicago Loop on the fifth floor of the Marquette Building at 140 S. Dearborn. By 1915 he had relocated to an office located at 1005 S. Dearborn St. At the time of his father's unexpected passing at the age of 49 on March 2, 1917, the Hoyerman family resided at 2259 Chicago Ave., Chicago. William F.'s widow Emma J. Hoyerman (b.1874) remarried Oct. 8, 1919 to Herman J. Krueger.
Although evidence is lacking William R. Hoyerman's early education was likely in the public schools of Chicago after which he entered the body business as an apprentice in one of Chicago's commercial wagon shops, H. McFarlane & Co. being the most likely.
Hoyerman officially organized the General Body Co. on November 11, 1932, the firm starting out in the Chicago suburb of Avondale in a 9,150 sq. ft. garage located at 2838 N. Elston Ave., Chicago. (The structure exists and is currently the home of Capital Auto Body http://www.capitalautobody.com). Elston runs parallel to the Kennedy Expressway (Interstate 90/94) as it passes through the northwest Chicago suburbs, approximately 20 miles northwest of the Chicago Loop.
Not only did they build the original Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, they also constructed aerodynamic delivery vans for the Chicago/Milwaukee-based meat packer. Other projects included a fleet of high-top delivery van bodies built on 1934 International chassis for Chicago's Marshall & Fields Department Store and are known to have built a number of streamlined bodies on Dodge, White and International chassis during the 30's and 40's
Pictured to the right is a streamlined delivery van constructed for Chicago's Olson Rug Co., 35 E Madison St. Chicago (At the Loop)
General Body was not the only Chicago firm building streamlined truck bodies, a 1934 issue of Power Wagon included pictures of a streamlined Coca-Cola delivery truck constructed by H. McFarlane & Company, another Chicago coachbuilder dating to just after the end of the Civil War.
The August 1935 issue of Autobody includes an article on streamlining that was accompanied by a picture of a body built by the firm for Sanders Tri-Chlor-Ethylene Cleaning, of Detroit, Mich:
Built by General Body Co. from a design created by Carl Gottfried Mayer (b. 1903), the very first Oscar Mayer Wienermobile hit the streets of Chicago on July 18th, 1936. The 13-ft. steel-paneled productmobile was constructed over a tube-steel framework welded to a 4-cylinder International light truck chassis.
The Oscar Mayer Company dates to 1883 when two German immigrants, Carl G. Mayers' father, Gottfried (b.1863) and uncle Oscar Ferdinand (b.1859), took over the Kolling Meat Market, a near northside Chicago butcher shop popular with the city's predominantly German population. They were joined by their brother Max O.(b.1860) in 1888 and the business grew and in 1904 their Edelweiss-brand sausages could be purchased throughout Chicago – Gottfried oversaw production, Max handled the books and Oscar oversaw sales and marketing. Numerous brand-names and slogans were experimented until the 'Oscar Mayer' moniker was decided upon.
After college Carl G. Mayer went to work for the firm, and in 1924 instituted the nationa's first self-serve bacon package, a move which took Oscar Mayer from a minor player in the bacon business to its top brand. A second marketing innovation debuted in 1929 when the firm began wrapping its wieners with a yellow paper band that included the company name and U.S. government inspection stamp. At a time when most wieners were sold in bulk the yellow band made Oscar Mayer Wieners instantly recognizable and assured consumers of consistent taste and quality.
Introduced to highlight the firm's distinctive yellow band, the $5,000 hotdog on wheels featured a center-mounted cockpit for the driver and a rear-mounted hatch in which "Little Oscar", the company's diminutive spokesman, could greet the waiting throngs of children on its mid-west promotional tours.
The vehicle garnered much publicity for the Chicago-based meat processor and various modifications were made to the vehicle over the next few years, one later photo shows a crudely-executed glass roof over the cockpit that protected the driver during inclement weather. A second Weinermobile is purported to have been constructed by General Body for Oscar-Mayer, but photographic evidence is lacking.
Introduced midway through 1937, International's new D-300 COE (cab-over-engine) chassis provided a great platform for aerodynamic coachwork. Pictured on this page is a beautiful late-30s Oscar-Mayer delivery van constructed by General Body using a D-300 chassis. Compare that to the homely looking COE unit constructed for the same firm just a few years previous.
Although they're no longer manufactured by General Body, Oscar Mayer continues to utilize a fleet of modern Weinermobiles for promotional purposes. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's vice-presidential running mate in the 2012 Presidential election, is just one of many famous persons who started their careers as a 'Hot-Dogger'.
Bender Body Co., York-Hoover Body Corp., Pierce-Arrow, Hayes Mfg. Corp. and General Body Corp. all manufactured travel trailers in the late 1930s. General Body's house coaches were marketed under the Stream-Lite brand, which was detailed in a 1938 8-page 'Stream-Lite House Coach' brochure. However, the General Body Corp. that built trailers was located in Detroit, Michigan, not Chicago, and was headed by H. Jay Hayes, the former president of the Hayes Body Corp., not William R. Hoyerman, president of the General Body Co. A 1937 issue of Automobile and Trailer Travel provides the details:
Constructed in a former Welded Steel Barrel Corp. plant, Hayes Stream-Lite trailers were described in greater detail in a concurrent issue of MoTor:
To confuse matters further, the manufacture of Stream-Lite trailers was subsequently transferred to a Chicago, Illinois plant, a March 7, 1942 advertisement for the Chicago Stream-Lite Corp., mfr. of trailers and trailer homes, gives 5001 South Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago, Ill. as their address. The trailer plant was located in south Chicago, and remained unconnected with the General Body Co.
Back in Chicago, General Body Co.'s streamlined creations were bringing in so much new work that they moved their manufacturing operations into a 32,000 sq. foot factory and garage located at 3067 N. Elston Ave. (The structure still exists and is currently shared by two businesses, M. Handelsman screen printers http://www.hancotee.com, and Lincoln Auto Repair, Body & Towing). They continued to use their original location, which was reorganized as General Body Sales Corp.
Although the firm's main line of work was constructing standard-looking bodies for Chicago businesses, a handful of streamlined vehicles continued to be turned out by the firm into the 1940s. Although the 'Miss Shippy' van constructed for Custom Furniture Manufacturers of Chicago was clearly built on a tight budget, its aerodynamic appearance made it stand out on the streets of Chicago, giving its owner an edge over the competition.
General Body's listings in the 1947 Chicago Business Directory follows:
The 1948 Chicago Business Directory reveals the firm had recently consolidated operations into a new factory located in the Chicago suburb of North Park at 5838 N. Pulaski St., Chicago. (Although the main structure has been razed the factory was located just north of Bethel Cemetery, across the street from Peterson Park.
General Body constructed numerous special vehicles for its customers, one notable creation being the 'Museumobile' a mobile museum delivered to the Illinois State Museum in September of 1948. Modeled along the same lines as a bookmobile, the 21 exhibits lining its interior walls could be easily viewed from a central corridor running along the vehicle's interior.
The firm continued to construct an occasional aerodynamic body into the 1950s, and is known to have constructed a few rescue squad bodies for regional fired departments between 1951 and 1961, pictured to the right is an attractive example built using a 1954 Autocar chassis.
As time went on more and more of their business involved the fitting of bodies manufactured by third parties, and in 1964 the firm constructed a new $80,000 warehouse, Realty & Building magazine provided the following details:
An item in a 1970 issue of the same publication revealed the firm's N. Pulaski Rd property had been leased up until that time:
During the 1970s Hoyerman organized a separate sales division, General Coach Corp., to handle the firm's growing school bus sales. In addition to its core line of dump, platform, dry and refrigerated van, lumber, refuse and roll-off bodies the firm also manufactured cabin & commissary hi-lift food trucks for the regional airline industry, its listing in the 1979 Chicago & Cook County, Illinois Industrial Directory:
William H. Hoyerman was very active in the Illinois Republican party and counted then-President Ronald Reagan as a personal friend. He launched a personal crusade against the Federal Reserve in 1981 maintaining that their inflation-fighting policies were hurting his business. United Press International ran the following story on their wire service on September 24, 1981:
General Body's president, William H. Hoyerman, passed away on March 23, 1987, his obituary appearing in the April 2, 1987 Chicago Tribune:
William R. Hoyerman survived his son, passing away in Winnetka, Cook County, Illinois on July 17, 1989 at the age of 86. His wife, Edna P. Hoyerman, born May 23, 1903, passed away on April 24, 1992, aged 88.
Following the death of the firm's two principals, the Hoyerman family sold of the firm's assets and exited the truck body business. A large portion of the firm's N. Pulaski St. factory has been razed, although the rear warehouse located adjacent to the railroad tracks remains and currently houses a self-storage business.
©2012 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com