Rogers Trailers Inc. - Rogers Bros. Corp. - 1905-present - Albion, Pennsylvania
Flatbed trailer manufacturers "The Utlimate In Trailers".
Rogers Brothers - Then and Now
THE HISTORY OF THE ROGERS BROTHERS CORPORATION
In an age of entrepreneurs three brothers came to the Albion area to begin a business that would grow and change with the times. Their name and products became synonymous with quality and their tradition continues today.
Your Truck Will Haul At Least Twice The Load
The first trailers built by the Rogers brothers were for their own use. In September, 1914, the first commercial trailer was sold by the Rogers Brothers Company to the telephone company to haul poles. Soon the brothers were selling trailers to carry feed, animals, coal, lumber and many other uses. Called the Model A, the frame was of all steel construction, had one axle with spoke wheels of white ash and hickory and solid rubber tires.
The brothers were their own advertising representatives in many instances, placing newspaper ads and promoting their trailers in several eastern states.
As the road system grew, so did their business and their variety of models. By the time the United States entered World War I the Rogers Brothers Company was well known nationally and was approached to build 60 trailers for the Quartermaster Corps, followed by a contract for 500 aviation trailers and several thousand kitchenette trailers. At the peak of their production 75 kitchenette frames were produced every 24 hours. Rogers Brothers also built troop carriers.
A World Beater
After the war the brothers returned to commercial manufacturing and sold over 1,000 one-ton, two-wheel trailers for use in mining on the African Gold Coast.
In 1921 the company sold their first low bed heavy duty trailer to the Light and Power Company in Riverside, CA. Dubbed "the iron wagon," it had a capacity of 40 tons with steel tires.
Besides trailers, the brothers were early entrants in the four wheel drive tractor business, building tractors, snow plows and road planes. Their first models were offered in 1919 and some tractor models were built until 1930. Parts for the road planes were built into the 1950s.
The Heritage of a Generation of Bridge Builders
In 1923 the brothers developed an arch to be used as the steel connection between their trailer and the truck. It looked like a goose's neck and was, in fact, called a gooseneck arch.
At the same time the company, with the cooperation of several rubber manufacturers in Akron, developed wheels with rubber tires.
The Rogers Brothers Company, as many other pioneer businesses, experienced financial difficulties in its early years. In 1923, when the Albion Citizen's Bank was forced to close, the company went into receivership, but was able to continue building trailers. It completed a large custom trailer with a 50-ton capacity early in 1924 for the Douglas Transfer Company of Pittsburgh and featured the gooseneck design.
The following year the company reorganized and incorporated as the Rogers Brothers Corporation with Charles, the oldest brother, as president-treasurer and Louis as vice president. By 1927 Hugh was secretary. It was about this same time that Louis developed corrugation to be used on vans. He later sold the patent to a Pittsburgh steel company.
In the 1920s the Rogers Brothers Corporation began acquiring regular distributors. There were no formal written contracts between them; business was conducted with a handshake. Exclusive sales rights were offered within given geographical areas. One of the first distributors who still represents the company is C. C. & F. F. Keesler of Philadelphia, since 1926.
The Rogers Brothers Corporation continued selling their trailers for export and introduced a line of vans.
The vans were sold on credit then reclaimed in 1929 as buyers were affected by the worsening economic conditions. The Depression resulting from the stock market collapse affected every business including construction. As the government began work projects that involved road building and improvement, the trailer industry benefited also.
By the end of 1930 Rogers Brothers Corporation had developed a new type of heavy duty high speed trailer for the E. H. Scott Transportation Company. It was the largest ever built to this time and was designed to carry a 167 ton payload of castings. It was used to haul tunnel shields for the subway system under construction in New York City. By this year it was reported that the Rogers Brothers Corporation had over 300 trailers ranging in capacity from 15- to 65-tons operating in greater New York.
Two years later 15" pneumatic tires were developed to carry heavy payloads on Rogers trailers. This type of tire was already being used on automobiles.
Through their distributors the brothers learned that their trailers had been put to many unusual uses. They carried such loads as streetcars, houses, a 200-year-old boxwood tree, a sea elephant, machinery for the Pittsburgh Press, Wylie Post's airplane called the "Winnie Mae," and even a bridge which had been built by the Rogers Brothers Company during its earlier years.
The families, the company and the entire community grieved at the sudden death of Charles Rogers who was killed in an automobile accident in 1935. Louis assumed the presidency and Hugh became secretary and plant manager of Rogers Brothers Corporation.
The trailer industry continued to develop and in 1936 welded frames replaced rivets. The same year low alloy high tensile structural sections replaced carbon beams as the main carrying members.
Over their more than 30 years in business, the Rogers brothers had employed many young men from the Albion area in both summer and full time jobs. In 1939 the company hired 18-year-old John Kulyk to work full time, initially to unload steel.
There was a war raging in Europe when the Rogers Brothers Corporation was approached by the French government with a contract to build low bed trailers with a 16-ton capacity. By December 23, 1939, the order was completed and ready for shipment. But the ravaged French government was unable to accept delivery and the trailers were without a buyer. The plant closed on Christmas Eve, with an uncertain reopening date.
Within three weeks the British government had picked up the contract for the completed trailers and added to it. Rogers Brothers Corporation went into full-plus production, working more than one shift to complete war contracts. The company enlarged its plant facilities and increased the plant floor space by 125% giving it one of the most modern war production shops in the country.
Early the following year the United States government, using a design adapted from the German tank retrievers captured in North Africa, began working on 45-ton tank retrievers. Army engineers worked with engineers at Rogers Brothers Corporation to perfect this trailer which was the first war contract for trailers awarded by the United States government.
At a prescheduled meeting on the evening of December 7, 1941, the workers at Rogers Brothers Corporation voted to organize the independent Rogers Brothers Workers Union. It was the same day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and plunged the United States into another world war.
Within seven months the company was in total wartime production, operating with 480 employees in three shifts and turning out 10 trailers every 24 hours for military use. To deliver the trailers more quickly, two additional railroad spurs were brought into the plant from the Bessemer Railroad.
On September 6, 1942, Rogers Brothers Corporation was presented an Army-Navy "E" Award for excellence in production in a pubic ceremony at the plant. It was an "occasion long to be remembered in the Albion Area," said the Albion News, and the third such award given in the county.
In the presentation Rogers Brothers Corporation was referred to as "the nation's leading manufacturer of heavy duty trailers." All the workers received sterling silver pins for their individual roles in this outstanding production achievement and the company was awarded a flag. As the war progressed more stars for the flag were awarded for further excellence in production.
During the war, employee and plant security was high. Retired railroad employees were hired as guards and army personnel were installed in office space on the second floor of the main building. Women were employed for the first time in other than office work. They processed wiring harnesses for spare parts and were housed in a separate building soon nicknamed the "Wac Shack."
The company had been involved in war production for six years when in early April, 1945, the U.S. government ordered a special trailer for delivery in 30 days! It was and remains the largest single trailer ever built by the Rogers Brothers Corporation.
Plant security for this project was greatly intensified. Following specifications of army engineers the trailer was 18 feet wide and 40 feet long with 64 desert type tires, eight rows of eight each. It was built to carry 300 tons, the largest payload ever carried at the time.
The trailer was shipped in parts, by rail, from Albion to Alamagordo, NM, where it was assembled and loaded with cargo. It was pulled by three caterpillar tractors for 30 miles over desert sand to a test site named "Trinity." The cargo was a 214 ton tube or bottle, measuring 25 feet long and 12 feet in diameter, and was called "Jumbo."
"Jumbo" was designed and built to contain the first atomic bomb ever exploded. Although "Jumbo" was never used for its purpose, the trailer built by the Rogers Brothers Corporation was.
The largest trailer ever built by the Rogers Brothers Corporation is believed still to be in existence. With standard tires on paved roads the trailer could carry 600 tons.
World's Greatest Trailer
The Allies won the war and by the end of 1945 Rogers Brothers Corporation had completed its government contracts and resumed peacetime construction of trailers for commercial use.
In 1947, Charles' heirs sold their interest in Rogers Brothers Corporation back to the company. The following year Hugh retired and also sold his interest and those of his heirs back to the company. With Hugh's retirement, Louis' son Harrison became general manager. At the time Rogers Brothers Corporation was regarded as the largest manufacturer of heavy duty trailers in the country.
That same year the single most important patent Rogers Brothers Corporation ever held was developed. Originally it was called the Power Lift Detachable Gooseneck. By 1963 an improved hydraulic system made the detachable gooseneck more viable.
There were more changes within the management structure in 1951. Louis' son-in-law John Kulyk, who had returned to the company after serving in World War II, became plant manager and secretary.
Rogers Brothers Corporation was featured in the Erie (PA) Dispatch in May, 1952, and was credited with selling trailers in every state of the union plus 17 countries around the world. Harrison Rogers' year end appraisal was that it was the biggest year since World War II for orders, with a 38% increase over the previous year.
With the participation of the United States in the Korean War, the government again awarded the company contracts for trailers for various military purposes. Rogers Brothers Corporation increased its work force once more.
Experience Builds Them - Performance Sells Them
In August, 1955, Rogers Brothers Corporation celebrated 50 years in business with an open house. The company boasted two new trailers within the previous five years: the Tag Along and the Tilt Deck. Innovations within the plant facilities were cited and it was estimated that 23,000 trailers had been built since first developed in 1914.
The two remaining founding brothers, Hugh and Louis, died within a year of each other. Hugh died in November, 1957. Louis, at 77, was still deeply involved in the company operation at the time of his death in September, 1958.
Prior to and following Louis' death there were several changes which occurred within the management structure of Rogers Brothers Corporation. Harrison Rogers resigned as vice president and general manager in January of that year and sold his stock back to the company. He was replaced by E. W. Scarlett. In January, 1959, Louis' daughter Betty Rogers Kulyk, became chairman of the board of directors and John Kulyk became president of the company.
From time to time as the company built very large trailers they were displayed on the plant grounds before delivery. One that was so displayed in November, 1958, was an "over the road behemoth" which was called an "engineering marvel" in an article in the Albion News. The trailer was 75'9" long and 12' wide with a 200-ton capacity. The "standard" trailer was 33' long with a 25-ton capacity.
Beginning in late 1958 and for many years thereafter, Rogers Brothers Corporation began changing the layout of the plant production line. The physical facilities were reorganized to streamline the production line for greater productivity and efficiency.
At the close of the decade the company built a trailer to carry an RCA radar tracking device for satellites. Once again strict security was enforced.
Rogers Brothers Corporation entered the computer age in 1960, initially to handle inventory. The system has been updated seven times since its installation. That same year Betty Rogers Kulyk joined the management team as advertising manager. Her slogan, THE ULTIMATE IN TRAILERS, was used for over 30 years.
The Ultimate in Trailers
During the 1960s the company introduced a three axle spread flatbed semi-trailer and the Croucher series. For the first time it decentralized and built a new plant in Delta, OH, for smaller standard trailer models. The first on-site manager was Lawrence who is the grandson of Louis Rogers. Lawrence remained for three years then moved to Albion as assistant general manager. Edward Swaney who had been the sales manager became the vice president and general manager, and E. W. Scarlett became executive vice president, retiring in 1972.
The company had never experienced a day's loss of work due to labor disputes until 1963 when the workers voted on the issue of union representation during a two week work stoppage. Two years later the workers went on strike again, this time for 15 weeks. Both strikes were without incident.
During the Vietnam War the United States government once again awarded trailer orders to Rogers Brothers Corporation for military use. Then, as in other wars, the sight of a Rogers Brothers trailer so far from home was a thrilling and welcome sight to Albion area service men and women.
In 1970 Rogers Brothers Corporation began building commercial capacity trailers to stock which was a revolutionary move for a manufacturer of low bed heavy duty trailers. Measurements were standardized to create an inventory, although the company continued to build a large percentage of custom trailers. With the aid of a burning machine four frames could be cut at one time. The company now has two of these machines, called Serv-o-graphs, along with a plasma burning machine.
Since 1974 several new series have been introduced. They are the Scraperneck, now known as the Low Profile Gooseneck; the Bucket Pocket; the No Foot®; and the Rogers Dolly Link. Other innovations include a welding machine which fabricates beams out of 100,000 psi minimum yield steel, thus enabling trailers to be designed to precise beam specifications, and Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) capabilities which facilitates design engineering.
The management team changed again in 1984 when Edward Swaney retired. At that time Lawrence Kulyk assumed the position of vice president and general manager and another of Louis' grandsons, Mark Kulyk, became vice president of marketing.
The trailer industry is now regarded as a mature business, but changes in state legislated size and weight laws are expected to continue to challenge the engineering staff. The third generation of Rogers Brothers Corporation sees as an outlook for its future a more concerted marketing of high quality lightweight, yet heavy-duty trailers to meet today's difficult hauling challenges.
In 2003 Rogers Brothers Corporation celebrates its 98th year in business. It is the oldest family owned business in the heavy duty low bed trailer industry. As such, it upholds a long heritage of quality and has confidence in its future.
Since 1905 Rogers has been building trailers to haul equipment across the world. Today, you'll see the Rogers name in all 50 states, and in 65 countries around the globe. That kind of acceptance is the result of one undeniable factor; our unwavering commitment to quality. Because we build each Rogers trailer to haul the most important equipment there is: yours.
Rogers arched-gooseneck trailers of the 1920s & '30s were custom built, fastened by rivets, and had an axle with solid rubber tires under the gooseneck to facilitate towing.
Early Rogers trailers (circa 1915) had a capacity of one ton and had wheels of white ash and hickory.
During WWII Rogers built seventy 45-ton tank retriever trailers a week for the armed forces.
Loads of all shapes and sizes have been hauled on custom and production model Rogers trailers.
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