• HoustonTowGuy

History of the Tow Truck (Where it all began)

Updated: 7 days ago

The Towing Industry is fairly new in the grand scheme of things. As cars became more common among every day Americans, things were going great until they came across a very important piece of the puzzle. What to do if the car breaks down? What to do if the car drives off the road or crashes? Well up until the early 1900's they used shear man power to pull cars out of ditches. Mechanics were commonly called out to help pulls cars out of difficult situations. So how did towing come to be?

It begins in Chattanooga Tennessee where Mr. Earnest Holmes, a self made mechanic was phoned out one day to retrieve a car that had drove off into a creek. He needed some rope and the power of 10 men to get the car free. This struck an idea in Mr. Holmes, "What if I could use another vehicle to do the lifting for me?" This set everything in motion for the beginnings of the FIRST TOW TRUCK.


In 1913, Holmes assembled a pulley system with ropes and steel to create the first twin-boom wrecker. It wasn't perfect and he found that using just the winch the vehicle needed more support or it would slide backwards, to solve this issue he added braces to the bottom frame of the vehicle called out riggers. These gave him enough stabalization and support to get almost any regular vehicle out of a ditch and in 1918 the first tow truck was born. He used the rig to help bring people into his mechanic shop to get more work, but he later began selling them to other companies for $680. The first production wreckers named after the price and sold as 680's.



Earnest Holmes Co continued to revolutionize the towing industry and created several different types of rigs from light duty to heavy duty and improved his wrecker lifts by including rotators, extendable booms and more. He even manufactured 7,000 wreckers for the military during World War 2. Sadly in 1945 Ernest Holmes Sr. passed suddenly and left his company behind to his son Ernest Holmes Jr where he owned and ran the company until 1973.



In 1959 Holmes Jr. developed the first Sling and Car Dolly to diversify the types of vehicles that can be towed. And in the late 70's Holmes designed and developed Century Hydraulics, perfect for lifting heavier vehicles up to 40 tons. Around the same time Gerald Holmes, Holmes Sr's Grandson was accredited with the development of the first automotive wheel-lift and opened his rival company called Century. It was short lived though because in 1990 Holmes Co and Century were bought out by a company the towing industry knows very well and is even in the trucks here at Jeff Smith Towing, Miller Industries. Miller is the leading brand of tow units and rigs for a reason and it all started with Ernest Holmes Sr. and his big idea.


Today tow trucks have changed drastically but you can vist the Hall Of Fame Towman Museum, 3315 Broad St. in south Chattanooga Tennesee where you can see some of the first wrecker rigs as well as learn about the history of towing from past to present. The museum started with a group called "Friends of Towing" where they made their dream a reality and opened the first ever towing museum. Not only do they share history but they also give back to the families that have lost loved ones in the line of duty. Towing can be a very serious and dangerous proffesion. Do your part and watch for road side assistance vehicles and move over. If you would like to donate to the Survivor Fund click here.

Jeff Smith Towing is always ready for any service you may need. With fast response times, unbeatable prices, and southern hospitality we are the towing company for you. We service the area Baytown Towing, Channelview Towing, Laporte Towing, Crosby Towing, Pasadena Towing, Highlands Towing, Clear Lake Towing and most of the greater Houston area. With light medium and heavy duty trucks we can handle all repossession, roadside and recovery work you may need. For more helpful tips check out our blog page. And for a closer look in the towing industry check out our video page or look us up on YouTube @HTXREPO. Call now if you need a tow

713-855-0526








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