In 1914, a young Swedish minor named Car Eric Wickman left his job as a diamond drill operator in the rugged Mesabi Iron Ore Range in Hibbing, Minnesota, to open a Hupmobile (Goodyear Tire) franchise. The venture cost him $3000. Except to himself, young Wickman failed to make a single sale, so the enterprising young Swede abandoned his dealership dreams.
Realizing that most iron miners were too poor to afford their own vehicle, Wickman decided to start transporting workers between Hibbing and Alice, a mining town two miles away. Cramming 15 passengers into his eight-seat “touring car,” the 27-year-old charged 15 cents a ride or 25 cents for a round trip. On his first trip, in 1914, Wickman collected a grand total of $2.25. But 100 years later, that modest sum has grown into nearly a billion dollars in annual revenue.
The “jitney bus” proved popular with the miners. By moving things about with the bus, Wickman managed to add two extra seats. Passengers also rode on the running boards and fenders of the vehicle. Realizing he required more vehicles, Wickman convinced a blacksmith friend to go into partnership with him. Together, they purchased another Hupmobile. The car was enlarged to seat ten. The two men also expanded their routes.
The offered their first long-distance route in 1915. It covered ninety-mile stretch between Hibbing and Duluth. In fierce winter weather, drivers were equipped with block and tackle and snow shovels. Meanwhile, passengers were provided with lap rugs and hot bricks for their feet. By 1916, their firm had grown to five members and five buses. Each member served as a director of the firm, as well as a bus driver.
So the “buses” would not appear dirty on the dusty roads, they were painted a “battleship gray.” An innkeeper along one of their regular routes commented that the hupmobiles resembled a “greyhound dog streaking by.” The name stuck. Some Wickman was advertising: Ride the Greyhounds.
Eventually, Greyhound became part of the name of the company. A one-man, four-miles route in Minnesota became the world’s largest inter-city passenger carrier. “Wickman, it turns out, pretty much invented intercity bus travel—which for most Americans equals Greyhound, the company that emerged from that long-ago Hupmobile ride. ‘Greyhound has become generic for bus travel,’ says Robert Gabrick, author of Going The Greyhound Way. ‘Like Kleenex for tissues.’ Indeed, this classic American business icon—which, as it happens, is now owned by a British conglomerate—today has more than 7,300 employees, with estimated yearly sales of $820 million and 2,000 buses serving 3,800 destinations in 48 U.S. states and nine Canadian provinces. ‘I’m amazed at Greyhound’s brand recognition,’ says DePaul University professor Joseph Schwieterman, an authority on intercity bus travel. ‘It’s an American success story.'” (100 Years on a Dirty Dog: The History of Greyhound)