Curtis Trailer Company

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Alexander Ramsey Curtis, no relation to the famous Glenn Curtiss and the Adams Bungalo, was born on December 9, 1867 in Olmsted, Michigan. Around the year 1900 A. R. Curtis engaged in the business of selling machinery and automobiles to the farmers of the northwest. By late 1913 he owned and operated the northwest agency for the Crow Motor Car Company of Elkhart, Indiana. The agency was located at 1405 Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. He sold an interest in the agency to Victor E. Johnson around April of 1914 and operated under the business name Curtis & Johnson. It was during 1913 A. R. Curtis began experimenting with auto trailers and by 1914 had produced his first design which he sold through his agency. The Curtis Trailer, as it was called, featured the Curtis Trailer Hitch which A. R. Curtis invented and was best known for in these early years. An article from May of 1915 claims A. R. Curtis had designed and filed a patent on the Curtis Trailer Hitch but according to the patent office records he filed on October 12, 1915 and was granted US Patent 1,213,080 on January 16, 1917.

As a side note here, the Universal Trailer Company with corporate headquarters in Chicago, Illinois ran an AD in the May edition of Motor Age stating that Alex. R. Curtis at Minneapolis sold 500 of their auto trailers in three months with a total selling expense of less than $150. The trailer featured the patent applied for "Curtis Hitch." What's interesting here is that A. R. Curtis was acting as a Distributer for the Universal Trailer Company. From what my research shows the Universal Trailer Company did not actually manufacture their own trailers, but jobbed them out to other manufactures. In addition to licensing the Universal Trailer Company rights to use his patent-pending hitch A. R. Curtis may very likely have been one of the jobbers to manufacture and distribute the trailer. Such a business arrangement might have proved much more profitable than going at it alone. The Universal Auto Trailer could be fitted with an automobile like canopy and used for camping as well. The Universal Trailer Company disappears as quickly as it appeared from the scene. A. P. Warner acquired an interest in the company in May of 1915. By early 1916 he had setup a new plant in Beloit, Wisconsin and moved all manufacturing in-house. A new company was incorporated in March of 1916, Warner Manufacturing Company, and took over all business operations. A. R. Curtis continued to sell the Universal Trailer Company trailer well into 1916 under his own name.

A. R. Curtis made several changes in the design of his trailer and came out with four new models in early 1916, each featuring his patented hitch. He also made available for sale the Curtis Outing Trailer placing him among the first camping trailer manufacturers. The trailer had a ridged canopy and sides, sitting almost as tall as the autos of the time. The two side beds lifted up and formed part of the side walls while in transit, laying down when setting up the trailer for camp. When setup for camp canvas formed the bed roof and walls. This trailer was sort of a hybrid between the tent trailer of the time and an early travel trailer. It was intended to be usable with the beds in either up or down position. Equipped for camping the trailer weighed 750 lbs.

In June of 1916 both The Shattuck Trailer Company and A. R. Curtis opened showrooms side by side on Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis. A. R. Curtis was already operating his business along this street. While details are still sketchy at the time of this writing sometime in late 1916 or early 1917 The Curtis Trailer Company acquired control and ownership of The Shattuck Trailer Company. The Shattuck Outing Trailer continued to be offered for sale as a separate line. By 1917 modifications were made to the Curtis Outing Trailer. After World War I ended A. R. Curtis applied for a patent on July 11, 1919 and was granted US Patent 1,407,259 on February 21, 1922 for his trailer.

By 1922 the Curtis Trailer Company offered a more compact folding tent trailer along with their original camping trailer as well as a car camper that would be placed over a Ford Model T chassis provided by the owner. The company was still listed in the 1929 Chilton Catalog and Directory with their address as 413 West Broadway in Minneapolis. At the time of this writing I do not know what the demise of the company was. Most likely he retired at the outset of the Great Depression that plagued America in the early 1930's. Alexander Ramsey Curtis passed away on April 15, 1952 in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the age of 84.

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