Los Angeles Trailer Company

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The Los Angeles Trailer Company was founded in late 1914 by John Neil Patterson and Guy A. Norton. The two men relocated from Detroit, MI, Patterson in charge of sales and Norton, an engineer, in charge of production. It is generally accepted that the Los Angeles Trailer Company was the first dedicated trailer company west of the Mississippi and is a pioneer in the field. They manufactured the first trailers built of new material throughout including the frame and axle. J. Neil Patterson was already well known for his accomplishments that included an accomplished athlete and Olympic champion and the first to cover the entire route of the Lincoln Highway in 1913 from coast to coast. Later he served as a Captain in the Air Service, enlisting on September 20, 1917. He first served as district manager of production with headquarters in San Francisco with a rank of first lieutenant, supervising Aviation and Signal Corps production work. Later he was promoted to Captain and transferred to Detroit where he was put in charge of battle and bombing plane production where he served until the end of the war.

The story continues that sometime during late 1915 two brothers, Ernest W. Bennett and Harold (Hal) C. Bennett, operating a family owned lumberyard in Phoenix, AZ saw a customer drive into their yard with a small Ford pulling a two wheel trailer. The man purchased several bags of cement and loaded them on the small trailer. At this time delivery of material to a job site was still frequently done by team of horses and wagon, a very time-consuming process. The brothers examined the trailer, finding it bore the name plate "Los Angeles Trailer Company". Realizing the possible savings with such a trailer E. W. Bennett went to Los Angeles to purchase one. Instead he ended up buying a half interest in the trailer factory. In late Spring of 1916 the brothers left their family lumber business and moved to Los Angeles to join Patterson and Norton. Their father, Walter, continued to run the family owned lumberyard where the Bennett brothers still owned shares.

On June 18, 1916 the Los Angeles Trailer Company incorporated at 500 shares of capital stock valued at $50,000 ($1,094,670 in 2015 dollars). The original issue took place on November 18, 1916 where 84 shares of common stock were issued. An additional 21 shares were issued on December 31, 1916. J. Neil Patterson served as the president and general manager while Guy A. Norton served as vice-president and chief engineer. Charles H. Mason served as general sales manager. It is unclear what role the Bennett brothers took during 1916 and early 1917 although it can be assumed they were coming up to speed with business operations. The trailers manufactured were 2 and 4 wheel trailers for commercial work that ranged from small 500 lbs to 10 tons in capacity. Trailers manufactured by the Los Angeles Trailer Co. were known by the brand name Utility Trailers and the company already enjoyed a large market share prior to incorporation. The substantial capital investment from the Bennett brothers allowed the company to grow with the rapidly expanding trailer industry.

The Los Angeles Trailer Company added the Brintnall Camping Trailer to their broad line of utility trailers during the Spring of 1916. The Brintnall Camping Trailer was manufactured under agreement with J. W. S. Brintnall who applied for his patent on May 14, 1915 and was granted U.S. Patent US 1,194,595 on August 15, 1916. Research to-date identifies this as the second oldest patented tent trailer. It also raises the question as to why it took the patent office so long to patent both this trailer, and the Campbell trailer while allowing the "big players" their patents first even though they filed several months later.

The Brintnall Camping Trailer featured the shortest trailer body on the market (which implies 1916 when other camping trailers were manufactured), and a unique design. The trailer unfolded to the back to form one double spring bed with easy storage access. A tent covered both the trailer and a tent room on the side. This design was similar in fashion to the Campbell Camping Trailer, also from the Los Angeles area. Folded up the trailer was only 48 inches long, perfectly suited for the typical California terrain. Another model has been identified, but not confirmed yet, that unfolded to both sides of the trailer with the tent room to the back.

After America entered World War I in April 1917 J. Neil Patterson enlisted in September of that year at the age of 32. He never returned to an active role in the Los Angeles Trailer Co., although for a time he held the vice-president spot. Upon his release from the Army Air Service J. Neil Patterson founded the Patterson Motor Truck Company to manufacture 2, 3 and 5 ton trucks, tractors and trailers. The company was also located in Los Angeles. E. W. Bennett took over the president and general manager's spot at the Los Angeles Trailer Co. The two companies were not connected. It is unknown how long Patterson remained affiliated with the Los Angeles Trailer Co. but it is clear the Bennett brothers now ran the show. Guy A. Norton continued work with them until summer of 1922 when he left to work for Hercules Trailer Manufacturing, a newly incorporated Los Angeles based company. C. H. Mason and Guy A. Norton organized the company to manufacturer trailers of advanced design. C. H. Mason served as president and manager while Guy A. Norton served as treasurer and lead engineer.

Under E. W. Bennett's management the company expanded and grew rapidly. Significant markets were developed overseas as well. On May 24, 1921 the Los Angeles Trailer Co. changed the name of their corporation to Utility Trailer Manufacturing Company. The company still exist and celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2014. Other than the Brintnall Camping Trailer it is unclear if Utility Trailer Mfg. continued manufacturing camping trailers after 1917 or not. Again, I suspect not. No advertising literature has been found and no mention of such. Utility Trailer Mfg. focused on heavy duty hauling trailers and refrigerator trailers, something they do quite well.

John Neil Patterson was born in Detroit, MI on July 27, 1885 and passed away in Los Angeles, CA on December 20, 1948. He was an entrepreneur in every sense of the word but had the intelligence to back it up. His entire life was characterized by one venture after another. Guy A. Norton was born in Michigan on June 24, 1876 and passed away in Los Angeles, CA on September 11, 1971. Guy's contributions to the trailer industry on the Pacific West Coast were significant, it was he who first designed trailers for specific needs within the Western industries like timber and agriculture.

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