History of the Tow Truck

In terms of vehicles and their use, the tow truck is perhaps the most often overlooked vehicle in our daily lives. Yet we rely on towing services daily, often without recognizing the contributions tow service operators make towards our safety and our commutes. Where did it all begin? Like most ideas, it started with a very real problem and the ingenuity of a mechanic from Tennessee.

History of the Tow Truck

History of the Tow Truck

Ernest Holmes Sr. – History of the Tow Truck

Ernest Holmes Sr., of Alabama, was a mechanic in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1916 when he received an unusual request: his friend from business school, John Wiley, flipped his Model T over in a ditch. In an effort to salvage his Model T, Wiley contacted his friend, Ernest Holmes Sr., to see if he could retrieve the vehicle. Homes procured the services of six men, and over eight hours they saved the Model T using a series of blocks and rope.

Shortly after, Holmes modified his 1913 Cadillac to pull cars and transport them to his garage using an iron chain, a pulley, and several poles attached to the back of his Cadillac. Holmes patented his invention in 1918 and the towing industry was born.

History of the Tow Truck

Holmes’ Patent for the Wrecker – History of the Tow Truck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The basis for Ernest Holmes Sr.’s patents was the unique concept of having a “split-boom” wrecker that could anchor the truck on one side, and retrieve from the other side without tilting the wrecker. This was especially useful when a wrecked vehicle had gone down a steep embankment.

Holmes then founded the Ernest Holmes Co. in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Market Street and was its president until his death in 1945. But inventing the tow truck wasn’t the only towing industry milestone for the Holmes family. Holmes’ grandsons, Gerald “Jerry” Holmes and Bill Holmes, built affordable hydraulic towing equipment now used universally in the industry.

History of the Tow Truck

Replica of Holmes’ Wrecker