Historic Truck Brands
The Republic Motor Truck Company was a manufacturer of commercial trucks in the 1913-1929 era, in Alma, Michigan. By 1918, it was recognised as the largest truck-only manufacturer in the USA.
The Alma Manufacturing Company, founded by Frank Ruggles, began producing trucks in 1913 for the Maxwell Motor Company: originally under the Hercules brand and then, Republic.
Ruggles reorganised the company as the Alma Motor Truck Company and then the Republic Motor Truck Company.
Early publicity came from two across-country trips using Republic trucks: Lester Poyer and H L Dewey, who published a book, 4080 Mile Haul By Republic Dispatch Truck, and another family adventure by author Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan.
The entry of the United States into World War I gave the company a further boost when it won government contracts to build several thousand so-called Liberty Trucks.
1918 Republic truck – Begg Motor Company Canada
In 1917, Republic purchased a major supplier, Torbensen Axle Company.
By 1918, Republic was advertising in such national publications as the Saturday Evening Post, declaring that one goes to ‘Damascus for swords, Teheran [sic] for rugs, Lynn for shoes, Rochester for cameras, Dayton for cash registers, Alma for trucks.’
More than 3000 dealers sold Republics in the United States, with additional dealers in at least 56 foreign countries and colonies, including Australia, where there were dealerships in every mainland state.
1919 Republic – Australian Motorlife Museum
A few Australian Republics have survived, with the best known being the 1919 model that’s on display in Wollongong. Another was unearthed in 2022 on the NSW south coast and is being restored by the Sapphire Coast Historic Vehicle Club.
Restoration work is underway at the Sapphire Coast Historic Vehicle Club, Pambula (NSW)
Decline and closure
At the end of the War, Republic, which had an annual capacity of 30,000 trucks a year, decided to expand and financed this expansion by issuing US$3 million in gold notes.
However, a postwar depression, combined with the return of thousands of Liberty Trucks to the United States, led to a major reduction in demand for new trucks. Republic’s output dropped to only 1453 in 1921.
In 1922, Republic sold the Torbensen Axle company that later became Eaton Axle and Spring – now Eaton Corporation – but the cash injection was insufficient to meet demands and Republic was forced into receivership.
1926 Republic trucks – State Library of Western Australia
After reorganisation, the company attempted unsuccessfully to regain its former status, buying the Linn Manufacturing Company, makers of the heavy-duty Linn tractor, in 1927.
After the sudden death of its president, Oliver Hayes, in 1928, the company merged with the American LaFrance Company to become LaFrance-Republic.
During the Great Depression, in 1932, LaFrance-Republic was purchased by the Sterling Motor Truck Company, which itself was purchased by the White Motor Company in 1951. A parts depot for Republic existed in Alma until 1957.