Profile America: On Our Tows

Tow Truck Centennial

​Tuesday, December 6 — This year marks the centennial of the cloverleaf road intersection, patented by Maryland civil engineer Arthur Dale. The automobile was barely 25 years from first appearing on American roads, and there were only some 3.6 million sputtering cars and trucks rolling on the nation’s 295,000 miles of paved roads.  Traffic density and high speeds were not yet problems for the cloverleaf to address, but automotive accidents and frequent breakdowns were.  So this year is also the centennial of the invention of the tow truck. Ernest W. Holmes of Chattanooga, Tennessee fitted a Cadillac chassis with booms, cables and hooks to collect stricken vehicles.  His patent came in 1917.  Today, around 8,600 towing services attend to breakdowns among America’s 260-million motor vehicles.

Profile America is in its 20th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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