Moving Industry History

Published by Big John's Moving Inc. on

Moving industry history is fascinating.

In the contemporary United States, professional moving is a multibillion-dollar industry that helps millions of Americans every year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 7.9 million people in the U.S. moved between states in 2021 and that number does not reflect the millions of people that have moved within specific states. However, moving has not always been the professionalized industry that it is today. The experts at Big John’s Moving will explore moving industry history.

Ancient History of Moving

For thousands of years, humanity survived without the use of professional movers. Before the creation of agricultural society, people had to transport whatever possessions they had themselves using livestock, simple boats, family, and their own muscles. When most humans lived in nomadic hunter-gatherer societies with relatively few possessions, this was not a big deal, but as humans settled into sedentary agricultural societies, this became a bigger problem. As human society advanced human labor, animals (including animal-drawn vehicles), and more advanced boats were used to move people and goods between locations. 

However, for most of history, only the rich and powerful could utilize the labor of other people to move their belongings from one place to another. For instance, Mansa Musa, the emperor of the Mali Empire during the 14th century, relied upon a caravan of 60,000 people to bring his numerous treasures with him on his pilgrimage to Mecca. Most people had to handle the transport of their own possessions personally until millennia later.

Covered Wagons

The first hints of the professional moving industry began to appear in North America during the 1800s. In this era, Americans used horse-drawn wagons and carriages to move their household items between residences both within cities and across the continent. Most notably groups of covered wagons organized into wagon trains were utilized by settlers to move their possessions and supplies to their new homes in the American West. Settlers typically walked alongside their wagons with only drivers, the injured, and sometimes young children riding within the wagons themselves. Since covered wagons were used primarily for moving the possessions of settlers and not the settlers themselves, it can be argued that they were the moving trucks of their day.

Trains and Early Moving Industry History

The first professional moving companies in the U.S. emerged alongside the railroad industry. As railroads were constructed across America, small transport companies called “wagon firms” popped up near rail stations. Wagon firms would use horse-drawn carriages to bring goods to and from long-haul trains packing goods into crates in warehouses adjacent to rail lines. A wagon firm would pick up your household items, pack them into crates in their warehouse near the train station, and deliver them to the train. A different local wagon firm would then pick up your crates from the destination train station, bring your crates to their warehouse, and eventually deliver them. Wagon firms actually offered these household moving services as a sideline to their main business of local transport, but over time it would become increasingly important, especially with the invention of cars.

Automobiles and The Modern Age

The number of paved roads in the U.S. exploded during WW1, making automotive transportation more practical. In 1919, Ward B. Hiner founded the American Red Ball Transit Company which used motorized vans to quickly become the nation’s first interstate mover. By the mid-1920s, motorized vehicles were an integral part of the burgeoning professional moving industry. The industry also benefited from government subsidization of highway and road construction enacted to limit national economic dependence on the railroads. Still, the industry remained relatively small and fragmented and had to return briefly to relying on trains during WW2. However, after the war, the professional moving industry expanded massively as soldiers returned home. The professional moving industry has remained an integral part of American society ever since.

Big John’s Moving 

Big John’s Moving was founded in 1977 as a one-man operation, and today it has grown into a leading full-service independent moving company. If you require professional moving and storage solutions in NYC call Big John’s Moving!