Re: Billboard Reefers

Richard Hendrickson

On Mar 24, 2007, at 9:49 PM, Jim Betz wrote:

Your post to Malcolm on this topic has me confused. I thought that the
ban on 'advertising on freight cars' was only related to those
that were for products other than those products 'made' by the company
who owned the car. Ie. a reefer that was owned by Rath could have any
thing Rath wanted on the side ... but if the car was owned by some
company then it could not. Isn't that actually what the ruling was?
However - most of the billboard reefers were affected by the change
and - per Al Westerfield (in a post here on this list?) the majority
the billboard reefers were gone in '37 and they 'all' were gone in

I do not have the date of the actual court ruling. Any one know it?
How about the court case name and venue?
Jim, as Tony Thompson has already posted, the ruling was made by the
Interstate Commerce Commission. The ICC ruling took effect early in
1934, after which billboard advertising could not be applied to new or
repainted cars. Such advertising had to be removed from cars already
in service by 1938, so Al Westerfield is correct that most billboard
cars were gone ca. 1937 and all were gone by 1938.

What prompted the ICC ruling was the extensive practice by car leasing
companies like North American, Northwestern Refrigerator Line, Union
Refrigerator Transit, etc. of leasing reefers to small shippers and
plastering the shippers' advertising all over them, which then in
effect rendered the cars unacceptable for loading by any other shipper.
The railroads complained that this amounted to providing shippers with
a sizable benefit for which they were not charged, as well as making
the cars unavailable when the railroads had traffic (back-hauls, for
example) that otherwise could have been loaded in them.

From the outset the ICC ruling permitted cars owned by, or on long-term
lease to, a shipper to have the shipper's logo on them IF they were in
assigned service and were never used to carry products made by anyone
else. There were a few examples of this in the late '30s and '40s, and
more examples (especially on RSMs used by meat packers) in the 1950s.
Specific products could not be advertised, however, unless the cars
were used exclusively for those products, or for the raw materials used
to make the products, a situation that was relatively rare though there
were a few examples of it in the 1950s.

None of this is mysterious except to those who seem bent on being
contentious without examining the documentation.

Richard Hendrickson

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