The Birth of a New Industry

Rogers towing service cannot take credit for founding the tow truck industry, but it is responsible for continuing the tradition of delivering reliability tow truck services. Ernest Holmes founded the tow truck in 1916 after receiving a call for help from a friend. Holmes’ business school professor, John Wiley, drove his Model T into the South Chickamauga Creek and flipped it onto its head. Wiley asked Holmes for help after realizing that his vehicle could not be flipped right-side-up. This probably was not the first time someone had driven their vehicle into a ditch, got into an accident, or needed a tow, but Holmes saw an opportunity on this day. It took six men and eight hours to pull Wiley’s vehicle out of the ditch, which caused Holmes to wonder how the job could be done faster and more safely then modern-day practices. Holmes rushed home to outfit his 1913 Cadillac with a crane and pulley system that could lift and pull other vehicles. Now Holmes had no idea whether or not the Cadillac could actually pull another vehicle, but with a 120-inch wheelbase chassis and a 365-cubic inch, four-cylinder engine he had to try. To his amazement, it worked! Holmes began advertising that he could help motorist move their broke-down or wrecked vehicles by towing it to a nearby auto repair shop. Knowing he was on to something, Holmes patented his tow truck idea in November 1917 and birthed a new industry into existence. Holmes started the Ernest Holmes Company headquartered in Chattanooga, TN in 1919 where he manufactured and sold tow trucks. Holmes died in 1945 and would never realize that his legacy would continue to live on in through his grandsons, Gerald “Jerry” Holmes and Bill Holmes. The two men invented the affordable hydraulic equipment commonly used in the tow truck industry.

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