How Greyhound buses got their name

How did the Greyhound bus get its name?

A journalist named Hannah Campbell has the answer, or at least part of it, in her 1964 book Why Did They Name It…?, an early forerunner to listicles from online magazines like Mental Floss (which is a cousin site of the FanSided Network).

According to the rather scanty information on the dust jacket, this book evolved from a series of articles Campbell had written for Cosmopolitan magazine, and it’s described as “an entertaining history of the brand names which have become an integral part of American homes, delightfully illustrated with reproductions of old-time advertisements.”

The Greyhound bus company was begun in the northeastern Minnesota area of the Mesabi Iron Range, known for being an economically-distressed mining area filled with hockey talent.

How did the Greyhound bus company get its name?

In 1914, a Swedish immigrant named Carl Eric Wickman couldn’t find his fortune in mining, and so he tried to become a car salesman with a Hupmobile dealership, where he failed spectacularly, not making a single sale.

So he began using one of the vehicles to provide bus service between the towns of Hibbing and Alice, originally with seven passengers at a time, soon expanded to ten after getting a blacksmith friend to become his business partner and enlarge the car body.

This one-car fleet soon expanded to two, and two years later there were five cars and driver/operators. In the time between they developed their first long-distance bus route, from Hibbing to Duluth.

The cars were painted a drab battleship gray to hide the dust and grime from the dirt roads traveled, which have since become synonymous with the company.

At some point in these early days a hotel manager along a route told Wickman that his buses looked like “those Greyhound dogs streaking by,” and Wickman liked the image enough to make it into a marketing slogan, which eventually became the name of the company.

Now headquartered in Dallas since the late 1980s, the company name has become shorthand in the American lexicon for traveling by bus, appearing in a variety of pop cultural artifacts. Notable examples with Greyhound-set scenes include the movies Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas, Smoke Signals, Tomorrowland, and the Sara Evans song “Backseat of a Greyhound Bus” from her 2003 Restless album.

It seems likely that actual dogs have surely traveled along the route throughout history at some point as well in addition to people, and even though it’s only very tangentially related to the canine realm, it’s still a nice bit of trivia to know about.