Saturday, June 13, 2015

why is a gooseneck trailer hitch, and the 5th wheel semi trailer hitch called a "5th Wheel"?

here is what the originals looked like, above, the mocked up prototype, below, a finished working replica for the 1914 model t. Made by Randy Shelton, a Ford powertrain engineer who is restoring the below truck

When Otto Neumann and August Fruehauf invented the semi-trailer in 1914, they created a version of a 5th wheel coupling which they used until 1916. Then they adopted an improved version of the fifth Wheel offered by the Martin Rocking Company in Massachusetts.

above and below, the Martin 5th wheel

which was improved on until it became the common and ordinary hitch you're used to seeing


  1. Hi Jessie, you might want to credit Randy Shelton for the first 3 photos of his Smith Form A truck which he restored painstakingly.

    Also the Martin Rocking company was not the first inventor of the semi-trailer. Fruehauf was. They were the largest customer for the Martin Rocking 5th wheel patented by Herman Farr of the Martin Rocking company. Charles Martin was a scoundrel by all accounts and sued by many other companies for patent infringement. It is unknown why Martin chose to infringe on his customer's patent for the semi-trailer but it caused them to lose Fruehauf's business as they created and manufactured their own improved 5th wheel design in 1918 enabling them to abandon any relation with Charles Martin. Fruehauf further improved the 5th wheel and created the automatic 5th wheel hitch in 1926. This permitted a single driver to hitch and unhitch his load without assistance. This technology is still employed by big rigs on the road today. For more info please see my website: Thank you, Ruth Fruehauf

    1. You're absolutly right... I didn't take the time to remark where I found those photos, who did the work, or anything about them... in too much of a hurry, as I have often been admonished about. I did see your website, and it's the link at the bottom of my post, both acknowledging the source of my info, and pointing my readers as to where they ought to go for more info, as I can be seen to do in 99% of all 22,750 posts in the past 9 years. My regular readers are used to this format... and I often forget to include the words " for more information" and/or "found on".

    2. Also, be reading my post, you'll see that the 2nd thing I said was that Nuemmann and Fruehauf invented the trailer. I don't know why you admonish me about referring to Martin as the inventor of the trailer. The admiration I have for the Fruehauf trailer was clarified 2 days after I posted the above, with another post, in which the very title is August Fruehauf and Otto Neumann, blacksmith and wagon makers invented the semi-trailer in 1914. And here is the link "" in which you will also see that I too (like you just did in your comment) made the case that 5th wheel was improved until it became the ubiquitous implement we see on every tractor today