The transformation of Burbank from rural town to manufacturing center
was a brought on by the growth of the region and some clever
marketing by some creative Burbankers looking to secure the economic
success of the city. The arrival of the Moreland Motor Truck Company
in Burbank proved to the opening of the manufacturing era in the
In 1917, Watt Moreland, head of the Moreland Motor Truck Company,
planned to open a new truck manufacturing plant in the Los Angeles
area. He had selected Alhambra as the site of his new plant, and
began negotiating with the city for the purchase of the land. Ralph
O. Church, an early Burbank activist who led the successful drive to
bring the Pacific Electric Car to Burbank, read of Moreland's move to
Los Angeles in the newspaper and had other ideas about where the
manufacturing plant should be located.
Church knew time was of the essence, and he enlisted fellow
Burbank activist Maurice Spazier to help him convince Moreland that
Burbank -- not Alhambra -- was a better site to build the
manufacturing plant. Church and Spazier captured Moreland's attention
by offering a suitable site for the plant at no cost. Moreland, not
wanting to pass on such an opportunity, stalled negotiations with
Alhambra and began to scout Burbank for a suitable site.
The first site explored by Moreland was on the corner of Flower
and Verdugo avenues. This site, however, proved to be unsuitable. The
most suitable site for the manufacturing plant turned out to be on
the corner of San Fernando Road and Alameda Avenue. The parcel was
owned by Henry Luttge, who sold the 25-acre parcel for $25,000.
Church and Spazier spearheaded the efforts to raise the money, and
deeded the property to Moreland. The manufacturing plant, along with
its good-paying manufacturing jobs, was to become a reality in
Construction on the $2-million plant commenced immediately, and
the plant opened in March of 1920. It was one of the largest
developments in the region and the largest in Burbank at the time.
The manufacturing plant was immense and efficiently designed, and
sprawled over the entire 25-acre parcel. The administration building
contained the general offices, kitchens, cafeteria, assembly and club
rooms along with the engineering department. The manufacturing
buildings boasted nearly 50% windows to allow proper ventilation, as
well as lighting, to create a clean and safe working environment.
Those buildings were used for the testing, manufacturing, painting
and assembly. Not only were the trucks assembled at the site, but
nearly 70% of the parts that went into the truck were also
manufactured there. Moreland employed 250 people who assembled 25
trucks a month. Each truck bore signs declaring "Made in Burbank."
The trucks that were produced at the Moreland Motor Truck factory
were innovative for the day. Moreland pioneered the design of a rear
end capable of driving all four wheels which, until that time, had
not been reliable.
Another innovation Moreland spearheaded was the "Gasifer," which
allowed engines powered by gasoline to operate on kerosene like
petroleum distillates. This proved to be economic savings, since this
alternative fuel was cheaper than gasoline at the time. The trucks
proved economically efficient, and could compete with freight trains
in the transporting of goods.
Moreland also created innovations in business that led to the
popularity of his company. Approximately $500,000 worth of parts were
manufactured and inventoried in the Burbank plant to provide parts to
outside service centers. The service centers carried anywhere from
$8,000 to $30,000 and were constantly being supplied by parts
manufactured here in Burbank.
This arrangement ensured that parts were dispersed, and a Moreland
truck could be easily serviced anywhere in California. Moreland
trucks also came with a one-year warranty, much better from the
90-day warranties that were the standard at the time.
The durable trucks proved to be popular not only in the United
States but around the world. Moreland trucks could be found in 17
countries. The success of the company, however, would not last.
The Great Depression hit the Moreland Motor Truck Company hard,
but it managed to stay afloat, though production was significantly
reduced. In 1939, World War II erupted in Europe, and while the U.S.
was not involved at that time, the shortages of materials triggered
by the war caused the closure of the Moreland Motor Truck Company in
Several businesses occupied the Moreland plant, including Weston
Bisket Company, Pacific Bakery and later, Pride Products Inc.,
before being demolished for a shopping complex.
While no longer there, the Moreland Motor Truck Company
contributed to Burbank's transformation from rural town to
manufacturing center, and paved the way for other manufactures to
come to Burbank.
* CRAIG BULLOCK is the chairman of the Burbank Heritage
Commission. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.