The Erieite you've never heard of who changed how the nation does business: E.H. Scott, father of transportation by motor

Dr. Pamela Lenz

Friday Dec 1st, 2023

History is full of individuals whose ideas changed the world, but then faded into obscurity upon their death. Mention E.H. Scott to someone and you’ll see what I mean.

Scott was a headliner in the early 1900s. He appeared in Saturday Evening Post ads, trade journals, and yachting magazines. In 1939, the Erie Times-News referred to him as a “truck mogul” and the “Father of Transportation by Motor.”

2. Saturday Evening Post ad featuring E.H. Scott Trucking 6 24 1911

Edmund Horace Scott (known as E.H.) was unrelated to Erie’s other well-known Scotts. Born in Chicago, he ran away from home at age 11 to seek his fortune. After a number of odd jobs, including a stint as a cash boy in a Chicago store and another with the Ringling Brothers Circus, his travels brought him to Erie. Upon borrowing $50 on an insurance policy, Scott’s ambition to own a livery business was born with a single horse.

3. Scott Transportation Ad in The Erie Daily Times 8 20 1925

Business was good, and Scott soon expanded his team to 28 head. Ever the visionary, continued success allowed him to branch into interstate hauling by truck. The E.H. Scott Transportation Company was established in 1911, operating out of a building behind his West Front Street home (which still overlooks the bayfront). Growing to a fleet of over 210 trucks and 85 trailers, the company’s main routes were on rutted roads between Buffalo and Cleveland. Revenue was $125,000 a month (about $1.9M in 2023).

4. E.H. Scott and Myrtle Alder at San Diego Exposition abt. 1915

In 1920-21 Scott served as Commodore of the Erie Yacht Club, where he spent much time organizing events for children. His wife, Henrietta “Hattie” Hain Scott, also served the community, planning events such as the 1937 Hamot Aid Fete. The Scotts traveled extensively for business and pleasure. Childless, their niece, Myrtle Alder, often accompanied them on their cross country journeys by train.

Unaffected by the 1929 depression, Scott Transportation’s drivers went on strike in 1933. Difficult negotiations, accompanied by the murder of a company guard, followed. After reaching an agreement, Scott sold his interest in the company and declared bankruptcy.

5. Postcard advertising E.H. Scotts Yacht Diane 1939

With most of his assets lost, Scott chartered his cruiser “Diane” in Erie and West Palm Beach. Despite losing the majority of his fortune, Scott told the Erie Times-News (July 19, 1939), “I’m a whole lot happier now … I’m free of worry and I don’t owe anyone anything. It’s a whole lot better this way.”

E.H. Scott died just a few months later. While captaining his cruiser on a charter fishing trip off West Palm Beach, he died exactly as he wished, “just as [he] was landing a sail-fish.” Flags flying at half-staff, a 19-boat flotilla scattered his ashes over the Gulf Stream on December 17, 1939.

6. Death of E.H. Scott in The Erie Daily Times 12 11 1939 photo enhanced for clarity

Hattie Hain Scott, E.H.’s widow, returned to Erie where the former millionaire’s wife lived a thrifty life. Upon her death in 1948, Hattie left most of her $35,000 estate (about $443,000 in 2023) to the Zem Zem Shrine Hospital for Crippled Children.

Even though E.H. Scott has faded into history, his legacy lives on. Almost 100 years after the father of transportation by motor’s death, an incredible 70% of U.S. goods are still transported by truck.