Born in Omaha: Saunders brothers’ start-up took off into rental automobile industry we understand today

Editor's note: This piece originally was published on Jan. 3, 2010, as part of David Harding's "Everyday History" column in The World-Herald.

Service was slow for Joe Saunders and his three siblings in 1915. About the very best thing their family property operation needed to provide was a good view of downtown Omaha from their 12th-floor workplace in the old Woodmen of the World Building.The Saunders kids had acquired

their father's entrepreneurial spirit, and Joe in particular chafed at the bit for a brand-new business idea, something more innovative and profitable.It. appeared in the guise of problem one early morning when Joe's younger bro reported that

the touring car they utilized genuine estate provings had broken down while he was out on a date the night prior to. Repairs would likely take weeks, so Joe required an interim service. He set up to borrow a vehicle from among their staff members and paid 6 cents per mile for the privilege.Automobiles had actually ended up being a lot more typical considering that Henry Ford presented the Design T in 1908, but most individuals still could not manage to own one.Joe Saunders started

to question the number of individuals might want to borrow one to fill a temporary requirement or simply for fun. He and a sibling started to lend a car from their house

on a trial basis. Then, in August of 1916, Joe put an advertisement in The World-Herald announcing"Autos for Hire." He had just one vehicle, a Design T, and he provided it for 10 cents a mile."You might drive the automobile or I will furnish the motorist" the ad announced, taking into consideration that many individuals had actually never driven a car.The vehicle rental industry was born that day.Saunders added cars to his "fleet"practically right away. His siblings abandoned real estate and signed on as soon as they experienced the tsunami of need for rental vehicles.People demanded for the

chance to borrow a cars and truck.

One drove up to Fremont to check out loved ones. Another went searching. Some simply wished to take a spin in the country for enjoyment. Others required to make an excellent impression on a customer.The Saunders brothers moved their automobiles to an area on North 22nd Street, where they converted a horse steady into a garage. They called their brand-new company the Ford Livery Company due to the fact that all their cars and trucks were Design Ts, and they advertised it as"the 20th Century

Livery Barn," a location to rent horseless carriages.Joe advised his father, who was living in Birmingham, Ala., to sign up with the brand-new enterprise. He argued in a letter that business "requires almost no salesmanship. The need is here and all over; all you have to do is get the automobiles ... and before you know it you are swamped.

"Their dad warned them from investing too heavily in an untested concept, however when he pertained to Omaha and observed the operation-- now featuring 18 Design Ts-- he signed up with the firm.In 1917 the business name was altered to Saunders Drive-It-Yourself System and the fleet moved to a bigger location at

13th and Howard Streets, where again they displaced a horse stable. By year's end, more than 100 rental vehicles and trucks were rolling out of the modern livery.Saunders System opened a Kansas City workplace in 1919 and a location with 100 cars and trucks in Birmingham the list below year. Business then blew up, spreading to 56 cities by 1926. The Saunders household offered their business to Avis in 1955. Twenty years later, Omaha resident Jay Golden worked for among Joe Saunders'kids at a vehicle rental company in New York and had dinner with Joe

on a number of celebrations."He utilized to say that the more areas you have for vehicles, the less likely you are to lease those automobiles. He said you only require one area-- it's for the cars and truck you drive home at night,"recalled Golden.Joe Saunders started with one automobile and one area 93 years

ago right here in Omaha. He had one key-- it was a concept that opened a brand brand-new market now worth$35 billion in yearly U.S. revenues.Thanks to the Douglas County Historical Society for research

assistance.Want more of this? Have a look at for more stories from our city's interesting past.