Holman began in 1864 as a small transfer company in Portland, Oregon. At the time, Oregon’s statehood was six years young. Portland, or “Stump Town”, consisted of sawmills, rough plank sidewalks, and streets of dirt turning to mud when it rained. The railroad was still years from reaching Portland. Still, the fledgling town was fast becoming a major freight depot of the Columbia.
Two teenaged brothers perceived the opportunities arriving with every steamship. On the docks of the Willamette River, with the aid of two draft horses and a cart, the boys launched a modest transfer business. Edward and Jack Holman had come west the year before, looking to escape the sweat shops of New York. The young boys had spent the early Civil War years packing hard tack and munitions for General Grant. Sitting atop their two-wheeled drays, the brothers bumped and careened their way through the city streets, hauling all kinds of goods for the early Portlanders. As their business flourished and the demand for their services rose, Holman Transfer soon became the family business.
As Holman Transfer entered the 20th century, new innovations would bring Holman’s services to new levels and new directions, the first of which being the horseless cart. With engine powered carts, Holman could serve its customers in the fraction of the time it took with horses. Business continued to prosper, even through the First World War.
With the onset of The Great Depression in 1929, the logistics industry was hit hard. Everywhere, transfer companies were folding or consolidating. The owners of Holman, fearful of the times, wanted to sell. Herbert M. Clark, the company’s young controller, saw opportunities on Holman’s horizon. So, at the height of the Depression, Herbert managed to purchase Holman, using only his company stock and his life insurance as collateral. “We learned to respect the dollar at an early age,” reflected Herbert Jr., years later.
Holman’s assets included a half-dozen trucks, a couple of horse-drawn wagons, and one warehouse. The truck fleet, comprised of Doane’s and McDonald’s, sported hard rubber tires, good for the dirt and muddy roads still so common at the time. America’s highways, however, were about to experience a major transformation. Throughout the Depression, the Bureau of Public Roads, together with civil and public works projects, created literally hundreds of thousands of miles of new, paved roads. Ships, docks, tunnels, bridges, roads, and highways sprang up seemingly overnight. New truck technology quickly followed.
Although still in debt, and the economy still in depression, Herbert had faith in Holman’s future. Holman steadily modernized its fleet with diesel engines, multi-speed transmissions, tandem axles, heavy-duty pneumatic tires, and most significantly, the tractor-trailer/tank combination. Customer service had reached new heights as Holman’s capabilities expanded.
After aiding the U.S. Military’s needs on the Pacific Coast during WWII, Holman flourished under the joint leadership of Herbert’s two sons, Herbert Jr. and Leonard. Herbert Jr. concentrated primarily on warehousing, while Leonard focused on trucking. The company boasted twenty trucks (Diamond T’s and White’s), innovative automated forklifts, and over 50,000 sq. ft. of multi-storied, wood-floored warehouse space. Much of the company’s business involved consignee hired pick-up and deliveries. Holman was proving itself to be an excellent regional logistics provider.
When Holman celebrated its centennial in 1964, it was operating over 200,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space consisting of new, all-concrete buildings with modern rack systems. At the time, the industry had just begun using standardized steel containers and piggy-back trailers, making products easy to move from train to truck and/or ship. Running a truck fleet of 50, the bulk of Holman’s business was made up of candy, drugs, food, and chemicals.
By 1970, with well-established warehouse operations in Oregon and Washington State, Holman was one of the most prominent names in Northwest public warehousing.
The next significant innovation would occur in the 1980’s: the ability for electronic data interchange. Instead of teletype, phone/mail orders and immeasurable paper work, Holman quickly implemented EDI, Warehouse Management Systems, bar codes and radio frequency terminals. Being among the first in logistics to utilize such advancements, Holman provided the most effective and efficient of supply chain abilities.
When Holman entered the twenty-first century, it brought data interchange to an entire new level by providing customers with complete access to their inventory over the internet with its eTrac software. Holman clients can access inventory reports, order history and even make new orders at any computer that has internet access.
Holman’s dedication to providing the best value available has propelled it through the Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression and more. From its humble horse and cart beginnings, through technological advances and complete industry evolution, Holman has consistently demonstrated its core belief that if an idea or goal can be conceived, Holman can see it to completion.