Where Greyhound Got Its Name
The E.C. Ekstrom Story

Safety Motor Coach Lines

Born in 1889, Edwin Carl Ekstrom, a native of Ludington, MI, launched Safety Motor Coach Lines in 1924 with the purchase of four Fageol 22-passenger intercity buses. Providing intercity service between Muskegon, MI and Grand Rapids, MI, the firm instantly became a direct competitor to local interurban service.

Working with his brother Robert, in early 1925 service out of Muskegon was expanded to include daily runs to Ludington and to Grand Haven and Holland. Soon after, lines running from Grand Rapids to Fremont and from Traverse City to Petoskey were added to the growing company.
1924-06-26 Greyhouond ad Muskegon

In August of 1925, the company expanded service to six main trunk lines by adding service to Chicago. The battle to dominate passenger transportation to the Windy City was on. 

Using Fageol Safety Coaches built in Oakland, California, the buses were painted blue and trimmed in white. Ekstrom’s company incorporated the phrase "Ride The Greyhounds" in advertising and painted a logo beneath the driver's side window of the fleet that featured a greyhound in full stride. The "Greyhound" line even included some open air observation coaches. December 1925 reports noted the purchase of $15,000 in snow plow equipment to maintain service through the winter. By January of 1926, the "Greyhound" line operated 40 coaches covering an estimated 8,000 miles daily. In March of 1926, press reports mentioned the purchase of a pair of double deck coaches, seating 56 passengers for summer use.

The company's general offices were located in a 100 by 134 foot brick building in downtown Muskegon equipped with everything needed for the operation of the lines. In Muskegon, buses picked up passengers at the Union Bus Depot, located at Western Avenue and Terrace Street, as well as at the Occidental and Muskegon hotels. In addition, two depots were maintained in Grand Rapids, with one each in Holland, South Haven, Grand Haven, Benton Harbor and Chicago. Waiting room facilities were provided in all other towns on the routes.


The General Offices of the Safety Motor Coach Lines - The Greyhound Lines,
 located in downtown Muskegon, MI.

Initially, riders paid drivers at each starting point. Fares, were "a little higher than the interurbans and slightly lower than the steam roads." As popularity of the service grew, the company added a new cardboard ticketing service in 1926 to speed service. Carrying over 45,000 passengers monthly, it was estimated that the ticket system would save "10 minutes and upward per trip to the passengers."

In April 1926, "the fiftieth Fageol coach purchased within the year was received by the company, making 61 coaches in all. Special ceremonies marked the occasion when (Edwin) Ekstrom was presented with a beautiful Greyhound dog by the Fageol company. Asked what he would name the mascot of the popular line, Mr. Ekstrom replied, 'Bus' - so the live Greyhound is called."

Riders pose next to a Safety Motor Coach bus at the Occidental Hotel in downtown Muskegon, MI.

A Humble Beginning

The Ekstrom family moved from Ludington to Hibbing, MN in 1898. Raised in Hibbing, Ekstrom received his start in the transportation industry in the northern Minnesota town. Educated as a certified public accountant, he began working with Carl Eric Wickman and Mesaba Transportation Company in 1916. Operating "one of the first long-distance bus lines between Hibbing and Wisconsin Rapids, in 1919 Ekstrom became an officer in a division of Mesaba. Hibbing is officially credited as the birthplace of what would become Greyhound Corporation.


The Big Bang known as Motor Transit Corporation

In late October 1926, the news hit the press. Ekstrom, along with a series of partners had formed a new company to be known as Motor Transit Corporation. A holding company organized under the laws of Delaware, along with Safety Motor Coach Lines, the new corporation acquired controlling interest in numerous other interstate and intrastate bus lines. With the move, it was announced that the ten million dollar company would operate service across 10,000 miles of road in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas. Headquarters would be based out of Chicago. Ekstrom would serve as president, general manager and on the board of directors along with his brother Robert, F. W. Sullivan, Foster G. Beamsley, Carl Eric Wickman, Earl W. Bradley, Richard L. Griggs and Stephen R. Kirby. The consolidation would ultimately form the basis of the Greyhound.

Motor Transit Corporation would rename itself Northland Greyhound Corporation in 1929. Continued acquisitions of local and regional motor coach lines created the modern-day transportation company, but it is a slightly modified version of Ekstrom's logo from Safety Motor Coach Lines that became the nationwide symbol of Greyhound. 


Lake Shore Limited Motor Coach Lines

"Greyhounds of the Highway" The logo was stenciled on the sides of buses and added to advertising to distinguish the company from the competition.

A 1925 ad for Lake Shore Limited Motor Coach Lines, a competitor to Safety Motor Coach. It was soon purchased by the Safety Motor Coach Lines.

Safety Motor Coach Lines opened a depot in the Congress Hotel in Chicago in 1926.
The building that housed the offices and maintenance facility for Safety Motor Coach Lines still stands in Muskegon, MI. Today, it serves as an annex to the L.C. Walker Sports Arena.