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As we countdown to our 100-year anniversary, we will share a series of stories to highlight the history of Cummins. In this series, we reflect on our rich history of turning challenges into opportunities. 

As the Great Depression stretched throughout the decade of the 1930’s, the nation was experiencing economic hardship. The Cummins Engine Company had sold just 133 engines in 1933. In the years that followed, America’s entry into war instilled fear for the Indiana diesel maker. Despite an unclear future, inventions were still marketed and competition was growing. This fueled the growth of the company by expanding into heavy-duty trucks.

New to Cummins, John Niven and Paris E. “Pappy” Letsinger, introduced Cummins to the West Coast and finally put Cummins into the heavy-duty truck business. Letisnger and Niven persuaded a branch president in San Francisco, California (USA) to purchase a new white chassis without an engine or transmission to be delivered to Columbus, Indiana (USA). His company made its own gasoline truck engines, but agreed Cummins would make the installation. This was a new commercial first - a diesel engine in a commercial application in the United States.

As the company continued entering new markets, it also had to find a way to service those markets across the United States. When a Cummins engine broke down running a truckload of chickens, Clessie Cummins brother, Don, was sent to San Francisco, California (USA) for several months to tear down and rebuild the engines. For Cummins to grow, the company could no longer perform all engine tests and repairs in Columbus, Indiana (USA). 

The first diesel engine in a commercial truck application in the U.S. was with Purity Food Stores of San Francisco.

Expanding through distributors. In the years after World War II, Cummins had two channels for distribution: direct through original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and indirect through the company’s increasing distribution network. By the late 1940s, several independent distributorships across the U.S were facing challenges that affected their operations. Cummins stepped up, taking ownership and management of those dealerships, ultimately allowing them to survive. 

Expanding our commitment to quality, Cummins would need to deliver on its promise of quality. In 1940, the company offered a 100,000-mile warranty, signaling the company was confident in its products and determined to pursue excellence. With the success of the Model H engine, the company had sold 4,745 engines by 1941, the majority of them in trucks. 

By the early 1950’s, the United States had entered a period of robust economic expansion, and Cummins benefited. By 1955, Cummins diesels were being sold in 110 countries, and the company had 140 officially sanctioned sales or service organizations outside the United States and Canada. 

Nearly one hundred years after the introduction of the Cummins engine, our journey continues. Follow along, as we continue to explore Cummins’ history of challenging the impossible.

The Cummins ‘red ball’ logo was used from 1944 through January 1953.