Skip to main content

The history of the moving industry

By April 12, 2019June 28th, 2021No Comments


Per the American Moving & Storage Association, the moving industry employs over 123,000 people nationwide.  The annual payroll is approximately $3.6 billion. It makes the moving business one of the largest industries in the country. Small businesses make up about 90% of the industry. About 47.8% of moving companies have less than 5 employees, and only 8.5% of companies employ 100 plus people.

But moving wasn’t always as accessible. Just some time ago there was hardly any moving companies. Below you will find some fun facts about the history of the moving industry, how it started and where it is today. Also, check out this article on the top 5 complaints in the moving industry.


The history of the moving industry: The moving industry originated in America. It started way back when colonists and newcomers traveled to populate the west. Some speculate that the first DIY (do it yourself) moving companies were immigrants that favored the use of those great wagons from way back when.
They would use the wagons to pack their items and relocate to areas that weren’t as populated. Immigrants would travel in groups alongside the trails. Each group consisted of about 3-5 wagons mainly so people could help each other. They would assist each other with packing and loading the good on and off the wagon. They also traveled in a small group for survival. Groups like that had a target on their back from Indians, diseases, wild animals and so on. There was a need for moving companies back then, and this could have sparked the idea. We hope you enjoy this article on the history of the moving industry.



The first companies that reflect the industry today started at the same time as the railroad industry. The railroad industry became the number one means of transportation during the 40’s – 60’s (19th century). Moving companies began to build their warehouse in the railways for convenience. They used animals like horses to steer the wagons to the warehouse in the cities where the pick up was and then would unload in their warehouses. Then they would load everything into a train car. When the train would arrive at the destination, another nearby company would unload the household goods in their warehouse, then use their wagons for delivery. The history of the moving industry goes way back.


Paved roads became a necessity during WW1. The new streets helped support the war efforts. Motor trucks became scares because most of them were being directed toward military use, and so was most of the fuel. The war caused a significant problem for the moving industry and companies were having a problem getting trucks. The growing population had to go back to the old method of sending their household goods through the railroad system which was handled several times before delivery.
It became a concern for Ward B. Hiner who was the founder of a moving company and figured out that it would be profitable to move household goods by a motor-van. It’s also where the word van line came from. It ended up being a great idea which was supported in the first few years after 1919, during when the government was trying to lowe the economic dependence on railroad transport as the number one means of transporting people and goods.


Today you can find a moving company on every corner. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 40 Million Americans move each year. These numbers are made up of local, long distance and international moves. The data also shows that the majority of moves each year are DIY (do it yourself) moves. It makes the moving industry one of the largest globally.

The history of the moving industry goes way back, but it wasn’t until some years ago that the scams started to come into play. The good news is that most movers are good. But in recent years the DOT has seen an influx of complaints about hostage load, overage, and damage. You can easily avoid becoming a victim by doing some basic research and not searching for the lowest price. I hope you enjoyed this article on the history of the moving industry. You can also check out some of my other item on our moving blog.