A.M. Carty and the U-Haul Trailer Man

U-Haul co-founders L.S. and Anna Mary Carty ShoenWWII veteran L.S. “Sam” Shoen and his wife Anna Mary Carty Shoen co-founded U-Haul in 1945 and created the do-it-yourself moving industry. They shared the hard work and put every spare cent they had into their fledgling company.

Long days, late nights

U-Haul co-founders L.S. and Anna Mary with their infant son on the Carty family ranch in 1946.
U-Haul co-founders L.S. and Anna Mary with their infant son on the Carty family ranch in 1946.

L.S. worked 16-hour days, maintaining and repairing trailers at existing dealerships up and down the West Coast. Many nights he would work until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., then push on to the next location. His late-night work attracted the police. Many times he had to explain that he was authorized to work on U-Haul trailers in the middle of the night. Most nights on the road, he slept in his car to save on expenses.

Anna Mary ran the business office, putting in six to eight hours a day, in addition to raising a family. She kept the books, compiled and sent out weekly reports, received rental income from the dealerships and mailed out dealer commission checks, which she signed A.M. Carty. Anna Mary often traveled with L.S. While L.S. was out working on a dealer’s trailers, Anna Mary would be inside doing the books.

“Big wheel” and the trailer man

This photo of U-Haul co-founders L.S. and Anna Mary Carty Shoen was taken at their home in the early 1950s.
This photo of U-Haul co-founders L.S. and Anna Mary Carty Shoen was taken at their home in the early 1950s.

To those early dealers, L.S. was “Sam the Trailer Man,” an overworked employee, and many assumed that A.M. Carty was the “big wheel” executive in Portland, Ore. Many dealers thought L.S. was unusually loyal to his employer and some even tried to hire him away from U-Haul.

Fortunately Sam the Trailer Man remained loyal to A.M. Carty. And for 70 years, millions of North American families have benefited from their hard work and vision.

Husband-and-wife teams are critical to the success of many businesses, especially small businesses.

If you have a husband-and-wife business success story, we want to hear about it! Share your story in the comments below.

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