It is finally back-to-school season, so what better time to learn about the history of the school bus? Ever wonder where the yellow color comes from? Why do they all look the same? We have the answers. Check out our history lesson on the big yellow school buses.
Throughout time kids walked, and those that did not want to walk often hitched a ride on the back of a farm wagon. In 1886, “kid hacks” or “school hacks” were Wayne Works company horse-drawn carriages that carried children. The cab fit about 20 people and was often created from repurposed farm wagons. Though this became the model for future school buses, this design was slow, and many kids still preferred to walk on foot until buses became motorized in 1914.
Early 20th Century
Around 1914, the automotive industry began to boom, and Wayne Works wanted to motorize their carriages. They swapped the canvas covering the wagon with a wooden frame. Kids would sit along the walls of the bus and face inward. Although this gave better protection against bad weather, it still needed improvements. 1927 Ford dealership owner named A. L. Luce built the first bus primarily using steel panels. In 1930, Wayne Works introduced their first all-steel school bus body with safety glass windows. However, parents were still not happy about the safety of their children. In 1939 Dr. Frank Cyr, professor and “Father of the Yellow School Bus,” organized a conference at the University of Manhattan to increase the national safety standard for these school buses. A representative from every state and specialists in manufacturing and paint companies joined to create 44 new national standards were made including interior dimensions, seating configurations and much more including the iconic yellow color. They chose yellow because it is the most visible in the early morning and evening light when driving on the road.
Mid to Late 19th Century
The safety updates did not stop there. Over the next several decades, they updated the interior and exterior to create the best possible design. Protective seating, rollover protection, and the mechanical stop signal arm were all added to school buses around the country. By 1974, the whole country complied with these national guidelines, and we have the school buses that we primarily know today. As new auto innovations come to fruition, we will continue to update the safety features of the school bus.
This piece of history is just one piece of our auto story. How did we get around before the cars of the 20th Century? Check out our article on the history of transportation!