Federal was never a top seller among trucks, but it managed to remain a steadily producing small independent for 50 years. It entered worldwide markets until being absorbed by other companies, and then it was dropped unceremoniously.
The illustrated 15-M model was introduced in the spring of 1949, as a companion to the 16-M and other higher numbered models.
Established in February 1910 as the Bailey Motor Truck Company in Detroit, MI by Martin L. Pulcher, the name of the truck and its company changed to Federal later in 1910, as production got under way. There was no connection with the Bailey electric trucks built by S.R. Bailey & Co. in Boston from 1912 to 1914.
Federal built its first cab-over-engine models in 1937. Previous accomplishments included the 1,000th Federal truck to be built (May 1913) and the sale of 25 early Postal Service trucks to New York City. By 1923, more than 27,000 Federal trucks had been sold. In June 1924, a Knight-engine, sleeve-valve Federal truck was introduced as the Federal-Knight, and it continued into 1928, when Willys-Knight used the engine in its own truck.
In the late 1920s, Federal was one of the first to offer a heavy-duty truck tractor with a sleeper cab.
From 1938 to 1950, Federal's lighter conventionals (pickups, etc.) employed attractive styling by designer Henry Dreyfuss, with large chrome grilles of heavy horizontal pieces (as illustrated).
When Stewart trucks ceased production in 1941, Stewart's president, Thomas R. Lippard, moved over to Federal, bringing with him Stewart's sales slogan, adapted to read "Federals have won by costing less to run."
1947 was a very good year for Federal, with 6,020 trucks sold--because new vehicles were much in demand in the early postwar era. And many improvements were made in 1951 and thereafter. But as the 1950s progressed, the competition grew tougher for the small independents. From 1952 to 1954, Federal was a division of Federal Fawick Corp., and from 1955 to 1959, it was owned by Napco Industries Inc., of Minneapolis, MN, with truck production moving to that city.
The complete 1910 to 1959 production run of Federal is estimated at 160,000, with sales outlets in numerous foreign countries as well as in the United States. It's possible that more Federal trucks remain overseas than in North America. Other than in museums, have you seen any Federal trucks around lately?