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Moving Through the Decades

Ready to Ride the NVL Time Machine?

Think of it as H.G. Wells meets F.J. McKee.

The van line that makes moving easy celebrates our 90th anniversary this year. Can you believe it? We’ve been moving memories for NINE decades. Seems like only yesteryear the relocation wheels started rolling.

So, are you ready to “transport” into the future? Before you answer, how about a stroll down memory lane to reflect on National Van Lines’ rich heritage before advancing together toward our centennial?

After all, this year’s Agent Convention theme is “Thanks for the Memories” and you’re invited to time-travel backwards via our “Moving Through the Decades” interactive event during Convention.

Sturdy startup

Surely you’ve heard of famed author Wells, who wrote “The Time Machine.” But how well do you know McKee, the man who began the business that morphed into National Van Lines? As we’ll see, the founder of the company that “makes moving easy” didn’t always have an easy time of it, but he persevered…and prospered.

National Van Lines traces its origins to 1901, nearly 30 years before the company adopted its current name. McKee (grandfather of CEO and Chairman Maureen Beal) and his pony-pulled wagon delivered ice and coal to Chicagoans. Success bred expansion.

McKee soon was transporting vaudeville sets for acting talent, including silent-film star Charlie Chaplin. By 1916, McKee had built a truck fleet that offered moving services an ever-increasing customer roster.

America on the move

But the rapid advances hit a snag in 1917, the year the United States entered WWI, when fire destroyed McKee’s warehouse, leaving the business with only a single truck.

Diagnosed with tuberculosis soon after that blaze, McKee moved west to recover. He chose the year 1929 to return to Chicago and pick up where he left off in the relocation industry. Later that year, something called The Great Depression paralyzed the world’s economy. (Just double-checking: How do you spell “persevere”?)

Roughly two years later, F.J. McKee handed over the reins to his son, F.L. McKee. Renowned in Hollywood for his tenor-range pipes, F.L. McKee had performed with Shirley Temple and Bing Crosby, but running the family business eclipsed showbiz as his career of choice. The rest is history, which National Van Lines will explore during this year’s Agent Convention.

Decisive decades

National Van Lines agents are invited to participate in our “Moving Through the Decades” interactive event at the company’s suburban Chicago headquarters during the Nov. 14–16 Agent Convention.

Mark your calendars and join us for the tour plus a Chicago-style-cuisine luncheon Thursday, Nov. 14. Enjoy Windy City food faves deep-dish pizza, Italian beef, Portillo’s Famous Chocolate Cake, Eli’s Cheesecake and much more belly-busting fare. Buses depart the hotel and head over to the NVL HQ at 10:30 a.m.

To attend this historical event, make certain your travel arrangements have you arriving in Chicago on Wednesday, Nov. 13.

Rest up at the magnificent Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel and wake up refreshed to enjoy “Moving Through the Decades.”

Fun? Check. Food? Check and re-check. Prizes? Double-check.

No doubt, it will be a great time.