Leo Houck was the original owner of Houck Motor Coach Advertising. He worked for
the Twin City Street Railway Company as a schedule checker and also as dance hall manager at Wildwood Park,
which was owned by the streetcar company.
After several years in the Marines, Leo started working with his brothers, Joe and Pete, selling advertising
on the stage curtains of all vaudeville theaters in Minneapolis and St. Paul. In 1919, the first bus line, Brown Bus Company,
began a transit service between St. Paul and Minneapolis. The Houck brothers contracted with Brown Bus Company to expand
their business by selling advertising on the inside of buses.
The bus service became the Twin City Motor Bus Company and expanded through its years until 1925 when it was purchased by the Twin City Rapid Transit Company.
With the combined ownership of buses and streetcars, there were now two different companies handling bus advertising, Murray and Malone on the streetcars and Houck on the buses. After the introduction of movies, vaudeville theaters in the Twin Cities closed and bus advertising became the brothers' main business venture. Houck Motor Coach Advertising Company was established.
As buses became a more lucrative mode of transportation, Houck Motor Coach Advertising was able to solicit
bus companies on which to place advertising. One of the first bus companies approached was an operation that started in
Hibbing, Minnesota by AG "Bus Andy" Anderson and Carl Eric Wickman, to transport workers from the city of Hibbing
into the local iron mine. The bus service expanded adding a run to Duluth and St. Paul, eventually it became known
nationally as Greyhound Corporation. Houck's bus advertising also included Jefferson Lines and Trailways Lines (operating
in the southern United States). Besides these interstate lines and Twin Cities lines, Houck bus advertising also serviced
cities such as Des Moines, Omaha, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and many others.
Houck's placed color advertising projectors in all 3,000 of the nation's Greyhound buses. It projected a different ad in the front of the bus every 20 seconds. However, after a complete installation and 30 days of operation, a law was passed in the state of Texas preventing the transportation of film in buses, thus this bus advertising venturewas short lived.
In the late 1930's, Houck Motor Coach Advertising was the first to introduce the combination of pamphlet boxes on the back of each seat to tie in with the overhead sign advertising in each Twin City bus. Each advertiser with a sign in the bus was able to place their message in the potential customer's hand to read and keep as they rode the bus. Because practically everyone used public transportation at that time, business owners were most anxious to purchase space in these vehicles and Houck Motor Coach Advertising enjoyed this most prosperous time well into the late 1940's and 50's when exterior bus advertising was first introduced.
In 1952, the Twin City Rapid Transit Company made a purchase of 500 buses to begin a replacement program of its streetcar fleet. At this time, Murray Malone, which handled the streetcar advertising program, also found itself being replaced as buses replaced streetcars. Houck Motor Coach Advertising became the sole bus advertising service in the Twin Cities. Murray Malone purchased the bus advertising Twin Citites, Rochester, Mankato, and 10 independently owned Twin City suburban bus lines, service from Houck for $50,000. However, Murray Malone found it too difficult to service the out-of-town cities and the suburban lines and returned this service to Houck.
In 1954, Leo's two sons Richard and Robert returned from the army and took over the bus advertising company and operated it for the next 20 years until the Twin Cities Metropolitan Transit (now publicly owned) finally took over all of the independent suburban bus companies. Richard purchased the Houck Motor Coach Advertising from Robert and continued to operate in Rochester, Austin, Faribault, Mankato, Eau Claire, Duluth, and La Crosse.
In 1995, Richard retired. His sons, Thomas and Paul continued the operation of the bus advertising company and expanded it into many more markets. Now, Houck Transit Advertising serves over 20 public transit systems in states throughout the Midwest including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas. Houck Transit Advertising became a fourth generation company in 1999 with Justin Houck, Thomas' son, serving as art director before moving into sales.