Sunday, February 3, 2008

What is a hack?

Mentioned in both Odessa: City of Dreams and Martin County, The First Thirty Years, is the term "hack" as a mode of transportation. I wondered exactly what is a hack, and how is it different from a wagon and a covered wagon, which were also mentioned separately.

According to this definition at, the term "hack" in an American word, shortened from "hackney carriage" and more specifically the "kid hack" was a precursor to the current yellow school bus.

A hack was a boxy carriage used to transport mostly rural children to school in the early 1900s. Apparently the company Wayne Works out of Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana founded in 1837 was the primary manufacturer of these "school hacks." Wayne Works' horse-drawn hacks were manufactured beginning in 1886 or possibly earlier, and motorized hacks in 1914.

However in my reading, hacks were not strictly used for going to and from school. Several families in these two books described their coming to West Texas in horse-drawn hacks.

  • The photo of the yellow hack of Wayne County School is from this page at The site also includes a scan from a Wayne Works' 1921 brochure
  • The photo of the black and white hack is from the site of Quail Ridge at Knollwood Homeowners Association out of Grangier, Indiana, as an excerpt from the book The History of Harris Township by Germaine Goff.
  • Various scans of historical ephemera from Wayne Works depicting an evolution of their products from 1895 to 1971 can be found at this geocities site by Gerald Zimmerman out of Carbondale, Illinois.
  • The history of Wayne Corporation can be found in this Wikipedia article.
  • A Google preview of page 34 of the book, Good Old Days Remembers the Little Country Schoolhouse (by Ken Tate and Janice Tate, published in 2000, ISBN 1882138503) has a photo and first-hand account by Emma B. Lee recounting her memories of riding to school in the hack.

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