Moving Your Memories for over 100 years -- National Van Lines’ colorful history includes Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple, Bing Crosby and Al Capone’s garage.
All in the family
When National Van Lines CEO and Chairman Maureen Beal says moving is in her blood, she means it.
Her grandfather, F.J. McKee, started delivering ice and coal throughout Chicago in 1901 with one wagon and one pony. He soon began moving vaudeville sets for the likes of Charlie Chaplin from the trains they arrived on to the theaters they were performing in. He built his business on his reputation for careful handling – a reputation National Van Lines proudly holds to this day.
From the ashes
By 1916, McKee grew the business first from a horse, to a team of horses, then from a truck to an entire fleet. Today, National Van Lines is one of the largest moving companies in the United States – and one of the most successful.
But it wasn’t always a smooth ride. The family, and the company, overcame its share of adversity. In 1917, a warehouse fire destroyed all but one truck of McKee’s fleet. That same year, he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. The business was shuttered while he moved his family west, on his doctor’s advice, to recover.
Nevertheless, the moving business remained in his blood. Twelve years later, at the age of 50, he returned to Chicago with one truck and $500 to start what would become National Van Lines. It was 1929 – just in time for the company to weather the Great Depression.
Hollywood’s Romantic Irish Tenor
By 1931, McKee asked his son (Maureen’s father) F.L. McKee to return to Chicago to help steer the growing family business. This was no small request. While McKee was building a moving business, his son was building a Hollywood career.
Dubbed “Hollywood’s Romantic Irish Tenor,” F.L. McKee was singing with such popular crooners as Bing Crosby and sharing the stage with the likes of Shirley Temple while appearing in several Cecil B. Demille films.
From the famous to the infamous
Moving, however, was also in F.L. McKee’s blood. He returned to Chicago and joined the family business the same year Chicago mobster Al Capone was jailed for tax evasion. Later that decade, National Van Lines actually rented a storage space that turned out to be the Clarke Street garage where the St. Valentine’s Day massacre had occurred – bullet holes still visible in its brick wall!
Growing with the country
It was during the Great Depression that the trucking business really began to take off. Initially unregulated, there were few rules and fewer records kept by most truckers.
National Van Lines, however, was the exception. The company’s meticulous approach to the business enabled it to receive only the second coast-to-coast operating authority in the country in October 1942. Three years later, it became one of only five 48-state operators.
Today, with over 400 agents nationwide – military and domestic – and ranked as the 23rd largest certified woman-owned business in the U.S., National Van Lines has come a long way from its hard scrabble roots to become a more than $90-million-dollar a year enterprise in the household goods market.
A woman’s touch
Maureen Beal, who steers the company today, worked her way up from switchboard operator to CEO. Like her father, she spent time outside the family business, only to return because she missed it.
As one of the few female CEOs in the moving and storage industry, Beal sees her position as a distinct advantage – for the company and for the people they move.
Maureen has great empathy for the stress moving can cause families. She understands that a move is more than a physical relocation of boxes, appliances and furniture; it is an emotional transition. It is no accident that the company motto is, “Moving Your Memories.” Therefore, this third generation head of National Van Lines has kept the reputation her grandfather started for careful handling and customer service. The company consistently outranks its peers in overall customer satisfaction.
Concern for our environment
National Van Lines has supported the work and environmental goals of renowned artist Wyland since the 1990s. The artist created a full-coverage, decal design for the company’s trailers as part of its sponsorship of the Wyland Whaling Walls Tour, an educational campaign that blends science and the arts in the hope of fostering an appreciation of the ocean’s environmental value.
Next time you see a National Van Lines truck or trailer, remember our history, remember our reputation for careful handling and remember our concern for all aspects of your move. “Moving Your Memories” safely and efficiently is our number one priority.