Thompson & Wulff had the right moves

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 26, 2003

During the 70 years it was part of life in Albert Lea, Thompson & Wulff Transfer and Storage Co. took pride in three claims to local fame.

One was based on the fact that this firm was the first in the city to start a moving business. Another distinction was having the first horse-drawn

moving van in Albert Lea. And the third was based on this firm being the first to have a motorized moving van in the area.

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This firm was started in 1893 by Frank Thompson. His original partner was Earl Twist who sold his interest in the firm by 1900. In that year Ole J. Wulff became Thompson’s partner and the firm acquired the name it was to use for over six decades.

About 1908 Ole’s son, C. Bruce Wulff, started to work for the firm. When Ole Wulff died in 1920, his son soon became a partner with the founder who would become his uncle-in-law. That came about in 1923 when C Bruce married Margaret Thompson, the niece of Fred Thompson.

During its years of operations, the Thompson & Wulff firm had its stables (and later garages) and storage facilities at 619 Adams Ave. This location gave the company access to two railroads – the Minneapolis and St. Louis and the Chicago Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific. The firm’s office was on East William Street in the rear portion of the First National Bank building, and later at 223 E. Clark St.

A Tribune article in an August 1938 issue explained the firm’s history and business activities up to this time with:

&uot;At first the company only had a pair of long-eared mules hitched to a dray (wagon) that had to make repeat trips to move a small family to its new residence in the city, or get the traveler’s trunks from the depot, or hustle freight to and from the business places. But now it has horse power by the hundreds, pulling eight huge trucks and vans, some of which can take care of the entire contents of a six-room house at one hauling and safely carry It long distances in a few hours.

&uot;Frank Thompson started In the business with the mules and Is still sticking with the mechanical horses. He knows all about moving, and so do his men, several of whom have been with him for over twenty years. ‘Our men know their stuff,’ Mr. Thompson says with pride. ‘They are especially highly trained and experienced in moving household goods, which is vastly different from ordinary trucking. …

&uot;The company’s own vans go to points all over Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. When moving is to be done In other states, arrangements are made with the Allied Van Companies.

&uot;If you want your goods stored, Thompson & Wulff will take care of them in their sanitarily clean and dry storage rooms. If you have some furniture you do not wish to keep when you move, the company will sell it for you.

&uot;Of course the moving and storing of household goods Is not the only branch of the business. The company is the authorized agent for all four railroads entering this city, to make deliveries of freight shipments right to your store door. They also have charge of transferring freight shipments from one railroad station in the city to another. So careful are the men in these activities that In the three years since the company has had these railroad . contracts, not a single claim for damages has been brought against them.

&uot;The company takes care of deliveries of pool car shipments, such as are often made by chain stores; that is, a solid carload of goods composed of small shipments destined for various towns.

&uot;Trucking of all kinds, from the smallest item to the largest consignment is done by this company. It also owns a sand pit and does a good business selling and delivering sand for building and other purposes.&uot;

The firm’s president, Frank Thompson, served several terms as a member of the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners and as a trustee of the Naeve Hospital Association. When he died in February 1946, the operations of Thompson & Wulff were taken over by C. Bruce and Margaret Wulff.

In December 1953 the firm was sold to J. Leonard &uot;Red&uot; Whelan who sold his local cigar store about a year earlier. Whelan, who served as the commander of Leo Carey Post 56 and also District One commander of the American Legion, and seven years on the Albert Lea City Council, operated Thompson & Wulff firm until 1962. Then he sold the firm to Chester Edward Johnson.

Johnson soon merged Thompson & Wulff with another pioneer firm, Wm. Wittmer’s Truck Line, which he owned. Thus, the last listing for the firm which started over 70 years earlier with two mules pulling a wagon was in the 1965 city directory.

(Contact Ed Shannon at or call 379-3434.)