GM Futurliner Visits Minneapolis

At the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, General Motors President Charles F. Kettering was walking through GM’s science and technology exhibit when he was struck with an idea. What if GM could bring such an exhibit directly to the people?

Kettering’s concept, later named the “Parade of Progress”, first came to be in 1936. Setting out from Lakeland, Florida, a caravan of GM vans, tractor trailers and other vehicles made their way across the United States. Manned by a crew of young university graduates, the exhibits highlighted then-cutting edge innovations such as jet engines, microwave ovens, early television technology and stereophonic sound.

When the Parade of Progress was revamped for another tour in 1940, the old vans and tractor trailers were replaced by a fleet of 12 custom-built buses called the Futurliner. More than thirty feet long and twelve tons in weight, the Futurliner was a mobile exhibition hall. The sides of the bus folded up to create semi-covered exhibits and stages. The photos above, taken by Marvin Juell, appear to be a Futurliner on display at the Parade, now the Walker Scupture Garden, possibly during the Aquatennial celebration that year.

The 1940-1941 Parade of Progress was suspended after the outbreak of World War Two. A new tour was later launched from 1953-1956 however it proved less of a draw than it originally was and the program was discontinued. At least 9 of the original 12 Futurliner buses still exist in the hands of private collectors and companies.

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Photos from the recently digitized Marvin Juell negative collection (over 700 images). Juell worked for the Minneapolis Public Library.

This post was researched and written by Special Collections volunteer Nick Steffel.