Harold Goman founded Chicago Express with the help of his wife in 1943. Though the company was named for Chicago, Illinois, it was headquartered in New York City. It was named for its initial route, which ran direct service between New York City and Chicago.
In 1950, the company announced a new terminal was to be built in Syracuse, New York. Though the company had only been in business for seven years, it was now running freight on routes to points in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio. By 1953, Chicago Express was reporting revenues of over $1 million. If its success was not totally shocking, it should be noted that Chicago Express grew its business completely organically. At that time, the fastest way to grow and gain operating authority was to purchase companies with a desirable operating area, rather than petition the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) for the rights to operate on those routes.
Contrary to industry norms of the time, Chicago Express was built without a single acquisition in order to gain any routes, equipment or revenue.
Ten years after reporting its first $1 million in revenue, another company began to take notice of Chicago Express’ success and large operating area. Chicago Express was operating from Boston to St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1963, McLean Trucking Corporation of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, began to petition the ICC for permission to acquire the fast-growing Northeastern giant. In January 1965, the ICC approved the acquisition. At the time, McLean had 61 terminals in 20 states, and was grossing $61 million annually.
In its prime, Chicago Express operated 21 terminals and reported annual revenues in excess of $13 million and had a pristine safety and maintenance record. As it turned out, its success made it a target for acquisition by a larger company.