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What was used for truck and commercial vehicle tarps in the 1920s plus earlier and maybe later?

The Dec issue of Skinned Knuckles magazine had an article by Eric Haartz of Haartz Fabrics on materials used for trucks and commercial vehicles. He indicated that both oil cloth and untreated canvas were used prior to about 1915. From 1915 to c1930+ the use of untreated canvas was small, and oil cloth was used.

This oil cloth was different than the coated cloths used after WW2, which were vinyl coated fabrics. I remember my Mother using this newer "oil cloth" as table cloths. The pre-WW2 oil cloth was made by fully soaking a cotton duck cloth in boiled linseed oil, draining the excess, then drying.

So, for authenticity reasons, do we know whether oil cloth or untreated canvas (cotton duck) was used as tarps in the 1920s?

My own interest is hose bed tarps for fire apparatus (of course), but the information will apply also to trucks and commercial vehicles.


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My memory does not go back to 1920 but I remember the waterproof canvas tarps, tents etc. They had a funny smell, that must have been the linseed oil.

When I was a kid my Boy Scout troop used to go camping in WW2 surplus bell tents made of smelly canvas. The leaders waterproofed them with paraffin wax melted over a Coleman stove and applied with a big paint brush.

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The Diamond T that my Grandfather drove (in Winnipeg) from 1934 until 1963 had an untreated canvas top. I remember in 1950 they put sockets and bows on all their trucks and had the old canvass resewn into proper permanent top and sides. Prior to this the tarps were folded flat, carried on the cab top and unfolded and tied down when needed. Some of the new trucks that had the old stake bodies transfered from the trade ins were using the same canvas tops up until the 80's.

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