About Us/History

History of Merchants Distribution Company

In 1974 two pioneers of the transfer and storage business in Iowa merged to become one. That merger symbolizes the free enterprise practices endorsed by both companies since their inception and represents their continuing effort to provide top-quality service to clientele.

White Line Transfer and Storage Company

The older of the two companies, White Line Transfer and Storage Company, was founded in 1880 by Pleasant J. Mills. Known as Jones and Mills, the transfer company opened new offices at 211 Fourth Street in Des Moines in 1882. Its storage warehouse was in the old Carver and Young Planing Mill on Fifth Street.

Business progressed satisfactorily and soon enabled the company to build the first storage warehouse proper, at Fifth and Market in 1894. After Mills' death in 1933 the White Line was operated by his estate and two managers (1933-1955). In 1955 the company was sold to Charles Barrett. In 1960 he sold the White Line to Bruce Transfer and Storage Company.

Merchants Transfer and Storage

Merchants Transfer and Storage was founded in 1892 by William Linton Hinds as a successor to McNutt & Sons Express. From the McNutt establishment it moved to the Des Moines Register Building on the southeast corner of Fourth and Court Avenue, and in 1896, to the new Union Station at Fifth and Cherry Streets.

Merchants Transfer and Storage Company was incorporated in 1901 with Hinds as President, F.P. Thompson as Vice President, and Harry D. Liddle as Secretary-Treasurer. Liddle had been in the moving and storage industry since the age of 21 and later became the company's president and treasurer. His son, David M. Liddle, joined Merchants in 1927. David Liddle held various positions with the company through the years and succeeded his father as President in 1961.

In 1910, a new seven-story, quarter-block warehouse was built on the southeast corner of Ninth and Mulberry Streets. A 1910 issue of the publication, The Midwestern, states that the storage house was "of fireproof construction", there being absolutely no timber in it. The Midwestern describes the building's many safeguards and features, concluding, "it is the purpose of the company to give the public a service superior to any west of Chicago".

In 1952 Merchants leased a ten-acre tract of land between 12th and 14th Streets, south of Market Street, where it began development of some modern one-story warehouse buildings.

In 1967 Merchants was sold to Bruce Transfer and Storage Co., David Liddle retired and D.R. (Barney) Dickinson was named Vice President of the company.

In 1971, all of the Bruce Transfer and Storage companies, which now included both the White Line and Merchants, were sold to Mid American Lines of Kansas City.

Creating Merchants Distribution Company

The White Line and the Merchants operations merged in 1974. In 1977 Merchants White Line Warehousing, Inc. was purchased by D.R. Dickinson. His son, Greg A. Dickinson, joined Merchants White Line in 1980 as a manager of the operation. Greg Dickinson held an upper management position with the company and succeeded his father as President in 1989.

Today we live in an age that has learned to embrace change. "Change is the cousin of the American Dream" and though sometimes uncomfortable, change unlocks worlds of opportunity. In 1988, Merchants purchased a rail-served facility at 1850 East Euclid Avenue in Des Moines. This facility has expanded twice since 1988. In 2008 a parcel of land was purchased in Altoona, Iowa for a new rail-served facility. This facility replaced the Market Street (ML King) facility, becoming the new corporate headquarters. Whether by truck or by rail, Merchants White Line has continued to grow for over 125 years.