First He Made Lingerie, Then He Made Tarps

How Aero founder Paul Tuerk turned a skill for fitting women into a business fitting trucks

It’s been said that “If Paul could fit a woman, he could fit a truck.” Aero Industries Founding Father Paul Tuerk’s tailoring skills literally began with fitting women’s bodies. Later, he applied those skills to trucks, developing fitted tarps that kept products dry. How did he get from Point A (slips and bras) to Point B (custom-fitted tarps)? Here’s the story in pictures.

When Aero began crafting custom-fitted tarps in 1948, it was a natural next step for Aero Industries founder Paul Tuerk. Truck owners wanted to seal out wind and water to protect their goods during shipping. Constructing lingerie, Paul had developed skills for doing just that. Of the complex seams and darts required in both processes, one employee quipped, “If Paul could fit a woman, he could fit a truck.” Here’s a closer look at how Aero’s founding father adapted his skill for manufacturing bras into innovative solutions in the tarp industry, just in time for the postwar boom.

Creating a garment to fit the shape of a woman’s body that would flex with her movement was no easy feat. Living on the outskirts of Chicago in the early 1920s, Paul Tuerk started a lingerie business that sold bras and slips and began to develop skills that would one day give him an advantage in the tarp industry.

(Image credit: Patent drawing of Maidenform brassiere, 1938 William Rosenthal and Charles M. Sachs, Maidenform Co., New York, New York)

At Mona Vana, Tuerk sold bras and slips via mail order. The advertisements often ran in magazines.

(Image credit: The Daily Tribune, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, Fri, Dec 3, 1926)

Tuerk partnered with a French designer, Mrs. Darsh, to produce the Mona Vana line of lingerie. She did the designing. He did the selling.

(Image credit: Tulsa World, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Wed, May 4, 1927)

Paul’s two lingerie ventures sold slips and bras through mail order. The impacts of the Great Depression shuttered both businesses.

(Image credit: Grace Bros mannequin parade, Sydney, November 1936, from the collection of the State Library of New South Wales )

Paul’s experience as manager of the Marshall Fields & Company lingerie plant outside Chicago gave him quality control experience. Paul worked to correct issues that had been leading to high return rates.

After Paul gained experience working with canvas at Hoosier Tarpaulin, he had the final piece he needed. Coupling his design, quality control, sales and entrepreneurial skills with his new know-how and industry connections, Paul launched his own canvas enterprise, the company that would become Aero Industries.

Paul recognized the need for a customized product beyond the flat tarps. His company sold custom-fitted tarps to protect the contents during shipments. Trucking companies would pay a premium for these customizations that protected against water damage and prevented loss from wind.

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