What's getting picked up anyway?

For “pickup” (like the truck), Etymonline says: “The notion probably being of a vehicle for use to “pick up” (feed, lumber, etc.) and deliver it where it was wanted.” [1]

Recently, in a Jay Leno’s Garage Youtube video, at 11:24 Leno says: “It comes from when Henry Ford sold the Model T and Sears sold a kit where you could take the trunk off and put a pickup bed in the back… So you went down to the railway station to pick up your truck piece… So they called it ‘pickup truck’”. [2]

So if Leno is right, then it is the truck bed itself that is being “picked up” and not the contents within the truck bed. Any ideas on where supporting evidence for this etymology could be found?

[1] pickup | Etymology of pickup by etymonline
[2] https://youtu.be/BGDOKD7ZZqI?si=q11ogFT_muuBW9h7&t=683

Thanks for the tip. I don’t have time for TV, but I went back to the earliest use of “pick-up body” in the automobile publications. It was indeed a Ford innovation, I did not know that. But the earliest descriptions of it do make it pretty clear that the name was connected to the notion of a delivery vehicle.

Here’s “Automotive Industries” April 23, 1925:

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Hmm, nice find. After some more searching, I also am seeing the term “pick-up wagon” predating the truck. I think that increases the likelihood that the term is a carryover.

Also curious, what did you use to search automotive publications?

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There’s a fair selection of mechanical trade publications in the Google Books corpus. I also tried newspaper advertisements in the relevant years (newspapers dot com) but as you might predict the trade publications had it before the ad men made it public. “Pick-up wagon” is just the sort of thing you’d go looking for to learn if the adjectival phrase was older than the automobile.

It’s also worth noting that in the “Automotive Industries” clip the term “pick-up” isn’t in quotation marks or otherwise introduced. The writers use it as though they expect readers to recognize it. That makes me suspect it’s older somewhere.

And you could wonder why “pick-up” when a delivery wagon also drops off, but “drop-off body” just doesn’t sound like something you want to drive around inside.