The Age of the Automobile [] (2024)

The Age of the Automobile [] (1)

The Age of the Automobile [] (2)
Cruising in automobiles such as the Duesenberg pictured above was popular in America, but this typically Sunday afternoon family past time was largely discontinued during the depression.

Perhaps no invention affected American everyday life in the 20th century more than the automobile.

Although the technology for the automobile existed in the 19th century, it took Henry Ford to make the useful gadget accessible to the American public. Ford used the idea of the assembly line for automobile manufacturing. He paid his workers an unprecedented $5 a day when most laborers were bringing home two, hoping that it would increase their productivity. Furthermore, they might use their higher earnings to purchase a new car.

Ford reduced options, even stating that the public could choose whatever color car they wanted — so long as it was black. The Model T sold for $490 in 1914, about one quarter the cost of the previous decade. By 1920, there were over 8 million registrations. The 1920s saw tremendous growth in automobile ownership, with the number of registered drivers almost tripling to 23 million by the end of the decade.

Economic Spin-offs

The growth of the automobile industry caused an economic revolution across the United States. Dozens of spin-off industries blossomed. Of course the demand for vulcanized rubber skyrocketed. Road construction created thousands of new jobs, as state and local governments began funding highway design.

The Age of the Automobile [] (3)

Motorsports Hall of Fame

The famous 'Ford 999' racer from 1902. Although it is not the first race car ever built, it is certainly the first car to rise to the status of legend.

Even the federal government became involved with the Federal Highway Act of 1921. Gas stations began to dot the land, and mechanics began to earn a living fixing the inevitable problems. Oil and steel were two well-established industries that received a serious boost by the demand for automobiles. Travelers on the road needed shelter on long trips, so motels began to line the major long-distance routes.

Even cuisine was transformed by the automobile. The quintessential American foods — hamburgers, french fries, milk shakes, and apple pies — were hallmarks of the new roadside diner. Drivers wanted cheap, relatively fast food so they could be on their way in a hurry. Unfortunately, as new businesses flourished, old ones decayed. When America opted for the automobile, the nation's rails began to be neglected. As European nations were strengthening mass transit systems, individualistic Americans invested in the automobile infrastructure.

Effects of the Automobile

The social effects of the automobile were as great. Freedom of choice encouraged many family vacations to places previously impossible. Urban dwellers had the opportunity to rediscover pristine landscapes, just as rural dwellers were able to shop in towns and cities. Teenagers gained more and more independence with driving freedom. Dating couples found a portable place to be alone as the automobile helped to facilitate relaxed sexual attitudes.

Americans experienced traffic jams for the first time, as well as traffic accidents and fatalities. Soon demands were made for licensure and safety regulation on the state level. Despite the drawbacks, Americans loved their cars. As more and more were purchased, drivers saw their worlds grow much larger.

The Age of the Automobile [] (2024)


What is the importance of the automobile in American history how did cars change America? ›

The automobile changed many things in the United States. These included changes for industry and technology and everyday life. Automobile manufacturing became one the first industries to use the assembly line. The automobile gave people more personal freedom and access to jobs and services.

What are at least three social effects of the automobile upon American society in the 1920s? ›

More specifically, the Lynds found that the automobile had such effects as the following: (1) family budgets had changed dramatically; (2) ministers complained that people drove their cars rather than going to church; (3) parents were concerned that their boys and girls were spending too much time together "motoring"; ...

What is the age of the automobile? ›

Benz was granted a patent for his automobile on 29 January 1886, and began the first production of automobiles in 1888, after Bertha Benz, his wife, had proved—with the first long-distance trip in August 1888, from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back—that the horseless coach was capable of extended travel.

What were some results of the automobile revolution in America? ›

Effects of the Automobile

Freedom of choice encouraged many family vacations to places previously impossible. Urban dwellers had the opportunity to rediscover pristine landscapes, just as rural dwellers were able to shop in towns and cities. Teenagers gained more and more independence with driving freedom.

How did the automobile change society? ›

The automobile gave people more personal freedom and access to jobs and services. It led to development of better roads and transportation. Industries and new jobs developed to supply the demand for automobile parts and fuel. These included petroleum and gasoline, rubber, and then plastics.

How did the automobile change American life economically? ›

The rapid expansion of the automobile industry created jobs throughout the country and played a large role in sustaining the economic prosperity of the 1920s. In 1929, at the peak of the decade's economic boom, there were more than 330,000 people employed at automobile dealerships in the country.

How did the automobile affect people's lifestyles in the 1920s? ›

Cars revolutionized American life. They eased the isolation of rural families and let more people live farther from work. A new kind of worker, the auto commuter, appeared. Other forms of urban transportation, such as the trolley, became less popular.

Why did the automobile have a major impact on the United States in the twenties? ›

Answer. The automotive industry made a major impact In the 20s because it created many jobs between the assembly lines,building roads and drilling for oil and gasoline.

How has the automobile impacted society today? ›

Employment and consumption habits. The development of the car has contributed to changes in employment distribution, shopping patterns, social interactions, manufacturing priorities and city planning; increasing use of cars has reduced the roles of walking, horses and railroads.

How old is the oldest car? ›

The oldest running car in the world is La Marquise, an 1884 model made in France. It has a steam engine and three wheels. The car was entered in an 1887 exhibition race from Paris to Versailles.

What is the golden age of the automobile? ›

By 1950, most factories had made the transition to a consumer-based economy, and more than 8 million cars were produced that year alone. By 1958, there were more than 67 million cars registered in the United States, more than twice the number at the start of the decade.

What was the first car ever? ›

On January 29, 1886, Carl Benz applied for a patent for his “vehicle powered by a gas engine.” The patent – number 37435 – may be regarded as the birth certificate of the automobile. In July 1886 the newspapers reported on the first public outing of the three-wheeled Benz Patent Motor Car, model no. 1.

What did everyone desire the most in the 1920s? ›

Affordable automobiles

New possibilities of mobility opened up in the 1920s for a large percentage of the US population. Once a luxury item, cars became within reach for many more consumers as automobile manufacturers began to mass produce automobiles.

What are three ways the automobile changed American life? ›

Yet the automobile did reduce travel time, did reduce rural isolation, did increase life's pleasures, did a lion's share of boosting the economy. In the 1920s, as never before, the automobile became a must-have item for the successful American, and it was changing everything.

What was life like before cars? ›

Before the invention of trains and automobiles, animal power was the main form of travel. Horses, donkeys, and oxen pulled wagons, coaches, and buggies. The carriage era lasted only a little more than 300 years, from the late seventeenth century until the early twentieth century.

How did America change as a result of the car? ›

Increased automobile ownership was just one example of Americans' rising standard of living. Real per capita earnings soared 22 percent between 1923 and 1929 even as work hours decreased. In 1923 U.S. Steel cut its daily work shift from 12 hours to 8 hours.

How important are cars in America? ›

Americans still largely rely on their car to get to work and back. According to Statista's Global Consumer Survey, 76 percent of American commuters use their own car to move between home and work, making it by far the most popular mode of transportation.

How did car culture change American life? ›

The automobile and the Interstate became the American symbol of individuality and freedom, and, for the first time, automobile buyers accepted that the automobile they drove indicated their social standing and level of affluence. It became a statement of their personality and an extension of their self-concepts.

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