Automobile:from Horse To Horsepower

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"In the first hundred years of active life, it has been described as a menace ands a blessing, a blight and a godsend, as a savior of our countryside and cities, and as their curse, as socially divisive and the greatest social leveler. It has been worshipped and reviled, celebrated and scorned." The automobile is an invention that has had a tremendous impact on society. The automobile has taken diverse segments of the American population; farmers, small town residents and urban dwellers and given them access to the same opportunities and experiences. Autos have given us motels, shopping plazas, drive-thru’s, vacations, commuting, and, certainly not the least, suburbia. The genesis of the automobile is one of the most profound and important chapters in the development of American culture. Before the automobile, people traveled by means of bicycles, trains, street cars and horse-drawn carriages. These methods of transportation were slow, limited and not private. Up until the about 1880, inventors experimented with building a "horseless carriage." These experiments were powered mainly by steam, and were not practical. They traveled at slow speeds (six miles an hour), were very noisy, frightened horses, smelled awful and polluted the air. Sometimes the coals (used to make steam) would fall off the auto, and burn wooden bridges down. Railroads and stage coach lines hated the automobiles because they did not want competition. Autos were scarce and ridiculed by most of the population. "The car began life as a rich man’s toy, rather than a means of transport or as an instrument of social change." They were displayed in circuses because they were considered a wacky idea with no future. The development and acceptance of the automobile in America took place around the turn of the century, from 1895 to 1910. The most successful steam car was the Stanley Steamer, invented in Newton, Massachusetts in 1897 by Francis and Freelan Stanley. It was produced until 1924. The steam car did not fare well because it was not suited for long distance travel, was too hard to start and posed the hazard of an open fire. In the late 1890’s and early 1900’s the electric car was the most popular type of automobile. William Morrison was the creator of this type of car. People liked the electric car because it was easy to operate, ran quietly and did not give off fumes. Unfortunately for modern society, the electric cars could not go faster than 20 miles an hour, and the battery had to be recharged every fifty miles.

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