Automobiles in Early America

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Automobiles in Early America

The automobile changed American life, but the process was gradual. Though historians argue the date and inventor of the first automobile, we can say that Henry Ford’s creation of his Ford Motor Company in 1903 marked perhaps the major milestone of the early twentieth century automobile industry in America and around the world. Five years after the company’s inception, Ford’s legendary Model T of 1908 would revolutionize transportation and the world economy. Before the Model T, automobiles in the US were associated with only the wealthier class. Ford sought to make cars available to every American. His cars would assume the general build that continues to characterize automobiles today, and his innovation and system of production would make him a legend.[i] The automobile led to an extremely advanced system of roads and contributed to an American mentality of freedom to move.[ii] Early drivers saw both benefits and difficulties as the automobile became the standard American mode of transportation.

Philip Van Doren Stern, American historian and writer, describes the early years of automobiles in the US. Between 1904 and 1907, roads were unpaved and cars were not enclosed, so it was of utmost importance to wear proper attire. Clothes were made to protect against dust and rain, but these high-class riders required this new gear to be made from the best materials, like leather and fur. In the 1920s, when most cars were built completely enclosed, there was no longer a need for these elaborate outfits. During the early years of the century, drivers braved uncharted territory with their automobiles despite the rugged mechanics of the vehicles and the absence of smoot...

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[vi] Thompson, Fred. (most of paragraph’s information comes from web site above)

[vii] Bellis, Henry Ford and The First Mass Production of Cars – The Assembly Line,

[viii] Antique Automobile Club of America, Automotive History – A Chronological History

[ix] Weingroff, Richard F. The Federal-State Partnership at Work. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration Public Roads Web site, 1996.

[x] Weingroff, The Federal-State Partnership at Work.

[xi] Stern, pages 154-173

[xii] University of Houston.

[xiii] Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury. New York: Vintage Books, 1984.

[xiv] Stern, page 23

[xv] Antique Automobile Club of America, Automotive History – The Assembly Line

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