History of the CarPeople lives changed more during twentiethcentury than in any previous period in history. With so many inventionscame in this period, there are few of them that have influenced and changedworld more than automobile. Since most people alive today have grownup in the automotive age, the impact of the automobile on the society iseasily overlooked.
Out of experiments in many places and withmany elements of design, the essential features of the automobile emergedaround the turn of the century. In the last quarter of the nineteenthcentury, and especially in the 1890’s, much work was carried in France,Germany, Great Britain, Austria, and United States to develop practicaldesigns of both vehicle and motor. In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler, whohad previously worked with Dr Nikolaus August Otto, applied a single cylinderand air-cooled vertical machine to a carriage. A few years laterDaimler created his first “four wheeled wooden built light wagonnete” poweredby petrol.Order now
Karl Benz of Manheim (Germany) then built an engine specificallyintended for motor cars, leading to the four-wheelers (Thomas 321). As petrol cars became more dependable the advantage of not having to waituntil steam was generated gave them clear superiority over the steamers,and the self-starter took away the principal advantage from electric propulsion. At the beginning of the century, petrol driven internal-combustion motorcar had established itself as the dominant mechanical road vehicle andstarted its expansion with great rapidity (Ware 291). In 1894, the French newspaper La PetitJournal introduced a new invention to the wider public by organizing atrial run of motor cars from Paris to Rouen. In 1895 the race wasorganized from Paris to Bordeaux.
The winner averaged fifteen milesan hour. In the first decade of 1900’s, French led the world in theproduction of cars, and automobiles even took part in French army maneuvers. In England, they were allowed to travel on roads at fourteen miles an hour. Around the same time in the United States, Henry Ford was making twin-cylinderwater-cooled engine cars, which traveled at 25 miles an hour. (Zeldin II640). Car ownership early in the century was limited to the rich and privileged.
The revolution in the whole character of the car, as well as its methodof manufacture, was made by the introduction of mass production. In 1908, Henry Ford, a farmer’s boy from Michigan with little education,conceived the idea of a car designed for the masses. After carefulexamination of the Sears Roebuck factory, he began mass production of hismodel T car. The benefit of this mass-production was a low-pricedand affordable car. It was the beginning of mass production and massacceptance of automobiles.
The consequence was that, in 1913, therewere already over a million automobiles on the United States roads as opposedto 200,000 in Great Britain, 90,000 in France, and a mere 70,000 in Germany(Zeldin 649). Cars, which were not mentioned in the census of theUnited States’ business in 1900, soon will be at the top of the list. The rapid development of cars requireda great range of facilities. Around the turn of the century and fornearly two decades into the 1900’s, most roads continued to be made ofsand, clay, or dirt. So, when it rained, they became quagmires. The roads surfaced with gravel or sand which had served for the trafficof the horse-drawn vehicles, were soon find to be entirely inadequate formotor transport.
The car whipped up a cloud of dust, loosened andwore the surface, and broke down the roadbed with its weight. In1903, The Grand Prix automobile race from Paris to Madrid was called offin the mid-course after many of the drivers, blinded by dust, crashed todeath. It wasn’t until the end of the first decade of this century,when modern road-building techniques began to evolve rapidly, that roadsbegan to be paved with concrete. Constructors started to use asphalt,which provided a solid surface (Ware 294). By than, however, therewere thousands automobiles worldwide.
So, driving a car in the earlypart of the century was more adventure than pleasure. Getting stuckin mud midway through trip, hitting a rut and breaking an axle or slidinginto a ditch were all-too-common occurrences for early motorists. Car travel depended upon the availabilityof the fuel. In the beginning the fuel resources were located inthe few places such as: United States, northern South America, Romania,and southern Russia. Retail petrol-supply points were needed alongthe roads. Car travels, also, brought need for overnight accommodation.
At first private citizens, who lived along the main roads offered touristaccommodation in their spare rooms. Later they built a small single-roomcabins with space at the side for the car. By 1955 motor vehicles in the United Stateswere more numerous than homes. There was one motor vehicle for every2. 6 persons in the population. Comparable figures for other countriesshowed one vehicle per 4.
4 persons in New Zealand, one per 9 persons inDenmark (the most in Europe), one per 70 persons in the Soviet Union, oneper 92 persons in Brazil, one per 98 persons in Japan, and one per 4,975persons in China. Five years later European continent became crowdedwith cars, and on the British roads it increased to one vehicle per 6 inhabitants. The major automobile production in the mid-century was in the United States. More than two thirds of the world’s passenger cars and half of its busseswere being manufactured in the United States. Only mechanical excellenceof the car wasn’t enough any more. Manufacturers started to emphasizeother features in order to beat the competition and sell more cars, whichbecame not only a means of transport, but also a means of display.
Lower-priced cars copied the style of the higher-priced models until thecars on the road became virtually undistinguishable. Various improvementsin design offered increased safety too. Glass that cracks but notbreaks, metal body, hydraulic brakes, and improved tyres reduced dangerof driving the car (Thomas 323). Despite all improvements automobiles remaineda dangerous vehicle, and automobile accidents constituted a major sourceof death and injury in the 1950’s. More than 35,000 people perishedannually from motor accidents in the United States in the 1950’s.
In Great Britain during the Second World War the number of deaths causedby automobile accidents was more than two-thirds as great as fatalitiesfrom the air raids, in spite of the fact that motor travel was severelylimited by petrol rationing (Ware 297). This wasn’t the only disadvantage. Congestion of the roads and of city streets grew worse with each passingyear. Parking became a huge problem. Fumes from the exhaustof thousand of vehicles became a menace to health. Noise also madea city living more difficult.
The oil resources, on which the whole “car-age”depended, were discovered in a few new areas: Persian Gulf, Arabian Peninsula,and the Indonesian archipelago (Ware 295). The whole network of pipelineswas established to carry oil to great distances. Tanker fleets andtank cars were also means of transportation of oil. Car had a unique cultural impact on virtuallyall aspects of life in 1950’s.
The freedom and mobility affordedby auto ownership created the suburbs and shopping malls, helped lead tothe death of core cities and changed housing styles. For example,in United States 70% of the families had a car in 1955 and one family in10 owned two cars or more (Ware 297). The face of our cities as wellhas undergone major surgery since the advent of automobile. Sincemost available jobs were around industrial and manufacturing centers atthe turn of the century, most people were living densely packed lives inthe cities.
However a major population shift began to occur thanksprimarily to the ease of transportation provided by the automobile. Now one didn’t have to live near the place of the work, for transportationwas much easier. Suburban areas sprang up and many people fled theovercrowding in the cities. In the United States after World WarII, the garage gets moved forward and attached to the house and becomesymbol of success. The automobile also gave people access to cheapland where they could build bigger, more sprawling homes. There wouldbe no ranch houses without the car.
Social life wasn’t limited toone’s own neighborhood or even town any more. It wasn’t that longago, with the exception of the intrepid pioneers, that the average citizenwould never move further than ten miles from the place they were born. At this period it is not unusual for individuals to move hundreds and sometimesthousands of miles from their birthplace. This new mobility has beena major factor in the changing of the family structure.
For mostof the history the extended family and multi-generation households werethe norm. The automobile has influenced every area of pop culture,from movies to literature, too. Movies such as the 1955 James Deanclassic “Rebel Without A Cause”, with its 1949 customized Mercury, foreverwill be linked with rebellious teens. In the United States, the automobile camewithin reach of the average wage earner earlier in the century.
Inthe Europe, it didn’t do so until 1950’s. That explains the disparityin the number of cars in use between United States and Europe. In1950, France had 2,150,000 cars in use, Great Britain 3,290,000, and UnitedStates 49,143,275. Roads in the 1950’s were incomparably betterthan those from the beginning of the century.
Least noticeable, butperhaps important, were miles of local, secondary roads and streets thatallow people to drive within a community and get to the highways. Through traffic was separated from local by special through motorways. The Autostrade in Italy, Autobhanen in Germany, and Turnpike in the UnitedStates were some of the best roads. These fast throughways permittedextremely rapid automobile travel from city to city.
In 1957, therewere nearly 4,000 miles of such motorways in West and East Germany andformerly Germany Poland, about 600 miles in the rest of Europe (mainlyItaly), and some 2,500 miles in the United States (Thomas 330). It is hard to exaggerate the influenceof the motor car on the industrialized countries. From the earlyyears, when it was an experimental vehicle of interest only to technicalenthusiasts, automobile became a necessity in the lives of millions offamilies and businesses. It became, at the same time, a symbol ofprestige and status and the basis of a major industry. As the automobilehangs precariously on the cliff edge between necessity and status symbolone must agree that to get by today without an automobile is quite an impossibletask.