History Of The Automobile

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The automobile may be the greatest invention ever created on the face of the earth. It

completely changed the way people lived and completely changed our society. Just

imagine life without a car, everyday would be dull, cumbersome, and boring. Citizen’s

mobility would be very limited. Thus, life without an automobile, in today’s society,

would not be competent. Therefore people often take the importance of the automobile

for granted, and the effect it has created on society. It has created many positive effects

on society. The Automobile provided an outlet for individuals and spread the freedom of

travel among all classes of people. Over this essay, I will discuss the huge effect the

automobile had on early twentieth century society.

The automobile was not assembled in one single day or created by one single

person it took many years and many people to produce what we know as the automobile.

“It has been estimated that over 100, 000 patents created the modern automobile” . The

birth place of the automobile was in Europe. A man by the Name of Nicolas Joseph

Cugnot built the first road vehicle which was to be used as a military tractor in France.

Cugnot used a steam engine to power his vehicle, which only had three wheels and could

only go 2 1/2 mph. It was a very clumsy vehicle that was shot into the air when it reached

the top speed of three miles an hour. After Cugnot’s three wheel steam engine hit the

surface several inventors improved on his invention with such things as: the four-wheeled

steam engine vehicle, gears were created, advanced steam cars were built and steam

coaches were even built. Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler provided the beginning of the

gasoline automobile. They created vehicles that were the ancestors of modern gasoline

powered engines. They used two different approaches, Daimler began with the

motorcycle and Benz used the tricycle. Each technique needed a component of the others

approach. Daimler used the high-speed motor, but Benz used the spark ignition. It would

help lead to the future development of the automobile . Karl Benz created the world’s

first gas-fueled car on January, 29, 1886, when it was patent. It was a three-wheeled car,

but Benz shortly built the four wheeler gas-fueled car five years later. However, it was

Gottlieb Daimler who built the world’s first four-wheeled gas-fueled car on March, 8,

1886. Once the prototypes were made big businesses started to make a big interest in

automobiles. Early pioneers such as Ransom E. Olds and Henry Ford helped make the car

more practical to the middle class. Henry Ford especially drew an interest to making car’s

more affordable, efficient, and reliable for the middle class. He introduced his model

T.12 in 1906 which arguably created the automobile frenzy. In 1914 Henry fords factory

in Highland Park, Michigan produced more than 300,000 units alone . As years went on

cars even became more affordable. In 1908, when the T model first came out the cars

were selling for around $2000-3000, but when the automobiles were being manufactured

more efficiently the prices declined to $575 in 1912 and $300 in the 1920’s!. At prices

around $300 cars started to become increasingly visible in towns and cities. Big

company’s and businesses saw this as a opportunity to make money, they invested in the

automobile industry which translated to the massive industry it is today.

The impact of automobiles on society had many positive effects. Maybe one of

the most important effects the automobile created on society was transportation. In early

centuries, people would use horses as a means of transportation. The horses dragged a

wagon with two wheels which held people and goods. It would take these horses around

four days to travel from Boston to New York, and around eight days to travel from

Boston to Baltimore. In a car, it takes approximately 3 hours to drive from Boston to New

York and six hours to drive from Boston to Baltimore . This illustrates how automobiles

have allowed any class of people to travel and acquire freedom. Once people were able to

travel pretty much anywhere society started to change, “Motels, holiday resorts, gasoline

stations, fast-food restaurants, and supermarkets were introduced…[This] in turn changed

the way that Americans spent their leisure time” . The automobile became a sign of status

for young men and ladies in the 1920s. The impact of the automobile on dating and

mating is an area that is frequently studied. The automobile produced a notion that men

were almost expected to pick up a girl for a dance in a motor vehicle. The automobile

was looked at a social essential for teenagers . The automobile became a necessity for

dating in the mid 1920s. Automobiles helped to replace the traditional date of visiting the

mate in his/her parlor of porch. Dating and mating in the automobile produced thousand

of drive-in fast food stands and drive-in theaters. Hamburgers, hot dogs, soft drinks and

milk shakes were served at the food stand to customers who ate in their cars. The food

was carried out in trays, which produced tray girls . Tray girls became one of the most

popular attractions at the drive-in food stands. The drive-ins were low in cost and

provided an outlet for dating. Automobiles also opened up the possibility of farm children

going to town schools, where they were provided with better facilities and greater

educational choices. It also gave farm communities the ability to shop at will, rather than

once or twice a year. Town was within shopping range and there were also clubs,

theaters, and numerous other activities that the average farm family had previously been

denied. Automobiles also helped to increase the women’s role in society. The tradition

role of a woman was limited to the house. Her life consisted of doing household chores

and providing a relaxing environment for her husband. The automobile allowed women

to escape the limits of the house. It changed women’s role from being producers of food

and clothing into consumers of prepared food and ready-made clothing . Women were

now able to do out-of town shopping. The electric refrigerator permitted women to buy a

week’s amount of food, instead of daily shopping . One of the early impacts of the

automobile was it promoted the sport of auto racing. The designs of early automobiles

were geared for racing. This was a logical purpose because racing provided great

advertisement for the cars. Also, it was a way for the designers of the automobile to test

their ideas. The sport of auto racing, referring to NASCAR, is the one of the biggest

sports in America today. Over 60,000 spectators watch a single race not including the

television viewers. The automobile also portrayed some negative effects to society. In

America, the present of the automobile deeply affected the railroad service. Motor

vehicles began to cut into the business of the railroad. Motor trucks started to transport a

large amount of goods, and buses started to cut into passenger trains business. The train

was once the main basis of transportation, but once the car was surfaced people no longer

needed to follow a schedule . As automobiles started to increase so did the traffic jams.

People would fine themselves in huge traffic jams. The traffic jams would cause the cars

to start and stop, causing cars to overheat or run out of gas which would result in more

jams and chaos. The scenery of cities started to change. As more vehicles were on the

road more businesses were servicing causing pollution. A large amount of food wrappers,

beer bottles, pop cans and other garbage would lounge on the streets. Crimes rates started

to increase as the automobile grew, people started to spend more time on the highways

then in church, which resulted in an increase in death tolls due highway accidents.

However the vehicle had a lot more positive effects in the twentieth century it utilized

freedom, travel, and immensely helped a struggling economy.

The emergence of the automobile forever changed our economy. Prior to the

early 1900’s, owning an automobile was strictly limited to the wealthy. The Ford

organization manufactured the Model N, which was a large expensive automobile. Henry

Ford decided to manufacture a small car and mass market it for less than 1000.00 dollars.

His “common people” automobile, the Model T, became the best-known car in the world,

with over 17 million having been sold. The birth of the automobile industry was due to a

combination of technical, industrial, and human effort. The auto industry expanded the

economy of the nation . In 1915, over 355,000 automobiles were produced. As new

methods were developed, the price of the average automobile dropped to $440.00. As the

industry continued to grow, 2 million automobiles were mass-produced in 1923, and the

price of the automobile further dropped to $290.00. This created competition as many

other American car producers hit the surface. “Auto sales reached almost 4.5 million in

1929” . For the first time installment plans were introduced in 1923, which we still use

today, over three quarters of cars were purchased on credit . The automobile had one of

its greatest impacts on the industries that directly contributed to the motor vehicle. The

fuel and tire industry shared the greatest natural impact of the automobile. The emergence

of the automobile almost immediately revolutionized the petroleum industry. Before

1900, only a very small amount of petroleum was converted into gasoline. Basically,

gasoline was regarded highly as an unattractive useless product. Gasoline was so

unpopular that it was actually thrown away . With the arrival of the gasoline automobile,

it helped to increase the amount of oil supply through the opening of new oil fields. This

singly handily created one of the biggest industries today, the oil industry. The rubber

industry had a very comparable story to the petroleum industry. The automobile’s impact

on the rubber industry changed its nature. Before automobiles rubber was a very limited

used resource. Motor vehicles changed that, since rubber is such a huge component in

tires. The automobile led the rubber industry to discover better methods of making tires.

Motor vehicles helped lead to the invention of pneumatic tires for trucks . Road

construction was another huge benefit to the economy. The present of the automobile

caused roads to better constructed, so old roads were rebuilt and new roads were added.

The improvement of roads caused an increase in the transportation of goods. Goods were

able to be transported to cities much quicker and efficient causing an increase of imports

and exports. The automobile became a major export in the twentieth century. Not only in

America and Canada, but in countries such as: the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and

Germany, motor vehicles were essential to creating international trade. International trade

is essential to economic growth, and is a key method still used today. The automobile

also had a huge impact on the army and war. “Automobile firms in addition to producing

trucks, made shells, guns, recoil mechanisms, gun carriages, tractors, and aircraft

engines. ” The creation of the automobile also helped create the famous tank. Without

the automobile there would be no tank since the automobile was a prototype to the

making of the tank.

The automobile has completely revolutionized the past and present. It

eventually became normal for every American and Canadian to own a vehicle. In fact,

approximately 87% of Americans have chosen the automobile as their prime source of

transportation . Motor vehicles utilized people’s freedom to travel. It helped increase

women’s status in society and gave teenagers freedom and happiness. It even helped

create one of the biggest sports today, NASCAR. However, the automobile did much

more than that it completely transitioned struggling American and Canadian economies

in the early twentieth century into the prosperous economies we have today. Automobiles

simple improved the quality of everyone’s life.


– Gary Cross and Rick Szostak. “Technology and American Society” New Jersey, 1995 (p.245-249)
– David, Lewis and Lawrence Goldstien, “The Automobile and American Culture” University of Michigan Press, 1993. (p. 1-103, 152-186)
– Peter J. Ling, “America and the Automobile: Technology, Reform, and Social Change” Manchester University and New York, USA Press, 1990. (p.1-82)
– Jean-Pierre Bordou, “The Automobile Revolution: The impact of Industry” University of North Carolina, Press 1982. (p.40-123)
– www.googl.ca/scholar- Management of Science. Vol. 45, No.6, 1999 (pg.771-786)
– www.angelfire.com(Statistics)

– www.ausbcomp.com/~bbott/cars

– http://inventors.about.com/library

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