*** travel and transport -- mode : motorized vehicles

Mode of Travel and Transport: Motorized Vehicles

early American car
Figure 1.--European experimenters led in the development of early automobiles, but American tinkerers took an early interest. And many automobile compaies were founded. Most soon failed. The car here is the 1900 Marlboro Steam Runabout. This photograph would have been taken about 1901-02 as there are a few modifications such as the headlights. The Marlboro Motor & Carriage Company was one of many small companies that began manufacturing automobiles. They began producing steam cars in Marlboro, Massachusetts (1899). The company was founded by Orrin P. Walker and existed only through 1902. The lady was Mary Spencer. Notice the neighborhood which tells you something about the people who could afford these early models. Mrs. Spncer's car was steam powered. Other early models were electric battery powered. These early models did not need a wind screen, because they did not go that fast. Nothing produced power like a gasoline or diesel powered internal compustion engine. Women preferred electric power, because crank starting internal combustion engines required upper body strength and was a little dangerous. Once the self starter was invented (1911), electric and steam power quickly disappeared.

Before the turn of the 20th century the automobile appeared. No mechanical device affected American culture more than the automobile. Much of the growth in the American economy after the turn of the 20th century was centered on the new automobile. The automobile appeared first, but as more powerful engines devloped we see trucks and busses as well. The American economy by the 1920s was to a large extent centered on the automobile. It was the industry centered on the automobile and trucks that peovided the back bone for the arsenal of democracy that helped defeat the NAZIs and Japanese militarists in World War II. The autmobile also have a profound cultural imapct on America. City planning began to take place when the automobile in mind. Sometimes more attention was given go the automobile than people. The autmobile made possible the move to the suburbs, especilly after World War II. There wre many other cultural impacts of the automobile. Few events were more important for an America boy than obtaining that all important driving license. Other countries were similarly affected, but not to the same extent as the United States. Historical images of boys' clothing sometimes appeared in automobile adverisements. Many American families would have photographs taken around the family automobile. It is interesting to note when searching through E-Bay, the number of American portraits picturing the children and parents with the family car.

Invention and Early Development

There is an intense debate as to who invented the automobile. This is because the technologies that made the automobile possible came together at the same time (late-19th century), Quite a number of individuals seized on the connections and opportunities. The earliest inventors were all Europeans (Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, Emile Levassor, and Nicolaus Otto). Several vehicles appeared in the late-19th century with automobile features. All kinds of people were experimenting with new ideas and new technologies. While there some difference of opinion on this, many believe that first automobile with all the key features was the German 1901 Mercedes. It was designed by Wilhelm Maybach for Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft. It featured a 35 horsepower (hp) engine weighing only 14 pounds per horsepower which gave it a top speed of an astonishing at the time 53 miles per hour. The development of the automible took a very different track in Europe and America which would have a huge impact on the history of the 20th century. Europe at first took the lead in the development of the automobile. The most advanced automobile technology in the world was that of Daimler. The company's profit strategy was tobproduce a high quality automobile as a luxury product for wealthy consumers. Daimler's factory employed some 1,700 workers, but only produced about 1,000 cars annually. Other European manufacturrs followed the same coporate strategy. The result was that as late as World War II, you see photigraphs of German towns and cities with very few, often no cars on the streets. Hitler's vaunted autobahn carried very few cars. America at the time was already an industrial giant and many automobile companies were founded. European designs were undeniably superior. One of the most important early American manufacture was Ransom E. Olds. The comparison between Olds motorized horse buggy and Daimler's high performance Mercedes was striking. Olds' 1901-1906 model was a jarring one-cylinder, 3hp, tiller-steered, curved-dash Oldsmobile. I has been described a essentially a motorized horse buggy. But the first Olds had a big advantage -- it sold for only $650, maning that middle-class Americans could afford one. Olds as a result out produced Daimler-- achieving 5,508 cars (1904). It surpassed the production of any European company. And this was just the beginning. Henry Ford's Tin Lizzie (Model T) bought the price down to what workers could afford. European workers struggled to purchase bicycles. American industry to supply the materials needed to fill the demand that developed left Europein the dust. But the impact was not just economi and sicial, it was also military. The Germans with their high quality, low output automobile indudtry fought World War I on foot nd wiuth atual horses. America provided the Allies huge numbers of truck. The impact on Workd War II would be even greater.


Before the turn-of the 20th century the motorized vehicle. The first such vehicle was the automobile. There is a good bit of debate as to who actually invented it. Sone want to go back to Lionardo de Vincchi (15 century). But until an engine was developed, there could be no motorized vehicle. While people argue endlessly about who created the first automobile, a good candidate would be German inventor Karl Benz. He sems to have created the first true automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. (1885-86). The cars that Benz and other early automotive pioneers created were finely crafted items for the well-to-do meaning that they had little impact on society. Thiscganged with American atomobile mogul Henry Ford and the Model-T (1908). No one would call Ford's Tin Lizzy finecrafted, but it was cheap. And even low income americansoukd buy one Some American workers were driving to work while Europeans workes used bicycles. Ford's innovation was the assembly line. America was already the most important industrial powe in the world. The autombile industry proceeded to power America beyond the the limits of the European powers. This not only began to reshape america, but increase American wages. It had other ramifications. American truks gave the Allies a mobility that the Germans not have on the Western front during World War I. American industry would have an even greater impact on World War II.

Types of Vehicles

The first motorized vehicle was the automobile or car. It began as a play thing for the rich, but thanks to Henry Ford became a conumer product that most people could afford. The Model-T appeared (1908). It was an item that was both functional and aleasure item. The automobile came first because the major technological challenge in building motor vehicles was how to power it. Thus the lightest vehicle was the car. Motocycles were lighter, but not suitable for early engines. Early engines were not powerful enough for hevier vehicles like trucks and busses. And cost was also an issues. European automobile companies made excellent automobliles, but very expensive ones. The same was true of ommercial vehickes. Heavier commercial vehicles to be successful had to be relatively inexpensive to make their purchase cost effective. Again it was Henry Ford who made these heavier vehicles possible by reducing prices. Ford introduced the Model T One-Ton truck chassis, the first chassis built specifically for trucks (1917). America's trucks had an important impact on World War I. An interesting bus/coach-type vehicle was the British charabanc. The French name related to the horse-drawn version first appearing in France. We have never noted these in America. We are not sure about Europe.

The Automobile and the History of the 20th Century

The automobile was invented as a plaything for the rich (1890s). It was just the kind of luxury that Socialists deride. It proved to be more--much mofre. Arch Capitalist Henry Ford created the Model T Tin Lizzy (1908) and because of the efficiencies of the assembly line and his commitment to pay workers a living wage, workers could afford to buy cars. At least in America, European car manufacturers continued to produce highly priced luxury vehicles in craft shops. The result was that the automobile propelled America into the industrial stratosphere. America had been the greatest industrial power. As a result, America not only was the greatest industrial power, but was beginning to approach the industrial capacity of Germany, Britain, and France combined. After World War I, the Soviet Union was created and defined itself as the worker's paradice. Only throughout the 70 years of existence, American Capitaslist workers workers received far better pay and led most prosperous lives. Soviet workers could only dream of owning a car. American industrial wokers not only had cars, but comfortable homes. The Americans are also better paid than German workers under National Socialism. The automobile was not only a life-style statement, but the industry proved to be a major factor in the World War II Arsenal of Democracy. Of course wars were not fought with cars, but factiries that built cars could also build fighting vhicles. The American automobile industry not only built the motor vehicles need for mobil warfare, but also built aircraft that also needed to defeat the Axis powers. Germany was a heavily industrialized nation, buyt simply could not match American production. This was not just because of a larger industrial base, but because of the efficencies of Capitalist industry. The American automobile industry also played a major role in the Cold War. The Soviets could produce a lot of vehicles, but the problem was that the vehicles produced were actually worth less than the raw materials and other inputs that went inro the factory. This was possible during an emergency such as war, but not on a permanent basis. Not only were Soviet vehicles expensive to produce, but were of extrodinarily low quality. They could not be sold on world markets. No one wanted them. They were only sold within the Soviet Union because Soviet consumers had no other options. And few workers could afiord them. The ineffiencies of Socialism is the primary reason that the Soviets lost the Cold War. Soviet workers quipped, they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.


There are several different ways of poweing motorized vehicles. Developers experimented with the the various options in the late-19th century. Steam, electric, and internal combustion were all tried. Internal combustion was not an immediate hit. There were a lot of steam and elctric powered cars. Internal combustion had a major draw back, it had to be started with a hand crank. This required considerable upper body strength and was dangerous because it could rachet back, possibly breaking an arm. Internal comustion won out. The primary reason that gasoline and diesel could generate much more power than any other fuel source. Not only was it more potential power, but a substantial qantity could be carried in a tank, giving internal combustion engines a far greater range than any other engine. (Range and refuling is still a problem with electric powered cars today.) As a result, internal combustion engines dominated the industry during the 20th century. Today there has been a revival of electric engines. And new engines are being developed runing on natural gas and hydrogen. Solar may be possible some day, but has obvious drawbacks as a transportation fuel.

Country Industries

At this time are assessment of automobile industries only runs hrough World War II.

World War II Country Trends

The automobile was to have its greatest social and economic impact on the United States. No mechanical device affected American culture more than the automobile. Much of the growth in the American economy after the turn of the 20th century was centered on the new automobile. The American economy by the 1920s was to a large extent centered on the automobile. It was the industry centered on the automobile and trucks that provided the back bone for the arsenal of democracy that helped defeat the NAZIs and Japanese militarists in World War II. It would also play a major role in the West's Cold War victory. It was in Europe, however, that the automobile first appeared. Here the leaders were at first France and Germany, but England would eclipse both as Europe moved toward another world war. But only in America did the automobile become a huge part of the national economy. One auto expert cuts to the quick as the motor vehicle industries around the world moved into the 20th century. "The central problem of automotive technology over the first decade of the 20th century would be reconciling the advanced design of the 1901 German Mercedes with the moderate price and low operating expenses of the American Olds. This result would be an overwhelmingly an American achievement. And in large measure the outcome of the 20th century would turn. Germany would lose its two attempts to dominate Europe because it failed to recognize the strategic imoprtance of the automobiole industry and restricted or ignored free market operations driving efficenies. Henry Ford produced the


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Created: June 28, 2003
Last updated: 1:36 AM 9/19/2022