The themes in these posts reflect themes that we have discussed in lecture all year long. For example, I address the changing economic landscape of the country that came with the rise of industrialization through the lens of the automobile industry, and the way that Henry Ford’s assembly line revolutionized the way manufacturing happens in America. The social revolutions and strive for equality that characterize the early 1900s (and beyond) are explored through the labor struggle and social efforts behind unionization, and the impacts that the UAW had on immigrants and women in the labor force. The lifestyle changes that came along with the explosion of consumer culture are best reflected in the rise of automobiles and the affordability of such a luxury good to a large portion of Americans.
The largest idea that I wanted to convey through each of my blog posts is that the automobile played an enormous role in the development of a distinct sense of what it means to be an American. More than a practical necessity and a functional item that many Americans own, the automobile is a distinct cultural icon in the United States. Perhaps the largest example of this is the relationship between the automobile and the rise of the suburb. This theme is explored towards the end of the series of posts, but it is one of the most important ideas I convey. The rise of suburban America affects every aspect of the way we live our lives, and without the automobile this would have never been possible.
Many of the most seemingly American traditions like road trips, NASCAR races, and drive-in movies and restaurants are made possible by the way the automobile has engrained itself into the American identity. Getting a drivers license is one of the defining moments of a teenager’s life, and many people who were fortunate enough to grow up in a family that owned a car remembers sitting in the backseat during a road trip and staring out at the scenery. Children grow up collecting miniature racecars and many people take a vested interest in cars throughout their lives. To many Americans, automobiles are much more than just a way to get from point A to point B, and that is ultimately the idea that I hope to express through my discussion of the various moments in the history of automobiles.
Cars have had an impact on much more than simply one portion of American history. Automobiles have been a part of important economic advancements in our history, they have been an important factor in social eras like the flapper movement of the 1920s, and ultimately, the automobile is one of the most important symbols of the American identity. In the 20th century, every important event has been impacted by or had an impact on automobiles, and my blog posts serve to explore those impacts on the various parts of American history.