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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Transportation in America before 1876 Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 People on the Move Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 Americans Adopt the Auto Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s On the Interstate: I-10, 1956-1990 Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction Businesses on the Strip Leave the Driving to Us Hot Rods and Hangouts Making the Sale
14: Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949

Making the Sale

At the end of World War II, demand for new cars far exceeded the supply, and dealers didn’t need to drum up sales. But as manufacturers introduced new models and production increased, consumers went shopping for new features, exciting styling, and low prices. Dealers hired more salesmen and sent them to automobile factories for training. Experienced salesmen knew how to make their cars appealing, compare them favorably with rival cars, and “close the deal,” sometimes using aggressive sales techniques. In the 1950s, automakers authorized many new dealerships, established quotas for dealer sales, and vigorously advertised their products.

Wallace Buick brochure, 1951
Wallace Buick brochure, 1951
Wallace Buick brochure, 1951 (back)
Wallace Buick brochure, 1951 (back)
Page from Selling Sense, by Thomas Byrnes, 1954
Page from Selling Sense, by Thomas Byrnes, 1954
Buick Super sedan, 1950
Buick Super sedan, 1950
Offering luxury and power at an affordable price, Buick made a strong appeal to middle-class Americans with its Super and Special models. By 1954 Buick was one of the three best-selling cars in America, along with Chevrolet and Ford.
Studebaker Champion Starlight Coupe, 1950
Studebaker was one of the first auto manufacturers to introduce completely new styling after World War II. Inspired by airplanes, the Starlight Coupe had an ultramodern look that appealed to many postwar consumers.
Studebaker Champion Starlight Coupe, 1950

Cars and Lifestyle

In postwar America, cars were promoted as a reflection of their owners’ status and self-image. Many buyers accepted the idea that the automobile they bought revealed their social standing, level of affluence, and personality. Flamboyant, fresh styling identified followers of fashion and glamour. Station wagons symbolized family life. Sports cars and convertibles had youthful flair. Manufacturers’ advertisements linked cars to ideas about class, style, leisure, wealth, and gender.

Ford Station wagon advertisement, 1949
Ford Station wagon advertisement, 1949
Chrysler New Yorker advertisement, 1949
Chrysler New Yorker advertisement, 1949
Kaiser Traveler advertisement, 1949
Kaiser Traveler advertisement, 1949
Dodge advertisement, 1949
Dodge advertisement, 1949
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