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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 Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 People on the Move The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 Americans Adopt the Auto Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s On the Interstate: I-10, 1956-1990 Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction The Automobile Shapes the Suburbs Moving In The Automobile and the City Chicago's L Taking the Bus O'Hare International Airport
15: City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s

O’Hare International Airport

City and business leaders around the nation rushed to develop big modern airports to take advantage of the enormous growth of commercial air travel after World War II. Originally intended to draw business into the city, the airports themselves quickly became major development hubs, even though they were often located far from the city center and from existing roads and transit lines.

United Airlines advertisement,October 1960
United Airlines advertisement,
October 1960

O’Hare International Airport opened to commercial air traffic in 1955 and modernized and expanded in 1959. It was developed on an old airfield in a quiet community far northwest of Chicago. The city annexed the land and built the Northwest Expressway to the airport in 1960. By 1961, O’Hare was the world’s busiest airport, and many businesses had sprouted up around the site. By the end of the 1960s, industrial parks, manufacturing plants, office complexes, parking lots, and hotels dominated the surrounding countryside.

The jet airliner offered more than an advance in speed. It revolutionized the cost and comfort of flying. Lower maintenance costs meant lower fares. Smooth flight above most turbulence attracted passengers otherwise wary of flying.

In 1960, two years after the Boeing 707 began flying commercially, air travel accounted for 42 percent of U.S. commercial passenger travel. By 1980, it was 84 percent. To learn more about the way the jet revolutionized air travel, visit the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Model of Boeing 707 Passenger Jet
Model of Boeing 707 Passenger Jet
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