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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 Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 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 Licensing Cars and Drivers Better Roads The Human Cost of Roads Fill 'er Up! Building and Selling Cars Fixing Cars Technological Choices Creating a Nation of Drivers
8: Americans Adopt the Auto

Building and Selling Cars

The first auto manufacturers were bicycle and carriage makers, metalworkers, and machinists. In the 1900s and 1910s, hundreds of new companies created cars of varying price and quality in limited numbers. Between 1910 and 1914, the Ford Motor Company introduced mass production, the moving assembly line, low prices, and consistent quality. Henry Ford’s aggressive, mass-market strategy and personal appeal persuaded millions of Americans to purchase a Model T. In the 1920s, General Motors offered customers credit buying, affordable luxury, and a range of automobiles for every taste and income level—and the annual model change. These auto giants established a model for mass-production technology, national advertising, and product appeal.

Automobile Manufacturers

Today a few very large companies produce most of the cars in the United States. In the early 1900s there were over 100 companies building gasoline, steam, and electric automobiles, often in very small quantities. The number of automakers peaked in the 1910s. By the 1930s, many small manufacturers had folded, unable to compete with low production costs at Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.

Maxwell Motor Company radiator emblem
Maxwell Motor Company radiator emblem
Lozier radiator emblem
Lozier radiator emblem
Roosevelt radiator emblem
Roosevelt radiator emblem
Buffalo Electric radiator emblem
Buffalo Electric radiator emblem
Launch Video
Henry Ford revolutionized the auto industry. This video shows a glimpse at some of the details involved with Henry Ford’s assembly line. It is a silent piece using archival footage and factoids about Henry Ford’s plant from 1915.
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