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Famous Makes
 
Auto race between Henry Ford and Alexander Winton

Simply an Advertising Title?

When the Smithsonian began collecting cars, curators weren't sure how to deal with them. In 1915, Curator George Maynard, writing about the accession of an 1897 Olds, declared, “The machine presented to the Museum by the Olds Motor Company belongs in the regular class of self-propelled vehicles, and is of the type universally known as 'automobile.' I think that is the most consistent and dignified name for it. 'Oldsmobile' is simply an advertising title that means little now and will mean nothing in the future.”

Obviously, Maynard was wrong. Manufacturing automobiles quickly became an important segment of the American economy and helped shape the ways that U.S. factories and firms did business in the twentieth century. Additionally, the postwar consolidation of the world's automobile production into the hands of a few carmakers has meant that names like “Oldsmobile,” “Ford,”and “Toyota” have come to mean a lot to consumers.

1903 Curved Dash Olds
1903 Curved Dash Olds
Cadillac, 1903
Cadillac, 1903
Ford Model T, 1913
Ford Model T, 1913

Not surprisingly, the big American automakers are well represented in the museum's collection. The museum owns a number of early automobiles—such as Oldsmobiles, Cadillacs, and Ford Model Ts—that were made by manufacturers that have had long-term commercial sucess. Those manufacturers and models became a part of the country's popular culture in the early twentieth century and remain a part of the nation's automotive landscape in the twenty-first century.

In My Merry Oldsmobile, 1905
In My Merry Oldsmobile, 1905
Henry's Made a Lady out of Lizzie, 1928
Henry's Made a Lady out of Lizzie, 1928
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