Automobiles as a Symbol of Prosperity in 1920’s America
The automobile was one of the biggest and most important features of the 1920’s. Automobiles not only were a symbol of social status, but also had become so popular that nearly every family owned a car. Automobile production and sales fueled the economy and created an item that remains the centerpiece of daily life. Just as computers are now a part of daily life, the automobile did the same thing in the 1920’s.
As men returned from war, the new and hot item to own was a car. Ford and GM’s Chevy became the biggest automobile manufacturers. In fact, by 1923, Ford Model T’s accounted for just under 52% of automobiles in the market while Ford held over 62% of the market. The production of Ford automobiles had reached nearly 2 million. In 1924, you could buy a Model T for $290 dollars. Nowadays, that is probably a monthly payment. Yet some cars were very expensive, with a Rolls Royce costing 15-17,000. Yet, automobiles were not the rage throughout the world. The automobile was just another sign of American youth, vibrancy, and prosperity. In 1920, US automobile production was nearly 2.3 million. The next largest producer was France, making 400,000 units. The total automobile production was just under 2.4 million. Obviously, Americans were really the only people buying cars.
Automobile production was not the only major element of the automobile revolution. In fact, the automobile led to many other things. For the first time, most automobiles were bought on credit. By 1926, two thirds of purchased cars were bought on installment plans. This led the way for credit purchases of other major appliances. Automobiles also encouraged invention of additional features such as balloon tires in 1922, power steering in 1925, and safety glass and a new self-starter device in 1926. The Hertz rental car company, then called the Drive Ur-Self System, was developed by a Chicago cab company owner in 1923.
Automobiles also encouraged the growth of infrastructure and jobs. Highway and road paving projects increased significantly because of the growing use of automobiles. With more people traveling, gas stations and camp areas also increased since most people were willing to take road vacations to visit distant family and friends. In fact, people used 473 gallons of gas per year, which was a lot for that time.
Jobs also grew because of the growth in automobile demand. More factories were needed to produce the cars, which created more jobs. The Ford Model T was the first automobile to be...