Posts Tagged ‘automobiles’

On September 27, 1908, the first Ford Model T was completed at the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan.  Widely considered to be the most influential car of the twentieth century, the Model T was the first automobile manufactured on an assembly line using interchangeable parts.  Henry Ford envisioned this car for the middle-class consumer, declaring:

“I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

Workers assembling a Model T automobile in 1913. Image courtesty of the Detroit Public Library, made available through The Making of Modern Michigan project.

Opening History is rich in resources related to the history of transportation.  For more information on early automobiles, visit The Making of Modern Michigan project hosted by Michigan State University and the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library’s New York to Paris Collection.

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On April 25, 1901, New York became the first state in the nation to require drivers to feature license plates on their automobiles. Though other states would soon follow New York’s lead, many states imposed the requirement without making the licenses readily available. Instead, car owners crafted licenses from materials such as house numbers, leather, and other items. When they appeared, government-made licenses were usually made of porcelain and later steel, though materials as diverse as plastic and soybeans have also been used. License plate sizes varied widely until a national standard was settled upon in 1956, the same year the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 funded the interstate highway system that allowed for faster travel across the country. New York also became the first state to require a driver’s license in 1910, though this was only mandated for chauffeurs.

A rear view of a 1913 Packard 48. Image courtesy of Detroit Public Library

Opening History has several collections relevant to automobile history, including Making of Modern Michigan: Digitizing Michigan’s Hidden Past, which extensively documents the history of the automobile industry in Michigan and its impact on local communities.

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On April 14, 1935, the “Black Sunday Storm”, the worst dust storm of the U.S. Dust Bowl — an ecological and human disaster caused by misuse of land and years of sustained drought — occurred. Immense dust storms—such as the “Black Sunday Storm” —often reduced visibility to a few feet, as can be seen on the photograph below, courtesy of Dorothea Lange Collection 1919-1965.

Dust Bowl fringes (general rural Okla. scenes)

Another photograph from the same digital collection shows the tenant farmers displaced by the Dust Bowl in Texas.

Displaced Tenant Farmers, Goodlet, Hardeman Co., Texas

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On February 22, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge became the first President of the United States to deliver a radio broadcast from the White House. Coolidge actively used the new medium of radio and made radio history several times while President. During the election campaign of 1924, radio equipment was installed on the automobiles used by Calvin Coolidge. The photograph below, courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection, shows President Coolidge standing next to one of these radio-equipped automobiles.

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On November 29, 1910, the first US patent for inventing the traffic lights system was issued to Ernest Sirrine.

The photograph below, courtesy of Historic Pittsburgh Image Collections, shows one of the early traffic lights.
Police directing children on crossing the street (1926)

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