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Presentation U.S. History Primary Source Timeline

Automobiles in the Progressive and New Eras

Sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd conducted a major study of American society during the 1920s. In 1929, they published their research in a book titled Middletown. "Middletown" was the name used to disguise Muncie, Indiana, the actual place where they conducted their research. One of their findings was that the automobile had transformed the lives of people living in Middletown and, by extension, virtually everywhere else in the United States.

Ford Roadster, ca.1923
Prosperity and Thrift, 1921-1929

More specifically, the Lynds found that the automobile had such effects as the following: (1) family budgets had changed dramatically; (2) ministers complained that people drove their cars rather than going to church; (3) parents were concerned that their boys and girls were spending too much time together "motoring"; and (4) the car had revolutionized the way people spent their free time.

These primary sources also indicate the impact of the automobile on Americans' lives. Some of those effects were seen as positive; others were much more troubling.

To find additional documents in concerning automobiles, search individual collections using such terms as automobilecarmotor car, or filling station and motel.