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The Motor Age

Jeffrey Syken

By the 1930s, it was apparent that the automobile and truck would have a dominant role to play in the future of America. By 1936, there were 25 million motor cars on the roads and highways and by 1952, there were 50 million (with a prediction of 85 million by 1975). In fact, in the post-WWII years, the car would make suburban life possible.

Besides the infrastructure of roads and bridges needed for the ever-increasing number of both cars and trucks, the industry itself became a major component of the economy. Over five million people were employed by the industry in the mid-1930s and the income derived from those industrial jobs spread throughout the communities where the factory workers lived and worked. In depression-era America, jobs were scarce and the toil of the assembly-line worker was envied by the armies of unemployed.

Most interesting are the myriad of technological advances The Motor Age ushered in. From advances in engine design to suspension systems, the auto industry was a proving ground for new technologies and adapted freely for its own needs from other industries (i.e. stream lining from the aviation industry). What we recognize today as the modern automobile really had its roots in those years before WWII when America was coming out of the Great Depression and its industrial might was getting back on track. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the quantity and quality of vehicles produced by the American automobile industry.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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