Auto Mechanics: Technology and Expertise in Twentieth-Century America

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JHU Press, May 30, 2007 - History - 249 pages
2 Reviews

The history of automobiles is not just the story of invention, manufacturing, and marketing; it is also a story of repair. Auto Mechanics opens the repair shop to historical study—for the first time—by tracing the emergence of a dirty, difficult, and important profession.

Kevin L. Borg's study spans a century of automotive technology—from the horseless carriage of the late nineteenth century to the "check engine" light of the late twentieth. Drawing from a diverse body of source material, Borg explores how the mechanic’s occupation formed and evolved within the context of broad American fault lines of class, race, and gender and how vocational education entwined these tensions around the mechanic’s unique expertise. He further shows how aspects of the consumer rights and environmental movements, as well as the design of automotive electronics, reflected and challenged the social identity and expertise of the mechanic.

In the history of the American auto mechanic, Borg finds the origins of a persistent anxiety that even today accompanies the prospect of taking one's car in for repair.

 

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Putting my energy into learning to be an auto mechanic as a troubled youth literally pulled my bacon out of the fire and put me on the path of a prosperous life. The book points out how the YMCA started training troubled youths in 1904 with the same intentions. Never really gave it much thought about where the auto repair industry was born but glad I took the time to discover it in this well written book. 

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includes info on chauffeur's social status in 1910's
a copy is at USC Doheny

Contents

I
1
II
13
III
31
IV
53
V
76
VI
99
VII
115
VIII
138
IX
170
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About the author (2007)

Kevin L. Borg is an associate professor of history at James Madison University.

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