Cars and Culture: The Life Story of a Technology

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Greenwood Press, 2004 - Technology & Engineering - 171 pages
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More than any other artifact of modern technology, the automobile has shaped our physical, social, and cultural environment. At the same time, the history of the automobile demonstrates how decisions made by governments, entrepreneurs, and the general public have strongly affected the automobile's evolution. Cars and Cultures provides a succinct yet comprehensive history of the automobile. While the book highlights the technical changes that altered the appearance and performance of automobiles, it also explores the political, economic, social, and cultural forces that shaped the car's development. Because of the wide-ranging impact of the automobiles, no history would be complete without covering the components essential for our automotive-based transportation system--roads and highways, gasoline production, traffic laws, governmental regulation-- as well as the other aspects of our social and cultural history that were deeply affected by the history of the automobile--labor unions, suburbanization, travel and recreation, and the fast-food industry.

Anyone fascinated by the history of the automobile will find much of interest in this volume. Students and general readers will find such information as:

- 4,192 cars produced in the U.S. in 1900, 1,681 were steam-powered, 1,575 were electrics, and only 936 used internal combustion engines

- General John Pershing organized a convoy of 79 trucks that crossed the U.S. from Washington to San Francisco in 1919. Hampered by the poor state of the roads upon which they traveled, the trucks averaged only fifty miles a day, and needed 56 days to complete their journey

- In 1960, the entire Japanese automobile industry exported fewer than 1000 cars to the United States; by the early 1980s, it became such a threat to the U.S. auto industry that the U.S. government limited Japanese imports to 1.65 million cars per year.

Although focused on the United States, it is global in scope, with comparisons to how the automobile developed in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere. The volume includes a chronology of the automobile's evolution, a glossary of technical terms, a selected bibliography, and more than 20 photographs and illustrations.

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About the author (2004)

RUDI VOLTI is Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. His publications include Society and Technological Change (now in its 4th edition), The Engineer in History (now in its 2nd edition), The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Science, Technology and Society, and several articles and book reviews on the history of the automobile.

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