So closely has the motor car become identified with present day American life that it requires but a moment’s consideration to realize that it is just as necessary an institution as the telephone, the telegraph or the railroad.
Perhaps the most obvious as well as the most important role of the automobile is that of a time saver. In this hustling country of ours time is an all important element. To Europeans the speed with which Americans put through their projects has always been a marvel. It was America that first conceived the possibility of sending a locomotive speeding at sixty miles an hour. And it was America that first applied the motor car to the task of increasing the efficiency of modern business. Through its offices we have sped up transportation, widened operating radii and made distance no longer a matter of miles, but a matter of minutes.
Imagine a carless America
Imagine, if you can, an America without motor cars and you will have an America seriously hampered commercially. Can you picture the rush hour traffic, so familiar a part of our modern city life, transformed suddenly to a tangled jam of horse-drawn vehicles? The smooth deftness with which the traffic policeman handles the swift moving motor craft would be impossible, and the accomplishment now a matter of hours would be drawn out into days.
But even were the motor car to be suddenly banished from existence, we could no longer depend entirely on the horse. During the past ten years it has been plainly evident that the day of the horse is numbered. Day by day man has been placing more and more dependence upon his swifter mechanical beast of burden. Gasoline is cheaper than oats and hay.
In consequence the breeding of horses has fallen far below the records of previous years. Then with the outbreak of war in 1914 European governments sent hundreds of buyers into this country to purchase horses for army use. In this way from our already depleted ranks of horses were drafted hundreds of thousands more and a greater share of the work once done by the horse in the farm and city was taken over by the automobile.
More and more the importance of the automobile as applied to business life has been made apparent. But the city man holds no monopoly on the automobile. You have but to resort to available figures, or, better still, take a trip through a thriving agricultural community to realize that the American farmer is now one of the most consistent buyers of motor cars.
Better days for the farmer
The farmer, who formerly depended on his horse and buggy as a means of transportation from farm to city, now sits at the wheel of his automobile and makes the trip in a fraction of the time formerly required under the old regime.
As a result the farmer of today is a better informed man than the farmer of yesterday. He is no longer isolated from society. A matter of ten, fifteen or twenty miles, when the weather is bad, no longer keeps him from attending a lecture on scientific farming in the city. He can drive to town in the evening after his day’s work is done. When he returns home at night, there is no horse to unhitch; he merely runs his car into the garage and it is there until morning.
He covers more territory, sees how other successful men are conducting their affairs, and runs his farm as a business man runs his establishment. Not the least important aid that the automobile has been to the American farmer is the added attraction it has lent to farm life by banishing loneliness and proving to the young men that rural life is not without its attractions after all.
The medical profession as a whole has adopted the motor car. Every doctor drives his car winter and summer while making his daily professional calls. Were he dependent on the horse and buggy his working radius would be seriously hampered. Incidentally, if an emergency call comes in, when quick response may mean the saving of a human life, the physician’s red cross on his radiator permits him to exceed the speed limit and rush first aid when it is needed.
The city salesmen who drive motor cars have automatically widened their working territory many times over. This has enabled business concerns to extend better service to their customers.
Consider how our cities reflect the influence of the motor car. Suburban towns have sprung up miles from the business centers, their inhabitants depending almost entirely on automobiles. The hansom cab has almost disappeared from our city streets. Swift fleets of taxicabs, stationed at the various depots, distribute transients to all parts of the great cities without loss of time.
We have accepted this revolution as a matter of course. We have been adjusted to this condition. Although the equipment of our streetcar lines and railroads had grown to meet the ever-increasing demand placed upon them by the public, they would, nevertheless, be insufficient to take care of the transportation of the entire population of this great country were the motor car to be banished. Should the automobile suddenly disappear from our city streets there would follow a congested condition which would not be easily alleviated.
Top photo: One of the US Geological Survey’s first cars, c1918. Ad: Nash Six ad from The Washington (DC) Times, March 23 1918