Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend in 1914 Illustrates History of Autoism

Thanksgiving in 1914 looked a lot like it does today. It had already become an opportunity for marketing and merchandising, and the advertising isn't much different from what we'd see today.

Tuesday, November 24th, 1914
One highlight of the weekend here was a "five reel feature film sensation," From Molten Steel to Automobile, a PR extravaganza from the Maxwell Motor Company, shown at the Grand Theatre.

Tuesday, November 24th, 1914
It was making the rounds in the US. An August, 1914 issue of The Horseless Age magazine talked about viewings in New York, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Flint.

In November, the industry trade magazine, Automobile Topics, devoted several pages to the film as part of Maxwell's dealer-support and marketing package.

Automobile Topics, November 14, 1914
The Maxwell Company "practically pays all the expenses" for the exhibitions and writes
At every exhibition held to day the dealer, under whose auspices the pictures have been shown, has invariably booked a number of orders for cars.

Interwoven with the factory pictures are scenes of wonderful and exciting performances made by the Maxwell car on race tracks, on hills, in hill climbing contests, and on mountain tours...A young girl is shown asking her father to buy her a car - he goes to the Maxwell dealer and is given a demonstration. He buys a car - the daughter is taught to drive, and toward the close of the entertainment is shown taking her friends for a ride in her new Maxwell "Wonder Car."
In the paper today was a letter to the editor about dropping kids off at school. The lawless anarchy would be amusing - if it weren't also dangerous.

Yesterday we saw a version of the scofflaw cyclist trope from 1930:
Well, the way they rush about in gangs on the wrong side of the road and never have any brakes or bells or lights....
But here we have the very same thing about parents in cars. Yet persons driving cars are largely able in the wider culture to maintain their innocence.

Give Yourself the Green Light via the Atlantic and Prelinger Archives

And it is in no small part due to the decades of car marketing, PR and propaganda, that have made autoism our default cultural stance.

Autoism and our car culture is not natural, inevitable, or in any way historically necessary. It is wholly contingent, the result of a whole lot of cultural labor, of institutional marketing, advertising, and PR. We can reverse it.

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