Saturday, May 16, 2020

Shift to Enclosed Car Cabs really Started here in 1920

Aftermarket business:
Managing weather conditions, February 17th, 1920
If you follow the styles and technologies of cars in history, this will not be news at all to you, but if, as we do here, you regard cars as an overused technology neutral at best or something worse, you might not have thought through fully the transition from soft-top or open-top cars to closed cars. Convertibles are this exotic rarity today. But back then they were the norm, and there were businesses offering battery storage during the winter when owners often basically mothballed their cars. The closed car and culture of year-round driving for business and for pleasure was not yet the dominant norm.

Not just sales and service of batteries:
Special storage for batteries
while car is mothballed during the winter
January 25th, 1920
A world view from Encyclopedia Britannica on Ford in the 1920s:
By the mid-1920s the American automobile had won the revolution Ford had begun. The country was on wheels, and the manufacture and sale of automobiles had become an important component in the American economy. The closed car was no longer exclusively a rich man’s possession. In 1920 most cars had been open models, the occupants protected from the weather by canvas-and-isinglass side curtains. The Essex coach, a no-frills two-door sedan introduced in 1922 by the Hudson Motor Car Company, reduced the cost of sheltered motoring to that of a touring car. Ten years later, Detroit manufacturers were producing closed models almost exclusively.
Here in Salem, 1920 really does seems to mark a transitional moment, and car dealers and advertising started to emphasize the closed car. Previously ads for them had been sporadic, but in the 1920 they appear regularly. Ford appeared to lead.

Full page Ford and Valley Motor Co. ad
Closed cars and open cars, September 23rd, 1920

Portland trends filtering to Salem, February 10th, 1920
On a trip to California, Watt Shipp saw that closed cars were popular even when prevailing climate did not seem to call for them.

Our friend Watt Shipp, Ford production,
and more closed cars, April 29th, 1920
Open top Chevy, May 15th, 1920
Chevy ads were still for open cars, but the local agent started to promote them also.

Chevrolet seemed to be
following Ford, May 17th, 1920
Yet even in the city, people still drove carts with horses, and the traffic ecosystem was not yet monocultural. As for closed cars, it took about a decade for them to prevail nationally, maybe longer here. This transition and the concomitant driving habits are something we will follow more closely as they develop as important ingredients in our autoism.

May 16th, 1920

The mixed traffic ecosystem in Salem not yet gone in 1920:
Looking south on Commercial from Court, 1913

No comments: