On October 1, 1908, the Ford Motor Co. “put America on wheels,” when it launched the Model T, the country’s first affordable automobile. In 1905, a mere three years before the Model T hit the roads, there were only 79,000 registered vehicles in the country. By 1925, near the end of the Model T’s run, there were 20.1 million registered vehicles.
How quickly time flies: In 1910, 181,000 passenger cars were manufactured. Only ten years later, the number was 1.9 million, am amazing increase that has never slowed down.
All these numbers give witness to America’s love affair with the passenger car, a vehicle designed to get us quickly from Point A to Point B in style, or at least without a mishap. It’s easy to see why we are so enamored of our cars and trucks, remembering fondly the ones we’ve had and wishful for the ones we may yet own.
We are a country dependent on our wheels, which makes things very difficult when we are told to slow down, and more emphatically, keep those same wheels in the garage to save gas. We all know that it is a worthy goal, and most Americans have cooperated in reducing their miles on the highway over the past few months, not an easy task when our lifestyle is so dependent on driving.
Our country’s freeways are nearly paralyzed with drivers who are making long commutes to where they work. Here, at home, there is no place we can walk for necessities, something I regret all the time. I am actually jealous of people who can walk to get what they need -- which would be called exercising except for the fact that it’s necessary and done without checking your watch -- and therefore much more appealing.
Henry Ford was a smart man who not only manufactured a car for the Everyday American, but was also able to manufacture that same car in ten seconds on the assembly line he created. I wonder if that was the begining of our fast-charging lifestyle and our need to get things done as quickly as possible so we can move on to the next thing. The days of lingering over your work -- and maybe even enjoying it -- were numbered when Ford’s shiny black Tin Lizzies started coming off the assembly line.
Other Centennial Changes
- The first Model T was assembled by hand and sold for $850.
- The U.S. Population was 89 million in 1908. In 2008, the population is 304 million.
- The most popular baby names in 1908 were John and Mary. In 2007, they were Jacob and Emily.
- California had 32.2 million registered vehicles in 2006. Texas was second with 17.5, followed by Florida with 16.4 million, New York with 11.3 million and Ohio with 10.8 million.
By Teresa K. Flatley