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Automobiles of the 1950's

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Kyle Reesman

on 30 April 2010

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Transcript of Automobiles of the 1950's

Everything You Need to Know About Cars From the 1950's

By: Jeff Dirdack, Katie Hopkins, Mirha Malik and Patrick O'Donnell
Traffic Car Advertisements Disadvantages of Cars Pollution Interstate Highway System Auto Mania Public Transportation What caused pollution? cars produced in the 50s were gas-guzzlers
fuels were rich in sulfur, and when used by cars were emitted into the atmosphere as sulfur dioxide, which causes acid precipitation rain containing acids that form in the atmosphere when industrial gas emissions, especially sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, combine with water New Automobiles As the demand for cars increased and as cars became less practical and more environmentally damaging in the 1950s, pollution and smog became even more of a problem. What were the effects of pollution? smoke was so dense that it constituted a “serious menace” to aviation, according to a Los Angeles health officer
Smoke and smog caused people to suffer from eye irritation, respiratory problems (bronchitis), nausea and vomiting
acid precipitation Measures Taken first National Air Pollution Symposium was held in 1949
first Air Pollution Control Act was passed in 1955
Arie J. Haagen-Smit started examining plants that had been damaged by smog. In 1952, Haagen-Smit announced that ozone, the primary ingredient in smog, was not directly emitted from tailpipes or smokestacks, but was created in the atmosphere. Driven by sunlight, a photochemical reaction combined hydrocarbons from oil refineries and the partially unburned exhaust of automobiles with nitrogen oxides, a combustion byproduct, to form ozone. Traffic was a problem in the fifties thanks to bad roads, an increase in drivers, and not enough roads for all the new drivers and their cars. Roads in the fifties were wide enough for two cars to pass each other, but only just enough. Roads were also dimly lit, which made driving at night dangerous. But driving in general was dangerous in the fifties. Methods for building roads and regulating traffic were still being tested and developed. Americans wanted cars because of...
1- the rush to the suburbs
2- massive automobile advertising
3- the status one gained by owning a car
And now that people were investing in cars, there was an increase in the number of cars on the roads and in people's driveways and not enough roadways and parking space for them all. People, especially those in the suburbs, loved cars.

-1950:8 million cars and trucks manufactured. Throughout the remainder of the decade, auto sales rarely fell below 7 million annually.
-by 1958, over 67.4 million cars and trucks were in use, more than one for every household
-nearly 12 million families, mostly in suburbia, had two or more cars
-vehicle miles jumped from about 458 billion in 1950 to nearly 800 billion by the end of the decade
-in 1960, the census reported that 65% of the working population drove to work, and only 10% walked
-not only were there more cars being produced, but they were bigger, faster, more lethal and less practical, which was very bad for traffic. New designs, which included soaring tail fins and enormous tail lights, provided that the slightest bump could smash the oil pan, muffler or gas tank.

As a result of traffic, and the increased # of people driving cars:
-superhighways were built
-less people wanted to travel to the cities -> decaying cities
-parking spaces were limited
-other forms of transportation, except for airplanes, were allowed to lapse
-trolley lines almost disappeared entirely
-commuter trains and bus lines were sharply reduced
-smog became a problem
-bumper-to-bumper traffic
-ruined landscapes
-time payments
-early death due to accidents
-by the late fifties, the population began to rely less on automobiles
-big cars would not sell, and the public wanted smaller, more compact cars, which was better for reducing traffic, and made parking easier

The demand for automobiles was really high and transportation became a matter of life and death in the 1950s. Even farmers wanted cars...
•For farmers and ranchers, transportation was a matter of life and death
•Roads-the only connection between farms and markets for their products
•Farmers did not appreciate the idea that railroads were raising the rates on shipping products so they needed another way of moving their products.
Automobiles were now a Pop-culture obsession People mostly just cared about having a car, not about fuel efficiency or safety as much. Individual Freedom •There was a sort of American love affair with automobiles
•The car underwrote the American passion for individual freedom
•Automobile was freedom- the right to go wherever one wanted to go
•Automobiles gave people the right to go out anywhere whenever they wanted to
•With automobiles, people got the freedom to work and make a living
•Because people needed to pay for their cars, now they had to work for it too (thus bettering the economy)
•People became more responsible and learned to make correct decisions
•Transportation made it easier for young teenagers to hang out and become social
So due to auto mania, the National Highway Act of 1958 was passed and the Highway Patrol was also initiated in the 1950s to keep everything under control. National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 and the Highway Safety Act mandated that safety devices, such as seat belts become standard on every car. Highway Patrol first released in syndication in Sept. 1955 National Highway Act envisioned a nationwide highway system of limited access freeways where automobiles could travel at speeds of 70 mph w.o delay of lights and farm equipment.
Each major city would be circled with a freeway traffic loop
“National System of Interstate and Defense Highways” Act passed in 1956. • This act called for 41,000 miles of new highway.
These laws were mainly passed for protection of the people and for safety.
The Interstate Highway soon linked the entire country into one single transportation system.
The automobile had many advantages including the idea of individual freedom and the increase in the economy. However, there were many disadvantages that do not come about. One very big disadvantage is the idea of traffic and pollution. With so many cars being built and being on the street, pollution, traffic, and congestion were a must (just as it is now). Also, teenagers and adults were not as safe anymore. In fact, even after these acts being passed, there was still a lot of danger throughout the country because of drunk driving, etc. This leads us to the next topic, traffic. http://www.tvparty.com/vaultcomm.html For the first half of the twentieth century, automobiles had a utilitarian look. They were made with function in mind, not fashion. Lucky families owned one car, and they were generally used as a means of commuting. In the 1950's, automobiles began to take a different role. They became more stylish, and more imaginative. Their usefulness broadened from simply enabling commute. They became tools for vacationing, cruising, and other leisure activities. Their lavish designs reflected these new purposes. This great shift was enabled by advertisements of the day. With colorful, enticing advertisements aimed at all demographics and age ranges, there seemed to be an affordable car for everyone. New Automobile Design- Style Over Safety, Fashion Over Function • Their gas mileage was abysmal.
• Their fancy grilles and acres of chrome were difficult to keep clean.
• Their shiny exteriors and spacious interior design screamed power and status. Moreover, they had those fabulous fins.
• Fins were influenced by aircraft of the decade. The trend was started by Harley Earl, a designer for General Motors, in 1941. By the 50's, these fins were massive. On some models, they ran from the middle of the car all the way to the back and were decorated to look like rockets or propeller airplanes.
• Americans of the decade thought the strangest-looking of the lot was Ford's 1958 Edsel, a notorious model that lost the company a quarter-billion dollars and whose name became synonymous with failure.
• The Fins had absolutely no purpose or function other than their cosmetic appeal.
Car Advertisements- Television, Film, Radio Cars were present in 1950's movies, which further cemented them in American culture and encouraged people to buy them. Larger than life up on the screen, cars offered escape, pursuit, sanctuary, a sense of style, and affluence. Films served as grand-scale comercials for the auto indutry.
Cars were also featured on television, such as The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (1957-1962). In her show, Dinah Shore invited her viewers to “See the U.S.A. In your Chevrolet.”.3
Car Advertisements in magazines and on posters focused on the stylish exteriors of the cars and their affordability. Safety was very rarely integrated.
In the early 50's, the Corvette cost $3,200, which was expensive then, but modest sales encouraged the company to promote the car. After the passing of the two-door Ford Thunderbird, the Corvette had a virtual monopoly over American made sports cars due to this promotion. The advertising campaign focused on giving the car an aura of mystique.
Clever advertising, different than the flashy generic advertisements of the time, catapulted Volkswagen to the front of the foreign car market.
Shift in Usefulness of the Automobile • vacationing and tourism: new highway systems/rest stops made road trips and long vacations to far away places in continental America were much more popular than ever before.
• To accommodate the hordes of new motorists, American businesses underwent changes. Car-friendly theaters, hotels, and restaurants began to pop up everywhere. Motels, short for motor hotels, were incredibly popular for those vacationing. Drive-in restaurants offered service at your roll-down window, and drive-in movies allowed you to watch films from the comfort of your car.
• Many teenagers, primarily males, began customizing their vehicles to maximize style and performance. Cars that were heavily modified to exceed the performance of a normal car refered to as “hot rods” that had been “souped up.”
• “Drag racing” also became prevalent with the popularity of vehicle customization. Teens would race down open, lonely roads and time their acceleration rates.
• Games of “Chicken” were also played. “Chicken” was a game played in automobiles where two cars would head directly towards each other at high speeds. Whoever turned away first was the “Chicken”, and therefore the loser of the game.
The 1950's were a car-dominated culture. With the introduction of flashy, stylish, and affordable vehicles to the public, car ownership spiked. Thanks to rigorous advertising, almost everyone had a car. Automobiles were integrated into all mediums of media, and portrayed as essential to pleasure and enjoyment. With these new cars, people focused more on leisure than work, taking vacations, going to see movies, and going out to eat; all in their cars.
But there was a dark side to this new trend, which takes us to the topic of the disadvantages of cars. Traffic was the result of an increase in drivers, who were seduced by the allure of suburbia, mass car advertisements, and the status that came along with owning a car. There was not enough road for all these new drivers and their cars, which resulted in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The roads were now occupied by automobiles and traffic, and other methods of transportation suffered. Trolleys nearly disappeared, and buses and railways were condensed. Increases traffic and automobiles also resulted in increased pollution and a smog epidemic. Regulations The American government had to step in and set rules and regulations for driving and highway safety. • Cars were getting faster and stronger; the government had to set up more rules.
• During the 1950’seatbelts were not considered a necessity.
• Seatbelts were not made mandatory until the 1960’s when the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was passed.
• Drivers were given a maximum speed limit of 70 miles per hour on the highway.
• Because Eisenhower saw the interstate highway as an immediate necessity, safety precautions were taken into account second.
• Eisenhower said the national interstate highway would be protection in itself, by protecting U.S. citizens incase of a nuclear attack from the Soviets.
• With a new highway system, there had to be a Highway Patrol to enforce these new rules that many drivers may not have known before merging onto the highway.
• Because there were many people out on the roads at once, and not many of them were particularly good at driving, police and the highway patrol had to pay extra attention to unsafe drivers.
Although cars offered the individual freedom, drivers soon learned that driving was a responsibility and a privilege, not a right. Cars in the 1950’s proved to be a danger to those in the car, pedestrians, and entire cities. • Many new cars of the 1950’s were not made any better than the cars before.
• The focus on cars in the 1950’s was style not function.
• Companies such as Ford would market their cars for what they are, rather than what they are not with slogans like, “The World's Most Beautifully Proportioned Cars."
• Manufacturers did not produce cars with solid exteriors until the late 1950’s when cars such as the Ford Galaxie was released in 1959.1
• Some cars such as the Buick Caballero were made entirely out of steel.1
• Cars today are made with pressure points behind the hood that contract during head on collisions which plays a large role in saving the driver’s and passenger’s lives. Cars in the 1950’s did not have this soft spot.
• More powerful engines were being placed in more cars, but many cars’ crash protection was not improving.
• The gasoline used to power cars back in the 1950’s had more sulfur and more flammable.
With all the unsafe aspects of cars, the question becomes a matter of why people were still purchasing cars. More importantly, the matter of why people were choosing cars over their old methods of transportation was an issue of the 50s, as public transportation suffered, which brings us to the topic of public transportation Air Pollution Control Act of 1955
-the US federal government passed the Air Pollution Control Act in 1955, which was the first federal air pollution law.
-identified air pollution as a national problem and announced that research and additional steps to improve the situation needed to be taken
-made the nation more aware of this environmental hazard
-granted $5 million annually for five years for research by the Public Health Service
-In the 50s, little was done to actually reduce air pollution. It was not until 1965 that the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act was passed to establish auto emission standards
Pollution in the 50s was just beginning to become a public concern. The Air Pollution Act of 1955 was passed, and Air Pollution Control Districts were formed. Little was done to actually reduce pollution, and car fumes made the epidemic even worse. Ultimately, the 50s was the beginning of spreading awareness about smog, smoke and pollution. As the public was becoming more aware of these dangers, they were also become more aware of other dangers, as well, such as the concern about safe roads and the prevention of car accidents. As people bought into the new trend of owning a car, other forms of public transportation began to suffer. -Rail and bus lines were extensive, and a lot more efficient than private cars. In 1956, one bus could eliminate the need for up to 1,000 cars.
-1953- Railroads could carry as many as 1.5million persons daily
-However, Americans opted for cars for a couple of reasons:
-1) the rush to suburbia
-2) massive automobile advertising
-3) the search for status by owning a car
-So, the Eisenhower administration approved new highways to be built.
-In 1956, before the new highway bill, U.S. roads already totaled over 4 million miles, some 40,000 square miles of pavement
-less people were walking, and other forms of transportation, like buses and trains, were oftentimes shut down because no one was using those methods of transportation. But as the statistics show, public transportation could carry many more people while doing less damage to the environment, as opposed to everyone driving their own cars. This brings us to the issue of cars and pollution.

The increase of people buying cars could be due to the fact that people in the 50s were discovering a sense of individual freedom through cars. They saw cars as "an emblem of their personality". People enjoyed the sense of individuality owning a car gave them. To meet that demand, the car industry and car advertisement industry exploded in the 50s, offering flashy new designs and a wide variety of styles to choose from. This brings us to our next topic: new cars and car advertisements. acid precipitation is rain containing acids that form in the atmosphere when industrial gas emissions, especially sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, combine with water In conclusion, it can be said that cars truly became the craze in the 50s. While they had been around before 1950, it was not until they were mass produced and affordable to public that they became an staple in American culture. With this new aspect of our culture came negative side effects, such as pollution, traffic, car accidents and the decline of public transportation. However, cars also brought a sense of individualism. Like any flow of money, they boosted the economy and brought a happy "daze" upon the American people. In the 50s, many laws and regulations in association with cars were passed, among the most notable the National Highway Act of 1958 and the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955. Auto mania in the 1950s shaped a new lifestyle for Americans, and cars today, which are comparatively much safer and relatively more eco-friendly, have become a part of American culture--- a trend that is sure not to fall out of style anytime soon.
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