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Progressive Era to New Era
Automobiles in the Progressive and New Eras
Overview Documents

Ford Roadster, ca.1923.
Prosperity and Thrift, 1921-1929

Sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd conducted a major study of American society during the 1920s. In 1929, they published their research in a book titled Middletown. "Middletown" was the name used to disguise Muncie, Indiana, the actual place where they conducted their research. One of their findings was that the automobile had transformed the lives of people living in Middletown and, by extension, virtually everywhere else in the United States.

More specifically, the Lynds found that the automobile had such effects as the following: (1) family budgets had changed dramatically; (2) ministers complained that people drove their cars rather than going to church; (3) parents were concerned that their boys and girls were spending too much time together "motoring"; and (4) the car had revolutionized the way people spent their free time.

The primary sources listed to the right also deal with the impact of the automobile on Americans' lives. Some of those effects were seen as positive; others were much more troubling.

To find additional documents in American Memory concerning automobiles, search individual collections using such terms as automobile, car, motor car, or filling station and motel.
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