Monday, January 26, 2015

Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner (W 29, 1938)

 Back to the future – ahead of its time: Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner (W 29), 1938. Built as a one-off model in the special vehicle production unit of the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant. Following its restoration and reconstruction to the original condition, the car is brought back into the public eye by Mercedes-Benz Classic in mid-2014. The measurement in the wind tunnel in Stuttgart-Untert├╝rkheim in May 2014 delivers a sensational drag coefficient of Cd = 0.36

Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner (W 29, 1938)
Built in 1938, the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner was the pinnacle of the aerodynamically optimised vehicles developed by Mercedes-Benz in the 1930s. Based on the Stuttgart-based brand's top sports car model, this unique vehicle set benchmarks both in technical and aesthetic terms. It allowed Mercedes-Benz to take the lead in a development that occupied the entire automobile industry at that time: the rapid pace of technical change and the growing network of fast roads enabling higher potential cruising speeds. Consequently, the aerodynamics of powerful passenger cars became increasingly important with regard to efficiency too. With its aluminium body's flowing lines and low silhouette, minimal sources of disturbance on its surface and underbody cladding, the Streamliner applied research findings in an exemplary way, giving it a sensationally low drag coefficient (Cd value) of 0.36. In 2014, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the vehicle to the public once more following lavish restoration.
Technical data for the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Streamliner (W 29) Cylinder arrangement: 8/in-line
Displacement: 5401 cc
Output: 85 kW (115 hp) or 132 kW (180 hp) with belt-driven supercharger
Top speed: 185 km/h

Friday, January 23, 2015

Automobile Theft and Juvenile Delinquency during the 1950s

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover reported to Motor Trend readers in 1952 that: “automobiles now are among the largest items on the nation’s ledger of annual losses due to theft.”12 Indeed, between 1945 and 1952 more than a million vehicles were stolen. In 1951 alone, an estimated 196,960 cars worth more than $190 million were counted as taken. The 1950s were considered as the Golden Age of the automobile in America, and they were also golden years for auto thieves.
            In confronting the auto theft problem during the 1950s and 1960s, politicians and local law enforcement officials regarded the auto theft problem as largely a youth or juvenile delinquent problem.13 Organized crime or rings remained a very real threat to motor vehicle owners. However, it was a threat largely subsumed by concerns about the next generation, the future of American society, and the tendency of young people to defy authority and commit largely victimless crimes. The enlightened response toward young offenders that followed stressed reduced punishment, understanding young adult psychology and sociology, and above all education. The hard line stressing strong absolute values and harsh punishment was largely thrown out the window, at least in public pronouncements. Prevailing attitudes of the day suggested that criminal behavior was a social disease, the result of a breakdown of society and values, and that the youthful car thief was to be treated with compassion and understanding. To that end, a 1955 Senate report pointed to the high rates of imprisonment under the Dyer Act and argued that juveniles taking joy rides across state lines were never meant to be covered by that law. Rather it was seen that these youngsters had “misappropriated cars with no intent to steal.”14
            Compassion and understanding did little to arrest the meteoric rise of joy riding and juvenile delinquency. It was one more phenomena that added to the fears surrounding the early Cold War era. Then and now, government bureaucrats were fixated on statistics, regardless of whether they were helpful or misleading. And the statistics, despite their shortcomings, indicated a dangerous trend. For example, in 1948 young persons under the age of 17 were responsible for 17 percent of all car thefts, while four years later, in 1952, some 52 percent of auto thefts were committed by thieves under the age of 17. This disconcerting trend continued unabated until the mid-1950s. In 1956, of the 28,035 auto thieves who were arrested, some 39 percent were 15 or younger, 56 percent were 16 or younger, and 73 percent under the age of 18. And at the federal level, some 55.5 percent of all juvenile cases brought before the courts involved auto theft. Indeed, by the mid-1950s, teenagers were committing the majority of larcenies and burglaries, a statistic that did not augur well for a free and democratic United States engaged in a life and death struggle with global communism. Further analysis of auto thefts showed that this crime was overwhelmingly perpetrated by young males (the ratio of male to female was 120:1), and that the urban rate for such crimes was three to four times higher than offenses taking place in rural areas.15
            Sociologists William W. Wattenberg and James Balistrieri fleshed out the motives and class origins of these young criminals in an important study published in 1952. Their investigation of violators in Detroit was most disturbing to those involved in law enforcement, the courts, social work, and above all the parents of adolescents.16 By examining the arrest data of nearly 4,000 young people in Detroit in 1948, Wattenberg and Balistrieri concluded that the majority of auto thieves in this group came from above-average homes, had grown up in racially homogeneous areas, lived in an economically and sociologically stable home environment, and perhaps surprisingly, were on the whole better socially adjusted when compared to their peers. Why did they steal cars? As one New York City policeman would surmise a bit later in the decade, “for the sheer hell of it.”17 Wattenberg and Balistrieri concluded that the failure of community controls coupled with opportunity, amusement, and trifling punishment were at the heart of this major social problem.
            Another study from the period, however, that of Logan A. Hidy, demonstrated the complexities associated with any analysis of joy riding.18 As part of a survey of boys committed to the Boys’ Industrial School in Lancaster, Ohio for the offense of auto theft, Hidy explored the motives of a group of 98 young men. While some 42 percent stated that they stole cars for fun, a surprising 48 percent claimed that they took a vehicle because they needed temporary transportation, understandably so, since half of that second cohort was runaways.19 As it turned out, almost all of the stolen vehicles were unlocked and open, and 80 percent had the key in the ignition lock. Only four of the 98 boys intended to keep the car they had taken, and only one wanted to sell the vehicle.
            While the Hidy study went largely unnoticed, the Wattenberg and Balistieri article became the starting point for many follow-up investigations conducted during the 1950s and 1960s. For example, between January 1952 and December 1954, Erwin Schepses conducted a careful study of 81 boys who had previously been involved in one or more car thefts and were committed to the New York State Training School for Boys in located in Warwick, New York. The group of younger boys, who had previously lived either in the New York City area or in rural Orange County, New York, were categorized in one of two groups: one cohort only stole cars; the other stole cars and also had committed other antisocial acts like larceny, assault, or crimes of a sexual nature. Motives for what was concluded to be mostly impulsive behavior included being influenced by the “Goddess of Speed,” inherent restlessness, or an “erotic element.” The latter motive was given an interesting twist in a 1960 study by Juvenile Court Judge Albert A. Woldman entitled “Juvenile Thefts and Juvenile Court.” He concluded that since “ ‘walking’ among young people has become a lost art,” auto theft was “almost exclusively a juvenile offense,” adding that “girls who require boys dating them to have cars are responsible for many thefts.”20
            In particular, the group considered “pure,” namely those who only stole cars, was decidedly white rather than negro or Puerto Rican. They also had higher IQs and a slightly lower rate of recidivism. Additionally, and again confirming Wattenberg and Balistieri, the families of the pure car thieves were typically economically secure and stable.21

            While the Wattenberg and Balistieri study pointed a finger to the white middle class, late 1950s crime data on large northern cities suggested that most auto thefts were due to “The Problem of Negro Crime.” Yet it was not a widely discussed issue; a Chicago judge claimed in 1958 that the reason for the silence was due to a “conspiracy of concealment.” According to this view, the NAACP, along with politicians eager to garner the black vote conveniently ignored the facts. For example, in Chicago (15 percent African-American) twice as many blacks were arrested as whites; in Los Angeles (13 percent African-American) 48 percent of all arrests for major offenses (including auto theft) were negro; and in Detroit (25 percent African-American), 66 percent of all those held in the Wayne County jail were black. Los Angeles Chief of Police William Parker did not mince words about this matter as he stated that the “Negro Community” is “his No. 1 crime problem. 22 Furthermore, a widely-held assumption was that the underprivileged and minorities were more likely to become hardened criminals.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Course Syllabus: HST 485, Cars and Film

The Automobile and Film
Class Meeting: Wednesday, 3:00-5:50 p.m.
HM 468

Instructors: Dr. John A. Heitmann, Dr. James Todd Uhlman
Office: Heitmann-HM 435, Uhlman-HM 448
Telephone:  Heitmann-x92803
Office Hours:
Heitmann:  MW10-10:50 a.m., W 2-2:50 p.m., or by appointment
Uhlman:   TR 1:00-2:45 p.m., or by appointment

This Syllabus is Incomplete and will be Altered
Dr. Heitmann and Uhlman Reserve the Right to Change this Syllabus

It has been said that the automobile is the perfect technological symbol of American culture, a tangible expression of our quest to level space, time and class, and a reflection of our restless mobility, social and otherwise.  Film, a technology that emerged at the same time as the automobile, has today become the dominant medium of communication in the world.  In this seminar we will explore together the place of the automobile in film.  This story is most complex, demanding insights and expertise from a host of disciplines.  We have to understand the cultural and social history of the 20th Century.  We also have to know the history of technology and business.  Both of these technologies have influenced the foods we eat; music we listen to; risks we take; places we visit; errands we run; emotions we feel; stress we endure; the air we breathe; and the stories we tell ourselves.

Required Texts:
John Heitmann, The Automobile and American Life (McFarland, 2009).
Heitmann’s  book The Automobile and American Life is our key common reading in this class and the touchstone for our discussions.  While you will not be tested on this reading, you will be responsible for reading this book and critically commenting on it in class.
The remaining readings will be in the form of PDF files located at the course’s Isidore website.  The readings can be found under the “Content Section” and under the button for each of the numbered weeks of the class.
Leading Class Discussions                                    100 points
Discussion Participation                                         100 points
Annotated Bibliography                                          100 points
Draft #1 of Paper (due before April 8)                    100 points
Review of Classmates Paper                                   50 points
Film Review Essay                                                100 points 
Film History and Editing Quiz                                   50 points
Standard Symposium Presentation                        100 points
Final Paper                                                              300 points
Total                                                                        1000

In this class we will define the seminar as a shared learning experience in which one of its purposes is to create new knowledge. Therefore, the research paper is the most significant assignment of this course. It should critically explore an area of knowledge related to the automobile and American life, and ideally should be 10 to 15 pages double spaced in length, with additional footnotes and bibliography, and furthermore draw on minimally 15 sources, primary and secondary. We plan to meet with you individually and collectively during the semester to ensure that your topic has a proper focus and that sources are readily available for your project. A late paper will be penalized one-half letter grade per day.
Schedule of Assignments and Class Meetings

Week 1 — January 12
Topic:  Introduction:  The Advent of the 20th Century and New Technologies of the Car and Film

“Horatio’s Drive”

Assignment:  Signup for Leading Class Discussion

Week 2 — January 21
Topic:  The Promise of Mobility in American History

Period:  1890s-2000s

John Heitmann, The Automobile, Intro. and ch. 1-2.
Julian Smith, “A Runaway Match:  The Automobile in the American Film, 1900-1920” in Lewis, ed., The Automobile and American Culture
Kenneth Hey, “Cars and Films in American Culture, 1929-1959” in Lewis, ed., The Automobile and American Culture
James J. Flink, "Three Stages of American Automobile Consciousness," American Quarterly, 24 (October, 1972), 451-473.
Todd Uhlman, “Using Film to Understand the Past”

“Wild Wheels” (1992) [don’t need to watch all of this film if you don’t want]
“Henry Ford’s Mirror of America” (1915-1930)
“Roger and Me” (1989)

Week 3 — January 28
Topic:   The Silent Era

Period:  1910s-1920s

John Heitmann, The Automobile, ch. 3-4
Jennifer Parchesky, “Women in the Driver’s Seat:  The Auto-Erotics of Early Women’s Films,” Film History, 18, no. 2, (2006): 174-184.
Melissa E. Weinbrenner, “Movies, Model Ts, and Morality:  The Impact of Technology on Standards of Behavior in the Early Twentieth Century,” The Journal of Popular Culture, 44, no. 3 (2011):  647-659.
Todd Uhlman, “A Short History of the Film Industry”

 “Mabel at the Wheel” (1914)
 “The Wife and Auto Trouble” (1916)

Assignment:  Term Paper Proposal is Due

Week 4 — February 4
Topic:  Mobility and the Great Depression

Period: 1930s-1940s

John Heitmann, The Automobile, ch. 4, 6
David Laderman, Driving Vision:  Exploring the Road Movie
Ch. 1: “Paving the Way:  Sources and Features of the Road Movie”
Douglas Kellner, “Hollywood Film and Society,” in Hill and Gibson, eds., Oxford Guide to Film Studies.
Todd Uhlman, “Learning to Read Movies”

“It Happened One Night” (1934)
“Grapes of Wrath” (1940) [not available through the UD service]

Assignment:  Library Research Tutorial

Week  5 — February 11
Topic:  The Reconversion Economy and Film Noir

Period: 1940s and 1950s

John Heitmann, The Automobile, ch. 7
Paul Mason Fotsch, “Film Noir and Automotive Isolation in Los Angeles,” Cultural Studies and Critical Methodologies, 5, no. 1 (2005): 103-125.
Geraint Bryan, “Nowwhere to Run:  Pulp Noir on the Road,” in Jack Sergeant and Stephanie Watson, eds., Lost Highways:  Illustrated History of Road Movies.
Jack Sargeant and Stephanie Watson, “Looking for Maps:  Notes on the Road Movie as a Genre,” in Jack Sergeant and Stephanie Watson, eds., Lost Highways:  Illustrated History of Road Movies.

“They Drive by Night” (1940)
“Detour” (1945)

Assignment:  Film History and Editing Quiz

Week 6 — February 18
Topic: Chrome Dreams of the 1950s and the Tarnished Underside

Period: 1950s

John Heitmann, The Automobile, ch. 8
David Laderman, Driving Vision:  Exploring the Road Movie
Ch. 2: “Blazing the Trail:  Visionary Rebellion and the Late-1960s Road Movie”:  pages 43-50.
Karal Ann Marling, "America's Love Affair with the Automobile in the Television Age," Design Quarterly, 46 (1989), 5-20.
Nicholas Ray, “Story into Script”, in J. David Slocum, ed., Rebel Without a Cause:  Approaches to a Maverick Masterwork
George M. Wilson, “Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause”, in J. David Slocum, ed., Rebel Without a Cause:  Approaches to a Maverick Masterwork
“Rebel Without a Cause-Primary Documents Set”

“Rebel Without a Cause” (1955)
“Thunder Road” (1958)

Week 7 — February 25
Topic:  Consensus and Counter Culture

Period: 1960s

Cotton Seiler, "Statist means to Individualist Ends: Subjectivity, Automobility, and the Cold War State," American Studies, 44 (Fall, 2003), 5-36.
Mark Alvey, “Wanderlust and Wire Wheels:  The Existential search of Route 66,” in Cohen and Hark, eds., The Road Movie Book.
David Laderman, Driving Vision:  Exploring the Road Movie
Ch. 2: “Blazing the Trail:  Visionary Rebellion and the Late-1960s Road Movie”: pages 50-81.
Katie Mills, The Road Story and the Rebel:  Moving Through, Film, Fiction & TV
            Ch. 3:  “TV Gets Hip on Route 66”
            Ch. 4:  “Kesey’s Quixotic Acid Road Film”

“Magic Trip” (2011)
Episode from “Route 66”:  “Goodnight Sweet Blues”

Week 8 — March 4
Topic:  Chase Movies and the Racing of Automobility

Period:  1900-2000

John Heitmann, The Automobile, ch. 9
Donald W. McCaffey, “The Evolution of the Chase in Silent Screen Comedy,” Journal of the Society of Cinematologists, 4 (1964-65): 1-8.
Jeremy Packer, Mobility Without Mayhem: Safety, Cars, and Citizenship
            Ch. 5:  “Of Cadillacs and ‘Coon Cages’:  The Racing of Automobility”
Thomas J. Sugrue, “Driving While Black: The Car and Race Relations in Modern America”
Cotton Seiler, “‘So That We as a Race Might Have Something Authentic to Travel By,’ African American Automobility and Cold-War Liberalism,” American Quarterly, vol. 58, no. 4 (Dec. 2006).
Todd Uhlman and John Heitmann, " Stealing Freedom:  Auto-Theft and the Rebellious Revitalization of the Masculine American Self in Visual Culture" Journal of Popular Culture, forthcoming.

“Bullitt” (1968)
“New Jersey Drive” (1995)

Week 9 — March 11
Topic:  Special Emeriti Lecture Visit—Biker Films

Period:  1960s-1970s

Katie Mills, The Road Story and the Rebel: Moving Through, Film, Fiction &  TV
            Ch. 5:  “Road Film Rising:  Hells Angels, Merry Pranksters, and Easy Rider”
Carmen Indurain Eraso, “Thelma and Louise: ‘Easy Rider’ in a Male Genre,” Atlantis, 23, no. 1 (2001): 63-73.
Jim Morton, “Rebels of the Road:  The Biker Film,” in Jack Sergeant and Stephanie Watson, eds., Lost Highways:  Illustrated History of Road Movies.
Alistair Daniel, “Get Your Kicks:  ‘Easy Rider’ and the Counter-Culture,” in Jack Sergeant and Stephanie Watson, eds., Lost Highways:  Illustrated History of Road Movies.
Barbara Klinger, “The Road to Dystopia:  Landscaping the Nation in Easy Rider,” in Cohen and Hark, eds., The Road Movie Book.

“Easy Rider” (1969)
“Vanishing Point” (1997)

Assignment:  The Completion of a Working Bibliography of no less than 15 Sources, 5 of which are articles.

Week 10 — March 18
Topic:  Nostalgia and the Existential Highway of the 1970s

Period:  1970s

David Laderman, Driving Vision:  Exploring the Road Movie
Ch. 3: “Drifting on Empty:  Existential Irony and the Early-1970s Road Movie.”
David R. Shumway, “Rock’n’Roll Sound Tracks and the Production of Nostalgia,” Cinema Journal, 38, no. 2 (Winter 1999): 36-51.
Jack DeWitt, “Cars and Culture:  Song of the Open Road,’” The American Poetry Review, 39, no. 2 (March.-April. 2010): 38-40.
Jack DeWitt, “Cars and Culture:  The Cars of ‘American Graffiti,’” The American Poetry Review, 39, no. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 2010): 47-50.
Andreas Killen, 1973 Nervous Breakdown:  Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of Post-Sixties America, “Reinventing the Fifties”: 163-194.
Adam Webb, “No Beginning.  No End.  No Speed Limit:  ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’”, in Jack Sergeant and Stephanie Watson, eds., Lost Highways:  Illustrated History of Road Movies.
Jack Sargeant, “‘Vanishing Point’: Speed Kills”, in Jack Sergeant and Stephanie Watson, eds., Lost Highways:  Illustrated History of Road Movies.

“Vanishing Point.” (1971)
“American Graffiti” (1973)
“Badlands” (1973)

Week 11 — March 25
Topic:  Steel Cowboys and the Apocalyptic Highway

Period: 1970s-1980s

John Heitmann, The Automobile, ch. 10
David Laderman, Driving Vision:  Exploring the Road Movie
Ch. 4: “Blurring the Boundaries:  The 1980s Postmodern Road Movie.”
Todd Uhlman, “Delivering Manhood” [draft of article]
“The Trucker Craze-Primary Documents Set”
Jim Morton, “Road Kill:  Horror on the Highway,” in Jack Sergeant and Stephanie Watson, eds., Lost Highways:  Illustrated History of Road Movies.
Jack Sergeant, “Killer Couples:  From Nebraska to Route 666,” in Jack Sergeant and Stephanie Watson, eds., Lost Highways:  Illustrated History of Road Movies.

“Smokey and the Bandit” (1977)
“Death Race 2000” (1977)

Assignment:  Draft #1 of Paper is Due
Exchange of papers with Classmates—review will be due next week

Week 12 — April 1 (Guest Instructor)
Topic:  The Feminist Road

Period: 1980s-1990s

John Heitmann, The Automobile, ch. 5
Harvey R. Greenberg, Carol J. Clover, et al., “The Many Faces of ‘Thelma and Louise,’” Film Quarterly 45, no. 2 (Winter 1991-1992): 20-31.
“Thelma and Louise and the Cultural Generation of the New Butch-Femme,” in Jim Collins, et al, Film Theory Goes to the Movies (1991), 129-141.
Jim Healey, “’All This for Us’: The Songs in Thelma & Louise,” The Journal of Popular Culture, ???: 103-119.
Aspasia Kotsopoulos, “Gendering Expectations:  Genre and Allegory,” in Left History [Readings of Thelma and Louise] 8 (2003):  10-33.

“Thelma and Louise” (1991)
“Natural Born Killers” (1994)

Assignment:  Return of Reviewed Papers

Week 13 —  April 8
Topic:  The Post-Modern Road to Uncertainty

Period: 1990s-2000s

David Laderman, Driving Vision:  Exploring the Road Movie
Ch. 5: “Rebuilding the Engine:  The 1990s Multicultural Road Movie.”
Katie Mills, The Road Story and the Rebel:  Moving Through, Film, Fiction & TV
            Ch. 9:  “First-Person Players:  The Digital, ‘Tranmedia’ Road Story”
Jeremy Packer, Mobility Without Mayhem: Safety, Cars, and Citizenship
            Ch. 6:  “Raging with a Machine:  Neoliberalism Meet the Automobile”
“Debating Crash-Primary Document Set”
Rae Hark, “Fear of Flying:  Yuppie Critique and the Buddy-Road Movie in the 1980s,” in Cohen and Hark, eds., The Road Movie Book.

“Crash” (1996)
“Crash” (2004)

Week 14 —  April 15


Assignment:  Presentations at the Symposium
Week 15 — April  22
Topic:  NASCAR Culture and The Fast and Furious

Period:  2000-2014

Lawrence W. Hugenberg and Barbara S. Hugenberg, “It it Ain’t rubbin’, It Ain’t Racing:  NASCAR, American Values, and Fandom,” The Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 41, no. 4, 2008.
M. Graham Spann, “NASCAR Racing Fans:  Cranking Up an Empirical Approach,” The Journal of Popular Culture, ???, 2003
Don Cusic, “NASCAR and Country Music, Studies in Popular Culture, vol. 21, no. 1 (October 1998).
“Talladega Nights:  The Ballads of Ricky Bobby” (2006)

Assignment:  Final Papers are Due