Thursday, April 29, 2010

Laura Bush, her fatal accident, a Corvair and an Impala -- her story from "Spoken from the Heart"

Hi folks -- thanks to former colleague Ed Garten for the idea. I have always like Laura Bush. She seems practical, kind, and open, and not the shrewish kind of woman so often married to politicians. But then George W. was not that much of a calculating, overly ambitious politican.

In the near future, Laura is coming out with her book, and in it she discusses what had to be one of the most difficult times in her life as an adolescent -- the involvement in an accident that was her fault that killed a fellow high school classmate. Yes, it is important to note that it doubtful that design flaw in the Corvair had anything at all to do with this accident. We try to blame technology, perhaps in an effort to soothe our souls, but in fact I doubt that the Corvair's sway bar design had anything to do with what transpired. To be sure, virtually any car of the early 1960s was far from what we would deem safe by today's standards -- seat belts, ABS, crumple zones, etc. We know that Laura was thrown from her car, but I do not know whether or not that car was equipped with seat belts. Let's face it, young drivers get it trouble, and that is what happened with Laura, as she was distracted by her conversation with a passenger.

The bigger point here is not to point fingers at either the Corvair or Laura, but to understand that as much as there are people who have a love affair with cars, there is also a flip side, one in which the car can be seen as hell on wheels, to use the title from David Blanke's recent book on auto accidents and American culture. Accidents, especially the horrific kind, leave us numb and hurt inside, and with memories that are carried with us forever. And this is the case of Laura Bush, whose few fleeting minutes in 1965 are etched in her mind to this day. Obviously, Laura came out of this with a sensitivity for others, as is exemplified in her open heart.

See account from her book:

“In those awful seconds, the car door must have been flung open by the impact and my body rose in the air until gravity took over and I was pulled, hard and fast, back to earth,” she says. “The whole time,” she adds later, “I was praying that the person in the other car was alive. In my mind, I was calling ‘Please, God. Please, God. Please, God,’ over and over and over again.”

“It was sporty and sleek, and it was also the car that Ralph Nader made famous in his book Unsafe at Any Speed,” she states. “He claimed the car was unstable and prone to rollover accidents. A few years later, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration went so far as to investigate the Corvair’s handling, but it didn’t reach the same grim conclusions. I was driving my dad’s much larger and heavier Chevy Impala. But none of that would ever ease the night of November 6. Not for me, and never for the Douglases.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Select Bibliography of the History of Automobile in America, Books: F-M

Farber, David R. Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Faris, John T. Roaming American Highways. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1931.

Felsen, Henry Gregor. Hot Rod. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1950.

Finkelstein, Norman H. The Way Things Never Were: The Truth About the “Good Old Days” New York: Atheneum, 1999.

Flink, James J. America Adopts the Automobile, 1895-1910. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1970.

------. The Automobile Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988.

Ford, Henry. My Life and Work. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1922.

------. Today and Tomorrow. Cambridge, MA: Productivity Press, 1988.

Foster, Kit. The Stanley Steamer: America’s Legendary Steam Car. Kingfield, ME: Stanley Museum, 2004.

French, Michael J. The United States Tire Industry. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Frey, John W. ed. A History of the Petroleum Administration for War, 1941-1945. Washington D.C.:G.P.O., 1946.

Gartman, David. Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design. London: Routledge, 1994.

------. Auto Slavery: The Labor Process in the American Automobile Industry, 1897-1950. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1986.

Georgano, Nick. Art of the American Automobile: The Greatest Stylists and Their Work. New York: Smithmark, 1995.

Gladding, Effie Price. Across the Continent by the Lincoln Highway. New York: Brentano’s, 1915.

Goddard, Stephen B. Colonel Albert Pope and His American Dream Machines: The Life and Times of a Bicycle Tycoon Turned Automotive Pioneer. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2000.

Granatelli, Anthony (Andy). They Call Me Mister 500. Chicago: Henry Regency, 1969.

Greenleaf, William. Monopoly on Wheels: Henry Ford and the Selden Patent Suit. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1961.

Gruskin, Paul. Rock’n Down the Highway: The Cars that Made Rock Roll. St. Paul, MN: Voyageur Press, 2006.

Gustin, Lawrence R. Billy Durant: Creator of General Motors. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973.

Gutfreud, Owen D. Twentieth-Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Hagstrom, Robert G. The NASCAR Way: The Business that Drives the Sport. New York: John Wiley, 1998.

Hair, William Ivy. The Kingfish and his Realm. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991.

Halberstam, David. The Reckoning. New York: William Morrow, 1986.

Hamper, Ben. Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line. New York: Warner Books, 1992.

Heat Moon, William Least. Blue Highways: A Journey into America. Boston: Little, Brown, 1982.

Hendry, Maurice D. Cadillac, Standard of the World: The Complete History. Princeton, NJ: Automobile Quarterly Publications, 1977.

Herlihy, David V. Bicycle: The History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.

Hokanson, Drake. The Lincoln Highway: Main Street Across America. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1988.

Hounshell, David A. From The American System to Mass Production 1800-1932: The Development of Manufacturing Technology in the United States. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1984.

Hyde, Charles K. The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005.

Hyde, Charles K. Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2003.

Iacocca, Lee, with William Novak. Iacocca: An Autobiography. New York: Bantam Books, 1984.

Ikuta, Yasutoshi. American Automobile: Advertising from the Antique and Classic Eras. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1988.

------. Cruise-o-matic: Automobile Advertising of the 1950s. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1988.

Ingrassia, Paul. Comeback: The Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Innes, C. D. Designing Modern America: Broadway to Main Street. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Jackson, Robert B. Road Race Round the World: New York to Paris, 1908. New York: Scholastic, 1965.

Jacobs, Timothy. A History of General Motors. New York: Smithmark, 1992.

------. Lemons: The Worlds Worst Cars. Greenwich, CT: Dorsey, 1991.

James, Wanda. Driving From Japan: Japanese Cars in America. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005.

Jardim, Anne. The First Henry Ford: A Study in Personality and Leadership. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1970.

Jeffreys, Steven. Management and the Managed. London: Cambridge Press, 1986.

Jerome, John. The Death of the Automobile: The Fatal Effect of the Golden Era, 1955-1970. New York: Norton, 1972.

Kanigel, Robert. The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency. New York: Viking, 1997.

Kaszynski, William. Route 66: Images of America’s Main Street. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2003.

Keats, John. The Insolent Chariots. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1959.

Keene, Carolyn. The Secret of the Old Clock. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1930.

Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. New York: Viking, 2007.

Keyser, Michael. French Kiss With Death: Steve McQueen and the Making of Lemans: The man—the Race—the Cars—the Movie. Cambridge, MA: Robert Bentley, 1999.

Kinsey, Alfred, et al. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1953.

Kirby, Richard Shelton. Engineering in History. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956.

Kirsch, David. The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000).

Koistinen, Paul A. C. Arsenal of World War II: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1940-1945. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1994.

Kraus, Henry. Heroes of Unwritten Story: The UAW 1934-1939. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

Laban, Brian. Cars: The Early Years. Köln: Könemann, 2000.

Lacey, Robert. Ford, the Men and the Machine. New York: Little, Brown, 1986.

Lackey, James H. The Jordan Automobile: A History. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005.

Landis, Carole. Four Jills in a Jeep. New York: Random House, 1944.

Langworth, Richard M., and Jan P. Norbye. The Complete History of Chrysler Corporation, 1924-1985. New York: Beekman House, 1985.

Lane, Rose Wilder. Travels with Zenobia: Paris to Albania by Model T Ford. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1983.

Langworth, Richard M., and Jan P. Norbye. The Complete History of General Motors, 1908‑1986. Skokie, IL: Publications International, 1986.

Laux, James. In First Gear: The French Automobile Industry. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1976.

Lavine, Sigmund A. Kettering: Master Inventor. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1960.

Lears, T. J. Jackson. Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America. New York: Basic Books, 1994.

Leavitt, Helen. Superhighway—Superhoax. New York: Ballantine, 1970.

Le Grand, Henderson. Augustus Drives a Jeep. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1946.

Leland, Ottilie M., with Minnie Dubbs Millbrook. Master of Precision: Henry M. Leland. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996.

Leslie, Stewart W. Boss Kettering. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.

Lesseig, Corey T. Automobility: Social Changes in the American South 1909-1939. New York and London: Routledge, 2001.

Levine, Leo. Ford: The Dust and the Glory: A Racing History. 2 vols. Warrendale, PA: SAE, 2001.

Levy, Lester S. Give Me Yesterday: American History in Song, 1890-1920. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975.

Lewis, David Lanier. The Public Image of Henry Ford: An American Folk Hero and His Company. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987.

Lewis, Tom. Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life. New York: Viking, 1997.

Lewis, W. David. Eddie Rickenbacker: An American Hero in the Twentieth Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

Lincoln, Natalie Sumner. The Blue Car Mystery. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1926.

Lincoln Highway Association. A Picture of Progress on the Lincoln Way. Detroit, 1920.

Livesay, Harold. American Made. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1977.

Ludwigsen, Karl. Battle for the Beetle. Cambridge, MA: Bentley, 2000.

Lutz, Robert A. Guts: The Seven Laws of Business that Made Chrysler the World’s Hottest Car Company. New York: John Wiley, 1998.

Lynd, Robert S. and Helen Merrell Lynd. Middletown in Transition: A Study in Cultural Conflicts. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1937.

Lyons, Dan. Cars of the Fantastic ‘50s. Iola, WI: KP Books, 2005.

Maugeri, Leonardo. The Age of Oil: The Mythology, History, and the Future of the World’s Most Controversial Resource. Westport, CT: Prager, 2006.

Madsen, Axel. The Deal Maker: How William C. Durant Made General Motors. New York: Wiley, 1999.

Mantle, Jonathan. Car Wars: Fifty Years of Greed, Treachery, and Skulduggery in the Global Marketplace. New York: Arcade, 1995.

March, Peter and Peter Collett. Driving Passion: The Psychology of the Car. Boston and London: Faber and Faber, 1987.

Marling, Karal Ann. As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Marquis, Samuel S. Henry Ford: An Interpretation. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1923.

Massey, Beatirice Larned. It Might Have Been Worse: A Motor Trip from Coast to Coast. San Francisco: Harr Wagner, 1920.

Maxim, Hiram Percy. Horseless Carriage Days. New York: Dover, 1962.

May, George W. Charles E. Duryea Automaker. Chillicothe, IL: River Beach Publishing, 1996.

McCahill, Tom. The Modern Sports Car. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1954.

McCallum, Iain. Blood Brothers: Hiram and Hudson Maxim; Pioneers of Modern Warfare. London: Chatham, 1999.

McCalley, Bruce W. Model T Ford: The Car that Changed the World. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1994.

McKeon, Elizabeth and Linda Everett. Cinema Under the Stars: America’s Love Affair with the Drive-In Movie Theater. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House, 1998.

McNichol, Dan. The Roads that Built America: The Incredible Story of the U.S. Interstate System. New York: Sterling, 2006.

McShane, Clay. Down the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the American City. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Madden, W. C. Haynes-Apperson and America’s First Practical Automobile: A History. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2003.

Marcantonio, Alfred, David Abbot, and John O’Driscoll. Is the Bug Dead? The Great Beetle Ad Campaign. New York: Stewart, 1983.

Medley, Tom. Tex Smith’s Hot Rod History. Osceloa, WI: Motorbooks International, 1990.

Meier, August. Black Detroit. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Miller, Ray. Chevrolet: The Coming of Age, 1911-1942. Oceanside, CA: Evergreen Press, 1976.

Mills, Katie. The Road Story and the Rebel: Moving through Film, Fiction and Television. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006.

Mom, Gijs. The Electric Vehicle: Technology and Expectations in the Automobile Age. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

Monkkonen, Eric H. America Becomes Urban: the Development of U.S. Cities and Towns 1780-1980. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988.

Moorehouse, H. F. Driving Ambitions: An Analysis of the American Hot Rod Enthusiasm. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991.

Morales, Rebecca. Flexible Production: Restructuring the International Automobile Industry. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press, 1994.

Moses, Sam. Fast Guys, Rich Guys and Idiots: A Racing Odyssey on the Border of Obsession. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2007.

Mueller, Mike. The American Pickup Truck. Osceola, WI: MBI, 1999.

Muir, John and Tosh Gregg. How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step by Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot. Santa Fe, NM: John Muir Publications, 16th ed., 1995.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Brief Review of Jason Vuic's The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History

hi folks -- Jason Vuic and Hill and Wang publishers were thoughtful enough to send me a copy of Jason's The Yugo this week, and I quickly devoured it despite the fact that I had papers to grade. Our knowledge of the history of the automobile in general post 1960 is rather meager, and this work greatly adds to a very slim amount of good history on this period and subject. the post 1960 era is clearly a weakness that I perceive is in my book The Automobile and American Life, although my work does a better job than most surveys regarding the recent past, especially culturally.
What I found most interesting in this book was how Vuic set the broad historical context for a study that is primarily about a car. He does an excellent job in placing this story in Eastern Europe -- with accompanying tales concerning both America and Italy as need be -- into the narrative. Until I read the book, I really knew nothing about Malcolm Bricklin and his various schemes associated with the auto industry that led up to the importation of the Yugo into the United States by the mid-1980s. Bricklin was a car guy, entrepreneur, projector, snake oil salesman, and fraud all rolled into one. But he was also a visionary and idealist, who was one of a number of automobile industry outliers who attempted to break into a U.S. market that was dominant ed by the Big Three and a handful of foreign manufacturers after 1970. Bricklin seemingly never quite got it that "the devil is in the details," and that positive thinking can take you only so far.
The Yugo is at times remarkably funny, and I appreciated the humor, although it was at the expense of those sorry consumers who took a chance at a car that was clearly not adequate for the American market and consumer preferences and expectations. But at times, the narrative devolved into a discourse hat you might expect more in an "Introduction the Modern Europe" undergraduate history class, and I found it important to understand this background material.
My criticisms are few. I really wanted for the author to get behind the wheel of one of the surviving cars, and take it for a spin! And that never happened. People in East Germany love the Trabant, but I did not sense that the same emotions are true fore Yugo. Why? And finally, I never had a sense after finishing the book that the question of "was this car the worst ever" not answered to my satisfaction.
What I want to do now is talk to a Yugo owner and drive a Yugo, so that I can make up my mind beyond knowledge gained from a book. Cross country in a Yugo through the desert this summer? I doubt I am that bold!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Select Bibliography of BOOKS on the history of the automobile in America, A-E

Hi folks -- it seems that a number of viewers thought that my listing of articles was valuable, so I am following up with a list of books, with this installment spanning authors A-E. Comments and your personal responses, including suggestions for additions, are always appreciated!


Adler, Dennis. Chrysler. Osceola, WI: MBI, 2000.
------. Duesenberg. N.P: Krause Publications, 2004.
Allen, Frederick Lewis. Only Yesterday. New York: Harper and Row, 1931.
Antonick, Michael. California Screamin’: The Glory Days of Corvette Road Racing. Osceola, WI: MBI, 1990.
Arnold, Horace Lucien, and Fay Leone Faurote. Ford Methods and Ford Shops. New York: The Engineering Magazine Company, 1915.
Assael, Shaun. Wide Open: Days and Nights on the NASCAR Tour. New York: Ballantine Books, 1998.
Bailey, Beth L. From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.
Baldwin, Neil. Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate. New York: Public Affairs, 2001.
Barnard, John. American Vanguard: The United Autoworkers during the Reuther Years, 1935-1970. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004.
Barnes, H.E. Society in Transition. New York: Prentice Hall, 1939.
Batchelor, Dean. Dry Lakes and Drag Strips: The American Hot Rod. St. Paul, MN: MBI, 2002.
Batchelor, Ray. Henry Ford: Mass Production, Modernism and Design. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994.
Bayley, Stephen. Harley Earl and the Dream Machine. New York: Knopf, 1983.
------. Sex, Drink and Fast Cars. New York: Pantheon, 1986.
Beasley, David. The Suppression of the Automobile: Skullduggery at the Crossroads New York and Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988.
Beatley, Timothy. Green Urbanism: Learning from European Cities. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2000.
Belasco, Warren James. Americans on the Road: From Autocamp to Motel, 1910-1945. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979.
Bel Geddes, Norman. Magic Motorways. New York: Random House, 1940.
Belloc, Hilaire. The Road. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1925.
Berger, Michael L. The Devil Wagon in God’s Country: The Automobile and Social Change in Rural America, 1893-1929. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1979.
Bernstein, Arnold. A History of The American Worker: The Turbulent Years 1933-1941. Los Angeles: University of California, 1969.
Billington, David P., and David P. Billington, Jr. Power, Speed, and Form: Engineers and the Making of the Twentieth Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.
Binder, Alan K., and Deebe Ferris, eds. General Motors in the 20th Century. Southfield, MI: Wards Communications, 2000.
Blackford, Mansel G., and K. Austin Kerr. B. F. Goodrich: Tradition and Transformation, 1870-1995. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1996.
Blank, Harrod. Wild Wheels. San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1993.
Bliss, Carey S. Autos Across America: A Bibliography of Transcontinental Automobile Travel: 1903-1940. Austin and New Haven: Jenkins & Reese, 1982.
Blum, John Morton. V Was For Victory: Politics and American Culture during World War II. New York: First Harvest, 1976.
Borg, Kevin L. Automechanics: Technology and Expertise in Twentieth-Century America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
Borgeson, Griffith. Miller. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks, 1993.
Bonsall, Thomas E. The Cadillac Story: The Postwar Years. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.
Bottles, Scott. Los Angeles and the Automobile: The Making of a Modern City. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987.
Boyer, Paul S. By Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. New York: Pantheon, 1985.
Bradsher, Keith. High and Mighty: SUVs – the World’s most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got that Way. New York: Public Affairs, 2002.
Braverman, Harry. Labor and Monopoly Capital: the Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974.
Breer, Carl. The Birth of Chrysler Corporation and its Engineering Legacy. Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers, 1995.
Brinkley, Douglas. Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress, 1903-2003. New York: Viking, 2003.
Brown, Kurt, ed. Drive, They Said: Poems about Americans and Their Cars. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed, 1994.
Brown, Lester R., Christopher Flavin, and Colin Norman. Running on Empty: The Future of the Automobile in an Oil-Short World. New York: W. W. Norton, 1979.
Buehrig, Gordon M. Auburn. The Year 1936 is Viewed 50 Years Later. N.P.: n.p., 1986.
Buel, Ronald. Dead End: the Automobile in Mass Transportation. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1972.
Burlingame, Roger. Henry Ford. New York: Knopf, 1955.
Burnside, Tom, and Denise McCluggage. American Racing: Road Racing in the 50s and 60s. Cologne: Kőnemann, 1996.
Burton, Walter. The Story of Tire Beads and Tires. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1954.
Butler, Don. Auburn Cord Duesenberg. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks, 1992.
Carson, Iain, and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran. Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future. New York: Twelve, 2007.
Casey, Robert. The Model T: A Centennial History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.
Chandler, Alfred D. Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of Industrial Enterprise. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1962.
Chrysler Corporation. The Story of an American Company. Detroit, MI: Chrysler, 1955.
Clymer, Floyd. Floyd Clymer’s Steam Car Scrapbook. New York: Bonanza Books, 1945.
------. Henry’s Wonderful Model T 1908-1927. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1955.
------. Those Wonderful Old Automobiles. New York: Bonanza, 1953.
Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother. New York: Basic Books, 1983.
Cray, Ed. Chrome Colossus: General Motors and Its Times. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980.
Crews, Harry. Car. New York: William Morrow, 1972.
Critchlow, Donald T. Studebaker: The Life and Death of an American Corporation. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
Crosse, Jesse. The Greatest Movie Car Chases of all Time. St. Paul, MN: Motorbooks, 2006.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, and Eurgen Rochenberg-Halton. The Meaning of Things: Domestic Symbols and Self. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Curico, Vincent. Chrysler: The Life and Times of an Automotive Genius. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Cusumano, Michael A. The Japanese Automobile Industry: Technology and Management at Nissan and Toyota. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.
Dammann, George H. Seventy Years of Chrysler. Glen Ellyn, IL: Crestline, 1974.
Davis, Michael W. R. Detroit’s Wartime Industry, Arsenal of Democracy. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2007.
Davis, Mike. Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb. London: Verso, 2007.
Davis, Susan S. The Stanleys: Renaissance Yankees: Innovation in Industry and the Arts. New York: Newcomen Society of the United States, 1997.
Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982.
Dettelbach, Cynthia Golob. In the Driver’s Seat: The Automobile in American Literature and Popular Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976.
Donaldson, Gary. Abundance and Anxiety: America, 1945-1960. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997.
Donnelly, Nora, ed. Customized: Art Inspired by Hot Rods, Low Riders and American Car Culture. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.
Downey, Fairfax. Jezebel the Jeep. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1944.
Duncan, Dayton. Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Duryea, J. Frank. America’s First Automobile. Springfield, MA: Macaulay, 1942.
Eastman, Joel W. Styling vs. Safety: The American Automobile Industry and the Development of Automotive Safety, 1900–1966. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984.
Elbert, J. L. Duesenberg: the Mightiest American Motor Car. Arcadia,CA: Post-Era Books, 1975.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Select Bibliography of Articles on the History of the Automobile in America

Hi folks -- as I am starting on a bibliography of automobile racing in America to 1941, I thought I would share a more general bibliography to those interested in the history of the automobile. Note that this is a select and not a comprehensive bibliography, yet still should be helpful to those interested in the field.
Select Bibliography
Journal Articles
Alkalay-Gut, Karen. “Sex and the Single Engine: E. E. Cummings’ Experiment in Metaphoric Equation.” Journal of Modern Literature 20 (Winter 1996): 254-8.
Ames, Roy Clifton. “Cars in Song.” Special-Interest Autos (January-February 1977): 40-45.
Andrews, Robert F. “On Designing the ‘Step-down’ Hudson.” Automobile Quarterly 9 (Summer 1971): 393-7.
Ariout, Jacqueline Fellague. “The Dearborn Independent, A Mirror of the 1920s.” Michigan History Magazine 80 (1996): 41-7.
Arnold, Robert F. “Termination or Transformation? The ‘Terminator’ Films and Recent Changes in the U.S. Auto Industry.” Film Quarterly 52 (Autumn 1998): 20-30.
Aronson, Sidney H. “The Sociology of the Bicycle.” Social Forces. 30 (March 1952): 305-12.
Artz, Nancy, Jeanne Munger, and Warren Purdy. “Gender Issues in Advertising Language.” Women and Language 22 (Fall 1999): 20-6.
Behling, Laura L. “ ‘The Woman at the Wheel:’ Marketing Ideal Womanhood, 1915-1934.” Journal of American Culture 20 (Fall 1997): 13-31.
Bernstein, Barton J. “The Automobile Industry and the Coming of World War II.” The Southwestern Social Science Quarterly. 47 (1966): 22-33.
Blaszczyk, Regina Lee. “DuPont and the Color Revolution.” Chemical Heritage. (Fall 2007): 20-5.
Burnham, John C. “The Gasoline Tax and the Automobile Revolution.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 48 (December 1961): 435-59.
Busby, Linda J., and Greg Leichty. “Feminism and Advertising in Traditional and Non-Traditional Women’s Magazines.” Journalism Quarterly. 70 (Summer 1993): 247-64.
Carr, Lowell Julliard. “How the Devil –Wagon Came to Dexter: A Study of Diffusional Change in an American Community.” Social Forces. 11 (October 1932): 64-70.
Casey, Robert. “The Vanderbilt Cup, 1908.” Technology and Culture 40 (1999): 358-62.
Chesterton, G. K. “The Hollow Horn.” G. K.’s Weekly. 24 (October 1, 1936): 57.
Clarke, Sally. “Managing Design: the Art and Colour Section at General Motors, 1927-1941.” Journal of Design History 12 (1999): 65-79.
Cooper, Gail. “Frederick Winslow Taylor and Scientific Management.” In Technology in America, edited by Carroll W. Pursell, Jr., 163-176. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Cubitt, Sean. “ ‘Maybellene’: Meaning and Listening Subject.” Popular Music. 4 (1984): 207‑24.
Edmondson, Amy. “Who Was Buckminster Fuller Anyway?” American History of Invention & Technology 3 (1988): 18-25.
Edsforth, Ronald, and Robert Asher. “The Speedup: The Focal Point of Worker’s Grievances, 1919-1941.” In Autowork, edited by Robert Asher and Ronald Edsforth, 65-98. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995.
Fine, Sidney. “The Origins of the United Automobile Workers, 1933-1935.” The Journal of Economic History 18 (September 1958): 249-82.
Flink, James J. “The Olympian Age of the Automobile.” American Heritage of Invention & Technology. 7 (Winter 1992): 54-63.
------. “The Path of Least Resistance.” American Heritage of Invention & Technology. 5 (Fall 1989): 34-44.
------. “Three Stages of American Automobile Consciousness.” American Quarterly. 24 (October 1972): 451-73.
French, Michael J. “Structure, Personality, and Business Strategy in the U.S. Tire Industry: The Seiberling Rubber Company, 1922-1964.” The Business History Review 67 (Summer 1993): 246-78.
Fuller, Wayne E. “Farmers, Postmen, and the Good Roads Movement.” In Indiana History: A Book of Readings, edited by Ralph D. Gray, 221-7. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994.
Garamvári, Pál. “100 Years of the Carburetor.” Technikat Ort Enetio Szemle 20 (1993): 11‑15.
Gartman, David. “Three Ages of the Automobile: The Cultural Logistics of the Car.” Theory, Culture & Society 21 (2004): 169-195.
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Monday, April 12, 2010

Brief Review of Ben Hamper's Rivethead -- Proabably the best book I have ever assigned students

By the end of the twentieth century, the power of the unions was severely diminished. Several reasons exist for the union’s contemporary impotence. The 1979 Oil Shock prompted a consumer shift from gas guzzling autos to smaller, more efficient vehicles. Global competition ended both management and worker’s era of the “American Dream,” and foreign competition encroached on the industry’s profits and worker’s jobs. Global events, combined with advances in robotics and the advent of the “team concept” also eliminated positions. “By 1985, the auto industry had eliminated half its jobs.” In addition, a conservative political atmosphere – evinced by Ronald Reagan’s immediate firing of striking air traffickers – abolished the dwindling clout of the labor bloc. Most importantly, both labor and capital enjoyed the gluttony of postwar American prosperity. The days of conflict had passed, and unions began to tacitly accept the dictates of management. Steven Jeffreys noted, “The UAW was now a junior partner with Chrysler management. It shared the same goal as Iacocca – the economic survival of the company – and was committed to cooperation to attain it.”7 Perhaps more poignant was the prescience of a worker interviewed in Michael Moore’s documentary Roger and Me, who stated, “the union is getting weaker, we are losing power. Too many union guys are friends with management.”8 He chided the auto industry and stated, “some people know what time it is, some don’t.”9 By the 1980s the union had lost its clout, and the impotence continues as it enters the twenty-first century. When the Flint, Michigan, Fisher Body plant, famous for sit-down strike of 1937, was shut down in 1983, the UAW promised to stage a major demonstration. Rather, it was a pathetic gathering – only four workers showed up, and they were relegated by security to the sidewalk. Dodge Main also quietly closed in 1980. As Emma Rothschild suggested a decade before all this happened, the auto industry auto industry was now Paradise Lost.

The Rivethead and the Quality Cat

Certainly paradise was hard to find for those working the line. In 1991, Ben Hamper’s Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line was published, a memoir of his time toiling at the General Motors Flint Truck and Bus factory. Hamper was a factory worker with a remarkable ability to write with humor and sensitivity. His partnership with muckraker Michael Moore earned him a national reputation as a cutting edge blue-collar writer.10 Hamper was a third-generation “shop rat.” His grandfather had moved from Springfield, Illinois to Detroit in 1925 and worked at Chevrolet. During World War II, his grandmother built machine guns at the AC Spark Plug factory, and then worked in an aircraft factory. His uncle worked for 45 years at the Buick Engine Plant. Hamper’s father, a womanizer and drunk, floated in and out of the factories. An early memory recounts the day that the Hamper family visited the father while he was working on the line. Ben watched his father install car windshields over and over. That night he observed, “Car, windshield. Car, windshield,” and thought, “Do something else!”11

Yet Hamper sees his life as largely predetermined, and for him, that unfortunately meant the same assembly line work that his father had detested. Hamper grew up in a broken home and a sense of inevitability hung over his future. After a drug-ridden high school experience, and an unplanned pregnancy, Hamper painted apartments. When the recession of the 1970s began to lift, his sister-in-law scored him an application to work at General Motors. Claiming his “birthright,” Hamper was ushered to the Cab Shop, known by workers as “the Jungle,” and “began to install splash shields with a noisy air gun in the rear ends of Chevy Blazers and Suburbans.”12 Within a shift and a half, Hamper had conquered his assignment.

For leftist intellectuals, the degradation of labor is lamentable; for Hamper, the degradation of labor is something to revel in. To Hamper, labor in the automobile industry was enjoyable because it was mindless, and at $12.82 an hour, lucrative. After he mastered his initial job, Bud, a linemate, convinced Hamper to ‘double-up.’ This setup required that one worker do two jobs at the same time, while the other worker rested. Hamper read novels, newspapers, drank at local watering hole, and occasionally wandered through the factory. When Bud left, Hamper convinced Dale, a new worker, to double-up. Hamper’s pen revealed the insanity created by the line as many workers drank and took hard drugs. A worker named Roy took acid and vomited all over the line. A few nights later, Roy incinerated a pet mouse with a brazing torch, of which Hamper wrote, “The money was right, even if we weren’t.”

Even with the layoffs of 1979, Hamper continued to receive money – a comfortable $268 a week. When his grandfather commented that he was getting a free ride, Hamper thought, “indeed I owed a tremendous debt to my grandfathers and uncles and to all those who bravely took part in the historic sit down strikes of 1937 . . . but hold on, we worked damn hard also,” Hamper continued, “some things never did change . . . the factory was still a shithole, comparisons be damned.” Hamper concluded that the generations of shoprats could not relate to each other’s era.

When Hamper came back from his layoff, he was in the cab shop, this time with a scheme to produce tailgates faster than they came off the feeder line. For his efficiency, he earned 45 minutes of free time. This glory quickly ended with another set of layoffs. After a few weeks of debauchery, Hamper was back at GM, this time on the rivet line.13 Hamper began working the ‘pin-up’ job. This position riveted a cross bar, a four-wheel drive spring casting, a muffler hanger, and another cross bar to the vehicle’s underbelly. The worker aligned the holes and then drove the rivet in with a gun. Compared to his earlier placement in the cab shop, the rivet line was in constant motion and Hamper was in relative solitude. He used a myriad of strategies to conquer the monotony of the assembly line:

Desperation led me to all the usual dreary tactics used to fight back the clock. Boring excursions like racing to the water fountain and back, chain-smoking, feeding Chee-tos to mice, skeet shooting Milk Duds with rubber bands, punting washers into the rafters high above the train depot, spitting contests . . . [and ] pretend that my job was an Olympic event.14

After a few weeks, Hamper was laid off and then called back. Both Hamper and General Motors indulged in the gluttony of the postwar automobile industry. Both the machines and the workers were interchangeable. Hamper recalled an incident where a woman was knocked unconscious by a rivet gun, and a fellow line member shut down the line. Hamper wrote, “within thirty seconds, every tie within a 300-yard radius was on the scene,” and they wanted to know who turned the line off. The line was immediately turned back on and Hamper thought, “It was all so typical of General Motors. . . . It was perfectly fine for a foreman to the line and chew on your ass about some minor detail, but it was practically an act of treason for a worker to top the line in order to extricate an unconscious old lady out of harm’s way.”15 Hamper lamented about the relationship between production and safety. In the 1980s, Japanese competition began to take bites out of American automobile manufacturing hegemony. General Motor’s answer, as exposed by Ben Hamper, was a mascot named Howie Makem. Howie was a life-sized cat who encouraged workers to build quality automobiles. Hamper wrote, “Howie was to become the messianic embodiment of the Company’s new Quality drive. A livin’ breathin’ propaganda vessel assigned to spur on the troops.”16 The mascot became a company-wide joke. A few weeks later, Hamper was again laid off.17

Hamper was unemployed for nearly a year until GM landed a contract with the U.S. Army to build trucks, which Hamper referred to as “Ronnie’s death wagons.” Hamper managed to politic his way back to a position on the rivet line. Hamper then met a worker he called the ‘steering gear man,’ who worked a job at the end of the line. The steering gear man worked so hard that sweat poured from his chin. Hamper wondered how “the apportionment of duty in the plant so inconsistent that you would have half of the work force breaking their backs and chugging the work load while the other half were off playing cards.”18 Hamper observed his surroundings and found free time to write articles.19 Meanwhile, the steering gear man found the bottle. He began to drink so much that he talked to himself, and other workers on the line had to compensate for his negligence. The macabre episode reached a climax when the steering gear man, Hamper’s words, “turded in his skivvies,” and was sent home. A few days later the steering gear man was back on the line, working next to Hamper. Hamper worked with a crew that invented games like Rivet Hockey and Dumpster Ball to pass time. The cadre included a Black man named Eddie who could match Hamper drink-for-drink. Also in the crew was Janice, a woman who conquered the rivet gun. Finally, there was Jerry, who Ben nicknamed “the Polish Sex God” for his ability to court women. Alcohol played a central role in the lives of the workers. Hamper and his coworkers would drink before work, during breaks, at lunch, and after work. Hamper’s account exposed the naïveté of General Motors. Management had placed a massive electronic message board directly across from Hamper and used it to transmit messages like QUALITY IS THE BACKBONE OF GOOD WORKMANSHIP, A WINNER NEVER QUITS & A QUITTER NEVER WINS, SAFETY IS SAFE, and SQUEEZING RIVETS IS FUN!20 To the last of which Hamper replied:

I had several definitions of fun. Riveting was nowhere on the list. Taking in a Tiger’s game from the right field overhand was fun. Listening to Angry Samoans records while getting’ sloshed was fun. The episode of Bewitched where Endora hexed Dick York with elephant ears was fun. Dozing past noon with the phone off the hook was fun. Having sex in a Subaru was difficult – however, that was fun too. Squeezing rivets was not fun.21

Ben Hamper did not consider squeezing rivets fun, but he did consider it his specialty. When General Motors eliminated 30,000 jobs from factories in Flint, Hamper’s job at the Truck and Bus Plant was moved to a new facility in Pontiac, Michigan. Hamper had two years to make the move, during which time he continued work on the assembly line. Then on July 12, 1986, Hamper thought he was having a stroke, but in actuality it was an intense episode of panic attack syndrome.22 He ended up at a mental hospital.23 He attempted to work at the new plant in Pontiac, but the attacks returned. The plant at Pontiac went beyond what Hamper had experienced in Flint. Hamper wrote, “Everything in this plant reeked of science gone too far.”24 After his second day at Pontiac East, Hamper had another panic attack on the way home. Finally, after one more try, the hospital nurse sent him home. He never returned to General Motors. Hamper described the work:

The jobs were timed out to make sure workers wouldn’t be allowed a moment’s intermission. Anyone caught reading a newspaper or a paperback would be penalized. The union was nothing more than a powerless puppet show groveling in the muck.25