Monday, October 25, 2010

1915 Franklin: Mother-In-Law Seats: from Jay Leno's Garage

1911 Model T Ford
1915 Franklin

I always learn from my students. In this case, Tony Porreci called my attention to a recent video clip on "Jay Leno's Garage" in which Jay describers a mother-in-law seat that was installed on a 1915 Franklin. Personally, if it were my mother-in-law, I would like that seat to have a very loose set of hold-down bolts!
This connects well with a section in my book "The Automobile and American Life" that deals with how courtship changed because of the coming of the automobile. here it is: (and please buy the book!)

Previously, “calling” was the traditional means by which couples were brought together. “Calling” was a courtship custom, and it involved three central tenets of middle class American life: the family, respectability, and privacy. Calling admitted the male into the young woman’s private home, where boys engage in conversation with the girl under the watchful eyes of her mother. Tea was often served, and perhaps the girl would display her musical talents and play the piano as light entertainment. All of this took place in the parlor. Mothers, the guardians of respectability and morals, decided who could call on their daughters and who could not. Daughters could request a certain male visitor, but the mothers made the final decision as to his acceptability. Family honor and name, along with class boundaries, were to be respected.
The calling ritual as practiced resulted in giving middle class mothers and daughters a measure of control. How much of this was real and actually practiced is certainly open to question, particularly since horse-drawn carriages, the woods, and the haystack were also options for young couples. But community controls and prevailing rituals and beliefs certainly have power. Yet it is undeniable that the emergence of the automobile and dating caused the loss of some of that control as power shifted from women to men. Under the calling system the woman asked the man; but in dating, the male had the car and invited the female out beyond the sphere of the parental domain. Cars took young couples off porch swings, outside of home parlors, and far away from concerned mothers and irritating brothers and sisters.

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