Thursday, August 20, 2015

Essential American Automobile History Reading: Ralph C. Epstein, The Automobile Industry: Its Economic and Commercial Development

Epstein's The Automobile Industry, first published in 1928, is a largely forgotten classic that all those who are interested in American automobile history should read. Epstein, a Harvard-trained economist who authored this book while on the faculty at the University of Buffalo, wrote one of the first historical syntheses on the topic. It is rich in terms of insights on many topics:
1) Excellent in terms of the relationship between technology and social organization
2) The discussion of significant technological innovations -- the self starter, cord and balloon tires, enclosed cars, the Knight 1904 engine
3) A nice summary of the issues surrounding the Selden Patent and origins and significance of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)
4) An important discussion of the rise of installment or credit purchases
5) Understanding the relatively under-appreciated topic of the automobile industry and trade organizations during the 1920s and industry-side patent sharing.

If you are a serious student of American automobile and transportation history, it is a must read!  

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