The Devil Wagon in God's Country: The Automobile and Social Change in Rural America, 1893-1929

By Michael L. Berger | Go to book overview

bile's impact on contemporary life and of the development of the automotive industry and the men responsible for it, comparatively little scholarly attention was given until the 1970s to the historical interaction between society and the motor car. The most significant work before 1970 was John B. Rae The American Automobile: A Brief History ( 1965), which, despite its pioneering nature, was by definition a survey treatment of a tremendously complex topic.

Furthermore, since recent problems with the motor car appear most severe in metropolitan areas, research has centered on the automobile's impact on city and surburban life. This focus may be unfortunate, for our megalopolises were made possible largely by the motor car's transformation of what had been rural America. In 1928, rural sociologist Newell L. Sims wrote that "the automobile, needless to say, has been the greatest revolutionizing force yet experienced by rural society." Yet not until 1972 was a scholarly study of the effects of the motor car on rural America published, Reynold M. Wik Henry Ford and Grass-roots America. Even here, the emphasis was more on Ford and the influence of his social, economic, and political ideas on grass- roots Americans than on an examination of how the motor car modified rural social institutions, activities, and services.

This study attempts to complement the work of Rae Wik, and James J. Flink ( America Adopts the Automobile, 1895-1910 [ 1970] and The Car Culture [ 1975]) by exploring relationships between the automobile and social change in rural America during the years 1893-1929. It relates, analyzes, and synthesizes contemporary observations of the motor car's impact on the family, the community, leisure activities, the church, the schools, health care, and the environment. These observations have been gleaned primarily from autobiographies and reminiscences, biographies, contemporary rural sociological studies, government legislation and reports, popular and trade periodicals, and works of fiction. Since the automobile was viewed generally as a technological breakthrough and its sociological effects were almost immediately recognized, such references contain signifi-

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The Devil Wagon in God's Country: The Automobile and Social Change in Rural America, 1893-1929
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • I the Coming of the Automobile 13
  • Conclusion 51
  • Ii. the Farm Family 55
  • Conclusion 73
  • Iii. the Rural Community 77
  • Conclusion 98
  • Iv. Leisure 103
  • Conclusion 124
  • V. Religion 127
  • Conclusion 143
  • Vi. Education 147
  • Conclusion 170
  • Vii. Health and the Environment 175
  • Conclusion 200
  • Viii. Conclusion 205
  • Notes 215
  • Bibliography 247
  • Index 263
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