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100 Years Ago This Week: Automobile Ads from 1917

Published: January 4, 2017

The automobile industry was booming at the beginning of 1917. Recent innovations made cars more appealing to buyers; the 1916 Federal Aid Road Act had just been passed, promising to improve the country’s highways; mass production and ingenuity were driving down prices; and the U.S. had not yet joined World War I.

By 1922, there were more than 175 passenger car builders. Within a few years, that number would decrease sharply as smaller manufacturers founds themselves unable to compete with larger companies. But in January 1917, small manufacturers such as Cole (Indianapolis), Liberty (Detroit), Willys-Knight (Toledo), and Peerless (Cleveland) were gearing up for the big auto shows and advertising heavily to consumers in America’s most-read magazine. Below is a selection of car ads that appeared in the January 6, 1917 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

If you like these ads, you might be interested in purchasing Automobiles in America: The Early Years, a Saturday Evening Post special collector’s edition. 

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  • What beautiful, interesting car ads from 1917. The Warner-Lenz ad for safe night lighting is fascinating considering that over the last decade I’ve had to wear my sunglasses at night due to excessively bright lights that should be illegal.

    The Paige and Cadillac ads are interesting in that it’s all ad copy, and no picture of the cars. The Oakland by General Motors later morphed into Pontiac in 1926. All really show how accelerated the technology was becoming at the time, even if it appeared to be slower on the outside year to year until the mid-1930’s.

    If there was only a way to get people to drive better. Some examples are (please) NOT having your front wheels turned to the left in an intersection as cars are still going through! That’s what your damn turn SIGNAL is for!

    Then there are those who don’t look like they’re going to stop at stop signs when I have the right of way. I’ve literally been forced to honk the horn in recent years when I shouldn’t have to. I hate doing it, for years rarely ever had to, but do now. It’s prevented me from being in any auto accidents. Almost daily I see or have to drive around an accident scene caused by stupid, selfish morons. Driving and traffic in L.A. IS as bad as you’ve heard, trust me.