The Automobile: A Necessity Even 100 Years Ago

In the early days of motoring, it took plenty of money to acquire an automobile, but over time, what had been a pastime for the wealthy and idle had become a necessity for the rest of America.

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—“The Place of the Automobile,” Editorial from the May 10, 1924, issue of The Saturday Evening Post

The automobile has become an American institution. [Today, 83 percent of] automobiles in use throughout the world are in the United States — one car for every 7.3 persons. Over six million families in this country own cars on incomes of $40 a week or less. It must be acknowledged that many persons are buying cars who are not in a position to afford them; but bank savings are larger than ever before.

The motor car has passed out of the luxury class and become practically a necessity … a fixture with the average family and must be recognized as such. Food, clothing, and shelter are the three basic necessities, but over the years, we have kept adding one feature after another to the list of so-called necessities — electric lights, indoor plumbing, telephones, music. And now the automobile.

Read the editorial “The Place of the Automobile” from the May 10, 1924 issue of The Saturday Evening Post


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  1. Good feature from the current issue, but nice to read the 1924 editorial here also. Over 15 million autos in use 100 years ago seems like a high number, but perhaps not after reading what a necessity it had become, and owning one, no matter what.

    This no doubt led to everything becoming more accelerated in terms of things people could (or couldn’t afford) and the ever growing list of what a necessity was. So many things coming into existence for the first time, needing to be advertised. The Post was the premiere place for them to appear, and did they ever.


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