The American Road VIII

Captions: ON HOT COBBLESTONES, a brief spray of cool water; then the brooding heat settled in again. – BEYOND THE CITY, OUT TO THE COOL TRANQUILITY OF THE SUBURBS, WENT CITY DWELLERS, SEEKING LIGHT AND AIR AND SPACE.

The people moved out when the auto drove beyond the city limits

This post parrots a 1952 Ford advertisement in Life Magazine.  The above image is a photo of an 11×17 given to me in political science class at Lehigh University, taught by Rep. Robert Freeman of Easton, PA.  While I’m amazed at the effectiveness of Motordom’s effort to reframe American perceptions, I’m equally intrigued with the written length of the ad (461 words).    

“All the firemen had hairy arms, and wore bright red suspenders.  Most boys liked the longest hook-and-ladder truck the best, but some chose the “Chemical” as their favorite – the “Chemical” was shaped like a big iron milk bottle and puffed great clouds of black smoke as the white horses pulled it down the street like a chariot, sparks flying as the horseshoes crashed down on the cobbles.

“On the hottest days the firemen might remember you and trundle the hose cart around to the hydrant; you danced around on the hot pavement, your teeth chattering as the fierce cold spray hit you.  But after they had gone it was deadly hot again, and if you were a city kid in those days, back around the turn of the century, there wasn’t much left to do.  Maybe you got into trouble.

“Trouble breeds easily in slums, or letdown neighborhoods – wherever children are bored, and walled in.  Then trouble comes as sure as Saturday night, when the patrol wagon parks, waiting for its first load.

“It was the automobile that started to change the cramped old way of life, the invisible walls that bound people to their environment.  The first little Fords, bouncing lightly on their bicycle-tires, began to chug around Detroit – then thousands of cars, then millions, pushed roads out from the cities like thrusting fingers, until the whole nation is spiderwebbed with the tremendous network of good roads that is now 3,332,000 miles long.  Thus the American automobile broke through the old-fashioned city limits, letting the people out of town into the great green world beyond.

“The whole population, according to the census, is in a great exodus from the stone-and-steel core of the city, bound for the fresh air, the light, the trees and living space of the suburbs.  This is the escape to the greenbelt, one of the greatest changes that is taking place in this half-century.  The United States is a nation in motion; to be an American is to move.  Each twenty-four hours, Americans travel more than a billion miles on auto wheels; the way they travel is the American Road.

“To that road Ford Motor Company has contributed more than 36,000,000 cars and trucks for almost 50 years.  We believe in that road.  We hope to continue to keep the wheels rolling endlessly ahead toward a better life for everyone.

– For Motor Company



One thought on “ESCAPE TO THE GREENBELT – 1952 Ford Advert

  1. And yet for the children of those this ad targeted, the suburbs, where you needed a car to get anywhere and where almost nothing was in walking distance, had its own “invisible walls that bound people to their environment,” invisible walls created by the requirement that all people drive everywhere. It failed suburban children, and it’s fails their parents as they age out of the ability to operate an automobile. Only walkable places with necessities easily reachable on foot will help you break through the invisible walls that cars created.

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