Monday, October 12, 2009

The Horseless Carriage

It is a forgone conclusion that the United States was the world's foremost player in the automotive industry. It is worth remembering that we were once followers, too, just like Japan in the 1960s. In 1898 the New York Times published a special supplement that decried the sorry state of the lack of an American auto industry:
On almost every invention or improvement in machinery America, even if the idea has not originated here, has been pretty sure to develop it in the most beautiful and practical manner. Examples of this forwardness are too numerous to mention. The horseless carriage, however, which was invented in Europe, seems likely to prove an exception to the rule by being developed to its greatest perfection over there. Of course certain American cities now have their automobile cabs, which seem to come in for a fair share of patronage, but most of these, if not of foreign manufacture, are said to have been built on ideas originated and pushed to perfection by the French of the English, with one exception, perhaps, to be explained later. The automobile as a private vehicle is as yet comparatively unknown here, while London and Paris have their automobile clubs, which are as popular among certain classes of the very wealthy as bicycle clubs in America, are among all classes.
No matter how far ahead or behind a country is, it is important to remember that it is not a guarantee that things will stay that way in the future. After all, B. Altman is no longer America's best car manufacturer, as the article goes on to say.

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