restricted access John Bell Rae and the Automobile 1959, 1965, 1971, 1984

This essay revisits the work of John B. Rae, a founding member of SHOT and the individual responsible for making the history of the automobile a respectable scholarly field of study. Rae’s four main books on the history of the automobile, the first of which was published in 1959, reflected a progressive optimism that has come to be out of vogue among transportation scholars over the last forty years. Accordingly, his work is read less closely with each passing year. Nevertheless, this reviewer argues that Rae’s work on the subject deserves a more prominent place within the historiography precisely because it offers an alternative, less-popular take on the good and the bad of the automobile in America.