In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

470Southwestern Historical QuarterlyApril Hell on Wheels: The Promise and Peril ofAmerica's Car Culture, 1900-1940. By David Blanke. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007. Pp. 276. Illustrations, figures, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 978-0-70061-515-5. $34.95, cloth.) Professor David Blanke's Hell on Wheels is a most welcome examination of a transforming feature of American material culture: die motorcar. Specifically his study furnishes the reader with an incisive, well-researched and highly readable analysis of the impact of automobile accidents on the broader vision ofAmerican life. The author's use ofprimary materials drawn from important Texas and Dallas road safety collections gives diis work a particularly pioneering quality. To complete his task die author makes use ofawide and impressive arrayofimportant evidence. This material explores the confused and complex responses ofthe general public, as well as reformers, to die accident phenomenon. Statistical tables, drawn from many official sources both state and national, furnish die hard edge diat shapes many of die sometimes contradictory responses reached by the American public. This is accomplished dirough a cogent chapter organization that allows the stated themes to be systematically unraveled. Hell on Wheeh chapters include: The Car andAmerican Life, 1900-1940; Auto Use andAutoAccidents, 1900-1940; TheMirrored Classes: Enforcement and the Inevitable Auto Accident, and the Concltision: Accident Freedoms and theRUk Society, among others. Together they form an enlightened commentary on a culture facing a growing crisis but without a consistent or sufficient means to either understand or correct die impact of the many often contradictory dimensions of automobility. The growth ofautomobile ownership during the years igioto 1940 unleashed a liberating individualism and created a consumption-driven society. The launch of Fordum and Sloanism as key features of America's productive capacity allowed a spirit of economic equality to become embedded in die American psyche. The carwas critical to the general sense ofindividual freedom and made a love ofspeed seem part of the natural expression of this freedom. The automobile also crossed gender and class barriers. It became a symbol ofbourgeois liberation. Mass production steadily lowered car prices which made car ownership a reality for most Americans. The consequence was that roads were improved and other transport alternatives faced a powerful form of competition. A further outcome that followed from dramatic increases in automobile speed was the increased risk of death and injuries. Accidents and fatalities rose as Americans drove more often and in ever greater numbers. Reform might reduce accident rates per car and per mile but as Americans steadily increased daily use and miles driven, safety was ultimately sacrificed. The author's conclusion was that "the rate of 25.00 deaths per 100,000 people remained consistent for most of the twentieth century" (p. 54). Automobile ownership allowed the average American to move from being a passenger to being in charge, and this developed a relationship with the car that was more intimate and personal. This reality proved hard for critics to overcome and as Blanke observed: "the most immediate, sustained, and universal quality ofAmerica's love affair with the car was the excitement occasioned by individual mechanized travel" (p. 68). 2??8Book Reviews471 Safety-reform efforts grew at all government levels during this period, as well as through private initiatives by motoring groups. With these efforts came bureaucratic agencies geared to research, prevention analysis, and increasingly strong enforcement policies. Freedom and personal liberty diough had an unsatisfactory consequence. As the audior perceptively concluded: "While we want accidents to end ... we appear unwilling to enact measures that might insure 'a perfected' transportation system" (p. 204). Hell on Wheeh: The Promise and Peril ofAmerica's Car Culture represents an important and needed contribution to understanding America's love affair with the automobile and the carnage and cultural change that it brought in its wake. Devon, United KingdomTheodore W. Eversole Hip to the Trip: A CulturalHistory ofRoute 66. By Peter B. Dedek. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007. Pp. 180. Illustrations, color plates, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 978-0-82634-194-5. $19.95, paper.) An insightful student ofcultural landscapes and the built environment, author Peter B. Dedek brings fresh new perspectives to his study of the iconic Mother Road...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. 470-471
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.