The invention of the automobile and its booming popularity across the United States created great economic opportunity during the 1920s.
There became, of course, a demand for an entirely new industry: manufacturing automobile parts. But, in addition to this, Americans became readily and easily mobile for the first time. Since the automobile was new and exciting, it was viewed—for many—as a pastime, not just a means of traveling from point A to point B. In fact, references to the automobile from literature of the time period—The Great Gatsby, for example—often depict young couples driving around for pleasure.
With this new mobility came the development of the American highway, and, with it, an entirely new brand of business—created for the passerby, the mobile American. Hotels and inns popped up along the highways; roadside attractions became a mainstay of the time period. And with roadside attractions came a new brand of marketing: a kind of literal advertising. Take, for example, the Benewah Milk Bottle in Spokane, WA. This dairy, built in 1935, is shaped just like a giant milk bottle. The Teapot Dome Service Station, built in 1922 in Zillah, WA, was shaped like a teapot to poke fun of the Teapot Dome Scandal from the Harding administration. Other roadside attractions boasted nothing other than being “the largest”—the largest ketchup bottle, the largest teapot, the biggest duck. This trend can be attributed to the fact that newly mobile motorists might just pass through a small town if there wasn’t something there to catch their eye.
Beyond the practical need for car part manufacturers, the recreational nature of the early automobile provided a variety of businesses with new customers and gave way to new marketing strategies. It brought new faces to small towns and connected the country in a way it had never been before.