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Mass production using the assembly line and specialized labor really began in Henry Ford's automotive plants, and this provided middle class jobs to average Americans. With installment credit plans to purchase those same automobiles, many of Ford's own workers were able to drive his cars off the assembly line and into their own garages, which was also part of Ford's dream. So the car was an important symbol not only of progress but of upward economic and social mobility.
One important point regarding the mass production of automobiles, frequently overlooked: Henry Ford had a vision of those inhabiting the city being able to transport themselves out into the rejuvenating countryside. Never had he envisioned the other way 'round, where everyone lived in the countryside and commuted to the city for work! You may consider the topic of the rise and fall of suburbia during the last 50 years.
The "rise of the automobile," in America at least, is said to have happened in the 1920s. This was the decade in which cars became a much more important feature of American society.
There are a number of ways to think about this rise.
- You can talk about how it came to be. A discussion of this aspect of the rise would talk about Henry Ford and his assembly line system. You would talk about how this system made cars much cheaper so that regular people could afford them.
- You could talk about the economic impact of cars. A huge industry grew up around cars and the people who drove them. Think of all the road builiding and the gas stations and the motels and mechanics and other sorts of businesses that came to exist because of cars.
- You could talk about the social impact of cars. You can talk about how cars made it possible for people in small towns to come to big cities on a regular basis. You can talk about how cars gave young people more of an ability to get off in private on dates. You can talk about how cars became a way of simply having fun. All of these things changed American culture during the rise of the automobile.
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