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Transportation

A streetcar fan’s photo album is a window opening on the vanished workaday beauty of Downtown

. . . and the birth of the railroad revolution in America. A mystery solved.

Light rail was an attractive, economical, and environmentally sound technology— until the auto companies crushed it. That, at any rate, is what a lot of people believe, and now the nation is spending billions to re-create an imaginary past.

In a crucial scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit , the murderous Judge Doom reveals a “plan of epic proportions” for transforming metropolitan Los Angeles. Read more >>

What it was like to be young and in the front lines when Europe mounted an assault on Detroit with small, snarling, irresistible machines that changed the way we drove and thought

WHAT’S THE POINT OF BEING A BOY IF YOU DON’T GRASP THE FACT that cars are the package excitement comes in? I certainly did. Read more >>

Bill Mitchell’s imaginings brought you the cars of Detroit’s ultimate classic era

THEY SIT LIKE RUINED VILLAS IN THE distant reaches of mall parking lots, in inner-city neighborhoods and backcountry towns, dressed no longer in bright colors but in gray patches and orange primer, the last Chevelles and Biscaynes, GTOs an Read more >>

When American cars ruled the world

THE CURRENT VOGUE FOR PUSHING TO SELL AMERICAN AUTOMOBILES ABROAD can certainly be called overdue. No one has seriously tried such a thing in generations. Read more >>

What you owe your car (ending the tyranny of the horse is only the beginning of it)

THE AUTOMOBILE IS NOT AN AMERICAN invention. But an industry capable of manufacturing automobiles in vast numbers at prices the common man can afford most certainly is. And it is this invention that changed the world. Read more >>

When Henry Adams sought the medieval world in an automobile, this stuffiest of prophets became the first American to sing of the liberating force later celebrated by Jack Kerouac and the Beach Boys

Test-driving automobiles, Henry Adams discovered in June 1904, was “shattering to one’s nerves.” Trying out a Hotchkiss for purchase “scared my hair green. Truly it is a new world that I live in,” he continued, “though its spots are old. Read more >>

The nation’s first transcontinental motor route can still be experienced in all its obsolescent charm.

I had been driving across Pennsylvania’s hills and valleys for five hours when suddenly my destination for the evening appeared ahead. Read more >>

You’ve probably never heard of them, but these ten people changed your life. Each of them is a big reason why your world today is so different from anyone’s world in 1954

For want of nails, kingdoms are won and lost. We all know that. The shoe slips, the horse stumbles, the army dissolves in retreat. But who designed the nails? Who hammered the nails? Who invented the nail-making machinery? Read more >>

The Greatest American Car Ever Made? “It’s a Duesy”

THE PICTURE IS MORE HEARTENING THAN ALL THE LITTLE ONES

The Cuyahoga River died for our sins . In 1796 the Cuyahoga, which promised easy transportation into the wilderness of the Ohio country from Lake Erie, prompted the city of Cleveland into existence. Read more >>

Fifty years ago the builders of the Pennsylvania Turnpike completed America’s first superhighway—and helped determine the shape of travel to come

Most American motorists take for granted the concrete and asphalt web of interstate highways that has penetrated so deeply into the nation’s economy and thinking. Read more >>
In 1929 Germany announced that the mighty new dirigible Graf Zeppelin would fly around the world. Read more >>

The urge to move documents as fast as possible has always been a national pre-occupation, because it has always been a necessity. Fax and Federal Express are just the latest among many innovations for getting the message across.

Reaching out and touching someone hasn’t always been easy—especially if it was necessary to hand that person something in the process. Read more >>

Wherever you go in search of history, there’s a good chance the first thing you reach for will be a road map. And road maps have a history too.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1895 the Chicago Times-Herald sponsored a fifty-four-mile road race from Jackson Park to Waukegan and on to Lincoln Park. The prize was five thousand dollars. Read more >>

A trackside album of celebrities from the days when the world went by train

A person used to enter New York City “like a god,” said the art critic Vincent Scully, but “one scuttles in now like a rat.” Read more >>

A lot of people still remember how great it was to ride in the old Pullmans, how curiously regal to have a simple, well-cooked meal in the dining car. Those memories are perfectly accurate—and that lost pleasure holds a lesson for us that extends beyond mere nostalgia.

Not long ago I received a very angry letter from an old friend. It was a response to my suggestion that liberal arts colleges might give students some instruction in technology; that is, give them some feeling for how the world they are living in works. Read more >>

Magnificently impractical and obsolete almost as soon as they were built, the cable lines briefly dominated urban transportation throughout the country

Beloved of San Franciscans for more than a century now, the sturdy cable cars cling tenaciously to the hills of their birth. Read more >>

The Normandie has been gone since World War II, but many people still remember her as the most beautiful passenger liner ever built. It is the saddest of ironies that she fled her native France to seek safety in New York Harbor.

SHE WAS THE largest moving object that mankind had ever built. She was the first liner to cross the Atlantic at better than 30 knots, the first to exceed 1,000 feet in length, the first truly modern ship. Read more >>

The Apotheosis of the Motor Coach

Four years ago a small band of New York City executives suffered a bad shock. Read more >>

The Queen Mary in Peace and War

The first commercial transatlantic flight still lay three years in the future when the Queen Mary began her maiden voyage in May, 1936, but Sir Percy Bates, chairman of the Cunard Line, made the sailing the occasion for an extraordinary forecast. Read more >>

How the Philadelphia waterworks became a potent symbol of our lost belief that nature and technology could live together in harmony

Charles Dickens apparently found little to beguile him when he visited Philadelphia in the 1840’s. Read more >>

A Chapter From Our Past

What it was like for the first travelers

Mile for mile, it cost more in dollars—and lives—than any railroad ever built

It was not long after the completion of the Panama Railroad in 1855 that Bedford Clapperton Pirn declared with perfect composure that of all the world’s wonders none could surpass this one as a demonstration of man’s capacity to do great things against imposs Read more >>
The man on the preceding page is mounted on a bicycle made by Colonel Albert A. Pope. An ex-soldier and shoe manufacturer, Pope spent a good deal of time at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition pondering an English “ordinary” (large front wheel, small back wheel). Read more >>
One of the most exciting stories in American history is that of how the Indian got the horse and what this astonishing innovation did to change the culture of the red men of the Plains [see “How the Indian Got the Horse,” AMERICAN HER Read more >>

The U.S. Post Office, 1775-1974

Clara Boule of Lewiston, Montana, recently heard from her mother. This is less than startling, since her mother, Mrs. Elmer Lazure, lives at Belt, only eighty miles from Lewiston. But—the letter was postmarked November 17, 1969 Read more >>

Carl Fisher thought Americans should be able to drive across their country, but it took a decade and a world war to finish his road

When Carl Graham Fisher, best known as the builder and promoter of Miami Beach who started the Florida vacation craze, died in 1939 the New York Times pointed out that he brought about a far more significant change in the life-style of modern America in his earlier and less conspicuous role as the creator of the idea of the Lincoln Highway, the first automobile road from New York to California. Read more >>