Rise of the automobile industry

After World War I, Americans started embracing the newly introduced automobile industry. In the 1920s, while most urban planners struggled with developing the 19th century street plans to the automobile industry, implementing land use zoning and preparing comprehensive plans in hope some order to development, a few critical observers tried to envision more dramatic spatial solutions for organizing the 20th century metropolis. Contributors to suburbanization

Since the early 1920s, Thomas Adams coordinated a team of planners that surveyed the New York metropolitan region and produced a report entitled the Regional Plan of New York and Its Environs.

Adams plan reinforced New York City as the dominant central city of the region, assigned new industry to the periphery, and emphasized improved circulation of people and goods within the region by rail and road, including tunnels, bridges, and hundreds of miles or circumferential highways.

It was argued that greater efficiency of movement, would preserve Manhattan’s viability for commuters, shoppers and businesses, while simultaneously facilitating the relentless growth of residential communities and industrial satellites in the region.

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Adam’s scheme accepted the premise of continued metropolitan growth and prevailing trends in development, but it broke new ground in its regional scope planning. Lewis D.

says that industrial production was concentrated in the city center before the first World War and only began to move to suburban areas and satellite towns of North America metropolises in the 1920s. He also says that production remained in the core before the 1920s because several obstacles to urbanization- the need to reduce transport costs, the location of labor and transportation facilities, and a small market- forced the firms to depend on agglomeration economies and therefore cluster in a compact industrial node in the city core.

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Lewis also says that three fundamental forces were at work: different production pathways presented the opportunities for firms to decentralize their production functions; the workings of the property market opened up suburban land for development; and growth politics created the ideological and material foundations of urbanization. Suburbanization in Los Angeles Suburbanization in Los Angeles was growing rapidly. It experienced debilitating traffic congestion from an electric streetcar and interurban system focused on the city center and explosion of automobile ownership.

At the command of the Automobile Club of Southern California, civic leaders also adopted a transportation solution, but in contrast to Adams New York plan, they projected a low density landscape of residential communities and local commercial centers. They envisioned a network of highways that would deemphasize the dominance of the central city and link together the sprawling single-family subdivisions sprouting up in the South Californian desert. Suburbanization in Oakland In the mid 1920s, industrialization made Oakland a city, rather than a suburb.

Oakland was one of the three fastest growing cities in the United states between 1900 to 1930, jumping from 67,000 to 248,000 inhabitants and development spilled over in to the neighboring towns of San Leandra, Berkeley, Alameda and Amery ville. Oakland was no longer an annex to the metropolitan core, but a distinctive industrial arena full of bloom. Breakthroughs in transportation were important, or course: repossession of the waterfront from the Southern Pacific allowed the city to develop its own port facilities, and the arrival of Santa Fe and Western Pacific lowered freight rates.

The East By grew on water and rails, not trucks, well in to the twentieth century. But the port and the rail system grew to serve industry as much. All these developments resulted to suburbanization, and the more the construction and the town grew, the more the people settled in the suburbs, and the faster the towns grew to cities. Automobile and development contribution to suburbanization There is no innovation that affected the city in the 1920s more than the automobile. This was accompanied by a continuous decentralization of industry, consumption and leisure.

The proportion of factory employment located in central cities declined in every city of more than 100,000 residents. Suburban industrial districts appeared outside Boston, Chicago, Detroit and other cities. The middle class urbanites were fed up with the mass transit poor service, financial corruption, mismanagement, and democratic patronage, and opted for the privacy, speed, and flexibility of the automobile. Henry Ford’s assembly line was leading the way then with decreasing prices, so the working class Americans considered buying cars.

Ford located assembly plants in the Highland Park, North ville and River Rogue- all beyond the city line of Detroit. The car owners and their automobile associations demanded improved roads. In 1921, the federal government passed legislation to assist states in building paved highways. States embarked on massive highway construction programs, and cities similarly improved their streets. Throughout the 20th century, rather solving traffic problems, bigger and better highways only encouraged increased use.

Better roads promoted suburban development. The development industry adapted its residential subdivisions to this new means of transportation. Freed from the locational constraints of pedestrian access to railroad and trolley stops, developers built suburbs in the interstices between rail lines as well as farther into the countryside. They lowered densities with larger lot sizes; lowered house heights with California bungalow, prairie, and similarly small, flexible-floor -plan styles. They also built garages attached to their house.

The bungalow held the most significance for future suburban styles. Suburban subdivisions were aimed at middle-class buyers; most working Americans could not afford to buy homes in speculatively built, residential suburbs. At best, they located in industrial suburbs or built their own homes in unincorporated districts over the course over several years. Retailers began to adjust to the changing locus of their customers. Major department stores had already begun to build branches in subregional commercial centers of the central city.

As traffic worsened in the nearby villages patronized by suburban residents, retailers experimented with arterial sopping corridors and large stand-alone stores. A few pre-World War I shopping complexes provided precedents for planned suburban shopping districts, but J. C. Nicholas’ 1923 Country Club Plaza in suburban Kansas City is usually considered the first shopping center with coordinated design and ample off-street parking for cars for the people living in the suburbs. A few other suburban developers mimicked Nicholas’ concept, though most of the growth of peripheral retailing was lodged in arterial strips.

Overall, while downtowns still dominated retailing, the convenience of the automobile for shopping else where in the metropolitan region was being established in the 1920s. A new wave of skyscrapers, movie places, and nearby bass ball parks in the 1920s maintained the dominance of offices, retailing, and entertainment, but rapid residential suburbanization, new suburban retail districts, and traffic congestion challenged civic leaders to find ways to retain downtown’s centrality in the future. In the 1920s, embrace of the automobile anticipated the contours of lifestyles and spatial from prevalent in the second half of the century.

The great inter war era had arrived. The cost of real estate was lower in areas only accessible by car than in areas served by public transport. In the new automobile suburbs, developers worked on large-scale tracts of land, usually divided into forty by one hundred foot lots. Zoning regulations were used to counter the rank roadside commercial growth that accompanied the oncoming car culture. Industrial commercial and residential zones were identified and kept separate, thus ensuring the eventual predominance of the bedroom community as residential suburb.

All of these changes favored the large scale subdivider, who could offer low-density living to a growing number of private car owners. In the book “Dreaming Suburbia”, the author says that Henry Ford predicted that the city was doomed, and that the only way to solve the city problem would be to leave the city. Throughout the 1920s, Ford’s prediction seemed to have true. While automobile registrations rose by 150%, the suburbs of ninety-six largest U. S cities grew twice as fast as the central cities.

In the United States as whole, this was the most rapid period of suburbanization to date, stimulated by the automobile ownership and the consumer boom which went with it. In seven years from 1922, car production in America doubled to reach over 4. 5 million, a level that was not attained again until the middle f the twentieth century. Though central cities grew by under 19%, areas outside them expanded at double that rate. As seen in the research, the example of Los Angeles has been given, where in the mid 1920s, many suburbs grew by a staggering 300 or 400 percent.

By 1929, a more elaborate industrial geography was evident. Larger lumps of capital, the arrival of new propulsive industries, a more active local state, the immigration of people form Eastern and Southern Europe, a more extensive and corporate-oriented land development process, and the laying down of a new built environment shaped the nature, direction and rate of industrial suburbanization. In step with the uncoiling of residential districts, new infrastructures, and transportation networks from the built-up core, industry continued to seek suburban locations, creating a multi nodal metropolitan geography.

The suburban manufacturing districts created in the earlier growth phase had been developed by the expanding city and new ones formed on the periphery. For the most part the earl suburban industrial districts maintained the industrial mix, either dominated by a large food and metal firms linked to wider international markets or by extended lines of large consumer firms. An assortment of large development companies, small builders, street railway companies, and suburban municipalities transformed vast tracts of rural land to urban uses and contributed tom the formation of this suburban mosaic.

The growth of the city thus produced a more fragmented social space, as new class formations appeared, the ethnic balance changed, and the spatial limits of the housing market grew. As the property industry created a mosaic of class and ethnic suburban neighborhoods, it became instrumental in the growth of industrial districts on the urban fringe. By 1930, an unprecedented decentralization had set in. Industry department stores and hotels keen to cut down costs and simultaneously increasing profits, were pursuing both labor and consumers out of their far-flung suburbs.

In response to the influx of single people, entrepreneurs began to maximize their investment in land by building apartment houses. The end of the 1920s marked the beginning of the depression, so the building and construction industry came to a halt. In 1933, half of all the home mortgages were in default, with foreclosures running at more than a thousand per day. In the depression decade, suburban population growth nearly kept pace with overall population growth. The best-known and most extreme example of the sub-divider’s power was in Los Angeles.

By manipulating the city’s water politics, developers had managed to create a massive monopoly over the subdivision of the Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. The subdivisions also brought about the urban migration of rural Americans, especially African Americans, foreshadowed the social dilemma that would grip central cities for decades to come. The sharp decline of European immigration with the out break of World War I and legislation restricting immigration in the 1920s produced a demand for labor in the growing industrial cities of the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast.

Poor farmers from the South and Great Plains fled the hardships of working the land to seek these opportunities. Even Hispanic populations crossed the border. By the beginning of the great depression, African Americans numbered in the tens of thousands in Northern cities, and Hispanics formed noticeable minorities in cities like New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Under the sustained pressure of migrants coming throughout the 1920s, ghettos became more densely inhabited and expanded in to adjacent white residential neighborhoods, from which some former white residents had fled, selling their homes.

All the above shows that suburbanization, in the 1920s put in to place a number of characteristics, now associated with post war fringe building: low density projects dependent on new road building and zoning regulations that kept industrial, commercial, and residential suburbanization separate. Conclusion This research on the Post war suburbanization in America, and to a lesser extent that of earlier decades, has brought out the connection between the suburban process and the dynamics of the market economy.

The automobile and truck industries, tyre companies, oil interests, highway engineering and construction firms, mortgage finance companies as well as a host of interested professional lawyers, estate agents, surveyors, architects-all depended on continuing suburban sprawl. It has also been seen that the tracts of suburban housing provide a captive mass market for everything, from a motor mower to a barbecue set, and other consumer goods essential to the suburban way of life.


1) Divall Colin, Bond Winston. Suburbanizing the masses: public transport and urban development in historical perspective.

Ash gate Publishing, Ltd. , 2003 pg 50 2) Feagin Joe R. The new urban paradigm: critical perspectives on the city. Rowman ; Little field, 1997, pg 88 3) Kenyon Amy Maria. Dreaming suburbia: Detroit and the production of postwar space and culture. Wayne State University Press, 2004, pg 19-23 4) King Anthony D. The bungalow: the production of a global culture, Routledge, 1984, pg 150-157 5) Lewis Robert D. , Manufacturing Suburbs: Building Work and Home on the Metropolitan Fringe, Temple University Press, 2004. 6) McIlwraith Thomas F. , Muller Edward K. , North America: The Historical Geography of a Changing Continent.

2nd edition;Rowman ; Little field, 2001, pg 424-426 7) Miller Fredric, Vogel Morris J. , Davis A. F. , Philadelphia Stories: A Photographic History, 1920-1960. Temple University Press. Philadelphia; 1988. pg 242 8) Patterson James T. , Grand expectations: the United States, 1945-1974, 10th edition. Oxford University Press US, 1997, pg 109 9) Sitton T. , Deverell W. F. Metropolis in the making: Los Angeles in the 1920s. University of California Press, 2001, pg 90 10) Teaford Jon C. , Cities of the Heartland: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Midwes. Indiana University Press; 1994, pg 54-57

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Rise of the automobile industry. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/rise-of-the-automobile-industry-new-essay

Rise of the automobile industry

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