Down the Asphalt Path

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1995-08-01
  • Publisher: Columbia Univ Pr

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Imagine a world without automobiles, traffic lights, and interstate highways. Or the words commuterand parking. For a nation that prides itself on the freedom of movement and the long weekend, this seems nearly impossible.In Down the Asphalt Path, Clay McShane examines the uniquely American relation between automobility and urbanization. Writing at the cutting edge of urban and technological history, McShane focuses on how new transportation systems -- most important, the private automobile -- and new concepts of the city redefined each other in modern America. We swiftly motor across the country from Boston to New York to Milwaukee to Los Angeles and the suburbs in between as McShane chronicles the urban embrace of the automobile.McShane begins with mid-nineteenth century municipal bans on horseless carriages, a response to public fears of accidents and pollution. After cities redesigned roads to encourage new forms of trasnport, especially trolley cars, light carriages, and bicycles, the bans disappeared in the 1890s. With the advent of the automobile, metropolitan elites quickly and permanently established cars as status symbols. Down the Asphalt Pathalso explains the escapist appeal of the motor car to many Americans constrained by traditional social values.This book includes more than thirty photographs detailing the transformation of urban transportation. They bring to life chapters on modes of travel before the trolley; the push for parks, parkways, and suburbanization; the car in popular culture; and the battle for traffic safety and regulation. McShane's analysis of gender relations in the rise of automobility -- in particular, definitions of gender in terms of mechanical skill and of driving as male power -- is both timely and innovative.Wonderfully readable, this book will be a treasure for readers of urban history, popular culture, and technology -- as well as car buffs.

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xv
Urban Travel Before the Trolley
The Search for Open Space: Trolleys, Parks, and Parkways
Animal Power, 1870--1900
The Uses and Abuses of Streets
The Failure of the Steam Automobile
The Emergence of the Internal Combustion Automobile: An Urban Phenomenon
The Epitome of Possessions: The Car in Popular Culture
Gender Wars
Red Light, Green Light
The Motor Boys Rebuild Cities
Notes 229(48)
Index 277
Illustrations appear as a group after page 124

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