Unexpected: Hit the Road

Posted by Hillary Brady in July 16, 2015.

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This is the fourth post in our  Unexpected series which covers thematic discoveries in our collection. In case you missed it, our last post shared amazing images of robots from the 1920s to the 1990s. 

Americans across the decades have been drawn to the allure of the open road. It’s become a cultural touchstone, a theme in our music, our novels, our history, of getting behind the wheel and seeing the country. Here are some historic images and driving tips from the DPLA collection to inspire your next road trip.

Before you start, it is important to have a good sense of direction.

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“Map of the United States as Californians see it,” 1947. Courtesy of David Rumsey.

 

It is also crucial to know the basics about your car and how it operates.

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A General Motors transparent car, 1939-40. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

 

You’ll need to feel secure behind the wheel, whether you’re still driving your first car, or you are traveling in higher style.

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Mr. Elwood Haynes in his first car, 1893. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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A photo of a car. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. This work is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License (CC BY-NC-ND).

 

Safety is always paramount.

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The “Death Dodgers” at the New York World’s Fair, 1939-40. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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The “Death Dodgers” car traveling through flaming wall at the New York World’s Fair, 1939-40. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

 

As is obeying the rules of the road.

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A New York City traffic violator driving a 1900 car being stopped by a police officer on a bicycle. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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A 1919 automobile handbook, showing how to navigate the “delicate and dangerous situation” of passing horse-drawn vehicles and street cars. Courtesy of HathiTrust.

 

And watch where you’re going, of course.

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A car stuck in a stairwell, 1900s. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. This work is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License (CC BY-NC-ND).

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A car knocking down a utility pole in Cambridge, Boston, 1900s. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. This work is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License (CC BY-NC-ND).

 

It also helps to park your car someplace that will be easy for you to find again.

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A car fished out of Fort Point channel, 1952. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. This work is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License (CC BY-NC-ND).

 

The most successful mark of a good road trip, however, isn’t the car you’re driving.

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A commercial car priced at $ 3,200, 1909. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

 

It’s making room for friends, no matter the price tag.

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“Vacation days” at a stagecoach riding school, 1929. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth. Copyright (c) Leslie Jones. This work is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License (CC BY-NC-ND).