1914 Reflections on the Automobile

As automobiles became more commonplace, so did opinions on this new method of transportation. See some opinions of the auto shared in Maryland papers in 1914:

During parish reports during a statewide meeting of the Protestant Episcopal Church, pastors shared varying viewpoints of the emerging mode of transportation. “The automobile was cited as a reason for decreased church attendance. [The Rev. William Cleveland] Hicks said he was considering changing the hour of his morning service so that members of his congregation might attend church and also enjoy Sunday motoring,” according to a November 1914 article in the Democratic Advocate (Westminster).

But others disagreed with the Cumberland pastor’s assessment. “The Rev. Charles Shaw, of Antietam, and Delegate Gross, of Brunswick, declared that the automobile established closer communication between pastors and members in the country,” per the article.

That same Democratic Advocate reported that the postal service was considering using the vehicle to expand its capabilities. “Postmaster General Burleson has recommended the supplanting of horses on rural routes by automobiles. Along with the recommendation goes the suggestion for an increase in length of standard route to 50 miles [from 24 miles].”

Disdain for the automobile — or the irresponsibility they caused — was plainly evident in an August 1914 Cecil Whig (Elkton) editorial:

“Psychologically, for example, they [automobiles] are wizards. Five minutes in the possession (or even in the hospitable occupancy) of a motor car will convert many an ordinarily sane and respectable citizen into more different kinds of a fool than are mentioned in the books. They are not run on gasoline at all — popular delusion to the contrary notwithstanding. They are run on the unfathomable mysteries of modern financiering where ‘How to live on nothing a year and keep an automobile’ is a conundrum to nobody but the plain, old-fashioned folks who still think it good form (if not common honesty) to pay the grocer and butcher occasionally, and in moments of exceptional virtue, the newspaper. …”

“However the rest of our human kind may feel toward motor cars, we never fail to contemplate them with awe, while the wonder grows at the power to turn poor folks rich. A beautifully appointed car, with its endless devices for using up money, is an awe-inspiring sight in the happy hands of a neighbor who has been thoughtfully apologizing for four years that he must ask us ‘to wait a little longer’ on that ‘little temporary loan which I had fully expected to have returned long ago.” But what is a deferred payment on — an accommodation loan, what account is to be taken of ‘the butcher, the baker, the candle-stick maker,’ when your friend is engaged with burning up several dollars worth of gasoline a day in the ‘wild joy of living.’”

Sources: Cecil Whig, August 1, 1914; Democratic Advocate, November 20, 1914

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