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Influence of the Automobile 1927

Posted April 16, 2014 by admin with 1 Comment in 1920's


NOT only do people go farther to buy the necessities—and luxuries—of life since the advent of the automobile, but they tend to locate in the larger centers of population.  This is the conclusion reached by the New York Journal of Commerce after reading of the survey made by the University of Nebraska in a section where there is one automobile to every four persons. Says this commercial daily:

An important outcome of the nation-wide addiction to the automobile which has not received the attention that its importance deserves is its effect upon the fortunes of trading centers and upon retail trade in the smaller towns and communities whose location was fixt in a pre-automobile age when distances were measured in terms of horse and buggy. All the evidence indicates strongly that the trend is away from the smallest towns located to catch a vanished horse-and-wagon trade. Not only do people go farther to buy, but they tend to locate in the larger centers of population.

In the sections of the United States that have recently acquired truck lines that supplement or supersede the railroads, the influence of the new modes of transport upon the trade of local stores and establishments is more conspicuous than elsewhere. In the smaller towns and centers, such as those of populous New England communities, however, what is lost in one way is often more than compensated for by the influx of new residents creating new demands.

 It is particularly valuable at the present stage of development to have a systematic inquiry made into the effect of the automobile in rural districts not of a suburban character. An attempt has been made by the College of Business Administration of the University of Nebraska, for example, to trace the influence of the automobile upon the retail-trade centers of a large area of that State embracing nearly 15,000 square miles.  It is a region in which agriculture predominates, and it includes a considerable number of fairly uniformly distributed villages and towns with one leading city, Lincoln, whose retail-trade area is largely within the confines of the district selected for study. Over one-third of the population of the State and about one-fifth of its land area fall within the geographical scope of the inquiry. As the region under observation contains about one automobile to each four persons living within its confines, it may be regarded as typical of the metamorphoses that are occurring in other highly motorized, rural communities of the United States.

Inadequate data, due to the limited period that, in the nature of the case, can be surveyed historically, make the results rather tentative in some respects, but they testify in unmistakable language to the decline of small villages having populations under 1,000. Towns of more than 1,000 showed a healthy growth, while the larger cities added substantially to their population between 1910 and 1920. In the very small towns, furthermore, general stores have been decreasing rapidly in number, especially since 1917, altho grocery stores have increased. In the towns with over 5,000 population the number of stores of all lines has increased, with few exceptions. Sales of less staple articles are diminishing in the small towns. For villages with less than 500 persons even some of the staple trade has gone to other places.

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