On the Road in the USA


Fall 2014


5th Floor Classroom


Kenneth L. Ames

Although our views may be a bit less sanguine today, the automobile once seemed the best of inventions in this democratic land. It promised new freedoms, new opportunities, and new experiences, all increasingly available to the many. This course explores the complicated impact of the car on Americans’ lives during the course of the twentieth century, with particular attention to vacation travel and tourism and the material culture that emerged to serve them.   Starting with a brief overview of the evolution of the automobile in the U.S., the course examines the development of roads, parkways, and highways; the petroleum industry and gas stations; billboards and signage; tourist homes, cabins, and motels; diners, car hops, and fast-food vendors; trailers and mobile homes; destinations, both natural and decidedly artificial; and travel souvenirs and memorabilia.  Student projects determined in consultation with the instructor.  3 credits.