Stephanie's Reviews > Americans on the Road: From Autocamp to Motel, 1910-1945

Americans on the Road by Warren Belasco
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's review
May 05, 2009

This is crammed with fascinating material about how people thought about cars before WWII, especially the opposition between train travel (industrial, impersonal, strapped to a timetable) and cars (free-wheeling, romantic, gypsy-esque, independent, intimate, stopping to smell the roses--a return to the premodern days of stagecoaches). Then, of course, this entirely makeshift pasttime, in which people would drive around and camp in open fields and roadsides, becomes coopted by consumer culture, and we get motel chains. The book describes this process. This was the book Warren Belasco wrote for his dissertation. It displays his joy in archival research (he loves quoting silly things, like odes to the joys of autocamping) and his facility for making conceptual sense of abundant details: finding patterns, assigning terms, venturing generalities.

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