The use of the automobile in private and corporate sectors reshaped the American economy. Federally paved roads provided a groundwork that continues to support millions of motorized consumers. Automobility became an expected convenience for a majority of the country's citizens during the twentieth century, and motorized consumers have access to consolidated hubs of commerce that supply goods and services at prices competitively cheaper than small private vendors. The widespread use of the automobile and the impressive Federal funding of road construction reshaped American methods of consumption. Citizens utilize cars on roads with an automatic regularity that emphasizes the quick and efficient consumption, systematically supporting the mass-production of goods and services. Automobility motivated establishments to provide consistent and inexpensive products in conglomerated and centralized locations. Drive-thru restaurants, mechanic garages, and even beer distributors often negate the need to leave the vehicle. Shopping centers, roadside strip-malls, and mega-malls draw on large communities of consumers, and the services provided are standardized to meet the demands of a high rate of traffic. Even with the development of advanced telecommunications and air travel technologies in the twentieth century, access to roads provides the primary foundation for local transportation of goods. Travel by foot obviously remained an option, similarly horse-drawn and locomotive modes of transportation continued to exist throughout the twentieth century, yet the automobile jumpstarted a migratory revolution that permanently marked the American landscape with a massive system of roads. The mass-consumption of automobiles required expansive Federal funding to modify and construct roads. Paved roads facilitating a transformation of the aesthetic environmental landscape, simultaneously germinating consolidated public services and reorganizing the economic priorities of American consumers. The relationship between consumers and technology involves a multi-faceted interaction of factors, yet roads are a relatively simple technology in comparison to the combustion engine or even a speedometer. Good roads supported novel methods of transportation and the automotive revolution in migratory behavior defined American consumerism during the twentieth century. New technologies develop frequently and with improved efficiency and functionality. The automobile constituted a drastic improvement from horse-drawn transportation, and more than 100 years later American culture is still engulfed in automotive dependency. Accurately assessing the long-term efficacy of the roads built in the twentieth century is an unreasonable undertaking, especially because despite useful nature of roads, American roads and highways are riddled with environmental and economic problems. Regardless of the benefits or disadvantages of automobility, American road building initiatives throughout the twentieth century subsidized the construction and continual maintenance of a colossal road system that will continue to adapt and change alongside the needs of those who navigate its surface.


Gedalecia, David




Other History | United States History

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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