Friday, June 3, 2011

3 June 1917: An "Astonishing" 37.4 Miles per Gallon!

On this day in 1917, Talmage Hardware Company ran the following ad in the Athens Banner:

Talmage Hardware was located at 131 East Clayton Street downtown, where Lamar Lewis Shoe Store is today.

In 1917, the cost of a gallon of gasoline in the United States 20 cents per gallon, approximately $3.22 in today's dollars. The Fuel Administration established during World War I was primarily focused on the nation's coal supplies, and urged citizens to conserve electricity and order their coal early in the winter. Gasoline rationing came in the autumn of 1918, through a voluntary action of "gasolineless Sundays." The war ended before stricter constraints were deemed necessary.

According to a story run on the same page as the ad, demand for automobiles was high in Clarke County thanks to "premium prices" for food crops brought on by the war. All the dealers interviewed had sold out of their stock and had waiting lists for a variety of models. According to Mr. Griffeth, the local Ford agent, "Farmers are buying these handy little machines to haul their produce into town and carry their supplies out." 

The article noted that "with the products of the farm soaring there is no reason why the farmer for once in his life should not ride and ride comfortably," and asserted that such purchases were patriotic support of American industry during a time of war. 

The automobile was also touted as a modern way to improve well-being, with the author quoting famous New York Evening Journal editor Arthur Brisbane, who likened riding in a car to indoor plumbing: "you pay for running water as a matter of course. Just as health is the running air that fills your lungs and clears your blood as your car rushes through it. To call a car a 'luxury' trivial nonsense. As well call running water and a bathtub in your house luxury."

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