Monday, March 26, 2018

Peering inside the 1941 textbook "Man and the Motor Car"

Man and the Motor Car (Revised) is a high school textbook that was published in 1941 by Pennsylvania's Highway Safety Council.

According to the preface, it was first published in 1936, and went through 30 printings before the 1941 revision, which was undertaken "not because of the of any great changes either in the automobile itself or in the conditions that affect its use, but because there have been very considerable developments in the field of driver education."

The textbook was used in "several thousand high schools," according to the preface. This was an era when public schools began placing a greater emphasis on driver education. Penn State University professor Amos Neyhart had taught the first high school driver's education course in 1934 at State College Area High School.

Here's an excerpt from the National Museum of American History's web page on driver-education history:
"The American Automobile Association (AAA) ... encouraged the development of driving classes at public high schools and established training programs for driving instructors at colleges and universities. A growing number of high schools added special courses in an effort to improve driver skill and behavior and reduce the number of accidents. In many high schools, there were not enough teachers for one-on-one experience behind the wheel of a car. Driving simulators filled this gap by the 1950s."
One of those simulators was called the Aetna Drivotrainer. It's pretty amazing, and you can see a photo of it here.

Chapter titles in Man and the Motor Car include "A Nation on Wheels," "The Driver — Mental and Emotional Qualities," "The Art of Driving," "Rules of the Road," "Skills on the Highway," "Maintaining Your Car," "The Bicyclist," and "Paying for Accidents."

Here's a look at some of the things inside the copy of the book that I came across...

Inside front cover
A former owner of this book pasted a bit of a collage here. It includes a pair of American flags and a Mack Trucks sticker.

First page
Opposite the inside front cover, there is a pasted label for Autocar Trucks, then of Ardmore, Pennsylvania. And then the handwritten name of someone who once used this book — Jacob R. Echternach. There have been a few men with that name in Lancaster County, including Jacob "Jack" R. Echternach III of Ephrata, who died at age 62 in 2015. My best guess is that it was his father who used this textbook. Leacock, meanwhile, is a census-designated place in Lancaster County, though there is also a Leacock Township and an Upper Leacock Township.

Message from the governor
Arthur Horace James was the 31st governor of Pennsylvania, serving from 1939 to 1943. He was among the candidates for President of the United States at the 1940 Republican National Convention.

Photo illustration
"The driver who is too tense wastes nervous energy."

Photo illustration
"Preoccupied with other things, this lady is getting into her car right in the path of moving traffic."

Harrowing informational graphic


  1. I was counting on this post being interspersed with Chris Otto Recent Car Stories. I see I was incorrect.