Geography of Popular Culture 2017 – Blog #1 Posted on September 4, 2017 by saorsa2014 Discuss the relationship between the rise of car ownership and fast food after WWII. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
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The Automobile industry experienced tremendous growth after WWII. It took Henry Ford, starting in 1908, nearly 20 years to produce and sell 15 million of his Model T’s. In the following years, technological advancements in design and manufacture meant that automobile manufacturers could mass produce millions of vehicles every year. In the 1950s, nearly 58 million cars were produced and sold in America with Henry Ford’s monumental 15 million being topped in the first three years of the decade (1).
This post-WWII economic growth was not restricted to the automobile industry. The American economy, particularly the already prosperous west coast saw an economic boom after WWII. At the time, there was plentiful federal spending on infrastructure and manufacturing, such that Los Angeles at the time was second only to Detroit in terms of industrial output. The Automobile industry plied the federal government for expansion of the interstate highway system while plotting to dismantle attempts at the creation of sensible mass transport systems in developing cities (2). The GI Bill gave returning American soldiers access to funds for housing and education. Many large cities saw the growth of Levittowns, the first of America’s many suburbs (3). All of these factors contributed to the expansion of a very automobile-dependent model of city planning and development, leading to what is known as urban sprawl.
This sprawling nature of America’s developing cities and suburbs along with the proliferation of affordable automobiles contributed to creation of car culture in America. There was an obsession with automobiles in popular culture at the time. The family car was a mode of transport, recreation, even a part of coming of age rituals. With consumers becoming more and more mobile, restaurants responded by adopting the same tactics that were employed by the automobile industry to increase production and decrease prices: assembly line style of production, automation, and economy of scale. Drive-ins were supplanted by drive-thrus, carhops replaced with speaker boxes, and flatware replace with paper wrappers. At the same time as Carl Karcher opened his first Carl’s Jr., copying the wildly successful McDonald’s drive-thru model, The United States Congress passed the Interstate Highway Act (2). This paradigm shift in transportation and lifestyle created a behemoth of both the automobile industry and the fast food industry at once.
The rise of fast food and the already immensely successful automobile industry in America have proceeded hand in hand through the latter half of the twentieth century. The booming economy, advancing technology, and shifting lifestyle of post-World War II America led to a proliferation of automobiles and automobile-centric cities and suburbs. In order to capitalize upon and better service the busier, more highly mobile lifestyle of their clientele, restaurateurs began to pivot to a car-centric model and thus was the inception of the fast food industry as it exists today.
1.) 23, 2017 Feb. “North America Car and Truck Production, 1951-2016.” WardsAuto,
wardsauto.com/datasheet/north-america-car-and-truck-production-1951-2016. Accessed 20
2.) Schlosser, Eric. Fast food nation. Barcelona, Debolsillo, 2007.
3.) “A Brief History of the Growth of Suburbs.” The Impact of the Automobile on the 20th Century,
l3d.cs.colorado.edu/systems/agentsheets/New-Vista/automobile/suburbia.html. Accessed 20
Good discussion of the way s in which the car culture influenced other aspects of post war American life.
During WWII, there was an urgent need for war-related materials such as weapons, tanks, planes, and other items. This in return led to the United States putting more people and money back into factories which would be changed after the war was over into facilities that could produce products like appliances and cars for the American consumer. Because the war brought America out of an economic depression, many Americans now had more money to spend after the war, and many people were able to buy cars. According to Libraryindex.com, “By 1950, 60% of American households had a car, and transportation related expenses accounted for one out of every seven dollars spent by the typical American household.” During this time, owning a family car had pretty much become a necessity because of the fact that as many adults now had to commute to work from the suburbs to the city. Because many families now had cars, people began to travel more which in turn led to many more business opportunities, thus the creation of fast food drive ins. Now that many American families across the country could easily travel longer distances in cars, businesses came to be that allowed them to enjoy a meal without even having to leave their cars. Not only was it convenient to have a quick meal whilst sitting in your car, but it was also much cheaper because of the industrialization of food and the lack of the business in having to provide facilities for customers to dine-in. People then, as do we today, enjoyed driving right up to a building, placing an order, and receiving a cheap, fast, and usually delicious meal. McDonald’s, one of the first drive-ins in America was the chief business that led to the industrialization of food. Because McDonald’s bought all of their buns from one source, all of their ketchup from one source, all of their potatoes from one source to supply every restaurant they owned across the nation, every time a person went to buy a hamburger and fries, they knew exactly what they were going to get. This encouraged a family that lived in Texas to visit a McDonald’s in California when they were there on vacation. People like what they know is going to be good, and so they will drive into a McDonald’s anywhere in the country to grab a quick and inexpensive bite to eat. The fast food hamburger restaurants were the first to arrive, but they were quickly followed by fast food restaurants serving fried chicken (KFC) and Mexican food (Taco Bell). In the 1970’s, fast food became even faster. With the introduction of the drive-through, the time it took to receive a meal shrank even more. The industrialized process and standardization of fast food had revolutionized the way Americans looked at food. In our country today, you can order nearly any type of food from the comfort of your air-conditioned car and receive it in less than ten minutes.
The American Consumer-The Rise of the Consumer Culture
Nice discussion, good integration of car culture and other aspects of popular culture.
After World War Two there was a great expansion of the automobile industry. It all started in the 1920s as Henry Ford came out with the Model T. His innovation in production, using the assembly line, allowed middle class people to afford his automobiles. As World War Two approached, production of cars for citizens stopped, and automobile plants switched to making war machines. During wartime, Americans saved their money, and only spent only it on the necessities for living. After the war, as soldiers came home there was an increased demand for jobs and housing. In 1944 the GI bill passed, which provided money for educating and building houses for the returning soldiers (1). The expansion of housing around the major cities caused the creation of suburbs, and increased the need for transportation into the city. Public transportation like trains and trolleys were geographically limiting, so automobiles became a necessity for suburban people to get around anywhere at any time. The increased demand for automobiles also increased the demand for newer roads. The political and economic pressure that was put on the government soon made them pass the Interstate Highway Act in 1958, which connected all major cities in the United States with highways (1). This new found freedom to travel brought on the need for faster and more efficient consumer goods.
The post World War Two car culture created the rise of the fast food industry. It started with Kirby’s Pig Stand drive-in in 1921, which allowed consumers to stay in their cars as they eat their meals. This drive-in model allowed chains like McDonalds to start in 1940, and industrialize the food industry. Post war times gave people more time to enjoy these conveniences. As more drive-ins popped up, they competed for the motorist’s attention. For example, in Southern California, “drive-in restaurants of the early 1940s tended to be gaudy and round, topped with pylons, towers, and flashing signs” to get noticed (2). Their desire to be unique and different made them the perfect spot for youth culture. The youth were attracted to the convenience and the late night attraction of the drive-in. The freedom of the automobile and the social aspect of the drive-in caused both industries to flourish in youth culture. The response to the first drive-ins allowed a bigger diversity of food rather than just hamburgers. In 1952, Kentucky Fried Chicken became the first fast food chicken restaurant, and in 1962 Taco Bell became the first Mexican fast food restaurant. The cheap, mass produced food was standardized and faster than ever. As the American lifestyle became even faster paced, so did the fast food industry. This created the demand for the drive-through, which was created in the 1970s. Drive-throughs gave people the option to get their food quicker and drive off once they received their order. Now automobiles and drive-through are so efficient that from order to delivery the consumer can sit in air conditioning, listen to music, get their food, and go on with their day in minutes.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast food nation. Barcelona, Debolsillo, 2007.
The Impact of the Automobile on the 20th Century
Good discussion of post war car culture.
The automobile industry is one that has revolutionized not just its’ own industry of transportation, but several others as well. In 1908 Henry Ford came out with his Ford’s Model T automobile that was a starting point for the years to come. Five years later, Ford introduced the world’s first moving assembly line that provided him with the means to mass-produce his vehicles (1). Ford’s assembly line not only was a contribution to the automobile industry but several others, such as the fast food industry.
The relationship between fast food and the automobile industry is an interesting and a prosperous one. After World War 2, the automobile industry really took off. American society became obsessed with cars and the status symbol that came along with them. More and more automobile brands came out with new makes and models, as well as colors to choose from. Specifically after World War II, cars started to reflect people’s place in the US. The newer the car was, the higher in society one was perceived. Cars are made to last for several years, but after World War II, the advertising world helped push the latest and greatest when it came to automobiles. People were encouraged to upgrade their cars even when there wasn’t much of a need. There was a “fetishization” with the newest model and make of cars. Colors shifted from dark neutrals such as black to more vivid colors such as blue and yellow. With the new advancements in technology and manufacturing also came the automobile with the covered roof. The covered roof gave access for women to drivel safely by themselves and for people to travel farther distances, even in adverse weather conditions. The covered car also helped bridge a relationship between fast food and cars.
Fast food can trace back its’ earliest origins to soda fountains that functioned as multi-purpose store. They sold many things, and among those were lunch items such as sandwiches. Individual soda brands, such as A&W, started their own restaurants, which develop into fast food. Drive-ins also started popping up after World War II. This is also due to the fact that the covered car was a new means for people to eat fast. People were able to drive in, get food and also eat inside their cars. Kirby’s Pig Stand in Dallas, Texas was the first official drive-in restaurant as well as the first restaurant to franchise. With drive-in restaurants came drive-in movies. The covered automobile also aided in the success of drive-in movies after World War II. The drive-in movies gave teenagers a central place to run off to with their friends, and the covered automobile gave the teenagers a private place to be alone with one another. Also the assembly line, first introduced by Henry Ford as a way to speed up production of automobiles, started being used in fast food restaurants to serve customers more efficiently. Drive-thrus brought a faster pace work environment to fast food restaurants so the assembly line was valuable in the industry. Both automobiles and the fast food industry are two important aspects of modern day society that both aid in efficiency.
1. This Day in History – Ford’s Assembly Line Starts Rolling
Commercial production of cars in the United States began in the early 1900’s. One of the first automobile manufacturers to make its claim was the Ford Motor Company, which was established in 1903. During WWII there was a high demand for automobile motors, fuel, and tires to be produced for the war efforts. However, when the war was over, the production of these products could be used to satisfy the demand for automobiles in the US. With the invention of the assembly line, Henry Ford could produce his Model T on a massive scale. Other automobile manufacturers joined Henry Ford in mass production of cars for Americans. At first, the car was only an item that the well-to-do could afford, but because of the mass production and transportation of automobiles, it quickly became a purchase that the average family could make.
After WWII, the US went through an economic boom that changed the identity of the middle class. More and more people could afford the lifestyle of the middle class leading to an expansion of this group of people. Not only could more people afford to buy a family car, but more people could spend money on things other than necessities. Now families, but more often teenagers, were going to the movies and going to shopping malls. This created a sort of car culture that led to people spending time and money outside of the house. This and the expansion of the road and interstate system gave rise to a change in the pattern of consumerism in America.
This change in consumer landscape allowed for a new type of restaurant, one that was suitable for Americans on the go and teenagers looking for a hangout spot. A&W was the first curb service restaurant, where carhops could deliver food from the restaurant to customers waiting outside in their cars. This business model spread across the nation as drive-ins became not only a convenience but also a social event. A long list of fast food restaurants, including White Castle, McDonald’s, and Howard Johnson’s, joined A&W in the fast food expansion. Not long after the invention of the drive-in, came the drive-thru, which allowed for an even faster way to get food.
With the rise in fast food, came the standardization of menus, recipes, signage, architecture, uniforms, the list goes on. This allowed for customer assurance in the fact that they could go to a McDonald’s anywhere in the country and know exactly what to expect. They would see the same golden arches, see the same menu items, and eat the same hamburger in California as they would in Florida. The industrialization of the fast food industry helped with this standardization. Because food needed to be produced on a big scale, processes needed to be industrialized, and these processes were soon implemented in restaurants across the country.
In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food only to increase to more than $110 billion in 2000. Fast food has become a staple in the average American’s lifestyle. We are surrounded by the buildings and flashy signs down our city streets and highways. We are constantly exposed to the advertising on TV, on the radio, in movies, in magazines. Pretty much every where you look, you are exposed to fast food advertisements. The massive fast food industry is almost omnipresent, and it can all be traced back to the rise and expansion of car ownership.
The History of the Automobile. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2017, from http://l3d.cs.colorado.edu/systems/agentsheets/New-Vista/automobile/
The Postwar Economy: 1945-1960. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2017, from http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/outlines/history-1994/postwar-america/the-postwar-economy-1945-1960.php
The History of Fast Food in America. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2017, from http://www.accupos.com/pos-articles/history-of-fast-food-in-america/
Excellent background research
World War II left many parts of the world in ruins. Bombing campaigns had laid waist to most of the worlds major factories and infrastructure. Meanwhile, the United States was fortunate to have remained relatively untouched. Auto makers such as Ford, Jeep, BMW, Dodge, Rolls Royce, Chrysler transitioned from making tanks, planes, and armored cars back to civilian cars, trucks, and motorcycles. The whole world was rebuilding and attempting to return to the way life was before the war. The Allied automakers were strategically placed to help fill this void. These companies had a new market to target: the returning soldiers and their families. Because the United States had no damage to any of their major factories, the U.S. was able to produce vehicles on a larger scale then the rest of the world.
After World War II, people moved to the suburbs and bought more cars. The middle class expanded post World War II, making it easier to buy a house and car. Additionally, the GI Bill made it easier to buy a house and sometimes cheaper than having an apartment in the city. The suburbs were also seen as safer than the city and, for whites, farther away from minorities. Moreover, because of the baby boom, many people may have wanted more space than a city apartment can provide. In the years to come, automakers poised their research and development towards creating cars that would attract the middle class demographic at a younger age than they had traditionally sold cars to. By creating cars that were faster, smaller, and sportier while still remaining affordable they were able to break into the new marketing territory of the teenager.
The fast food industry concentrated in the suburbs as people moved there post World War II. The fast food industry has its roots in soda fountains and lunch counters. Automats, developed in 1912, also influenced the development of fast food as there is minimal interaction with other humans to get the food and the food is all standardized. In the 1920s, Kirby’s Pig Stand pioneered a model that fast food companies would use. Kirby’s Pig Stand, franchised in over ten states, used standardized architecture and franchised food; Kirby’s Pig Stand is the first time anyone had seen franchising of this kind, which the fast food industry would later pick up on and use in their own restaurants. In the 1940s and onward, more fast food restaurants began to crop up: McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Arby’s. McDonald’s began using a similar method to Kirby’s, with a particular focus on the industrialized production of food. McDonald’s used a single source for each of its’ products, which led to consistency in every restaurant; all of their products would taste the same, regardless if the McDonald’s was in Kentucky or California. The book, Fast Food Nation, discusses at length McDonald’s rise in the fast food industry through the McDonald brother’s initially in 1948 when they applied the assembly line model used in factories to McDonald’s and then through Ray Kroc, who franchised McDonald’s nationwide (15, 19). Other fast food restaurants followed this model, such as Burger King, Wendy’s, and Arby’s followed McDonald’s model.
The McDonald’s model is something we all take for granted today, but was revolutionary for its time. Post World War II, during the “the space age” with rockets and jets, speed was everything. The speed of your car was complimented by a speedy made meal. Sonic would even coin their slogan “service with the speed of sound.” Thus, both the auto industry and the fast food industry profited post World War II.
This post was written by Jennifer Isaacs
Nice discussion of the way the auto industry influenced other aspects of post war US culture.
Amidst the calamitous Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 1920’s and 30’s, a never-before-seen amount of people migrated within the US to Southern California. Previously, cities on the east coast had been designed around railway systems rather than automobiles in mind. Cities like Los Angeles, however, became models for an automobile based society, home to sprawling suburbs as people with cars moved in. Suburbs facilitated a need for individual transportation as people lived further from their places of work than ever before. Fueled by World War II, the USA’s industrial factories boomed and grew immensely after the Great Depression. Between 1940 and 1945, the government spent nearly $20 billion in California building up the industry, which by the end of the war, was second only to Detroit in terms of industrial output (1). This included lots of new roads that assisted the suburbanites. By 1940, there were about a million cars in Los Angeles alone, which at the time was more than forty-one states. After the war, many of these factories shifted back to municipal interests and the car industry grew even more. In addition to this, the GI Bill led to the creation of even more suburbs as soldiers returning from war required housing. This new car culture would grip Southern California and the state would become home to the world’s first motel and drive-in bank (2). Naturally, this newly established car culture would expand to the food industry as well.
Although it was started in Texas in 1921, the first major fast food chain in America, Kirby’s Pig Stand would thrive in Southern California. “People with cars are so lazy they don’t want to get out of them to eat!” said founder Jesse G. Kirby, as he capitalized on the new phenomenon (3). Restaurants shifted from being modest buildings that usually appealed to locals to being flashy and identifiable by hungry passing by automobile drivers. Large neon-lit signs became the norm as the youth culture of America shifted to focus more on late night activities created by the freedom that cars provided. Cars provided an easy escape from the prying eyes of parents, and these new drive-ins, often manned by attractive young “carhops” who would take peoples’ orders from their car, facilitated this freedom. In 1937, Richard and Maurice McDonald left New Hampshire for Pasadena, opened a drive-in, and hired three carhops. They did well for themselves, but got tired of their teenage customers and workers, whose disposability was more of a hindrance than a help. In 1948, they fired all their carhops and radically shifted their restaurants to become more efficient than ever. They got rid of all dishes, removed anything that required a utensil to eat from the menu, and erected the now infamous “golden arches.” These changes for efficiency revolutionized the industry and others began to take notice of McDonald’s success. The same year that Carl Jr’s would be founded, 1956, the Interstate Highway Act would become the largest public works project in the nation’s history, building 46,000 miles of road with more than $130 billion of federal money. The new highways “spurred car sales, truck sales, and the construction of new suburban homes” (4). The oil shortage of the 70’s provided a scare for the fast-food industry, but it would recover, and to this day fast-food is still a staple for many Americans.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast food nation. Penguin Books, 2007.
Good discussion of the history of drive though culture.
Every single day, fast food restaurants in the United States serve over 50 million customers. The largest of the chains, McDonald’s, sells 75 hamburgers every second of the day on average. Twenty percent of all the meals consumed by Americans are consumed in a car. The growth of the fast food diet in the U.S. is closely interconnected to the widespread expansion of the automobile industry following World War II which created a car and food culture that has shaped the American diet ever since.
During World War II, the American automotive industry produced nearly $29 billion worth of military materials for the war effort. Following the war, the enlarged industry continued to produce massive amounts of automobiles that were finally more affordable than ever before. This was met with a great demand from the American consumers that were experiencing economic prosperity following the war. Middle-class America was expanding in a way that it never had before. With the car industry seeing such expansion, infrastructure and amenities were built to meet the new culture. Although the middle-class trend of Americans moving out of cities and into neighboring suburbs had already begun, the suburban lifestyle expanded greatly following World War II. Thanks to large-scale suburban housing developments like the Levittown neighborhoods, in part made possible by the National Housing Act of 1934, the American Dream of home ownership was far more possible than ever before. Before, most suburban neighborhoods developing out of cities were connected by commuter trains or trolley systems but as the sprawl outward become more and more intense, the automobile and the freeway infrastructure became the major connectors.
In places where the sprawl was the most radical, like Southern California, the restaurant industries grew to meet demand. The predecessor of the fast food restaurant, the drive-in diner, was the first brand to truly recognize the importance of flash and design in the new car-driven geographic restaurant landscape. The architecture, colors, and gimmicks of the neon-clad drive-in’s were loud and intense and beckoned customers from the highway landscapes to veer off and pull up. Even though the food and service were faster than ever before, these drive-in’s still weren’t enough. For the McDonald’s brothers, the process had to get faster. Richard and “Mac” McDonald had become dissatisfied with the high prices of operating their drive-in and were sick of the growing audience the type of restaurant attracted: teenagers. In an effort to rebrand for higher profits and a larger consumer base, they developed a new system of fast food that was not unlike the original assembly line developed by Henry Ford at the beginning of the automobile industry. The “Speedee Service System” they coined was the start of modern fast food system: a division of labor in which every employee was expected to perform one or two specific tasks towards the creation of the final product. After the restaurant saw major repeatable success in franchise across the country, the groundwork was set for the expansion of fast food empires throughout the United States and further. Without the post-World War II industrial automobile growth and the suburban culture we know recognize across the nation, these types of restaurants could not exist.
Good discussion of the development of drive through culture.
During World War I, automobiles were expanding for military use in Europe while in the United States, Henry Ford’s assembly line was transforming labor practices and reducing the need for skilled labor. These changes almost immediately increased the availability and affordability of an automobile to the public. Even though the industry faced challenges during the interwar period, ownership of automobiles nearly tripled by the end of the 1920s. James J. Flink states that by 1927 “there was one car for every 5.3 inhabitants in the United States”. It is this moment that the economic and cultural effects of having access to this kind of individual mobility began to be visible in the American identity and other capitalist developed countries.
Support for the automobile era came largely from the American government subsidizing the rubber and road construction industry for economic growth for expanding the automobile industry, highlighted by the Federal Highway Act of 1921. The effects of such overwhelming encouragement of the automobile involved almost every aspect of American popular life – selling the “family car” ideal, revolutionizing dating and mating, transforming the built landscape with roads, roadside attractions, service stations, and diners. Specifically, the development of ‘drive-ins’ during the interwar period changed the food landscape in America and set the stage for mass expansion of “fast food” post World War II.
By post World War II, the automobile was nearly synonymous with the American ideal and the influx of return servicemen propelled the industry to almost exclusively consumer-based market. The federal government further encouraged the purchase of automobiles by supporting a national network of roads with the National Highway System, beginning construction in 1956. Experiences of convenience were not novel to this post war era, but followed traditions of the interwar period. For food, the first roadside food stand that would become franchised was the Pig Stand Company in Dallas in 1921. By the 1950s, two brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald, took cues from Henry Ford’s assembly line and lost the “drive-in” model in favor of a faster way to food. Menu items were customized for eating with your fingers, car attendants were replaced with self-service, and the food was previously prepared. A salesman, Roy Kroc, soon bought the rights to franchise the restaurant and the first McDonald’s was opened in 1955 in Des Plaines, Illinois. What is now thought of as the original “fast food”, McDonald’s would not have been possible without the concurrent development of the American automobile industry.
The Automobile Age, James J. Flink
Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
Nice discussion of the links between cars and american culture.
After World War II, America’s fast food industry and car ownership culture coevolved into a massive, interconnected market that is still growing and developing around the world today. Both industries share a similar target audience – American youth, so the emergence of these markets seemed nearly inevitable and has proven to be incredibly profitable.
First, in 1913, Ford Motor Company created the assembly line in order to maximize the production rate of their Ford Model T. The assembly line industrialized the automobile market by making cars relatively affordable, readily available, and standard in quality. From 1913 until the 1950’s, the popularity of cars in the United States increased, and in the 1950’s, the concept of revamping a specific car and releasing a new model each year peaked. Consequently, with new cars being produced each year, the number of cars in the United States increased, and in turn, the price to obtain an automobile decreased. On top of that, due to the war efforts, 586,489 Jeeps were produced, and many of the Jeeps were left after the war concluded. So, eventually, with the mass production and overabundance of automobiles, prices fell to the point where car ownership became associated with American youth. This is extremely critical because in this time period, much of America’s youth had expendable incomes, so the question became what should they spend their excess money on? The answer was incredibly simple yet genius – food. Everybody needs food to survive. It is a basic necessity of life. Not to mention, food is an important component of many social interactions that American youth engage in such as dating and eating out with friends and family.
Eventually, the automobile market was not the only industry that tapped into this demographic. In 1921, a Dallas, Texas based restaurant called Kirby’s Pig Stand franchised their company; this was the first time a restaurant was ever franchised, and its popularity stretched until the company had locations in ten different states. They would not be the only restaurant to accomplish this level of success. Following Kirby’s Pig Stand, we saw the franchising of restaurants such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, KFC, Taco Bell, etc. Finally, in the 1950’s, we saw the automobile and food industry first merge with the invention of the drive-in restaurant. Americans could pull their car into a stall and were served at their car window by a carhop. It was fast, and it was cheap. It was perfect for America’s fast paced society. However, there is always room to improve, and that is what happened next. Following the invention of the drive-in, in the 1970’s, the idea was furthered and the first drive-thru was created, and with that, the fast food industry was truly born. The invention of the drive-thru revolutionized the food industry to be even faster and even cheaper than before. The fast food market exploded with popularity. American restaurants began internationalizing their business models in the 1970’s, and now we seen McDonald’s in every continent of the world besides Antarctica. We have seen trusted American fast food brands offer variations of their menus in order to acclimate to different regions of the world. This globalization of fast food after World War II has been remarkable and very controversial. Some people believe that it has contributed to the destruction of authenticity of local foods, but in today’s day and age, convenience, affordability, and speed are king. Not to mention, fast food has been an extremely profitable market, so I do not expect to see it slow down anytime soon.
Since Americans were first introduced to the fast food through the use of an automobile, they have been hooked. I believe that both the car and food industry will continue to intertwine and grow alongside each other.
Good discussion of car culture and youth culture.
The marriage between food and automobiles was inexorable in the United States following WWII, for a number of reasons. Foremost of these reasons is the economic prosperity that occurred in subsequent decades. For many Americans, having more disposable income meant having money which could be spent on additional cars. The transition from one-car families to multiple-car families was paramount because it translated into market expansion. That is, women and adolescents who previously had limited access to the market were no longer limited by their mobility.
Though the injection of youth into the market is perhaps most significant, that is not to downplay the importance of women’s participation in the market. Women having cars, coupled with the women’s rights movement, lead to a drastic increase of women workers. Because women were now working jobs alongside men, the dynamic of the American home changed. Women notoriously stayed home to do the cooking and cleaning prior to this time. Finding the time to work and do these chores was difficult and picking up fast food was an easy solution for dinner on some nights.
Simultaneously, American teenagers revolutionized fast food consumption. From a market perspective, a consumer is most valuable to a business the more purchases they are capable of making. Adolescents, as they have little to no financial responsibility, are able to make more purchases than adults, especially once they begin having families. Even beyond that, establishing brand-loyalty in the youth renders long-term corporate profit as they continue to make purchases over the course of their lives. As such, advertising began to specifically target youth, which was especially effective because they have the most amount of leisure time to listen to radio and watch television. Furthermore, the economic model for fast food chains is typically to employ unskilled labor in order to pay low wages. This often means hiring teenagers, which further perpetuates the market.
Also pertaining to the economic model is the way parallels can be drawn between car and fast food production. Henry Ford is well-known for his inventing of the assembly line production technique; this particular brand of efficiency creates consistent products, which is the pillar of fast food. That is, no matter where in the world the consumer is, the food should be the same in taste and quality.
Finally, to touch on advertising again, it is important to note that men, women, and children would also be subjected to billboards. The preponderance of billboards cements the link between car culture and consumption, especially in terms of fast food.
Post WWII, there was a direct and concise correlation between the rise of the fast food industry and the rise of personal car ownership, this correlation continued through the 1950s and can still be seen today. As the American population began living in suburban areas and commuting to work in the city, the ownership because more of a necessity than a luxury like it had been in the past. As the transition to a more “on the go” lifestyle, the US food industry acknowledged this change and began adapting, and the beginning of the fast food industry came to life. With this highly mobile lifestyle came the need for a meal that could be eaten while on the move, this resulted in restaurants creating food that was quick to prepare, tasted good, and could be picked up in a bag. This allowed someone traveling to stay on the move or someone coming home from work to pick up a cheap and already prepared meal, eliminating the need to cook a meal and saving time overall for American families. This model of business also allowed restaurants to save money over all due to the dining area being each persons vehicle, eliminating the need to provide tables, silverware, and an area for people to have their meal. Uniformity of food also allowed brands like McDonalds to grow throughout the country. Obtaining ingredients from single sources meant that the company could standardize meals across the country so that if you buy a burger in New York or California it will always be the same. This meant that people were now familiar with these meals and more likely to purchase, rather than trying some new and unfamiliar. This industry was then sped up even more with the introduction of the “drive-through” in the mid 1970s, allowing people to now not even have to put their cars in park in order to receive their food and continue on their way. The industry continued to expand to better serve travelers in their vehicles to where we are today with endless options of food from different regions of the world and shockingly fast service. The fast food industry of today is an economic powerhouse and it would not be where it is today without the proliferation of the personal vehicle in America.
After World War II, there was a significant boom in the middle class of America. Soldiers coming back were wanting to have the American Dream of a single-family home away from the city. As people moved further and further from city centers, the automobile became more of a necessity for families in order to commute into work. Henry Ford industrialized the manufacturing of his Model T and made it affordable for the average family to get an automobile. Ford was able to sell over a million cars by 1920. Car culture quickly became youth culture. It was seen as a way for the youth to escape the house and see the world around them.
Before chain restaurants became the norm along main streets, people would gather at soda fountains—the first instance of “fast food” we see. They would congregate at lunch counters, train stations, and department or convenience stores as the normal social hot spot. The advent of the car allowed for a new way people could get food while out and about—drive-ins. In the 1950s and 60s, a few restaurants managed to gain enough popularity to be able to expand to multiple storefronts. Kirby’s Pig Stand started in Dallas, Texas and ended up being franchised to more than ten states. This laid the foundation for the future of fast food with the standardization of the types and quality of food across the different stores regardless of distance from the original store. New restaurants quickly popped up and were franchised across the country, and one of the most popular are hamburger chains like McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s.
With the rising increase in the drive-ins and the affordability of the automobile, people wanted to get their food faster, more conveniently. In the 1970s, the drive-through became the new way we consumed our fast food. Someone would no longer have to even stop the car to get their food—just loop the restaurant and your food comes out at the end.
The more cars that ended up on the road, the more chain restaurants lined them. We can now see fast food chains not only in our main streets, but also lining the off-ramps of interstates. This is the result of the franchising of restaurants and creating a culture where we crave those foods. It allows us to travel and still have the same experiences as we would closer to home.
As our ownership of cars rose, so did the amount of fast food we consumed. With the automobile, we are able to travel further from home and are therefore out of the home more. We still have to eat while out of the house, so fast food joints fill in that gap for us with cheap, reliable foods that we can find nearly anywhere we travel.
The History of the Automobile
Consumption culture took off with force following the Second World War. Much of Europe saw a total destruction of infrastructure, however, The United States saw relatively little action on the home front and left the war with infrastructure in tact and a robust workforce. World War II also served as catalyst for large scale car manufacturing. The war created demand for military vehicles, and following the Paris Peace Treaties, military machine manufacturers transitioned into the lucrative auto industry. As veterans returned to the United States, they served as an injection to the workforce, as well as a new target demographic for automotive manufacturers. The destruction of cities abroad and the large swaths of undeveloped land at home allowed for an automobile culture to dictate the creation of a new built landscape. Along with this new cultural landscape came a new business model for the food service industry, fast food.
Many factors led to the suburban sprawl of 1940s and 50s America. The addition of World War Two veterans to the American workforce led to one of the greatest periods of American economic prosperity. With this massive expansion of the middle class, homes became more affordable and attainable for Americans. In addition to post-war affluence, cultural messaging led to the continued suburban sprawl of most Americans. Popular American media labeled cities as dangerous and suburbs as safe. Families also desired more space for their larger families following the post-war baby boom. The migration from cities to suburbs made American families fundamentally changed the American landscape and created an automobile-dependent society.
With the middle class expansion and suburban sprawl came a new group of consumers to target middle class youth. The automobile industry aimed to draw in this new demographic with speedier and more attractive cars. Automobile access also enabled youth to spend an increased amount of time out of the house and away from their parents.
The fast food industry was born of the same factors that created the automobile explosion. Initially fast food took the form of soda fountains, followed my automats in the 1910s. Automats were frequented by the same target demographic of the automobile industry, teenagers. American youth, now mobile thanks to cars, were frequent customers. Often times getting out of the house and hanging out with friends meant going to the automat for a bite to eat. The first true fast food establishment was Kirby’s Pig Stand. Kirby’s was the first restaurant to franchise across the states while maintaining standardized menus.
The culmination of the fast food experiment came with the McDonald brothers’ hamburger stand in San Bernardino, California and the nationwide expansion of their model by Ray Kroc. Kroc spread McDonalds across the country building on Kirby’s franchise model. McDonald’s standardized menu and assembly line-style kitchen allowed for timely service and consistent products across its many franchises. All ingredients used in a McDonalds kitchen was single source. If you chose to eat at McDonald’s, you knew exactly what you were getting no matter where you were. The McDonald’s model revolutionized the fast food industry and changed the way that food is sold and consumed.
I posted this a few months back but I don’t see it so I am re-posting it again.
Geography of Popular Culture
Blog Post # 1
Post World War II, American experienced a mass urban expansion movement that allowed, mostly white middle-class Americans people, to exit the inner cities and relocate in to the now introduced urban idea of “suburbs”. However, this could not have been possible without the advent of the transportation grid and roadways that facilitated the movement of goods and eased the commute of the suburbanites to and from places of work, recreation, and services. The automobile, the new commodity adhered to the fetishitazion of the “new model”, as discussed in class, aided in the restructuring of the American social landscape, and as I stated in my opening statement, also established new social strata in which the able car owning white middle-class Americans migrated to the peripheries of cities as minorities (blacks, hispanic, latinos, asians, etc) remained confined to the cities.
The automobile not only allowed people to relocate but also gave people the freedom to travel to places they could not visit before. People were encouraged to travel and discover the country they fought for during the World Wars. “The American Dream” was now a reachable goal to the that fitted into the established social stratification of the era.
As people moved into the now happening “suburbs”, or travelled from point A to point B for whatever reasons, services had to be more accessible. Thus the birth of the Fast Food Industry. People were now covering long distances and required more time in cars, which created the need for sustenance during the long journeys and commutes.
The Fast Food Industry boomed because it filled a niche: people needed to satisfy they hunger in a fast and inexpensive way while feeding as many as possible quickly, which help the working and middle class on the go to attain necessary nourishment without engaging in the preparation of the meal itself.
The popularity of these fast foods establishments increased because they catered to the entire family. Soon people didn’t have to leave the comfort of their own cars and cold enjoy what was considered a “good meal”. The dining room had actually become motorized and was now families were given the opportunity to experience a dining experience wherever their cars could take them.
This new accessibility gave rise to the roadside diner culture. A good example of this is Route 66. Hundreds of eating establishments catered to the travelers and provided food, lodging, and entertainment. Later on, in the 1950s, this fast food establishments became the social gathering locales for the young. The young Americans —with their cars, fashion, and music— found it more appealing to meet in these places to socialize and exchange their everyday experiences with one another.
Fast Food has by now become engrained into the American culture and was making its way into the small and big screen, which helped to expand even more and to a broader audience that until now, had not been exposed to it. Fast Food is as American as apple pie. But as apple pie, it has been proven to be detrimental to one’s health if consumed regularly and excessively, And yet, we have exported this American notion to places that had some sorts of fast food industry (such as street food vendors) and substituted it with the recently imported fad.
Automobile production in the United States began in the early 1900s. Ford Motor Company was a chief pioneer in the industry as Henry Ford introduced the concept of the moving assembly line to mass-produce his famous Model T. This rapidly industrialized the automobile industry and would later do the same for numerous other industries, including the fast food business. During World War II, car companies used the assembly line to mass-produce vehicles that could be used for war. Most Americans at home still could not afford to own a car, and there simply were not many cars being produced for commercial purposes. This meant the ones that were being made for commercial use were too expensive for most in the lower and middle classes to afford. However, this changed after the war and companies returned to mass-producing automobiles for commercial use, driving the price down to an affordable level for most of America. Post World War II America was very different than it was before the war. The economy was booming, and more and more people were able to afford to participate in popular culture. This affected the automobile industry, as more families were able to own a vehicle. Since more families had a vehicle, it became more commonplace for families to spend quality time together outside of their households. Some of the beneficiaries of this development included movie theatres, malls, and fast food restaurants.
The first fast food restaurants popped up shortly after World War I. Kirby’s Pig Stand, the first of which opened in Dallas, TX in 1921, is credited as the first chain restaurant. It was franchised regionally to 10 states around Texas. The success of Kirby’s Pig Stand led to the possibility for burger chains to pop up in the 1940s and 1950s. Many of these chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s still dominate the market to this day. As the automobile industry grew, fast food restaurants adapted by replacing drive-ins with drive-throughs. They became standardized in their designs and menus in order to provide a sense of familiarity and comfort to their customers. This provided a restaurant like McDonald’s an advantage over most of its competition. McDonald’s quickly became a national icon. The double golden arches was a recognizable symbol anywhere in the United States. People knew the menu, they knew the price, and they knew how it was going to taste. This allowed for a customer who was far away from home to have a food option that was cheap and reliable. Fast food restaurants also utilized the same assembly line style of production that benefitted the rise of the automobile industry to produce vast quantities of food very quickly. This became essential as drive-throughs became commonplace across the country. If someone was going to go through the drive-through, they wanted to know that their food would be ready by the time that they got to the takeout window. A loss of convenience meant a loss of customer. The innovations in the assembly line method of production allowed for fast food restaurants to live up to their name and produce food fast.
After the end of World War II in 1945, the United States economy was out of the Great Depression and into a boom period. At this time, Americans had more spendable money than they had in a long time. At the same time, manufacturers such as Henry Ford had figured out how to make and sell cars for an affordable price. A Ford car just after World War II cost about $13,000 in today’s dollars, so it was a possible for many more people to own their very own automobile.
Simultaneously, the fast food industry was experiencing growth. Fast food had been in existence since the first soda fountain was created, but the normalization of personal vehicles truly allowed the fast food industry to grow into what we know it as today. Before many people had personal cars and the freedom of the open road, restaurants were designed to be sit down and to take a fairly long time. After cars, it was possible for restaurants to catch a number of customers who were looking for a quick meal that could be enjoyed without much fuss. This is where fast food came into play.
Beginning in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, it was possible to order fast food and eat it in your car. Fast food restaurants at the time did not have drive throughs: instead, they had stalls. At a fast food restaurant, the driver would park in a stall and wait for the carhop to come and take their order, and then to bring them their food. This is the same style as Sonic is today. Although cars aided in the spread of fast food restaurants, drive throughs did not exist until the 1970’s.
In 1955, America’s most famous burger joint opened in California: McDonald’s. The world famous burger stand, however, was not the first fast food restaurant to open, franchise, or even to have a drive thru. Though not common in the early days, franchising of fast food restaurants did occur. Kirby’s Pig Stand, from Dallas, Texas, was the first restaurant to franchise. The Kirby’s Pig Stand company opened restaurants in more than ten states and the buildings all had standardized architecture. This ensured that motorists could recognize a Kirby’s Pig Stand. Others quickly followed Kirby’s Pig Stand in franchising. The first burger restaurant to franchise was A&W in 1919, but it took chicken restaurants and TexMex restaurants a lot longer to successfully franchise; 1952 and 1962, respectively. Both drive throughs and franchises were made possible by mass production, industrialized processes, and standardized products. Because of these factors, motorists learned that they could reliably get the same meal in a number of different locations through the same restaurant, and this aided the fast food restaurant to thrive and grow. Arguably, cars were made prevalent by the same three factors. Mass production of standardized products using industrialized processes contributed to the availability and affordability of cars, which led to the freedom to travel, which led to a demand for more restaurants that served food quickly near the open road.