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What A Way To Go

July 2024
1min read


The basic necessity for transporting himself and his goods from one place to another has posed one of the supreme tests of man’s inventive genius. It has also called forth some of his most interesting artistic expressions. These have been grandly recorded, from the paintings of chariots in Egyptian tombs to the clipper-ship lithographs of Currier & Ives. Strangely enough, one mode of transportation that has not been adequately illustrated is the early American motorcar. Now, with the publication of Clarence P. Hornung’s Gallery of the American Automobile , that gap has been closed. Limited to five hundred copies, this magnificent portfolio of one hundred 14” by 22” color plates presents a panorama of American steam, gas, and electric vehicles from their beginnings in 1853 until 1915—when standardization began to rob body design of its variety and charm. Mr. Hornung has taken great pains to be accurate: thirteen years and thousands of drawings have gone into creating the portfolio. Only in the matter of color has he given his imagination free rein (like Henry Ford, most early manufacturers would give you any color you wanted, as long as it was black). Mr. Hornung has been particularly interested in showing that the American automobile was developed by native inventors, and not, as some have said, copied from European models. We are proud to present this selection of his drawings, captioned with excerpts from the commentary written for the portfolio by James J. Bradley, head of the Automotive History Collection of the Detroit Public Library.

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