Making Motoring American: The Integration of the Working Class in Automobile Film Advertising of the 1930s

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Benson, Kaitlyn




This thesis examines a selection of automobile film advertisements from 1930 to America’s formal declaration of war in 1941 as a means of analyzing the cultural narrative associated with automobile promotion throughout the Great Depression. The films depict the white, working-class male as the model driver and the automobile as a bastion of safety, as well as the key to a prosperous economy. While this shift in the representation of the automobile and its driver can be attributed in part to the reported saturation of the automobile market through the latter part of the 1920s and the economic uncertainty of the 1930s, semiotic analysis of the films indicates that the change was more than an effort to attract prospective consumers. Rather, the films’ idealization of the working class was tailored to present a narrative of motoring that supported automakers and industrial capitalism in a period when both were being challenged.


United States History
American Studies




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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