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Packard illustration by Gustave Baumann.
Wheels: The Automobile, 1900-1950
Historic Automobiles Depicted in Color Drawings and Photographs

curated by William J. Dane
Third Floor Gallery
January - March 13th, 1999

Nearly 60 highly accurate color drawings and artistic reproductions of historic automobiles from the late 19th century to 1950 are on display along with highly relevant books, captions, commentary and ephemera at The Newark Public Library through March 13th, 1999. The exhibit is entitled, "Wheels: The Automobile, 1900-1950." It features 35 prints by Clarence Hornung who has been called "The Audubon of the Antique Auto." His illustrations are noted for their accuracy with intense concentration on detail and for their visual appeal to enthusiasts for antique cars as well as to casual viewers. In 1965, the Library subscribed to a unique and deluxe portfolio which Mr. Hornung prepared and published. Other subscribers included the executives of Chrysler, General Motors and Ford. Clarence Hornung's images of classic automobiles have done much to bring vintage cars to their present state of great popularity. He dedicated his portfolio "to the gallant pathfinders whose early experiments in self-propulsion left an enduring testament for all America to share and enjoy."
1909 Ford Model "T" Touring Car print by Clarence Hornung
1895 Holtzer-Cabot Electric print by Clarence Hornung

The materials in the exhibit are drawn from the Library's Special Collections and covers several of the major problems encountered by drivers and owners of cars at the turn of the century. Muddy roads, lack of directional signs and location indicators, frightened horses and weak tires were some of the major concerns. Between 1890 and 1916, thousands of conventions met to discuss road improvements. These varied from small gatherings of local groups to national and international conventions. The goal was to get American cars out of the mud during the rainy and wintry seasons. There was a solid basis for the famous saying, "Get a horse!," as many people had to be rescued by the old reliable method of being pulled out of the deep ruts and the mud.

"The New General Dual Balloon goes a long way to make friends."
The Ford driver depicted here is required to stop, turn off the engine and let the frightened horse pass.

Rumble seats are a thing of the past and they represented a more or less carefree attitude about speeding around the countryside with wind in your eyes and hair. These seats were folding, solid covers in the back of roadsters which were highly popular, although alarmingly unsafe, during the late 1920's and throughout the 1930's.

The exhibit is arranged by decades from 1900 to 1950 with a curious sampling of the early cars which were carefully produced before 1900. During the years when the United States was deeply involved with World War II, the automobile industry retooled to make the vehicles so essential to winning the war as America became "the arsenal of democracy."

Cadillac boasts, "M-24 wide tread tank built with 2 Cadillac V-type engines, and Cadillac Hydra-Matic transmissions will prove a revelation when peace returns."
"Studebaker military trucks, like our Yanks, are certainly seeing the world. Roadways of the world are worn deep with Studebaker wheel marks...in wars and in peace, for 92 years."

Advertisements for new cars are also shown as they appeared in magazines in the early decades of the 20th century. They frequently included the prices and these amazing records are part of the show. They indicate that new cars could be purchased for a few hundred dollars and deluxe touring cars seating 7 or 8 people cost a bit over two thousand dollars. The colors of new cars, some of the chronology of early production and events relating to the manufacturing business side of cars, and landmark books criticizing the huge industry are also shown.

1927 Lincoln advertising illustration, painting by Stark Davis, engraved by Barnes-Crosby Company.
Ride, Performance, Style, the "Aeroform designed" Advanced Six Victoria Nash priced at $895.

The exhibit is open during regular Newark Public Library hours which are Monday, Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Please call (973) 733-7745 for further details.

 

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