CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Horse Sense

I was intrigued by these remarks from Peter Gordon:

I have just finished reading The Horse in the City (by Clay McShane and Joel Tarr), which does a fine job documenting what went on (in American cities) between the years of the “pedestrian city” and the “automotive city”. The book is a fascinating bit of research on modern urban history.

We learn, for example, that “In 1890, 9,163 establishments manufactured carriages and wagons or their parts, employing more than 90,000 workers to make over one million vehicles worth over $32 million.” (p. 31).

But GM sold just over 2-million vehicles in 2005. The Detroit Big-3 sold 5.33 million. The U.S. population in 2005 was about 4.7 times that in 1890. The ratio of vehicles then and now is 1:5.33. So we are in the ballpark. But McShane and Tarr make no mention of demands for bail-outs or nationalization because the industry of its day was “too big to fail.”

Any old hansom cab builders out there care to comment?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, June 4th, 2009 at 4:10 pm and is filed under Cars, Cities, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Horse Sense”

  1. Desmond Bliek Says:

    It’s all in the numbers. 9,163 establishments versus the big 3. Presumably the ‘little 9,163′ weren’t adequately organized, or maybe they all saw themselves getting a piece of the action in the emerging automobile market and thus didn’t think that they (each individually) needed a bail-out. Or maybe things were done differently back in the day and nobody thought to ask for assistance – though the experience of granting land etc… to railroads in the 1870s-1910s suggests otherwise.

    The number of vehicles doesn’t seem particularly relevant, though the level of employment – if we take the reasons for the bail-out at face value and with an anaemic level of cynicism – might be. The excerpt above doesn’t mention what the current number of workers is, or how it sits as a share of the total population, which would shed some light on policy factors beyond the slickness and success of GM and Chrysler’s lobbying efforts.

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