Driving Force: Automobiles and the New American City, 1900–1930 is the First Major History of Car Dealers at Work

Have you ever wondered how and why Los Angeles became so obsessed with cars? While historians and sociologists have provided numerous explanations, little or no credit has been given to the dealers, who ventured into unknown territory to sell a product regarded by nearly all banks and most businesses as a fad at best.

Released on May 9, 2023, Driving Force: Automobiles and the New American City, 1900–1930 (Angel City Press) reveals how the city’s passion for automobiles was ignited by an unlikely mix of entrepreneurs and risk-takers. The early days of the city’s auto business owed its inception to the bicycle shop owners who began repairing and selling cars, carriage retailers, and automobile aficionados who learned how to broaden the market for automobiles and convince the public that the car was no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

Driving force automobiles book

In this first major history of dealers at work—and one of the first books to chronicle the early history of cars in Los Angeles—authors Darryl Holter and Stephen Gee share the untold story of pioneering auto dealers who seized the chance to join a start-up industry that reinvented an American city. Some became wealthy and powerful, others failed. But the lure of the automobile never wavered. At the dawn of the twentieth century, as Los Angeles transformed from a rugged outpost to a booming metropolis, so too did the fledgling automobile simultaneously come of age.

  • History of automobile dealers
    June 8, 2023 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am

    AirTalk with Larry Mantle Thursday June 8 at 9am KPCC/LAist 89.3 FM Listen as Darryl Holter and Stephen Gee talk about their new book Driving Force: Automobiles And The New American City, 1900–1930, The First Major History Of Car Dealers At Work.

  • History of automobile dealers
    June 4, 2023 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

    Tune in as we welcome back an old friend and make a new one. Author Darryl Holter and his co-author Stephen Gee for a look at Los Angeles’ impact on the early automobile industry.

  • Driving force automobiles book
    May 18, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

    Join historian Darryl Holter for a discussion of the early days of the automotive industry. The book, “Driving Force: Automobiles and the New American City, 1900-1930,” is packed full of local history gems. Sprinkled with vintage photos and original cartoons, the book enlightens readers about the role Los Angeles’ early auto retailers played in the growth of the car industry and the city.

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