When carmakers taunted horses
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When carmakers taunted horses

August 13, 2019


Want a preview of the battle between traditional
cars and self-driving ones? Don’t look to Tesla, Apple, or Google. Look back a hundred
years, when automobiles took on horses — and the cars played dirty to win. “Ransom Olds, who founded the Olds Motor Works,
Oldsmobile, was particularly aggressive in his attacks on the horse. This was like a
psychologic thing — I don’t know where it would fall in a diagnostic sense, but he
really hated horses.” That’s G. Wayne Miller — he wrote “Car
Crazy,” a book that’s about the really early days of cars. And early car marketers had
the horse on their mind. Those cars were unreliable and traveled on really bad roads, so carmakers
had a lot of work to do and a lot of gimmicks that they used. People were scared of cars;
one undertaker used to leave his card on automobile dashboards. So automakers had to be pretty
aggressive selling their invention. They raced cars around the country and manufacturers
insulted their competitors in ads. But some of their marketing firepower was
reserved for the horse. Of course, they invented the term horsepower, defining a car’s power
by how many horses it could replace. But they also rigorously tested horse braking power
against their own cars, like a 15 horsepower De Dion against a team of horses. Yeah, the
machine stopped more quickly. And they taunted mercilessly. One Olds ad said, “Nature made
a mistake in giving the horse brain.” The company claimed cars were cheaper and easier
than horses, even though most cars were really pricey and often required a home mechanic. Henry Ford hated horses too. “The horse is
doomed,” Ford told a reporter. “These horses will be driven from the land, their troubles
will soon be over.” Carmakers took on horses in public shame-races and in 1895 a new magazine
launched with a name that was not subtle: it was “The Horseless Age.” On the road, cars often collided into horses,
and conflicts between car owners and farmers were common. But hating on horses wasn’t just
personal. It was…logical. By the early 1900s, the laboring horse wasn’t
noble — it was a public health hazard. Thousands of horses died each year from disease, overwork,
and old age, and those that lived produced millions of pounds of manure. “Those were significant and real public health
hazards.” And urbanites were aware of it too. As cities
like New York grew really quickly, streets became jammed with horses and tons of horse
waste. “And there was another despicable downside:
not every horse owner was a kind person. And so horses were frequently whipped and beaten,
and when they died, you know, these despicable owners, often would leave a one ton, or ton
and a half, horse in the streets. Just leave it there. And that was a clear health hazard.” Cars helped change that. Even Horseless Age
spoke up for the horse, saying in its first issue that cars would “spare the obedient
beast.” So, yes, cars and horses did have a knock down, drag out fight, but there were…two
winners. And that’s how it might be when self-driving cars come around: a fight to convince consumers,
followed by a likely decrease in fatalities and pollution. It might not always be easy. Motor World’s
1905 headlines claimed that “since time of chariots” people have “opposed all new vehicles,”
and that might still be true. But, as Horseless Age put it more sweetly in their very first
issue, “Streets will be cleaner, jams and blockades less likely to occur, and accidents
less frequent.” Thanks to G. Wayne Miller for talking to me,
this video is basically a chapter of his book and there are a lot of good stories in there.
I wanted to share one more insult, however, and it comes from the first issue of The Horseless
Age. This is what they said in response to the argument that the automobile scares horses:
“Suppose it does. So do locomotives, bicycles, street cars, Fourth of July celebrations,
and a dozen other things. Horses must get used to it.” Boom.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Coming from someone who bought a dashcam because I was sick of getting cutoff every single morning on my way to work and wanted evidence if I ever crashed, Im all for self-driving cars. The majority of people are terrible drivers. Texting, putting on makeup, staring at yourself in the mirror, old people going 10mph below the speed limit. Yea, lets switch.

  2. So in a few years, some despicable self-driving cars will dump their dead owners in the street, and just …. leave them there?

  3. Bacteria in dead horses and horse crap can kill you dead in a week (in the age before penicillin and public sanitation).
    Air pollutants in engine exhaust takes months or years to kill.

    Whatever kills you faster is therefore the "worse" public health hazard, even though both are bad.

  4. There is zero correlation between cars replacing horses & self driving vehicles replacing cars. It's the loss of autonomy that self drivers are bringing. No matter what "benefits" they may offer, they'll never replace the joyous freedom of driving yourself. Why can't technology improve our lives instead of trying to control them?

  5. Dear vox,why do continue posting videos about basic information that everyone already knows, fir instance this video is about the early auto industry and the rise and fall of horses and industry leaders relations to horses, this information everyone knows about. everyone knows about it because we all went to school and we were all assigned sea biscuit and we all read the introduction were they cover everything your covering. so we really don't need this video do we?

  6. I like how you conveniently left that last line out: "for the horse is not so manageable as a mechanical vehicle."

    You're literally advocating for figurative computerized horses that we can't manage, rather than 1:1 human control over the machine.

  7. I refuse to give up my muscle car piloted by a skilled driver for an algorithm piloting a soulless wheeled tomb.

    Let the Facebook-addicted morons ride around in automated safety while tweeting bad song lyrics, but I have roads to enjoy, free of distractions.

  8. Oh god, what has humanity come to? Apparently now some people have decided they are too lazy to push two or three pedals and hold a circle. Not to mention being too scared to be around other people doing the same thing. Suck it up will you? If you just focus on the road and get off Instagram it's unlikely you'll get into an accident.

  9. Its trully amazing to me to think I'm living through another transition. My kids or grandkids might be amazed that back in these times we actually drove cars manually. That's insane to me.

  10. The reason why I'm skeptical about self-driving cars is it would mean I couldn't go anywhere that wasn't already programmed into the car's map system. Additionally, I'd be trusting every aspect of my personal transportation to a private corporation. It's like DRM for a car. Additionally, it would probably require a monthly subscription fee to the company, in addition to gas.

  11. watch CGPgrey's "Humans need not apply". Replace horses with humans. Get depressed and scared about your future life

  12. But they will almost certainly be connected to the Internet. It's already easy enough to hack a car with a driver, and you want people to let their guards down?

  13. Self driving cars are so much better than normal cars by every standard. They're safer and more efficient, and they already preform better thhan humans do. The only thing holding back the self driving car from replacing normal car is human's irrational fear of it.

  14. Cars came out 100 years ago as an environmental alternative to horses. Anyone who's seen what happens in a parade with even a few horses know what I mean.

  15. I don't think there'll be this kind of conflict with self driving cars. Who do you think is going to be making all the self driving cars? My bet is on the companies already making cars today.

  16. Still prefer a 60 year old steel-and-iron, fuel sucking behemoth with no power steering/brakes or ABS (and probably will until the day I die)

  17. Horsepower and Brake Horsepower are almost interchangeable terms that have been used since the early days of steam power. Brake Horsepower refers to the force a drum mounted to a shaft can exert on a brake with a known coefficient of friction at a given rate of rotation and moment arm–it's just one method of measuring power (dynamometry). BHP is definitely not a reverse drag race where they try to stop a car faster than a horse cart.

  18. The difference being with a horse or car, the individual controls where they want to travel. The same can't be said for self driving cars. Who's going to control where the cars go if EVERYONE has a self driving car? The government? I'm not trusting them with my personal transportation.

  19. you know some of us out here do like driving… i won't be getting a self driving car… hell, I won't even own a car that has seat belts.

  20. The unit "horse power" was created by James Watt, who needed a way to market his stationary steam engines.

  21. Anyone driving a car from the early 1900's knows that they weren't safer. Just look when Top Gear drives a T-Ford.
    Also: Today's cars are causing so much pollution it is a huge cause of death and shorter life expectancy than cities whitout cars just in the center. Electric cars, sure. But we need to use our cities more dense and 8 lane roads aren't really working. The solution is to reserve more place for humans by more dense cities and infrastructure that is place efficient. So subways, trams, trains and buses are the logical way for healthy cities with fast travels, but since it's more dense: you'd be closer to the store, the job, or the school.

  22. Just so you know, horse power does NOT directly reflect "How many horses a car can replace" Horsepower is actually very far off from power of actual horses.

  23. Car manufacturers didn't invent the term 'horsepower' it was invented back when steam engines started being put in factories and mills which were previously powered by horses attached to drive shafts walking in circles all day so the factory owner would know what size engine to get to replace their horses.

  24. "they even invented the horsepower to describe the power of a car's engine"
    James Watt invented the horsepower to measure the strength of his improved steam engines! He did it using slightly dodgy numbers on their lifting capacity, so it's not exactly the power of a horse, but wow you got the source wrong on that one.

  25. The major difference between self driving cars and all vehicles that came before it. Self driving. It's fun to drive a car, to be in control of a huge chunk of metal, and tame an angry beast. Where's the fun of being taken somewhere?

  26. Why even have cars, though? If we're going all in on efficiency and safety, public transport is always the best solution.

  27. Well when self-driving cars come around millions will lose their jobs, including me because I drive a cab and not a shitty Uber or self driving car.

  28. You won't be seeing me on a horse, and you won't be seeing me in a self driving car. If I have to die in my vehicle then so be it.

  29. I still refuse to own the driverless cars, it takes the controll and expiriance, I will use it, but look at my dream car: 1964 to 1966 chevey malabu or impala. The gas gussling vehicles of the past, I have mantained this love of classics scince they where first made. Oh and it scares me, adding insult to injury. Also it makes terrorisim even easier, just press a couple of buttons.

  30. Notably, the advent and complete victory of the newer transport technology does not mean you have to drop the old one completely from areas where it shines. Example: horses remained one of the primary means of military transport well into the World War II, with notoriously "mechanized" German army utilizing almost 3 million horses over the course of the war. This is 30 years after automobile could be said to "win" decisively – so there is absolutely no reason to believe that mass advent of self-driving cars will prevent car enthusiasts or military commanders from enjoying good old (semi-)manual controls in 2050.

  31. Self driving cars will never be a thing within our lifetime. Because in order to introduce them into our society, cities have to be fully remodeled. And car guys exist.

  32. I don’t need a car driving me around… I will drive my own horse, good sir… I mean car… man it comes full ⭕️

  33. I can already see this happening to push self-driving cars: "It is unsafe to have UNPREDICTABLE human drivers sharing the same rode as predictable computer-controlled vehicles." Yep, we will be outlawed.

  34. VW Beetle was conceived in the prewar streamline era and survived every intervening styling trend. Only now has it been slated for discontinuation.

  35. Streets would be cleaner – but not the air…less accidents – up until car could reach around 40 MPH.
    Driverless cars…I'm more interested in alternative (and safe) fuel sources.

    Get that then driverless cars would be ideal. Think about it kids, your parents may someday be able to *personally program your speed limit!*. Won't you just LOVE that!?😄

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