At the turn of the 20th century, there were just over 8,000 automobiles in the United States. By 1910 that number had grown to nearly 500,000. Today there are over 285 million motor vehicles on the road.
The transition from the horse-drawn carriage to the automobile is an amazing story that didn’t just happen overnight. By many accounts, it took over fifty years for Americans to replace their trusted horses with the new and unfamiliar technology. Horses had been mankind’s dependable transportation for thousands of years, and many Americans believed that automobiles were unsafe.
But our country’s cities were growing, and city planners envisioned a horseless future. Horses required vast amounts of feed, an overnight stable, and then there was the problem of disposing of their copious waste. Automobiles, by comparison, could be fueled with an easily stored liquid energy product called gasoline, could be parked on the street overnight, and their waste products wafted away harmlessly into the air.
True, gasoline was poisonous, could be explosive if stored incorrectly, and little was known at the time about pollution; but in spite of these drawbacks, the automobile seemed an attractive alternative to managing millions of pounds of horse manure each day.