History Faculty Publications

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date

Summer 2011

Publication Source

Journal of San Diego History


Histories of the automobile in America often begin with the all-too-familiar observation that “the Automobile is European by birth and American by adoption.” And while that generalization certainly is useful in explaining things to undergraduate students, it rings particularly true in the case of the state of California, where beginning with the car’s appearance on the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco, late nineteenth-century society and culture were rapidly and markedly transformed into a twentieth-century machine age. Indeed, the automobile is the perfect technological symbol of American culture, a tangible expression of our quest to level space, time, and class, and a reflection of our restless mobility, social and otherwise. It transformed business, life on the farm and in the city, the nature and organization of work, leisure time, and the arts. Further, the automobile transformed everyday life and the environment in which we operate. More specifically, it influenced the foods we eat, music we listen to, risks we take, places we visit, errands we run, emotions we feel, movies we watch, stress we endure, and the air we breathe.

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Book's citation information: Nelson, Kevin. Wheels of Change: From Zero to 600 m.p.h.: The Amazing Story of California and the Automobile. Berkeley, CA: Heydey Books, 2009.


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