Automobile safety is no joke. It is also boring, which is problematic when developing an exhibit around the topic. Why would anyone come to see a museum exhibit about automobile safety?
It does help to have some impressive stuff, particularly 23 automobile safety posters, like this one:
Beautiful artwork. My job here is done. But wait, there’s more: Early driver’s licenses, motor vehicle registrations, and auto insurance advertisements. I don’t advocate taking auto accidents lightly, but come on Aetna, you give me no choice.
But it isn’t all auto safety. One of my favorite items on display is the Official Automobile Blue Book, a tour guide for early motorists that included turn-by-turn directions before the days of accurate road maps and self-aware SUVs. Published between 1901 and 1929, the Blue Book was the brainchild of Hartford businessman Charles Howard Gillette. At its peak in 1921, the Blue Book included 12 volumes covering the continental United States and parts of Canada. The Blue Book hired professional “pathfinders” to traverse the country, documenting the turns and forks and landmarks of America’s roads. Sound at all familiar?
Speaking of information-hoarding companies that survive on ad revenue, I found this odd pop-up ad on page 360 of the 1922 Automobile Blue Book.
See? Not boring at all. “Behind the Wheel: Vintage Automobile Safety Posters” (and more), is open all summer through September 28, 2013. Turn-by-turn directions here.
Ben Gammell is the Coordinator of Interpretive Projects at the Connecticut Historical Society.