13 vintage photos of the auto industry during America’s first auto boom

The Model T revolutionized driving in America.

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The Model T revolutionized driving in America.
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Bettmann/ Getty

Before there were Elon Musk and Tesla, there were Henry Ford and the Model T. And between Tesla’s state-of-the-art cars and the rise of self-driving vehicles, it’s difficult to remember how far we’ve come since the first-ever automobiles built in Europe in the late 1800s.

When Henry Ford built the first Model T, specifically, in 1908, he sparked an automotive movement across the US, the effects of which we are still feeling today.

Here are 13 photos of the Model T era, which revolutionized driving in America.


Although the first car was built in Europe, the US came to dominate the industry in the early 1900s. Henry Ford was at the forefront when he implemented the assembly line.

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An assembly line at the Ford factory.
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Bettmann/ Getty

At the start of the 20th century, Henry Ford implemented the assembly line in his factory, which allowed one person to work on a single task repetitively and then pass the product off to another person to complete a different task. The revolutionary manufacturing model helped Ford introduce the Model T in 1908.


He started the assembly line in the famous Ford factory in Detroit, Michigan.

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Assembly line at the Ford factory.
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Bettmann/ Getty

It took 84 steps to create a Model T in the Ford factory.


Since each worker only had to specialize in one step of the car-making process, Ford was able to hire unskilled workers with no background in the automotive industry.

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The assembly line at the Ford factory in Detroit.
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Heritage Images/ Getty

Feeling the threat of competition, Ford paid his workers above normal rates because he didn’t want them going to other factories to find work.


Before the game-changing Model T, cars and carriages were luxury items, reserved for the elite.

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A family in the Model T.
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Universal History Archive/ Getty

Before the Model T was released, there were less than 200,000 automobiles on the road.


The Model T, however, was affordable and built for everyday, ordinary people.

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Model T on the road.
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Three Lions/ Getty

There were no tariffs placed on cars because they were made within the States, keeping the prices low. Ford was also using cheaper material to build his Model T cars. At its peak, the Model T cost just $575, which was less than the average annual salary for most Americans.


The Model T was equipped with a 22-horsepower and four-cylinder engine.

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Man cleaning his Model T.
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Kirn Vintage Stock/ Getty

The Model T could go over 40 miles per hour. It also ran on gasoline and hemp-based fuel.


There was nothing flashy about the Model T, however.

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Interior of the Model T.
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Nina Leen/ Getty

Unlike the high-tech, stylized cars of today, the inside of a Model T consisted simply of a steering wheel and seats. The car was started with a hand crank and the driver would use foot pedals to drive. The gasoline tank was actually located under the driver’s seat.


The car quickly spread across the US, becoming a cultural phenomenon.

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The streets of Chicago filled with Model Ts.
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Bettmann/ Getty

For the first time in history, people were able to travel leisurely without having to take a train. More importantly, it brought people closer.


At the time, women had just earned the right to vote and saw the new car as another form of freedom.

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Women in a Model T.
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Heritage Images/ Getty

“By owning a Ford car, a woman can with ease widen her sphere of interests without extra time or effort,” one advertisement read at the time. “She can accomplish more daily, yet easily keep pace with her usual schedule of domestic obligations.”


Some dogs even enjoyed a ride in the famous car.

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A dog in a Model T.
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Vintage Images/ Getty

The Model T was popular amongst most.


Meanwhile, others turned the famous design into snowmobiles to get around in the tougher climates.

Virgil D. White turned his Model T into a snowmobile in 1913. At the time, roads were still underdeveloped and plowing was rarely done in the middle of nowhere. The car, paired with sled riders, helped people in out-of-way areas get around.


By the end of the ’20s, there were millions of Model Ts on the road.

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Heritage Images/ Getty

On May 26, 1927, the last Model T was produced after Americans expressed interest in having more stylish cars, a request which made sense for the decadent ’20s.


May 26, 1927, not only marked the day that the last Model T was produced but also the day the 15th million Model T was made.

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The 15th million Model T is made.
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Bettmann/ Getty

Henry Ford himself and his son drove the milestone Model T out of the factory that day.