Friday, August 21, 2015

How Automakers Invented The Crime Of "Jaywalking"

An aggressive, forgotten 1920s campaign led by auto groups and manufacturers redefined who owned the city street. One of the keys to this shift was the creation of the crime of jaywalking. This article on how that happened is an interesting read.

Prior to the 1920s streets looked like this:

Manhattan's Hester Street, on the Lower East Side, in 1914. 
(Maurice Branger/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

Then pedestrians began to get killed by cars. As deaths mounted, anti-car activists sought to slow them down. Local auto dealers were terrified, and sprang into action, sending letters to every car owner in the city and taking out advertisements against the measure.

A 1923 ad in the Cincinnati Post, taken out by a coalition of auto dealers. 
(Cincinnati Post)
Automakers, dealers, and enthusiast groups worked to legally redefine the street — so that pedestrians, rather than cars, would be restricted. They used shame and ridicule to get pedestrians to follow traffic laws.
Government safety posters ridicule jaywalking in the 1920s and 30s. 
(National Safety Council/Library of Congress)

Read more about the shame campaign and how they came up with the term "jaywalker"


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