16 January 2012

Billboards and the Culture of Mobility

Buyways by Catherine Gudis, 2004, Excerpts

The cooperative spirit between government and business during WWI directed attention to the construction of highways, which was greatly aided by the passage of the Federal Aid to Roads Acts of 1916 and 1921. This, of course, was a godsend to outdoor advertising. Outdoor advertisers were among those for whom automobility spelled prosperity.

The car had expanded the stock and trade of the outdoor advertising industry, the mobile market. The mobile market now consisted of a mass of wage earners and every other upwardly striving group. Outdoor advertisers claimed that billboards appealed to both the “masses” and the “classes,” “a select clientele of everyone who passes.” The job of the advertisers was to capitalize on the culture of mobility as well as its attendant national mythology of the democratic and open road.

Federal Aid Road Act of 1956: After World War II, plans for a national system of interstate and defense highways resumed. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Road Act of 1956, authorizing a 41,000-mile system of highways at an estimated cost of $25 billion. Envisioned as a modern, safe, and efficient solution to roadways that had long been ill equipped to accommodate the swollen ranks of motoring Americans, the system was comprised of limited-access, high-speed expressways built according to uniform design standards.

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