Automobile Touring Club of America

Shattered Nerves and Lethargic Stomachs: Highlights from American Pamphlets

This month’s release from the New-York Historical Society’s collection of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922, includes a sales pitch from an early American auto club which encourages prospective members to explore a country “almost as undiscovered as Africa,” an enthusiastic explanation of the moral and intellectual virtues of croquet, and colorful zoological descriptions of P.T. Barnum’s menagerie, complete with elegant illustrations.

Discover America (1910)

This pamphlet, produced by the Automobile Touring Club of America, is generously illustrated with photographs, beginning with the club’s four-story headquarters in New York City. The size and location of the building and the ambitious tenor of the text are testimony to how rapidly Americans were embracing the still new horseless carriages that were ushering in the age of the automobile.

Clearly, this publication was designed to promote the club by selling annual memberships and adding car insurance into the bargain. Annual dues are five dollars, and the insurance is promised to “save from $5 to $40 per year” meaning “you save at least as much as you pay in” and “you may even make a profit” which will mean that all of the expert advice on travel routes, road conditions, and accommodations along the way will cost the member nothing.

Shattered Nerves and Lethargic Stomachs: Highlights from American Pamphlets

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