From Soapbox Derby to the Jeep

ohio transportation history

Imagine a car without electricity. It has no headlights for driving after dark, and no taillights to warn other drivers when you hit the brakes. How do you start the engine? With a handle-like “crank” that plugs into the engine. It took a strong man to turn the crank, which is why there were few women drivers in the early 1900s. Starting a car also was dangerous. The crank could kickback and hit you in the face or break your wrist. People died starting their own car. Starting a car is so simple and safe today because an Ohioan named Charles F. Kettering invented an electric starter. Kettering’s inventions, and those of other Ohioans, made driving and other forms of transportation safer, faster, and more pleasant. Well beyond the popular slogan of "Where the Rubber Meets the Road," Ohioans have not only eliminated the crank from the automobile, but created good roads and good tires that meet the roads, devised the ubiquitous traffic light, helped armies win wars with the Jeep, and produced a number of other firsts in the automotive industry. Ohioans like the late Charles F. Kettering, who was a member of the Ohio Academy of Science, have had a lot of practice inventing things. Kettering once said, "An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he's in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots."

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