In started to successfully organize to protect

In the 1900’s auto mechanics were not a huge thing. As the Great Depression hit, auto sales declined along with auto maintenance and production of vehicles.

Owners of vehicles didn’t have lots of money either so they would do lots of the work themselves to save money. Small maintenance work and paint jobs was done by the owner. Paint on 1930 vehicles was not as good as the paints that you can get today. Therefore, cars needed lots of touch ups for protection from the elements. Car owners would paint their vehicles by hand with paint brushes. The auto body repair industry has undergone a great number of changes over the last century or so.

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When the car was first mass produced and made available to the public by Henry Ford in 1908, there were virtually no auto body repair shops in existence. Vehicles were so new and unlike any other ways of transportation at the time, that no one, besides a few people who designed and built the old Model T Fords, was really qualified to repair the vehicle. Many people often turned to a mechanic or even a bicycle repair shop for assistance when they needed to repair their car in the early 1900s, but as the popularity of the automobile grew, so did the demand for experienced and reliable mechanics and auto body specialists. By the 1920’s, there were a lot of cars on the roads, which meant that manufacturers and dealerships needed to provide drivers with the parts to repair their vehicles in the event of a collision or breakdown. To meet this demand, manufacturers started making standardized parts that could easily replace damaged components of a vehicle.

  As the 1930’s started, the amount of auto repair work decreased like the rest of the economy, putting businesses in a squeeze with money money. Rather than paying a guaranteed daily wage, employers split labour charges 50/50 with their mechanics. Mechanics spent their time sitting on work benches, waiting work. The problems of the slow economy affected the mechanic, that many days would go home with little or  no pay.

In the largest industrial concerns, Trade Unions started to successfully organize to protect workers wages, but in the world of auto repair, dominated by small companies with only a few employees, the workers remained unprotected.  “Book times” have two problems. First, the customer may pay double the actual cost of a repair that has a generous book time. Secondly, the auto mechanic may be jammed by book times that are unrealistic or do not account for working time. The Flat Rate Mechanic can be forced to work with little or no compensation.

The vehicle makers are known for reducing “book times” when a recall is required, often by half or more of the vehicles were recalled. The employer can load up the shop with extra Mechanics, knowing that while it may reduce incomes of all Mechanics during slow periods, but when the shop is busy, profits will be maximized. The machinists union represented mechanics since the formation of the first automotive Local Lodge in 1912 in New York City. Unlike other skilled trades, auto mechanics had no idea what their pay would be at the end of the week and they were tired of management reducing their income.   Car sales increased by 166 percent between 1900 and 1903, the year Frank Palmer Speare opened an automobile school in Boston. During World War 1, shop classes were opened to women preparing to take over for male drivers and male mechanics who are going off to war. But as cars became more reliable and service stations more commonplace in the 1920s.

The role of “do it yourself” repair classes fell sharply. The school closed in late 1926.   The topic of working women was making headlines in 1905. People on both sides of the political spectrum are debating whether women who have a job out of the home work harder than stay at home mothers.

But we know that women have worked very hard in the auto repair industry since the earliest days of motoring. Many women in the car service industry are hugely successful. In 1902, Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper. She got the idea from a device used on a street car in New York City.

By 1910, 5 percent of licensed drivers were woman and this number took a huge jump after Charles Kettering invented the electric start in 1912. Florence Lawrence was another inventor. She came up with the idea the turn signal called an “auto signaling arm” that attached to a car’s rear fender. Florence encouraged women to start driving a lot more than before. In 1922 Henry Ford opened his Phoenix Factory and employed women to assemble and welding work on vehicles. The workers at the plant were all single or widowed, since Ford’s wife did not approve of married women working outside the home.   The magazine Popular Mechanics; there is a add in the magazine for regular people to send in the coupon that will allow them to receive information about “Job Way” training.

The Job Way training company would send information on where to get automotive training. The add was telling the readers that they could make up to one hundred dollars a week. In the novel Just Around The Corner; the author put this into the novel “These really are good times,” says Henry Ford, “but only a few know it.”   There for mechanics in 1930 were both male and female. There wages were not always the same and it was a tough job to do.

Business was rough at times and a lot of people lost their jobs due to no work.


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