Studebaker Wheel is Now Available in the Digital Library

Click to view the entire issue in the Hagley Digital Archives.

This week I would like to highlight a newly available resource in the digital collection: Studebaker Wheel: a Monthly Magazine for the Motorist.

We recently digitized all the issues of this magazine in the collection. The collection, however, does not contain the complete run of this monthly magazine, and several issues have pages missing. (Note: Descriptive information accompanying the scans for each issue lists the missing pages.) The collection holds fifty-two issues, total, with most concentrated in the magazine’s early years, from 1926 through 1940. The latest issue appeared in 1955.

Issues cover a wide range of topics, including stories of endurance rides completed in Studebakers, lists of members of the 100,000-mile Studebaker club, news articles on general automotive topics, the latest features available in Studebaker cars, Studebaker maintenance tips, and a page titled “Laughing Gas,” featuring jokes and humorous stories. Many issues also include articles on sporting events, from a descriptive piece teaching readers about curling to articles on baseball and golf.

Click to view complete issues in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Simply search for “Studebaker Wheel” in the Digital Library to find all the available issues.

Our digitization volunteer, Alice Hanes, made this new resource possible through her diligent work. Over the last year, she has scanned nearly 600 items, and continues to add to this total each week. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful volunteer working on the Vinson project, so thank you, Alice, for all your hard work!

I also wanted to remind any of our readers that are attending the Society of Automotive Historians conference this week in Philadelphia that I will be there. I hope to have the chance to meet many of you during the conference and to see you at my talk on Saturday morning!

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Treasures: Automobile “Ancetres”

The Vinson Collection contains about 120 years of automobile literature. From an 1893 catalog on bicycles and gasoline automobile models to 2010 model year catalogs, Mr. Vinson was dedicated to collecting as much automobile literature as possible including the rarest pieces of literature. Among his collection are catalogs dated pre-1900, which he writes about on page 63 of A Collector’s Life: An Autobiography:

I rather think of these as the incunabula of automotive literature, and, of late, have taken an interest in them. The French refer to cars of this era as “Ancetres.” Thus far, the oldest item in my collection is an 1893 Peugeot catalogue on bicycles, the last page of which shows two “voitures á gasoline.” I have the 1894 version as well. The oldest catalogue devoted purely to cars is a Panhard catalogue dated July 1895. My collection also includes, from 1896, an informative Amedee Bollee folder, an E. Roger folder, and a Panhard catalogue dated December 1896; folders on the Darracq and Gauthier-Wehrle cars from 1897 or so, and a lovely but incomplete 1898 Panhard catalogue and electric auto sheet. In age these are followed by an American item, the 1898 Barrow, then back to France for the 1899 de Dietrich, Mors, and Delahaye catalogues and a Decauville folder of the same vintage. Just making the 1800′s is a Peugeot catalogue dated November 1899.

Peugeot catalog, 1893.

The French dominated the early period of automobile literature. Though Karl Benz, a German, holds the distinction of inventing the modern automobile, the French were enthusiastic about producing cars and advertising literature. One American example (which will be the subject of a later blog, so stay tuned!) falls in just before 1900, but otherwise there are only French materials represented in this early era. The oldest piece of literature, dated 1893, contains specifications for both Peugeot bicycles and motor carriage models. Providing few images, but lots of specifications, this trade catalog seeks to explain the principles behind the new mode of transportation being advertised. Bound together with an 1894 version of the same catalog, both represent the transition from manual bicycles to motorized, independent transportation.

A page from the 1895 Panhard catalog.

As Mr. Vinson mentions above, his oldest piece of automobile literature solely advertising motorized automobiles is an 1895 Panhard catalog. With a dark green cover, gold lettering, and plenty of descriptive specifications, this piece of literature provides a look into how the French were advertising this new technology as well. These early automobiles were also incredibly expensive, and manufacturers had to describe in their literature why this new technology was needed. In short, they had to make the automobile appealing, approachable, and attractive to new consumers and to the industrializing world.

Robin Valencia is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.


GMAC Financing Programs, 1919

In 1919, General Motors created a financing plan for consumers to easily purchase GM vehicles. The General Motors Acceptance Corporation and its GMAC Plan allowed consumers to purchase vehicles on credit by making monthly installment payments to their dealership. The use of credit made owning a car a realistic possibility for many people.

Click to view this item in the Hagley Digital Archives.

General Motors Corporation prided itself on producing a wide range of vehicles for every class of consumer with Chevrolet being the most affordable make in the General Motors line. Future owners of Chevrolets had not only the GMAC Plan available to them to purchase vehicles, but also had the GMAC 6% Purchase Certificate plan. When used together, they were advertised as the easiest way to pay for a Chevrolet out of income.

With the GMAC Plan, the purchaser could pay a down payment of 30% of the purchase price, drive home the car, and make monthly payments until the car was paid in full. However, not everyone could afford the initial 30% down payment. So General Motors Acceptance Corporation went one step further, and created the 6% Purchase Certificate. A purchaser that was not able to afford the initial down payment could make small payments towards the 30% down payment. They would purchase this certificate for a few dollars and every week would make a small payment toward the down payment. Once the full down payment was collected, then the purchaser could turn in their certificate, drive away in their new Chevrolet, and continue to make the rest of the payments on the car under the GMAC Plan.

Click to view this item in the Hagley Digital Archives.

This new idea of buying on credit, made it easier for consumers to purchase big-ticket items such as Chevrolet vehicles. By advertising the GMAC Plan as the easiest method to purchasing a car, more cars could be sold to consumers who would have otherwise not been able to own one. The pamphlets advertising the plan also suggest that not only is it an easy way to purchase a first car, but that the payment plan could also be utilized to start making payments on their next vehicle. Their theory was that as new models came out each year, consumers would want to upgrade or trade in their current model for the latest in automotive design and technology.

By being flexible, the GMAC Plan was designed for purchasers to not only purchase their first vehicle, but also encourage consumers to trade in for the newest car models.  These pamphlets also show that by being able to purchase a car on credit allowed a greater percentage of the American public to own a car, and aided in the process of the passenger vehicle becoming the primary method of personal transportation.  Click on the images to view the pamphlets in the Hagley Digital Archives.


Robin Valencia is the Graduate Assistant on the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

674 boxes…

So we’ve mentioned this collection is large, but how large is it? 700 cubic feet, which arrived at Hagley in approximately 674 boxes. The purpose of this post is to familiarize you with the types of materials present in this collection.

The collection contains both two-dimensional paper objects, like catalogs and photographs, and three-dimensional objects, like model cars and promotional freebies.

Sample of the model cars in the collection.

The bulk of the Z. Taylor Vinson collection consists of hundreds of thousands of trade catalogs from makes and models around the world. These companies include some that were only in existence very briefly. Catalogs date from the dawn of the automobile in 1891 all the way through to 2010.

In addition to trade catalogs, there are all of the other publications that the car companies released to advertise for their company and their products. Topics covered include: company histories, interior and exterior color and upholstery choices, accessory and options catalogs, internal salesman instructional publications, and much, much more. Also included are press kits for various motor shows, which include photographs, slides, and CDs. There are also calendars and posters.

The collection also contains a large number of serials. These include those published by particular automobile companies (i.e. Audi Magazine), in addition to those considered general automobile magazines (i.e. Motor Trend or Road & Track).

Mr. Vinson had a large collection of books which covered all topics of automobilia, as well as transportation in general, including books on planes, trains, blimps, and boats. (Don’t forget these books have already been cataloged and can be found by searching the library catalog for “The Z. Taylor Vinson Collection.”)

Volkswagen toilet paper holder.

Model cars and other three-dimensional objects, including everything from hubcaps to ice scrapers to toilet paper holders, round out the remainder of the collection.

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing some information about how these 674 boxes are being arranged and described to make them accessible to research. Come back next week for our first post highlighting one of the interesting items in the collection.

October is American Archives Month and Hagley Library is celebrating by holding a Z. Taylor Vinson Collection Information Day! Come to the library building on Saturday October 8th from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm to get a sneak peak at the collection.

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.