The urban population has surged from 29.5 percent in 1880 to 46.3 percent in 1910. The Census Bureau estimates that cities contain 62.7 percent of the U.S. population today.
A major change in rural life came with the development and popularity of the car. In 1917, the top two states by number of cars per capita were Iowa and Nebraska, then as now major agricultural states. (Today those two states rank #5 and #10.) The top two today are Montana and Wyoming.
This article describes the transformative effect that the car had on rural life.
“There was the railroad. It was to intersect the country until no isolation would be left. Then came the telephone. It was to knit the countryside together by wire and long distance conversation and thus banish isolation. Next came rural mail delivery. It was to make the change by the delivery of daily papers at the farmer’s door, by establishing continuous touch with the city and the outside world.”
“No one hit upon the actual cause. The trouble with the farm was three miles an hour — three miles by horse and buggy or two by team and wagon. Even the best social ideas would not work at such a rate of moving about. The rate of three miles an hour limited the size of the community, set a bound on the number of people one would meet in the course of a lifetime. Twelve miles is a long drive by horse and buggy, and that was about the radius of the farm families’ social life; the actual neighborhood life was restricted to about four miles from home. Six miles was a good way to go to church; seven or eight miles would be attempted for a social party.”
Today, the trend might be going in reverse, as many Millennials are ditching cars altogether. Only about 60 percent of 18-year-olds have a driver’s license, down from 80 percent in the 1980s.
Farmers Buy Forty Per Cent. of Motor Cars: Country Existence Ameliorated by Speeding Up from Three to Twenty Miles an Hour — Tremendous Influence in Rural Social Life
From Sunday, September 16, 1917