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This 1904 advertisem­ent is ironic on many lev­els. Pro­fes­sor Harold Hill him­self could not have pro­duced bet­ter dou­ble-talk than it con­tains: “The si­lent horse power of this run­about is mea­sur­able, depend­able and spon­ta­neous. The horse power gen­er­ated by sup­plies of hay and oats is vari­able, un­cer­tain and ir­re­spon­sive.” Say folks—when was the last time your horse was “ir­re­spon­sive”? And when was the last time you saw a vin­tage auto at a county fair or a car show that ran “silently”? Or “spon­ta­neously”? Those old engines had to be started with hand cranks that, if the car back­fired while you were crank­ing, would kick back hard enough to break your arm; so much for “ladies and chil­dren.” The ad says there is “noth­ing to watch but the road,” but that is the one thing the driver shown is cer­tainly not watch­ing. And for the fi­nal irony—it has not been the horse that has proven un­sus­tain­able but the Oldsmo­bile, which went out of busi­ness ex­actly 100 years af­ter this ad fea­tur­ing the curved-dash Model 6C. In 1904, how­ever, many peo­ple were not only en­am­ored of new tech­nolo­gies and “progress,” but they were sick of horses, so that the an­i­mal that had pow­ered war­fare, agri­cul­ture and trans­porta­tion for 50 cen­turies—an un­matched record of proven sus­tain­abil­ity—was re­placed in less than two decades by the un­sus­tain­able, pol­lut­ing, noisy but pow­er­ful gasoline en­gine.

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