Auto Mechanics: Technology and Expertise in Twentieth-Century America

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Overview

Auto Mechanics opens the repair shop to historical study—for the first time—by tracing the emergence of a dirty, difficult, and important profession.

Kevin L. Borg's study spans a century of automotive technology—from the horseless carriage of the late nineteenth century to the "check engine" light of the late twentieth. Drawing from a diverse body of source material, Borg explores how the mechanic’s occupation formed and evolved within the context of broad American fault lines of class, race, and gender and how vocational education entwined these tensions around the mechanic’s unique expertise.

In the history of the American auto mechanic, Borg finds the origins of a persistent anxiety that even today accompanies the prospect of taking one's car in for repair.

"A superbly researched, engaging look into the profession that's near and dear to us all."— Motor Magazine

"Borg's own work in the repair shop infuses the study with insights that I am sure would escape anyone without the experience he has had... His questions are anything but academic."— AutoWeek

"A source of inspiration to those who would like to work to improve the industry's image, recruitment and retention."— Import Automotive Parts & Accessories

"An excellent work that has much to contribute to our understanding of the automobile, technology, and wider trends in American history."— Michigan Historical Review

"In seven richly detailed chapters, theoretically sophisticated and attentive to nuances of race, class, and gender, Borg analyzes the changing background, training, and expertise of auto mechanics over the course of the twentieth century."— Technology and Culture

"An important contribution to U.S. labor and economic history and to our understanding of the ways that the mass production of automobiles changed working life."— Journal of American History

Kevin L. Borg is an associate professor of history at James Madison University.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Motor Magazine
Auto Mechanics provides a superbly researched, engaging look into the profession that's near and dear to us all.

— John Lypen

AutoWeek
Borg's own work in the repair shop infuses the study with insights that I am sure would escape anyone without the experience he has had... His questions are anything but academic.

— Steve Thompson

Import Automotive Parts & Accessories
He's... provided a source of inspiration to those who would like to work to improve the industry's image, recruitment and retention.

— Steve Relyea

Michigan Historical Review
This is an excellent work that has much to contribute to our understanding of the automobile, technology, and wider trends in American history.

— Amy Gangloff

Technology and Culture
In seven richly detailed chapters, theoretically sophisticated and attentive to nuances of race, class, and gender, Borg analyzes the changing background, training, and expertise of auto mechanics over the course of the twentieth century.

— Joseph J. Corn

Labor History
A wonderfully insightful study of the emergence and evolution of a contingent occupation and the meaning that that position had on both the people who did the work and those who procured the workers' services.

— Lisa M. Fine

Journal of American History
Auto Mechanics is an important contribution to U.S. labor and economic history and to our understanding of the ways that the mass production of automobiles changed working life.

— Andrew E. Kersten

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
Well-written and well-researched... will be read with interest by all scholars of modern America.

— David Blanke

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
Auto Mechanics sheds new light on the history of the automobile that top-down and bottom-up studies alike have missed. Call it a 'history from the middle-out,' if you will.

— Walter L. Elden

Enterprise and Society
Kevin Borg's Auto Mechanics is a finely researched, rich social history.

— Thomas A. Castillo

American Quarterly
Borg’s Auto Mechanics will strongly appeal not only to those with an interest in this particular group, but also more generally to scholars working on the connections among material culture, labor, and the history of technology.

— Robert Buerglener

Work and Occupations
Borg’s history of technology, expert knowledge, training, recruitment, and reproduction of social inequality is elegantly crafted and seamlessly narrated... Given the centrality of the rise of the automobile to 20th-century American history, his book could be taught to undergraduate or graduate students in courses on sociology and the history of technology, as well as courses focused on industrialization, labor, or gender.

— Karla A. Erickson

Journal of Social History
Borg’s careful attention to issues of race and gender, and his ability to draw connections between larger social movements and technological change makes Auto Mechanics a valuable contribution to a new generation of scholarship on the automobile, one that marries social history and the history of technology.

— Kathleen Franz

Motor Magazine - John Lypen

Auto Mechanics provides a superbly researched, engaging look into the profession that's near and dear to us all.

AutoWeek - Steve Thompson

Borg's own work in the repair shop infuses the study with insights that I am sure would escape anyone without the experience he has had... His questions are anything but academic.

Import Automotive Parts & Accessories - Steve Relyea

He's... provided a source of inspiration to those who would like to work to improve the industry's image, recruitment and retention.

Michigan Historical Review - Amy Gangloff

This is an excellent work that has much to contribute to our understanding of the automobile, technology, and wider trends in American history.

Technology and Culture - Joseph J. Corn

In seven richly detailed chapters, theoretically sophisticated and attentive to nuances of race, class, and gender, Borg analyzes the changing background, training, and expertise of auto mechanics over the course of the twentieth century.

Labor History - Lisa M. Fine

A wonderfully insightful study of the emergence and evolution of a contingent occupation and the meaning that that position had on both the people who did the work and those who procured the workers' services.

Journal of American History - Andrew E. Kersten

Auto Mechanics is an important contribution to U.S. labor and economic history and to our understanding of the ways that the mass production of automobiles changed working life.

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society - David Blanke

Well-written and well-researched... will be read with interest by all scholars of modern America.

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Walter L. Elden

Auto Mechanics sheds new light on the history of the automobile that top-down and bottom-up studies alike have missed. Call it a 'history from the middle-out,' if you will.

Enterprise and Society - Thomas A. Castillo

Kevin Borg's Auto Mechanics is a finely researched, rich social history.

American Quarterly - Robert Buerglener

Borg’s Auto Mechanics will strongly appeal not only to those with an interest in this particular group, but also more generally to scholars working on the connections among material culture, labor, and the history of technology.

Work and Occupations - Karla A. Erickson

Borg’s history of technology, expert knowledge, training, recruitment, and reproduction of social inequality is elegantly crafted and seamlessly narrated... Given the centrality of the rise of the automobile to 20th-century American history, his book could be taught to undergraduate or graduate students in courses on sociology and the history of technology, as well as courses focused on industrialization, labor, or gender.

Journal of Social History - Kathleen Franz

Borg’s careful attention to issues of race and gender, and his ability to draw connections between larger social movements and technological change makes Auto Mechanics a valuable contribution to a new generation of scholarship on the automobile, one that marries social history and the history of technology.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801894855
  • Publisher: Hopkins Fulfillment Service
  • Publication date: 6/10/2010
  • Series: Studies in Industry and Society
  • Pages: 278
  • Sales rank: 816,934
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin L. Borg is an associate professor of history at James Madison University.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     vii
Introduction: Technology's Middle Ground     1
The Problem with Chauffeur-Mechanics     13
Ad Hoc Mechanics     31
Creating New Mechanics     53
The Automobile in Public Education     76
Tinkering with Sociotechnical Hierarchies     99
Suburban Paradox: Maintaining Automobility in the Postwar Decades     115
"Check Engine": Technology of Distrust     138
Conclusion: Servants or Savants? Revaluing the Middle Ground     170
Notes     179
Essay on Sources     235
Index     243
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