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Tail Lights: Final Lap to 40

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Tail Lights: Final Lap to 40
Automotive History from a Different Perspective

Volume 8, Issue 8

Bill Crittenden
1 November 2020

Go to Tail Lights index

A Porsche 356C in Verona, Italy. Photo by Jonatan Hernandez. Check out our current Online Collection & backlog stats!

I'm only 39, about to turn 40, but that's old enough to remember when the internet was small. When people browsed homemade Angelfire websites with Netscape Navigator. Connecting tied up the home phone line, A/S/L was how we introduced ourselves on AOL, MySpace was a far off dream, pictures were tiny and pixelated to near unrecognizability, and no connection supported video worth watching.

And we all thought that someday, when people had the whole of human knowledge at the tips of our fingers, that the world would be a better place.

So people set out to publish that knowledge, scanning old newspapers, copying anything capable of being digitized (legal or not...we stick with the legal here of course!), connecting it together with link lists and search engines, and pouring terabytes of data into the giant bucket of everything humanity could know or produce.

Inspired by Star Trek's LCARS, I started contributing to this even before founding The Crittenden Automotive Library in 2006. Shortly thereafter, I dropped my other projects to focus on this.

Here we are. It's 2020, a year whose number once inspired such imaginations in the minds of science fiction writers of the 20th century. And humanity has nearly the whole of human knowledge not only at the tips of their fingers at home but wherever they go.

And somehow, we're slipping backwards into superstition, conspiracy theories, an embrace of propaganda, and rejection of the reality. Most disturbingly, we're even seeing a rebranded version of the same old antisemitism and fascism of the 1930s.

I'm not too old to remember all the kids in high school history swearing they'd never let it happen again, especially in the United States. It's sad to see some of them now working for the people trying to turn this country from an imperfect but functioning representative democracy into the kind of country where show elections and controlled token opposition give an authoritarian ruling class the veneer of legitimacy.

I'm also old enough to remember when people thought that running down pedestrians with trucks was terrorism, because it wasn't that long ago.

Sometimes I wonder if it would have made a difference if I picked a more politically influential topic for my website, but better people with more funding have tried and failed.

Are we, in this Information Age, with no more excuses about not being able to know better, finally seeing what humanity really is at its core? And what it isn't ever going to be capable of?

Does a collection of old car books even matter anymore?

Maybe not. But, it's all I can do to stay busy as a vast portion of the United States pretends COVID-19 isn't happening. They go out and socialize and party and "live their life" spreading enough of the virus around that about 1,000 people per day are dying as I write this. I'm mostly stuck at home aside from the occasional shopping trip or drive thru chicken sandwich because I live with high risk family members.

I wish I had something happier to write about, but it's two days before an election that will not go smoothly regardless of the result. We're already seeing violence before, and there will likely be much more during and afterward.

However, in the spirit of Nick Fury, "Until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on."

If you look at this month's stat changes, you'll see that most of October's progress was made in the offline collections.

The major bit of online work was a clean up of the Home Page at CarsAndRacingStuff.com. Each decade of the Main Chronological Index has been separated out into its own page so that the page is much shorter with fewer links. It took a bit of time but the result is not something that would be reflected in the stat sheet.

In the Physical Collection, the Automotive Brands section of the binders has finally been completed. These are several binders full of ads and papers for automotive related brands such as NAPA, Rain-X, GEICO, Takata, etc.

The three main groups are the vehicles themselves (subdivided by brand), a chronological archive of news and photographs that can't be classified into a particular topic, and the Automotive Brands section. Smaller groups include video games, automotive themed media (movies & television & books), automotive themed advertising (non-automotive brands like cigarette companies using cars in their ads), government, and some sets of collectible cards in binders.

Putting these binders together has been another multi-year project, and it's been satisfying to see it go from crates of magazines to piles of ads to categorized, sorted, and labeled binders.

Once the binders are all put together, I'll be able to set one out on a small table next to the scanner and go through them page by page. I'll be able to scan what's legally republishable to CarsAndRacingStuff.com, and even for what can't be shared that way I can ad bits of information to the site like advertising taglines to the marques' topic pages.

Still going until the world stops spinning, or I'm no longer able to sit at this computer.


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The Dewey Decimal System's designation for automobiles falls within the 629.2 range. This section is about Library Owner Bill Crittenden's personal collection of books, magazines, and miscellaneous papers, much of which is available for reference if it's not directly available on CarsAndRacingStuff.com.

I received a catalog this month from Kenneth Ball (kennethball.co.uk). They sell vintage motoring books from East Sussex in the UK. It looks like there's some really interesting stuff in there, just a bit out of my current budget.

What's really funny was that it was sent to us without a specific address, so it ended up at the Woodstock Public Library. Addressed to the "Head Librarian," no less. That last part was embarrassing.

Librarian is not a title I claim because I haven't put in the work to learn the science behind running a library. The Crittenden Automotive Library is a library in that it's a big collection of books and documents. But corporations have libraries. Retirement communities have libraries. Homes have libraries. A library does not require a trained librarian.

But a person requires that training to be called a librarian. Calling yourself a librarian because you sort a collection of books is like calling yourself a nurse because you gave medicine to a sick person.

Unless you're the Troop Librarian in Boy Scouts, I did hold that title for a little while when I was about fourteen.

It was a bit of a toss-up in 2006, I wasn't sure if I should call it a Library or an Archive. What I wanted to convey was that the information was being presented in a sort of "as-is," independent of its source sort of way. We weren't fact checking, updating, or editing the source material in the same way public libraries present the materials they have available. Even contradictory books, leaving it up to the reader to decide. Or incorrect information long since debunked, as it often has a use in historical context.

That propaganda presented on "we're just letting everyone have their say" social media has replaced legitimate news as a source of information for far too many people, to the detriment of our political discourse, has not been lost on me. What to do about it is mostly philisophical at this point, considering my lack of resources and the political unimportance of the information presented here. But owning this website has given me a different perspective on the struggles Twitter, Google, and Facebook are having.

History Beyond the Bumpers

The Crittenden Automotive Library includes information from all aspects of automotive transportation and competition. This section highlights interesting topics related to automobiles other than vehicles themselves.

Of course, these pessimistic musings about the future of the United States wouldn't be complete without mentioning how fleets of pickup trucks, decorated with political flags, have become weapons of terrorism. Swap the Toyotas and black flags for blue flags on Fords & Jeeps and we're seeing a sad commentary on just how similar people around the world can be underneath the surface.

There was a time when such antics would draw condemnation from all sides. But now, a huge segment of this country has been brainwashed into believing that their political opposition is an enemy so terrifying that it justifies emulating the tactics of ISIS.

We're usually willing to accept a few reasonable restrictions in our daily lives to prevent deaths. Speed limits on the streets, drug tests for certain jobs, no more large knives on airplanes. But what's going on today is a tactic straight out of the 1930s: generate such irrational fear of the "other" that they will do anything, give up any freedom, commit any atrocity, to protect themselves from the boogeyman on the propaganda news.

Hopefully we turn back from this before we repeat the 1940s as well. But if not, it's going to be interesting for future historians to look back on social media archives and see the things we can't see about 1930s Germany. Just who supported the regime and how vocally, the justifications they used, if they ever realized their mistakes too late to do anything about them or held to the hateful rhetoric to the bitter end.

When all is said and done, and some distance is put between the fear of today, there will be a Special Collection on Trump Trucks. Finding images will take some time, I'd have some of my own to contribute but because of COVID I haven't been out & about taking pictures much this year. I don't even have one to serve as the cover image for this month's Tail Lights!

Looking at you when I write this, NASCAR Twitter.

Check out our current Offline Collection stats!

Site Visitor & Social Media Reach Statistics

If you'd like to advertise with The Crittenden Automotive Library and reach some of our visitors or social media followers, email admin@CarsAndRacingStuff.com.

MonthTotal Page ViewsPage Views/Day AverageTotal UsersUsers/Day Average
October 202011,430368.76,856221.1
September 202011,807393.57,259241.9
August 202013,983451.09,241298.0
July 202014,605471.19,094293.3
June 20208,512283.74,792159.7
May 202013,196425.68,942288.4
April 202014,682489.49,354311.8
March 20209,226297.65,179167.0
February 202011,039380.67,603262.1
Page views and user information provided by Google Analytics.

Alexa Traffic Ranks (up/down since October 1)
622,067 worldwide (down 31,131)

Current Social Media Statistics (+/- since October 1)

Facebook: 551 Likes (+2)
Instagram: 606 Followers (+0)
Pinterest: 341 Followers (+1)
Tumblr: 751 Followers (+2)
Twitter: 1,922 Followers (+0)
YouTube: 1.19K Subscribers (+0.01K)

About The Crittenden Automotive Library

The Crittenden Automotive Library @ CarsAndRacingStuff.com, based in Woodstock, Illinois, is an online collection of information relating to not only cars, trucks, and motorcycles, but also the roads they drive on, the races they compete in, cultural works based on them, government regulation of them, and the people who design, build, and drive them.  We are dedicated to the preservation and free distribution of information relating to all types of cars and road-going vehicles for those seeking the greater understanding of these very important elements of modern society, how automobiles have affected how people live around the world, or for the general study of automotive history and anthropology.  In addition to the historical knowledge, we preserve current events for future generations.

The Library currently consists of over 842,000 pages of books, periodicals, and documents, over 45,900 individual articles, more than 18 days of video & 24 days of audio, more than 35,200 photographs & other images, and offline reference materials including 624 book volumes, over 1,600 magazines & catalogs, and thousands of advertising brochures & documents.

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