Effie Knight and the 1926 Ford Coupe Installment Plan

Effie Guthrie Knight

 

Effie Guthrie Knight. Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

Effie Guthrie Knight. Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia.

 

After Ralph Knight was killed in the sinking of the Otranto during   World War I, Effie Guthrie Knight had purchased a 51 acre farm located on Park Street  just outside of Ray City, GA. In 1926, this property was valued at $3500.00 and provided Effie with an income of $1500.00.

About 1923, Effie Knight went to work for Ray City merchant W.H.E. Terry as a saleswoman. She earned a salary of $150.00.

In 1926 Effie Knight decided to purchase a new Ford Coupe from Gaskins Motor Company in Nashville, GA. The car sold for $696.00, including finance charges.  She put $208.00 down with  the balance due over 12 months on an installment plan through the Standard Motors Finance Co., Inc, of New Orleans, LA. Effie gave her employer, W.H.E Terry, as a reference on the loan application.  Effie paid off the loan on time and received a “favorable” letter of appreciation from the finance company.

Standard Motor Company correspondence to Mrs. Effie Knight, June 11, 1927. Letter of debt satisfaction. Papers of Effie Guthrie Knight.

Standard Motor Company correspondence to Mrs. Effie Knight, June 11, 1927. Letter of debt satisfaction. Papers of Effie Guthrie Knight.

Perhaps it was the “Improved Ford,” introduced in 1926, that enticed Effie to become a car owner.  For the first time, Ford cars were available in colors other than black and new accessories were introduced including optional front and rear bumpers, and windshield wipers.

A 1926 Ford Advertisement suggestively featured a woman driver with a male passenger, and ran with the tag line “Easier to handle ~ safer to drive.”

The driving control of the Ford car is exceedingly simple, yet always dependable. It effectively reduces the possibilities of accidents – particularly in crowded city traffic. Foot pedal gear changing, powerful brakes, short wheelbase and full visibility, afforded by the all-steel body construction with narrower pillars and large plate-glass windows, are important reasons why Ford owners enjoy such security.  Let the nearest Authorized Ford Dealer explain the many features of Ford cars and demonstrate their easy handling. Get full particulars about convenient time payment plans.

1926 Ford Coupe Advertisement

1926 Ford Coupe Advertisement

The Anneberg telecourse and video series A Biography of America  sums up the rural appeal of the automobile:

 The Model T liberated millions of people who had never traveled more than 12 miles from their homes. That’s the distance a horse could go in a single day. Farm women could now jump into the family Ford and head off to town, anytime they liked. More farmers had cars than bathtubs. When asked why, one farm wife said, “You can’t drive to town in a bathtub.” Ford may have thought of the Model T as everyman’s car, but it was every woman’s car too. Women took to the wheel in droves.

Automobiles were the single most significant consumer product of the 1920s…As Thrift for Women (1930) demonstrates through stories told by individual farm women, the increased mobility of the population even contributed to greater prosperity in rural areas, as motorists stopped to purchase farm products from roadside stands and eat in farm houses where the farmer’s wife brought in extra income by selling produce to or cooking meals for strangers…Automobiles brought the consumer society to the country in other ways too. Would-be rural consumers were able to get to centers of consumption, as chain stores relocated to suburban areas outside of cities and movie theatres took up residence in farm country. A beguiling advertisement for Paramount Pictures in the February 1926 edition of Country Gentleman encapsulates the situation: “Today nobody with young ideas stays home when a few miles by the speedometer takes you to the motion picture theatre. . . . The farmer of years gone by might have been content to wear himself and his family out with all work and no play, but 1926 is a different story. . . . The motor car is a chapter in that story, and good roads leading to better theatres showing Paramount Pictures are another. . . . There all the members of the family may sit together under the same spell of enchantment, refreshed by the wholesome flood of make-believe. . . .” (p. 1) The ad’s emphasis on the family-togetherness of the event reinforces that this is a “wholesome” use of leisure time.

A 1926 advertisement for Paramount Pictures appealed to rural farm women like Effie Guthrie Knight, for whom the automobile was a part of "modern" independence. With a car, it was just a short drive for Ray City residents to shopping or leisure activities like movies, in Nashville or Valdosta, GA.

A 1926 advertisement for Paramount Pictures appealed to rural farm women like Effie Guthrie Knight, for whom the automobile was a part of “modern” independence. With a car, it was just a short drive for Ray City residents to shopping or leisure activities like movies, in Nashville or Valdosta, GA.

Also, 1926 was the year President Calvin Coolidge made off-hand remarks to the Federal Reserve Board that appeared to endorse installment plan buying. Organizations like the Y.M.C.A condemned the practice, while businessmen and finance companies sought the direct endorsement of the President.  The installment loan papers of Effie Knight  show that she clearly embraced consumer loans.

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