Ford Model T, 1913

Discover the cars of The Automobile and American Art

Media - AHS.853 - SAAM-AHS.853_1 - 138168

Ford Model T, 1913 (model car, 1:16 scale)1913, metal, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Albert H. Small, 2017, AHS.853

About this Car

As the first affordable automobile for middle-class consumers, the Ford Model T brought the joys of motorized travel to millions of Americans. A marvel of modern manufacturing, Model Ts rolled off the assembly line every three minutes, reaching a total of 16.5 million cars between 1908 and 1927. While the Model T helped democratize car ownership in the United States, automobile travel remained difficult for African Americans.

Artwork Connection

Artist William H. Johnson’s The Breakdown shows an African American couple stranded after their Ford Model T, piled high with furniture, breaks down. Ominously, the sun sets in the background, evoking whites-only Sundown towns, which enforced their bans of African Americans after dark with threats of violence.