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Ever wonder what it was like to drive a Model T?

The great prose stylist E. B. White, famed for his beloved children’s classic Charlotte’s Web, knew what it was like very well. He described it in a 1936 New Yorker essay entitled “Farewell, My Lovely” in which the recently phased-out Model T was the “lovely” of the title.

The car to which White was bidding reluctant adieu had dominated the automobile industry in its early decades, from 1908 to 1927, bringing the joys and travails of auto ownership to middle-class Americans of that era. White himself was born in 1899, which makes him a member of the generation before the so-called “greatest” generation; technically, White and his cohorts were known as the “lost” generation, coming of age during those transitional years of upheaval and cultural transformation represented by World War I and the Twenties.

White’s description of the Model T set me to musing on how much cars have changed since then, and then to thinking about how much life has changed—and about how the differences in products such as cars have been no small part of that change, because they affect us on a day-to-day basis and alter our perceptions of the world and our place in it.