During the 1920s more and more people were driving cars. The new transportation was causing dirt roads to become outdated. At election time the General Assembly voted to levy a tax for road improvement. Amendment 6 allowed the state to issue bonds up to $600,000,000 for the construction of hard surfaced roads.

Along with state, the Good Roads Federation declared two “auto tag days.” They urged car owners to decorate their vehicles with both a “Lift Missouri Out of the Mud” radiator emblem and a sticker on their car’s windshield. It was hoped they’d leave them there until after the November election. If the voting was favorable, they’d officially lift Missouri out of the mud. It was also suggested to have a sticker pasted on every glass store window where the owner would permit.

The Good Roads Movement was instigated by bicycle riders in the 19th century, but was quickly adopted by automobile drivers in the 20th century.

Gov. Gardner proclaimed Oct. 22 as “Good Roads Day” in all Missouri schools. On that date all the decorating would begin. The purpose of this endeavor was to impress upon the people the need to lift Missouri “out of the mud.” Fortunately, the amendment passed and the mud roads would be obsolete.

By 1925, car licenses were compulsory for the auto owners. The price of the licenses was 50% higher than in 1924. A local distributing place was the Gallatin Motor Company. The cost of the licenses varied drastically from car to car. Two examples of this would be a car with less than 12 horsepower at $7.50 and car with 72 plus horsepower at $37.50.

As with any program there were dodgers who tried to get away without buying the licenses. But the authorities took steps to identify these people.

One afternoon, cars were checked carrying old state licenses. One car carried only one license plate, but it was the same as another man’s. The driver wasn’t aware of it until he was stopped. The owner of the car with the stolen plate was fined $50 and costs. In default of payment of fine, he was committed to the county jail.

In addition, Gallatin’s citizens had to pass an ordinance that stated they had to obtain a license to drive in the city.

To help cut out tag dodgers, a law was created that stated anyone on relief couldn’t obtain a license because it was believed that if they could afford a car they shouldn’t be on relief. The law also stated that citizens owning dogs couldn’t obtain a license because if they could afford the cost of the dog food they should also be able to feed their own families and their dogs.

In the early 20th century, there weren’t any large car lots or billboards advertising automobiles. In fact, cars were in short supply. Even though the Ford Motor Company had manufactured 320,817 cars in a seven month period in 1916-17, there was an inadequate supply. It was necessary to be on a waiting list when wanting to buy a car.

The rising demand for Ford cars made it necessary for the company to allot cars to agents who had orders for immediate delivery rather than allow them to stock cars for later sales. All indications seemed to point to the fact that within 90 days the Ford industry would experience its greatest shortage due to increased sales and fear of a price increase.

The Ford Motor Company guaranteed its dealers against a reduction in their prices, but stated it would not guarantee against an advance.

In January 1917, the Gallatin car dealers were temporarily out of cars. The Gallatin Motor Company received a shipment of seven cars. However, in these early times, cars were only partly assembled upon arrival. The job was then completed by the mechanics at the local dealers.

Grocery stores, feed and poultry businesses, etc., were equipping the Ford chassis with bodies especially fitted for their needs.

At this time, cars were selling in the range of $350 to $600. Even though there seemed to be a shortage, car dealers were enticing sales by offering installment loans. Most families strived to own an automobile.

— researched and presented by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin, MO