In 1909, automobile manufacturer Henry Ford introduced the Model T. This automobile became the most popular and affordable car available to the American people during the 1910s and the 1920s. In 1912, the Model T sold for six hundred dollars. Twelve years later, thanks to Ford's use of the assembly line, interchangeable parts, and unskilled labor, the Model T's price had dropped to just 290 dollars, making it easily affordable for the typical American. Helping to keep the price low was Ford's unwillingness to provide consumers with any frills on the Model T. Every Model T left the factory painted black, reducing the cost of paint and helping Ford to reduce the car's cost. Between 1909 and 1927, Ford only made two major changes to the Model T's design-adding roofs to the cars and equipping the autos with self-starters.
The Model T and automobiles in general dramatically altered life in the United States and in Ohio. Cities quickly grew in geographic size, as workers, who formerly resided near their places of employment, moved to the suburbs. Schools became larger, as children could be bused long distances to receive their education. Social activities, such as dating, changed as people could travel greater distances to movie theaters, art galleries, and other entertainment venues. Promiscuity increased, as teenagers escaped the watchful eyes of their parents. Americans also increasingly went into debt as they purchased automobiles on credit. The first automobile dealer to sell cars on a deferred payment plan operated his business in Toledo, Ohio. Ford quickly employed a similar tactic to convince more consumers to purchase his Model T.
The freedom and opportunity that automobiles provided Americans caused millions of people to purchase cars. By 1900, Americans had only purchased eight thousand cars. By 1912, the number of cars in operation had increased to one million. By the end of 1929, more than twenty-seven million cars were on the roads-that equaled more than one car for every American family.
Ohio played an important role in the manufacture of cars. Numerous automobile companies, such as the Winton Motor Carriage Company, White Motor Company, Peerless Motor Vehicle Company, Packard Motor Company, and the Baker Motor Vehicle Company, existed in the state. Even the Ford Motor Company, usually associated with Detroit, Michigan, opened an automobile plant in Cleveland to manufacture Model T's during the 1910s. During the 1930s, the company opened several other plants in northeastern Ohio.