History of Transportation in the US

This timeline contains many highlights of the Forney Museum of Transportation’s collection, including pieces that are not always on display.

The Forney Museum’s artifacts have been organized chronologically and juxtaposed to significant events in US history generally, and transportation history more specifically. This gives the vehicles context to help users better understand when and how each vehicle was used. This tool is intended for educational purposes, and is supplemental to the educational tours offered at the Forney Museum. ;xNLx;

Rolls Royce PHANTOM I

The Phantom I succeeded the famous “Silver Ghost” and was produced from 1925 to 1929. An improvement over the Silver Ghost was the new OHV straight-6 engine. Constructed as three groups of two cylinders with detachable heads (state of the art at the time), the large engine produced excellent power to pull the large heavy car. Aluminum was substituted for cast iron in the cylinder heads in 1928.

Department of Transportation Act

President Johnson signed the Department of Transportation Act, which created the new cabinet-level department with five operating elements: the Federal Aviation Administration (previously the independent Federal Aviation Agency); the Federal Highway Administration; the Federal Railroad Administration; the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation; and the U.S. Coast Guard.

19th Ammendment

In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson signed the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution which granted American women the right to vote.

War of 1812

In 1812, the United States under President James Madison, the United States declared war again the British. The causes of this declaration of war varied from the impressment of thousands of American sailors into the Royal Navy, British support for Native American groups that came in conflict with American settlers, and possible American interest in annexing British lands in Canada. The war finally came to an end with the Treaty of Ghent in 1815 which restored peace between the United States and Britain and brought relations back to their pre-war state.

United States Enters WWII

Though the war began in Europe in 1914, the United States did not enter World War I until 1917. The trigger for the outbreak of war in Europe was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, though many other reasons helped to start this war. The causes for American entry are equally complicated, but included German submarine warfare on American ships and German conspiracy with Mexico to invade the United States. Also known as the Great War, World War I brought new technologies such as trench warfare, wireless communication, armored tanks, and submarines. When the war ended in 1918, over 9 million combatants and 7 millions civilians had died. The Paris Peace Conference in 1919 resulted in the creation of the League of Nations, the extinction of the Ottoman Empire, German Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Russian Empire, and the restructuring of national borders.


The era of Reconstruction, the building back of the United States after the turmoil of the Civil War, contained two phases. The first phase, from 1863-1865, included moderate Reconstruction goals through President Lincoln and Vice President Andrew Johnson designed to bring the South back to normal as quickly as possible. This strategy included getting 10% of each southern state’s population to agree with Emancipation and then the state could elect new delegates and create a revised state constitution. However, after President Lincoln’s assassination, President Johnson was unable to control the Radical Republican congress and Reconstruction became stricter. Under Congressional Reconstruction, Republicans took control of each southern state, used the military to maintain control, enfranchised African American men, created the Freedmen’s Bureau to protect the rights of recently freed slaves, and imposed major taxes on southerners. By 1877, southern states had dislodged Republican control with evacuation of military forces from the south and newly-elected President Rutherford B. Hayes officially ended Reconstruction.

Franklin Roosevelt's Presidency

Assuming the presidency during the Great Depression, the first 100 days of Roosevelt’s leadership saw the passing of New Deal legislation designed to create relief (government jobs for the unemployed), recovery (economic growth), and reform (new regulations on Wall Street, banks, and transportation) to deal with the current economic crisis. This significantly strengthened the role of the government in the economy and redefined the Democratic party for the middle of the 20th century. President Roosevelt also saw the United States through most of World War II (1939-1945). The United States entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. During the war, Roosevelt had the economy support the war effort and interned 100,000 Japanese American citizens in the western United States for suspicion. President Roosevelt served four terms in office, but died before the end of World War II.

Franklin Type "A" Runabout

The 1905 Franklin was marketed as a luxury car, and came in six different models. It was praised for its high speeds, and strong racing performance.

Dwight Eisenhower's Presidency

Seeing over a time of strong Cold War tension, President Eisenhower continued to put pressure on the Soviet Union and reduce federal deficits. Eisenhower kept the United States out of France’s conflict in Vietnam, ordered coups in Iran and Guatemala, and threatened the use of nuclear weapons to end the Korean War. In domestic issues, President Eisenhower started NASA, continued New Deal policies, expanded Social Security, and created the Interstate Highway System.

The Cold War

Beginning after World War II, the Cold War was a state of military and political tension between the United States-led West and the Soviet Union-led East. Called a “cold war” because of the lack of all out military conflict by the two leading nations, the Cold War did contain many regional wars known as “proxy wars” that the United States and Soviet Union supported. The major cause for tension between the United States and Soviet Union was over communism and the way that each nation operated. Communism is a political ideology that centers around social ownership of the means of production which produces a classless, moneyless, and stateless society. However, the Soviet Union became a single-party state operating a planned economy and state controlled press which the United States disagreed with. Over the course of the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union built up nuclear weapon supplies and spied on each other. The Cold War finally ended with the formal dissolution of the USSR in December 1991.

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