A Quickie History of the Fast Lane

Notable pit-stops along the march of time


| March-April 1997


From the time of Caesar to Napoleon’s day, the top speed at which people, goods, and information can travel stays essentially the same: the pace of a swift horse or a good boat in a strong wind.

Late 1700s—Improvements in upholstery technology in France allow stagecoaches to pick up speed; an increase in road deaths is one immediate result.

Early 1800s—The modern age arrives in a cloud of steam as railroads and steamships dramatically accelerate the speed of transportation—and of life itself. Some naysayers worry that train passengers might suffer crushed bones from traveling at speeds as high as 35 m.p.h. That particular fear turns out to be unfounded, but the death rate speeds up dramatically nonetheless, thanks to train wrecks and boiler explosions.

1830s—European visitors are fascinated by the frantic pace of life in the United States. An English observer notes that the average New Yorker “always walks as if he had a good dinner before him, and a bailiff behind him.” Another visitor describes American eating habits as “Gobble, gulp, and go.”

1850s—A Swedish visitor to the U.S. Patent Office notes that of the nearly 15,000 machines registered, most are “for the acceleration of speed, and for the saving of time and labor.”

1876—Invention of the telephone permits, for the first time in history, instantaneous responses to someone more than a few yards away.






Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!




Facebook Instagram Twitter flipboard


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265