the Superhighway
from Bel Geddes
to Ballard
Helen J Burgess
Washington State
University Vancouver
five: building the interstate

[14] Interrupted by World War II and then the project of European reconstruction, Futurama's "Interregional Highways" did not come into being until 1954, when what is now known as the Eisenhower Interstate System was passed by Congress. Despite the delay, however, Bel Geddes' vision of a safer, streamlined future had already become deeply entrenched in American culture. A publication by the National Highways Users Conference advertising the proposed system personified the Interstate as a bounteous and beautiful Lady Liberty (right), who held a cornucopia from which issued consumer goods, while an American family (white, of course) gazed in wonder at this spectacle of the future. The Interstate occupied the American cultural imagination as the safer, cleaner, faster mode of transportation which would save drivers time and allow for fast mobilization of military transports across the country. Bel Geddes' radio transceivers were nowhere to be seen, but the split-highway system promised to lessen collisions caused by oncoming traffic. Streamlined cars owed their design to a retro-deco sensibility which promised a return to the technologically-optimistic days before the war; in the cities, stylized overpasses were built, reminiscent of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

[15] Bel Geddes' vision continued to gain credence, but with a distinctly 1950s flavor. Comfort and consumption were on the minds of Americans; women were encouraged to imagine a life of leisure without the drudgery of the kitchen. Another General Motors film, this one set at the 1956 Motorama in New York City, "Design for Dreaming" (1956) gave the audience a surreal vision of life in the automobile age. Staged as a dream sequence experienced by a woman of the fifties, "Design for Dreaming" showcased an automated kitchen, a range of futuristic-looking cars, and a model superhighway. In this movie, romance and luxury were key. During a dance sequence, the dreaming woman is turned around the floor of the showroom by a man in a silver mask (presumably the "man of her dreams"), exclaiming over the cars as she goes:

I'm a girl who happens to think that a brand new car is better than mink.
Delighted! So glad I got invited.
Since it's just a dream and involves no money, which one would you like me to buy you, honey?
They're all so beautiful, I really don't know, so let me go down, get the lowdown, and look at each one much closer ... I want a Corvette.
I thought you would.
Ooh! I want a Pontiac too.
Okay, we'll have the usual two-car garage. How do you feel about this fine Oldsmobile?
It's easy to see myself taking the wheel.
This Buick's a beaut.
I'll try it. Ooh, what a dreamy ride! I think that we ought to buy it.
Let's go all out and buy a Cadillac too.
I can hardly wait for this dream to come true!

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