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Puppet Crusaders!



Travelling Puppet Show by Ralph W. Holsinger (undated; ca. 1940). Photograph taken on Main Street, Charlottesville, across from Dunlop Tire, Victory Shoe Shop (the “r” on the sign is ripped), and Pender’s. While the title of the photograph directs your attention to the puppet show, I was most interested in the Safety Crusader Car and the Safe-T-Meter. The car, judging by a newspaper advertisement I found, is a Plymouth and dubbed the “Safety Crusader” by Shell Oil. As for the Safe-T-Meter, see the newspaper article on the bottom right there. It’s from a New York newspaper in July 1940 (the car ad is from the same week), and it begins this way:

There was a Safe-T-Meter on display downtown yesterday and scores of motorists sat in its booth while it tested their alertness and reaction to emergencies.
One woman tested the machine, instead. She earned a low rating, but the machine was laid up temporarily for repairs.
The mechanism, designed to determine and record brake reflex time, has a steering wheel, clutch, brake, accelerator and dashboard. The woman, watching the transparent windshield upon which five accident sequences came hurtling along the motion-picture road, stepped on the accelerator.

So while the Charlottesville image is undated, I think we can safely assume it’s from the summer of 1940. I will not, however, endorse the newspaper’s implication regarding the quality of women drivers!
IMAGES: Travelling Puppet Show, Holsinger Studio Collection, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia; Evening-Recorder, Amsterdam, New York, July 1, 1940; Utica Daily Press, Utica, New York, July 10, 1940

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