The Biscayne Times

May 31st
Miami Motor Mania PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul S. George, Special to the BT   
August 2017

A view of our past from the archives of HistoryMiami

WPix_PictureStory_8-17e’ve examined previously the great real estate boom of the mid-1920s, which radically transformed Miami, southeast Florida, and other parts of the Sunshine State. Those “Picture Story” articles treated the topic through the lens of the spiraling real estate prices, building programs, and the birth of new communities, such as Miami Shores and Coral Gables.

But the boom seemingly impacted every element of Greater Miami. Prices for goods and services skyrocketed as businesses in general experienced significant growth from legions of new customers. Hired celebrity athletes, politicians, and entertainers “shilled” developers’ latest creations. Songwriters and bands created music especially for a new subdivision or community. Violent crimes and death from accidents soared.

Traffic gridlock also resulted from the presence of tens of thousands of speculators and new residents who descended on the area in the frenzied days of 1925 and 1926. This was especially true for downtown Miami, the center of the boom. “Everything was immovable,” complained a visiting European journalist in 1925, noting that Miami’s traffic jams “made the worst congestion of London or New York child’s play by comparison.”

To address the situation, the Miami Police Department increased its traffic detail until, by January 1925, three-quarters of the 80-man force was engaged in traffic operations.

The attached photograph highlights the Clyde Lines’ Pawnee, which arrived in the Port of Miami (at the edge of today’s Museum Park) around early 1926, laden with new automobiles for a growing list of dealers in the Miami area whose clientele, of course, added to the traffic problems. This photograph is unusual since most pictures of the waterfront in that era showcased vessels filled with construction materials for massive building programs.

What was not rare, however, were the dramatic number of automobile dealerships and ancillary businesses dotting downtown Miami and adjacent areas to the north. An examination of the Miami City Directory for 1924 lists many car dealerships and far more businesses offering repair work, automobile accessories and services, garages, gas stations, storage, and tow services. Two years later the directory’s listings of the above offerings multiplied many fold.

The boom collapsed in 1926, and the area fell into an economic depression. But for Miami, a 20th-century city built around the automobile, this mode of transportation would become increasingly important.


Paul George is historian at HistoryMiami Museum. To order a copy of this photo, please contact HistoryMiami archives manager Dawn Hugh at 305-375-1623, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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Pix_PictureStory_5-20A view of our past from the archives of HistoryMiami