This trend toward country living, now so far flung as to be a characteristic of American life, is not just a fad. It has been a slow steady growth and has behind it a tradition of a century and more. When our larger commercial centers first began to change from villages to compact urban communities, there were those who found even these miniature cities far too congested. It was incomprehensible to them that a family should exist without land enough for such prime requisites as a cow, a hen-yard, and a vegetable garden. No family that really lived and properly enjoyed the pleasures of the table could be without them. Besides, epidemics of yellow fever came with summer as naturally as sleighing with winter.
So for health and good living they began to move far into the country,—that is, three or four miles out of town,—and stage coach routes were established to transport the heads of such families to and from business either the year around or for the summer months. These stages or the private carriages of the more ostentatious were, of course, horse-drawn which limited the distance which could be traveled.
The next step was the railroads. Hardly were they practical means of transportation that could be relied on day in and day out, before commutation tickets were offered for those hardy enough to endure daily trips of a dozen miles or more between home and office. Gradually the peaceful farming villages surrounding cities were transformed into something new to the American scene, the suburban town, but it remained impractical for most people to live farther from the station than a convenient walk. When electric car lines were added, the distance was extended materially and the farm lands just outside these suburban towns took on new value. Near car lines, they could be sold to those not primarily concerned with agriculture. The interurban electric roads also made many so-called abandoned farms in various parts of the country practical for families who wished to live farther from commercial centers either throughout the year or for the summer months, since they provided that great essential, a quick means of getting to shopping towns. Still great sections of back country, too far from railroads and electric car lines, remained strictly rural.
Finally the automobile, made inexpensive enough for families of average income and provided with that great innovation, the self-starter, changed it all. This was not so very long ago. Approximately with the World War came the moderate-priced car that need not be cranked by hand. Driving it was no longer a sporting male occupation too often marred by broken arms and sprained wrists, the painful outcome of hand-cranking when the motor “back-fired.” With the self-starter car driving went feminine. Mother, as well as father, could and did drive. It was now practical for automobile owning families to live farther from railroad stations and villages.