Steadman Smith was an attorney and a car enthusiast from Southern California. Smith was active in antique automobile clubs and gathered these materials related to his interests.
The collection includes assorted pamphlets, magazines, promotional reports, newspaper articles, advertisements, calendars, newsletters, photographs, and pictorial items relating to cars, from their early development in the 1890s through contemporary trends of the early 1960s. The turn-of-the-century materials are in nostalgic reprints; the earliest original item is a 1924 Automobile Trade Journal. Most of the items date from the 1940s and 1950s, and were distributed by car and tire dealerships, auto manufacturers, petroleum and motor oil corporations, automobile clubs, and the specialty publisher Floyd Clymer. Some publicity brochures describe particular makes of cars. While the emphasis is on the United States, a small amount of material is about the British and German automobile industries. Clipped articles and advertisements are from newspapers and popular magazines such as Life.
The Horseless Carriage Club, headquartered in Los Angeles, is represented by newsletters, clippings, and notices of activities, mostly from 1938 to 1949; also issues of its Gazette, 1938 to 1948. Brochures and clippings commemorate special events, such as the 1908 New York to Paris Race, and the Automobile Industry celebrating its Golden Jubilee in 1946. Memorabilia is also present about J. Frank Duryea, his winning of America's first automobile race in 1895, and also partaking in the fiftieth anniversary race in 1945. Visual materials include black-and-white photographs from 1938 to 1940 of collectors with their antique cars, and several original drawings by Alexander G. Telatco. Calendars from 1946 and 1953 have color reprints of early cars in Americana settings, by artists such as Norman Rockwell. In addition, much of the printed material contains reproductions of historic photographs depicting different automobile models being driven in various situations.