America on Wheels Museum
America has catered a love affair with automobiles since the turn of the 20th century, and the American on Wheels Museum captures this vibrant enthusiasm for cars, trucks, and motorcycles. In essence, America on Wheels celebrates the rich history of transportation in the United States, and it stands as a community treasure that collects and preserves over 75 cars, trucks, motorcycles, and bikes. Including a Mack Truck collection, unique 1920s pickup trucks, and several biannual rotating exhibits that focus on different facets of automobile history, the 43,000-square-foot museum tells the story of automobiles from the carriage days to the future of transportation. Furthermore, each exhibit in this museum seeks to bring the displayed vehicles to life through time-period mannequins and scenes, all of which transport visitors in a variety of different locales and decades in Americana history.
Backstory and Context
Establishing the America on Wheels Museum
Although the America on Wheels Museum attracts thousands of visitors every year from around the country, it only dates back to 2008 when the museum finally opened its doors.
However, Allentown city officials were announcing plans to revitalize the old industrial area of the city back in 1989. Part of these plans included a museum along the Lehigh River, and because of fundraising and environmental issues, among many others, development of a museum was delayed.
Yet, community officials strived, and after three groundbreaking attempts and raising nearly $17 million in funds, the America on Wheels Museum officially opened.
Exhibits and Automobile Collections
Traveling through all the exhibits at the museum takes about 1.5 hours, though visitors are welcome to stay as long as they would like. With 5 galleries and 75 historic and rare vehicles, many museum-goers have claimed to spend all day looking through the various exhibits.1
Upon entering the Main Entrance, visitors first experience a collection of spacelike ‘50s automobiles typical to the time period. Moving onwards, visitors come across community utility vehicles, while the interactive exhibits in the Lobby/Corridor Gallery detail the other exhibits in the museum.
One of the most significant parts of the collection is the 1889 Nadig Gas-Powered Carriage, which was one of the first vehicles driven in the United States. Visitors can also explore an 1885 high wheeler bike, a 1919 Mack AB Truck, a 1929 Indian Scout, and much more. Each exhibit also features an interactive section that allows further education on the history and development of the featured vehicles. These interactive exhibits also allow people to sit in various vehicles, ranging from Indy racecars to Mack trucks.2
Education and Entertainment Offerings
In addition to its massive collection, the America on Wheels Museum is dedicated to providing the community with a new way to experience the history of transportation technology. For example, some community programs offered at the museum include the “Magic Seat Belt Tour,” lessons about how an engine works, museum scavenger hunts, and much more.
Also, the museum hosts several well-attended events throughout the year, such as free senior nights, auto shows, canned good drives, Kidventure days, and automotive flea markets, among many others.3