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The History of the Glove Compartment

The story of the glove compartment begins more than a century ago and takes many twist and turns to arrive at the ubiquitous car feature we know today.

glove compartment

The humble glove compartment is so often a forgotten-about vehicle feature. After all, it’s where we store so many forgotten-about things. Be honest, can you name every item that’s currently in your glove compartment? But while we may take this unassuming storage bin for granted, it deserves to be acknowledged. Like so many other automobile features, the history of the glove box provides insight into the evolution of society at large.

Glove compartment history begins

Driving an automobile in the early 20th century may have been an exciting experience, but it certainly wasn’t the most comfortable one. Known as “horseless carriages,” early cars didn’t have roofs so drivers were open to the elements. Even when vehicles became enclosed, they still didn’t have heaters. Furthermore, roads weren’t paved well – if at all – so drivers had to hold on to a shaking steering wheel. And let’s not forget that power steering had yet to be invented, so turning the steering wheel could be a struggle. This is all to say that early motorists needed a good pair of driving gloves.

Early automobile manufacturers tried to rid their products of the “horseless carriage” moniker and Packard Motor Company did so with the addition of a new storage compartment. Sales material for Packard’s earliest cars stated that, “Instead of a leather dash, there is a boot or box forming part of the body. In this is ample space for parcels, waterproofs, etc.”

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Where did the term “glove compartment” come from?

What we have come to know as the glove box or glove compartment had come into existence. Yet the idea of storing one’s driving gloves in this space was not a given. That idea can be traced back to a woman named Dorothy Levitt. One of Britain’s first female race drivers, Levitt was an automotive pioneer. Among her many accomplishments in the field was publishing “The Woman and the Car,” a book filled advice for owning and driving an automobile. One such tip informed readers, “You will find room for these gloves in the little drawer under the seat of the car. This little drawer is the secret of the dainty motorist.”

The growth of the glove box

It didn’t take long for other manufacturers to adopt this new feature. Some used baskets, satchels or hampers, while others built boxes into the dashboard. By the 1930s, the glove box became standard.

As time went on – and vehicles evolved – the need for driving gloves dissipated. This allowed glove compartment, and their uses, to change and by the mid-century, manufacturers began introducing all sorts of iterations. These included a glove drawer that rolled out of the instrument panel, a glove box containing a pop-up makeup compact and lighted makeup mirror overhead, and another that featured a mounted voice recorder.

But the cream of the glove box crop was the one found in the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. Stored inside was a makeup case, a notebook, a cigarette case, an atomizer for perfume and six stainless-steel shot glasses that could be held down by a magnetic strip.

Modern glove boxes

As decades rolled on, glove compartments became less flashy and more utilitarian. Some became lockable compartments, others came equipped with indentations on the door to hold beverages. Not surprisingly, this was also the time period when glove boxes became catchall storage spots in vehicles, holding everything from insurance and registration papers to tissues and snacks.

Only recently have glove boxes taken on some new features, although there’s room for debate as to how successful they were or will be. In the aughts, Dodge unveiled the “Chill Zone,” a refrigerated beverage storage bin capable of holding up to four 12-ounce cans. More recently, some manufacturers have developed deeper glove boxes where drivers can store a laptop.

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What do you keep in your glove box? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments
  • Diana R.

    My glovebox holds my car’s owners manual, air freshners, screw driver, wrench, pliers, tire guage

    Reply
  • Very interesting and informational article, well done please continue writing them it certainly makes for good reading.

    Reply
    • Andrew S.

      Thanks for reading Bob, glad you enjoyed it! More stories are on the way!

      Reply
  • I use CA the glove box for the car’s info book and for mechanic’s bills and receipts -minor and manor

    Reply
  • Robert B.

    I have a Chevy Tahoe that has a big bulky “console” between the two front seats, inside of which is a small shoebox-size container for far fewer items than you would think this space would hold from the looks of its size outside. So I removed the little box inside, then in the now long, wide, and deep space inside I stored among other things a snow scraper, toiletries, hand towel, bottled water, roll of paper towels, maps, hatchet, hunting knife, disaster prep equipment —and, would you believe it, a pair of work gloves.

    Reply
  • Carol E.

    I keep the car registration and the latest inspection sheet in the glove box. I might also keep a few clean napkins and maybe a plastic spoon or two.

    Reply
  • Dennis C.

    In addition to registration, auto manual, and insurance info, a tire gauge, and several napkins, I keep several crossword puzzles, pens, and reading glasses. If I arrive somewhere early or am picking my sister up at work, I grab a puzzle to pass the time.

    Reply
  • In my glove compartment: Registration, insurance card, owner’s manual, covid masks.

    Reply
  • Edith J.

    I keep some of my favorite CDs, extra face masks and my automobile Manuel in my glove compartment.

    Reply
  • Alice R.

    I continue to store the required registration and insurance info. in the glove box. In addition, the car manual and parking placards and keys. I have a deeper storage box between the Honda seats for snacks, first-aid, flash light, pencils and paper, etc.

    Reply
  • I have a boring and practical glove compartment. In it I store: a little folder with registration and insurance cards, my car’s information book, pens and pencils, extra masks (ugh!), plastic utensils for take-out, antiseptic wipes, napkins, and a stethoscope! (retired nurse), sometimes loose change. And a pair of gloves!

    Reply
  • Debra M.

    So enjoy these historic articles. Have been driving since I was 14 and it is always fun to know who invented these items and how they morph into today’s components.
    Thank you~

    Reply
  • Before the internet and GPS, I used the glove compartment to store road maps. Now it just holds the car manual, registration, etc. plus pens or pencils and not much else! The compartment seems to have gotten smaller anyhow.

    Reply
    • Eleanor C.

      I love maps because they give me an overall view and I look at taking a trip with a map challenging.

      Reply
  • I leave a spare set of flats ( shoes) and a hair straightener iron that plugs into the lighter. And the car instruction book

    Reply
  • Carol M.

    I keep car manuel/insurance info/registration plastic ware, straw, pen.pencils, tiny note pad, night time anti-glare night driving glasses, compact NYC map, maps, energy bar, cough drops, extra masks, extra mailbox key

    Reply
  • Nancy B.

    Using the mounting holes from the cardboard glove box that my 1964 Ford Galaxie had, I mounted a 1990’s Nakamichi cassette tape deck in my glove box.

    Reply
  • Rosalie F.

    I have my registration and insurance information in my glove compartment. I also have a small memo pad and pencil in case I have to take down information if God forbid, I have an accident.

    Reply
  • Karen W.

    I have the car manuals, registration, Swiss army knife for emergencies, pens, napkins, winter gloves, spare toothbrush, and rosary beads.

    Reply
  • Michael G.

    Aside from the usual items, my Audi glove box has the button that prevents the trunk from being opened by parking attendants

    Reply
  • Barbara D.

    I have the between-the-seats storage and those lovely door-slash storage spots so in the glove compartment I keep, the owners manual, a flashlight and the tire gauge. That’s about all that fits!

    Reply
    • I keep the registration, emission report, user manual, tire gauge, couple tools, emergency money. Also AAA maps when on road trips, because of the security that their greater perspective and guidance of the land provides that navigation cannot.

      Reply
  • Last time I checked my glove box, I had the foil holder for my EZPass (for times when I didn’t want it on the windshield – ie never) and an also foil wrapped Kodak disposable camera (!!) for taking damage photos in case of collision! Plus an archive of insurance info, manuals, bandaids etc. – made me feel my age. The car has a cassette player 🙂

    Reply
  • Peter B.

    I have my “convenience store masks” and other appropriate paraphernalia, just kidding. There are the usual boring but essential items in my glove box which can also refrigerate items and you need a passcode to get in if it’s electronically locked.

    Reply
  • I store my owner’s manual, tire gauge, some spare fuses, and a pen. My vehicle’s built in navigation system uses DVD-based maps, and the DVD player takes up a chunk of the space. Amusingly, there’s a label on it that says, “Not for movie playback” (or something close to that). I guess if my car had a DVD system (like, for the back seat) this differentiation would make sense.

    I keep my driving gloves in the compartment on the lower part of the driver’s side door.

    Reply
  • I have the cars manual, box of tissue, registration and insurance, can of Lysol, etc

    Reply
  • Yasmina S.

    Among the usual practical items, a bottle of Pepto-Bismol which was helpful during my youthful party years and during 2020 which soothed the stresses of the times!

    Reply
  • IRENE B.

    My glove compartment has my Owner’s Manual, insurance card, some local street maps, a small camera in case of an accident, a small snow scraper and my tire gauge.

    Reply
  • Loved the article. I use my glove compartment all the time! Though I recall some time in the past ten years when looking at new cars that glove compartments were getting smaller, almost unusable. Glad they’re heading in a more practical direction.

    Reply
  • Bonnie L.

    Really good article and love some of the responses….Quick question; someone mentioned maps and even tho’ i use WAZE, I still would like to look at an old fashioned, fun to fold!!! paper map. Any idea if they are sold anywhere? Never see them in Cumby’s! Thanks

    Reply
    • Virginia J.

      AAA still has maps. I’ve bought maps at Barnes and Noble, also. I like a map in the car for road trips. I like to look at the big picture as my husband is driving. When I am driving, I use the GPS, which I do like also.

      Reply
    • Barnes and Noble bookstores (yes, there are still a few around) had them last I checked.

      Reply
    • Rosemary P.

      I would like to know when car manufacturers will make a compartment that holds a normal-sized handbag (not a tiny evening bag) for all us female drivers. Every time I have a passenger, I have to move my handbag to the rear.

      Reply
  • Michelle M.

    Inside: Insurance card, tire gauge, spare fuses, paper directions to MD & PA cousins (in case Waze or ???? GPS fails), NYC paper map, a few spare various-sized stamped envelopes, disposable ????, some sanitizer & wipes, ???? , a baggie of plastic utensils, ????, ✏️ & a notepad, snack bars, spare change!

    Reply
  • Subaru Cross-Trek: Owner’s manual fits…somehow. Also, insurance papers, pen and pad and a supply of face masks. There’s another box that exactly fits a square box of tissues or a stack of CDs. There’s a USB port inside of it, too. Handy.

    Reply
  • Rosemary P.

    I would like to know when car manufacturers will make a compartment that holds a normal-sized handbag (not a tiny evening bag) for all us female drivers. Every time I have a passenger, I have to move my bag to the rear.

    Reply
  • Barbara K.

    I have always kept car registration, insurance card, tire gauge, car manual & napkins! In addition, I now have extra masks, sanitizer & breath mints.

    Reply
  • Barbara K.

    I have always kept car registration, insurance card, tire gauge, car manual & napkins! In addition, I now have extra masks, sanitizer & breath mints. Don’t forget a pad of paper & a pen too!!

    Reply
  • Registration, car manuals & maintenance documents, maps, car repair coupons, vomit bag
    The person’s comment above is reminding me to put back a flashlight!

    Reply
  • Which gives question to if gloves are rarely found in glove compartments their should be no wonder why buckets arn’t found or used in bucket seats.

    Reply
  • Mine holds a proton pack. You never know when you’ll need to capture a ghost! ????

    Reply
  • The glove compartment was/is known as the jockey box in Montana. It took me awhile to learn to use glove box/compartment after moving to New York.

    Reply
  • I noticed someone mentioned maps, and a reply ‘What are those?’ I have been a member since I started to drive-over 50 years agoI drive all over this country-the best way to actually experience various cultures, and history. And there are MANY places off the highways where a GPS is useless, or worse, just pa=lain wrong. You can get into a lot of trouble following blindly, and some folks have actually died lost in the desert, etc Nothing will ever take the place of a good map. So learn to read one!
    Glove box? Only those things necessary for stop-like registration, car booklets, flashlight, pen & paper Handy when pulled over or stopped for a roadway mess.

    Reply
  • Insurance card, maps, fuses, spare light bulbs, Owner’s manual, gloves, and an armadillo.

    Reply

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