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The History of the Glove Compartment

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.

Looking for something handy to keep in your glove compartment? AAA members can save on every fill-up at Shell with their Fuel Rewards card.

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


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55 Thoughts on “The History of the Glove Compartment

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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!!

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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 🙂

  16. 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!

    1. 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.

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

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