Where the Rubber Meets the... Dirt?

We did not always have interstates or numbered highways. Before then we only had dirt roads whose condition made cross country travel nearly impossible. By the nineteen-teens travel by car was becoming more popular and auto trips were becoming more affordable. But we still needed better roads.

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This map shows the routes available in May of 1913. Notice how they meandered and were often indirect. Do you recognize any of the names? What kind of travel do they make you think of?



In 1913, Carl Fisher proposed the idea for a roadway that would stretch across the nation. He originally suggested the name "Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway." However, Henry B. Joy, president of the Packard Motor Company and later president of the Lincoln Highway Association, suggested the highway be named in honor of Abraham Lincoln, who he greatly admired. 


But to build a highway, the Association needed money. The Association sold $5 memberships, which were purchased both by people who lived along the road and those that wanted to drive it. This was a way to keep people involved, but also to finance the colossal project.

A large collection of cars, likely on their way to the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco. The Lincoln Highway was supposed to be completed by the beginning of the fair.