||The year is 1912. Americans
already have a love affair with their automobiles - folks nationwide own 100,000 of the
contraptions. Gasoline is available in even the smallest towns, blacksmiths can make
replacement parts, and Sunday drives are becomming family entertainment. Cities have
streets, and we can drive from the farms into town.
One thing is missing. Roads connecting the
towns. Railroads and waterways are our only reliable nationwide transportation
links. Enter Carl Graham Fisher, president of Pres-To-Lite, manufacturer of carbide
lamps, and also founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Fisher's plan is to
build a coast-to-coast rock highway, funded by private enterprise. Automobile
manufacturers would contribute a large chunk, cities would pave the highway through their
town to attract new visitors, and individuals would participate by paying $5 per year dues
to the Lincoln Highway Association.
- Packard Motorcar Company and Goodyear Tire &
Rubber come on board with huge pledges. The Lincoln Highway will travel from New
York City to San Francisco, through Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Canton, Fort Wayne, South
Bend, Chicago, Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake
City, Ely, Reno, Donner Pass, Sacramento, Stockton, and Oakland, and the Association hopes
to have it paved in time for people to drive to the Panama-Pacific Exposition to be held
in San Francisco in 1915, celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal.
The road was not completely paved by 1915, but thousands of motorists still drove the dirt
and mud highway to San Francisco that year. In 1925, our federal government decided
to take over the building and maintenance of roads, and to give the roads numbers rather
than names. Furthermore, what had been the Lincoln Highway would not bear one
highway number nationwide. It would become US 1 from New York to Philadelphia, US 30
to Wyoming, and US 40 and US 50 to San Francisco.
Over the years, those highways have often been widened, straightened, and sometimes
by-passes built around towns. Most of the original roadway still exists, but
requires a bit of research to follow the exact route.
(See our back issue #9 to follow the historic route of the
Lincoln Highway.) -L.E.
Visit The Lincoln Highway Association
site, but please remember to come back here.