Monthly Archives: April 2015

1915 Dixie Highway in Indiana

In early 1915, boosters for the various routes for the proposed Dixie Highway had a few weeks to gather information regarding their favored route for presentation on May 20th. Carl G. Fisher and Thomas Taggart of Indianapolis, both members of the commission, displayed maps of the proposed Indiana routes. The final route: South Bend to New Albany, by way of Plymouth, Rochester, Logansport, Indianapolis, Martinsville, Bloomington, Bedford, and Paoli was a combination of two of the six proposed routes. The commission also approved a route from Chicago to Indianapolis, by way of Danville, Illinois, through Crawfordsville.

Dixie Highway Day
Governor Ralston laying the first brick in a stretch of the Dixie Highway in Indiana

According to reports from the Indiana delegation session at Chattanooga, Tennessee, there was one fight after another. Politics played its part in the whole affair with senators, congressmen, ex-governors, and party leaders from each state being represented. For a time there was such confusion and bitterness that it was feared the whole proposition would be abandoned. Finally, it appeared that all could be satisfied, and the routes through Cincinnati and Louisville were approved.

By mid-August, Thomas Taggart proposed the Dixie Highway should not be for automobiles only. He said it should be so built that it would be just as good for a farmer to haul a load of hay or corn to town as it will be for the automobilist to make a tour in his car. Good roads, he said mean more to the farmer than anyone else, for they mean that he can get more for his products by getting them to market cheaper and quicker. “This is a practical proposition,” he said. He encouraged the election of good men who are interested in the good roads question and awakening public sentiment.

Later in the month, the Christian Science Monitor noted, “The Dixie and the Lincoln Highways will represent engineering achievements which should endure for centuries. We have passed beyond the age of the chariot, but this is the age of the automobile, over these roads, these free roads which shall bring to the north and the south alike, these modern chariots shall roll in unending streams.”

On September 15, 1915, in Martinsville, Indiana, business cares were cast aside, factory, store and school doors were closed and every son and daughter from Morgan County joined in a mammoth celebration of “Dixie Day.” The celebration marked the completion of the Dixie Highway through the county. Governor Samuel M. Ralston, Carl G. Fisher, and W. S. Gilbreath, field secretary of the Dixie Highway Association, lent dignity to the occasion.

A parade formed on the outskirts of town and then marched through the business district and on to the newly completed brick highway stretch. Governor Ralston laid the crown brick bearing his name on a pillar built in commemoration of the day. Then, he laid the first brick in the two-and-one-half-mile stretch of the new Dixie Highway. After a luncheon, the Governor crowned Miss Marguerite Mars as the Dixie Highway Queen. He also commended the county’s production of 100,000 bricks per day of these famous knobstone shale paving bricks.

South Bend wound up with the distinction of being on the main lines of the Lincoln Highway, the National Parks Highway, and the Dixie Highway.

In 1915, Indiana was getting around to improving its roads with concrete and brick highways to enhance travel and get farm goods to market. Today the Dixie Highway and the Lincoln Highway offer many pleasant stretches for our driving pleasure. I invite you to check them out.

1915 Lincoln Highway Film Tour

On May, 15, 1915, Henry C. Ostermann, council-at-large for the Lincoln Highway Association with his wife in the official Stutz, led group of intrepid travelers on a Coast-to-Coast trip from the Atlantic Ocean shore in Coney Island, New York to the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Cars ready for the start in Coney Island
Cars ready for the start in Coney Island

The purpose of the trip was not only to show the practicability of an ocean-to-ocean trip by automobile with the new era of road improvement stimulated by the Lincoln Highway, but also to film civic and industrial life and points of scenic beauty along the route that could be used in making the various sections of the country better acquainted with each other. The film was later exhibited at the exposition, schools, clubs, and other organizations of civic nature in other parts of the country

Official cars on the 3,384 mile trip represented Studebaker, Stutz, Packard, and Wayne Pump Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana, R. E. Spencer and Leon Loeb served as official film operators for the association and traveled in the Stutz. E. A. Holden, Ostermann’s secretary, accompanied Studebaker Corporation’s officials R. C. Sackett and J. Meinzinger in securing important road data of interest to motorists. T. A. Stalker and C. K. Reiling drove the Packard, and Mr. and Mrs. O. P. Canaday rode the Wayne Pump Company car.

J. M. Studebaker at construction near South Bend
J. M. Studebaker at construction near South Bend

South Bend, Indiana, staged a transportation pageant to celebrate “Lincoln Highway Day” and its transportation heritage, all of it captured by Lincoln Highway film crew. Thousands lined both sides of streets crowding into front yards and overflowing onto front porches. J. M. Studebaker drove one of his first carriages that was continuously used for over 60 years. Abraham Lincoln’s carriage also built by Studebaker was displayed. Of the 300 feet of film allotted to filming in South Bend, 175 were necessary to capture the pageant.

The tourists were received at every stopping point with utmost cordiality and enthusiasm. Most of the cities were decorated in holiday bunting, with a suspension of business operations. Citizens turned out in large numbers hoping that they might appear in the film.

Dipping their wheels in the Pacific Ocean
Dipping their wheels in the Pacific Ocean

Upon arriving in San Francisco on August 25th, the official vehicles dipped their wheels in the Pacific Ocean and then proceeded on to the Panama Pacific International Exposition.

Unfortunately no copies of the official film exist today because of the explosive nature of the film stock. Thank goodness, E. A. Holden captured still photographs to document his scrapbook, which is the source of the photographs used here. What an interesting glimpse of travel 100 years ago.