Monthly Archives: March 2016

Experiencing the Original Dixie Highway in Indiana

September 15, 1915, marked the celebration of Dixie Highway Day in Martinsville, IN. Governor Samuel M. Ralston, Carl G. Fisher, and W. S. Gilbreath, field secretary of the Dixie Highway Association, attended. The celebration, as the name implied, marked the completion of the Dixie Highway through Morgan County.

The three Hoosiers were met on the outskirts of town by directors of the Chamber of Commerce, Company K of the Indiana National Guard, the Martinsville Band, and a host of school children. The parade extended through the business district and on to the two-and-one-half-mile stretch of brick highway, where Governor Ralston laid the first brick.

Dixie Highway Day 1915
Governor Ralston, laying first
brick on the Dixie Highway

At the time, Morgan County had an abundance of knobstone shale within its borders, famous all over the country as paving and building brick material. Martinsville and Brooklyn had three brick plants producing a daily capacity of more than 100,000 bricks.

Governor Ralston complemented the Morgan County citizens for their foresight in his luncheon remarks, “Martinsville is noted for the curative properties of the water. Her sanitariums are widely famed and those institutions will be a standing invitation for the traveling public through the means of the Dixie Highway to avail themselves of your local advantages. Those who plan for greater conveniences for the people of their day and join in storing up blessings for future generations are in the highest and best sense of word public servants. I congratulate you upon the fine spirit of this occasion and the willingness I see here on all sides manifested to do your part in the inauguration and consummation of this public work.”

Knobstone Brick
Knobstone Brick
on the Dixie Highway

Scarborough’s 1916 Official Tour Book recommended this alternate trip from Bloomington to Martinsville. “Until this section of the Dixie Highway is improved, tourists should travel from Bloomington through Ellettsville to Gosport and then on through Paragon to Martinsville, thus avoiding the rough roads and bad hills of the more direct route through Morgan County.” That is why the original alignment goes northwest out of Martinsville across the White River.

To travel on this original alignment of the 1915 Dixie Highway from the Morgan County Court House at the corner of Morgan and Main streets, go north one block and turn left (west) on to West Pike Street. Go seven blocks to North Park Avenue and turn right (north) and then take the immediate left turn onto Bob Gay Parkway. Just past the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department building on the left, the original brick section of the Dixie, proceeds for about 0.7 of a mile toward the White River Bridge.

Original Dixie Highway
Original Dixie Highway
in Martinsville, IN

I invite you go to Martinsville to experience this 100-year-old brick section of the Dixie Highway in Indiana.

For more information on Indiana rides & drives follow this link.

Check out the book Dixie Highway in Indiana

Indiana’s Historic National Road Part 1

This post marks the beginning of my series on Indiana’s Historic National Road.

Construction of Indiana’s section of the National Road from Richmond to West Terre Haute took place between 1827 and 1835. The road survives earlier competition from railroads, interurbans, and the interstate system. More than 185 years later, Indiana’s Historic National Road serves as a National Scenic Byway where you can kick-back and reminisce about travel in earlier times.

In this installment, we’ll discuss National Road attractions in Richmond Indiana. Begin your trip where the National Road (U.S. 40) enters Indiana on Richmond’s east side (I-70 Exit 156). The Old National Road Welcome Center is left (south) on Industrial Parkway just after the railroad overpass. The center has a plethora of information on the East, Central, and West Indiana Regions of the Road as well as other points of interest. Be sure to check out all of the National Road items in the gift shop.

Continue west to the Madonna of the Trail monument at the west entrance of Glenn Miller Park at 22nd and Main. The 18-foot statue dedicated in 1928 by then judge Harry S. Truman was commissioned and erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution as a tribute to the early pioneers who trekked westward. There are also four similar statues along the National Road.

At the NW corner of 17th and Main is the Miller Milkhouse, a drive-through market. (Another Miller’s location is a side trip just west of downtown: North off U.S. 40 at the corner of NW 3rd Street and Main.)

Where U.S. 40 jogs right (north), continue on North A Street. On route is the Wayne County Historical Museum at 1150 North A Street, which has a collection of seven of the 14 automotive makes built in Richmond. One of the most interesting is the original condition 1907 Richmond Model J1 Merry Widow Runabout. Another is the 1939 Crosley Convertible and other Crosley Corporation items.

1939 Crosley Convertible
1939 Crosley Convertible
and other Crosley Corporation items
Copyright ©2012 Dennis E. Horvath

After leaving the museum, go left (south) on 11th Street to Main Street and turn right (west) for the original National Road. This two-lane strip of retail shops has many original buildings. For an automotive side trip at 9th Street, turn right (north) and go two blocks to Elm Place and turn left (west), go one block to 8th Street and turn left (south). Go one block (south) to visit the Model T Ford Museum at 309 North 8th Street.

The Model T Ford Museum showcases the car that “put the world on wheels.” One car currently on display is a 1908 touring car believed to be the earliest Model T in existence. One of the museum’s most popular vehicles is a 1924 Army ambulance. This car is in high demand for local parade duty. The museum’s gift shop contains many unique Model T items. Before leaving the area, check out Historic Depot District for many interesting shops and restaurants. I recommend eating at Fire House BBQ and Blues at 300 North 8th Street.

1924 Model T Ambulance
1924 Model T Ambulance
Copyright ©2012 Dennis E. Horvath

Continue your trip one block south to Main Street and then turn right (west). West of the Wayne County Courthouse turn left (south) onto 3rd Street to pick up U.S. 40 again. Approximately 4.5 miles from the Wayne County Courthouse on the north side of the road is a historic stone mile marker, showing nine miles to the state line, four and one-half miles to Richmond, and one mile to Centerville.

This ends this installment of Indiana’s Historic National Road. Check back for further installments detailing experiences along Indiana’s section of the Nation’s first federally funded highway.

For more information on Indiana rides & drives follow this link.

Check out the book Driving the National Road in Indiana

Mileposts in Indiana automotive history-Part One

Hardly a week goes by without someone remarking to me about a milepost in Indiana automotive history. Indianapolis once had more automobile manufacturers than Detroit. Movie stars and kings once clamored for specific models made only in Indiana. The state was also home to several innovations such as tilt steering, cruise control, and front-wheel drive.

In this series of posts, I’ll share some of my list of Indiana’s mileposts in automotive history. I wish to share this automotive heritage to energize and excite auto enthusiasts to get involved with collectible cars.

Early 19th century Construction of the Indiana section of the National Road from Richmond to West Terre Haute took place between 1827 and 1839. It was the road that led wagons and coaches westward.

1885 The world’s first gas pump is invented by Sylvanus F. Bowser of Fort Wayne.

1911 Auburn
1911 Auburn
with Bowser pump

1891 Charles H. Black of Indianapolis garners the dubious distinction of having Indiana’s first auto accident when he ran a German-manufactured Benz automobile into downtown store windows.

1894 Elwood Haynes demonstrates one of the earliest American automobiles along Pumpkinvine Pike on the outskirts of Kokomo.

1894 Haynes Pioneer
Elwood Haynes
with 1894 Haynes Pioneer

1895 Elwood Haynes introduces the first use of aluminum alloy in an automobile in the Haynes-Apperson crankcase.

1896 The corrugated metal pipe culvert is invented by two Crawfordsville men Stanley Simpson, the town engineer, and James H. Watson, a sheet metal worker. Their patented pipe culvert has now become a common sight on highway construction projects around the world.

1900 Tom and Harry Warner, Abbott and J.C. Johnson, Col. William Hitchcock, and Thomas Morgan found Warner Gear Company of Muncie. Warner Gear’s first major contribution to the industry was the differential.

1902 The Marmon motorcar, designed by Indianapolis automaker Howard C. Marmon, has an air-cooled overhead valve V-twin engine and a revolutionary lubrication system that uses a drilled crankshaft to keep its engine bearings lubricated with oil-fed under pressure by a gear pump. This is the earliest automotive application of a system that has long since become universal to internal combustion piston engine design.

1902 The first Studebaker motorcar, introduced in South Bend, is an electric car. Studebaker Bros. had produced more than 750,000 wagons, buggies, and carriages since 1852.

1902 Studebaker Stanhope
1902 Studebaker Stanhope

1903 The Overland has its engine in the front, and rear-seat entrances are through the sides rather than the rear.

1903 The Auburn motorcar, introduced by Auburn Automobile Co. of Auburn, is a single-cylinder runabout with solid tires and a steering tiller. Charles, Frank and Morris Eckhart of Eckhart Carriage Co. started the firm with $7,500 in capital.

1903 The Haynes-Apperson is designed with a tilting steering column to allow low easy access for the driver or passenger upon entering or leaving the vehicle.

1903 Premier claims that the oak leaf on its radiator badge is the first use of an emblem as an automobile trademark.

Marmon 1904 Model A
Marmon 1904 Model A

1905 The Haynes Model L has a semi-automatic transmission.

For more information on Indiana automotive heritage check out our book Indiana Cars: A History of the Automobile in Indiana

Is this an automotive first?

While arranging my literature collection I came across three articles noting items that may be automotive firsts. It is interesting to look at these innovations from 100 years ago and note that similar recent innovations may be old hat.

1912 Henderson driver’s area
1912 Henderson driver’s area

The Henderson Motor Car was introduced on May 30, 1912, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and featured a console-mounted gear-shift between the front seat cushions. I remember console-mounted gear-shifts from the early 1950’s, but the Henderson unit predates this by 40 years. This gear-shift uses the familiar H pattern to control a Stutz Auto Parts Company rear transaxle unit. Henderson claimed that the convenient location of the lever, together with the short movement necessary, made gear-shifting very easy. This also helped to unclutter the driver’s area.

1916 Apperson “Chummy”ad
1916 Apperson “Chummy”ad

The 1916 Apperson “Chummy” four-passenger roadster offered exclusive seating for four in a sleek sporty style. This unique feature also predates four-seat mid-century sports cars. Apperson ad copy states: “Graceful in line, long, and low, the Chummy Roadster has a rakish swing and an aggressive air. It seems alive with ‘pent-up’ eagerness to go. It is a type of car to delight the sportsman who demands power and speed above all else.” The roadster’s separate front seats are divided by an aisle-way giving access to the rear bench-seat. Wouldn’t this seating arrangement be chummy today?

1917 Overland
1917 Overland

I thought voice-activated automotive controls were a recent development. How about this instance of a voice-activated starter on a 1917 Overland Automobile at the Gibson Company in Indianapolis? The photo caption explained “J. C. Harris, manager of the service department, has used a very sensitive telephone transmitter and a series of relays in such a way that when one speaks into the transmitter sufficient energy is developed to operate the regular starting apparatus. As a result, when one says ‘Start’ into the transmitter the engine starts, and when he says ‘Stop’ the engine stops.” Check out the wiring running across the floor from the control relays to the automobile. I guess the modern-day packaging of electronics makes this possible today.

One thing I especially enjoy about early auto advertisements is their outlandish claims to sell products. We can look at these early advertisements and get some idea of how advertising transformed through the years. These automotive firsts are commonplace today but were innovative in their day.

For more information on Indiana cars & companies follow this link.

My Proposed Indiana Automotive Heritage Corridor Tour

Here are my thoughts on what should be on the Indiana Automotive Heritage Corridor tour. First up would be Auburn with the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, the National Automobile and Truck Museum of the United States, and the Early Ford V-8 Foundation & Museum. Next would be the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. Just up the road a little bit is the Kokomo Automotive Museum. The corridor would finish up at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend. The last two stops on the tour give the visitor a glimpse of the start and end of Indiana’s first generation auto manufacturers.

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is the only auto museum occupying an original factory showroom and administration building. The art-deco structure was built in 1930 for the Auburn Automobile Company and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. MSNBC has named the museum one of the “Top Ten Gearhead Destinations in the United States.”

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum

I always enjoy finding new treasures during my visits to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. Everyone I recommend it to agree with my accolades for this Indiana automotive gem. You should be sure to visit ACDAM on any trip to Indiana.

The next door north of the ACDAM is the National Automobile and Truck Museum of the United States in the original Auburn Automobile Company service building and experimental building. NATMUS displays outstanding examples of postwar cars and trucks ranging from 1907 to modern concepts.

The newest addition to the Auburn automotive scene is the Early Ford V-8 Foundation & Museum just west of the south I-69 interchange. The museum highlights the flathead V-8 era of Ford history with engines, transmissions, a dashboard collection, showroom banners, and “cut-a-way” models. The museum has enough fantastic Ford items to keep you exploring for some time.

Hall of Fame Museum
Hall of Fame Museum

Next it’s time to head south on I-69 and then west on I-465 to Crawfordsville Road and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. The HOFM is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Race days are celebrated 363 days a year at the museum. The museum features history-making racecars going back to Louis Chevrolet’s 1909 Cobe Cup winning car, all the way up to today’s 200-mph record breakers. Museum special collections include an original garage area façade, the trophy collection, and other rotating exhibits. The museum is inside the famed oval, so make sure you visit the Louis Chevrolet Memorial just west of the museum entrance. Then take a tour around the track (when available).

Back on the road again, go north from Indianapolis on U.S. 31 to the Kokomo Automotive Museum. The museum celebrates the “City of Firsts” being home to Elwood Haynes, who built one of America’s first gasoline-powered automobiles in 1894. In addition to antique autos, KAM displays include a recreation of an early auto machine shop, vintage advertising, and a 1950’s era diner and service station diorama.

Studebaker National Museum
Studebaker National Museum

We’ll finish up our trip on the corridor further north at the Studebaker National Museum at 201 S. Chapin Street, in South Bend. The museum honors one of America’s most esteemed independent automobile manufacturers. SNM traces Studebaker’s transportation heritage from 1852 through 1966. Seventy vehicles in the collection are displayed at any time ranging from presidential carriages and bullet-nose beauties to experimental cars. The SNM archives across the street provide a wealth of historical information for Studebaker, Packard, and several local businesses.

This tour on my proposed Indiana Automotive Heritage Corridor provides a look at Indiana’s rich car culture that continues today. I hope to see you somewhere along the corridor.

For more information on Indiana auto museums follow this link.