Many have called A Hoosier Holiday America’s first road trip book. The idea for the book grew out of a Manhattan party invitation in August 1915 from illustrator Franklin Booth to novelist Theodore Dreiser: “How would you like to go out to Indiana in my car?” Booth was asking Dreiser, a fellow Hoosier to revisit the towns of their youth: Carmel, Terre Haute, Sullivan, Vincennes, Evansville, Warsaw, and Bloomington. Author Dreiser shares stories of the two-week trip across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana in this book published in 1916.
Dreiser with his trusty American Automobile Association “scenic route” map in hand, Booth and his charcoal art supplies, and their chauffeur Speed headed out to see America in Booth’s Indianapolis-built Pathfinder touring car with leather upholstery.
As one might expect with road construction in this era, the paved thoroughfares of Manhattan soon gave way to smooth macadam roads in New Jersey. Then the macadam roads ended and turned into rutted dirt roads. These dirt roads became steeper and more difficult to ascend and descend over the mountains. Near Lake Erie there were some smooth, red brick boulevards. Then the roads returned to dirt roads with macadam and some paving in towns along the way.
I especially enjoyed his descriptions of visiting various places in Indiana. Visiting Kokomo they talked with auto pioneer Elwood Haynes about his invention of “Stellite” and visited his Haynes Automobile Company. While passing through Indianapolis on the way to Terre Haute, they visited the David M. Parry estate in Golden Hill overlooking White River. Their Pathfinder was built by the Motor Car Manufacturing Company, one of Parry’s later auto companies.
Dreiser provides an interesting commentary on the people and communities during their tour. He contrasts each area with other cities and towns he had visited in the United States and Europe. He concluded that his native Hoosier state is a healthy, happy land in which folks accept their pale religions, politics, and financial and social fortunes with an easy grace.
His numerous descriptions paint you into the picture. I believe every Hoosier should read A Hoosier Holiday to get an idea of what the state was like in 1915.
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