Today we tend to take for granted the convenience of our road system.
We zip along interstates and four-lane highways at speeds carrying us 50-70 miles in about one hour. In 1913, a distance of 100 miles took nearly six to eight hours. Now our roads are generally well-marked, with signs denoting the distance between towns and the turns that take us in the right direction. In 1913, these signs were rare. Plus, although you may gripe about the pot holes forming every year in the street in front of your house, we have nicely paved byways that save on the car’s wear and tear. In 1913, motorists traveled a lot on gravel and dirt, which turned to mud during a rain storm.
In 1913, the inconvenience of our road system was obvious.
But, an intrepid group of Indiana auto makers saw what could be. They envisioned a national system of good roads that could tie the country from coast to coast. They only had to convince the rest of the country.
So, they embarked on a month-long trek from Indianapolis to Los Angeles to promote the Good Roads Movement as well as show that these Indiana-made cars had the stamina to make the trip. They traveled on some decent roads, some completed the night before they arrived, and some that presented some perilous twists.
Hoosier Tour examines how the 1913 Indiana Automobile Manufacturers’ Association Indiana-Pacific Tour helped generate interest for building roads, like the proposed Ocean-to-Ocean Rock Highway later to be known as the Lincoln Highway. At that time, the IAMA Tour was one of the largest continental tours attempted in the United States.
We invite you to examine some of the day-to-day activities and travails as this band of auto pioneers headed west.
You know what may be the biggest differences between the early American auto industry and today’s car business? Sheer chutzpah, and a willingness by its founding greats to do things that appeared on the surface to be crazy, just to prove a point. It was a bizarre way to do so, but in 1913, members of the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers’ Association undertook a madcap run, frequently where no roads existed at all, from Indianapolis to San Francisco. It took just over a month to complete the torturous run. Amazingly, 18 of the 20 Indiana-built cars that started out made it to the finish. It was a pure publicity stunt, first to prove the viability of Indiana’s cars, and secondly to promote interest in a cross-country road, originally named the Ocean-to-Ocean Rock Highway, which later became the Lincoln Highway.
So this was more about hurrahing new cars; it was a clearly dangerous undertaking with profound implications for America’s transportation future. It’s a story told in 114 paperback pages by Hoosier auto historians Dennis and Terri Horvath, co-authors of the earlier, well-received volume, Indiana Cars. The participants in this trek were a Who’s Who of Indiana motoring as it existed before World War I, led by master promoter Carl G. Fisher. The locals were thrilled by the spectacle of these motorized Rough Riders, whose tale gets a vivid telling here
In 1913, the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers’ Association was a pro-active group made up of such manufacturers as Marmon, Stutz, Premier, and Empire. Together, they were among the more than 40 automobile marques that firmly placed Indiana second in states that were home to automobile manufacturers. Not only was the group concerning itself with automobile production, it was starting a movement to pave more of America’s roads.
Details of the IAMA’s 1913 tour are highlighted in “Hoosier Tour: A 1913 Indiana to Pacific Journey.” The grueling trip to prove not only that America needed more roads, but that Indiana-built cars were reliable, was a success. In fact, authors Dennis E. Horvath and Terri Horvath say the Lincoln Highway was a result of this tour.
To enjoy the tales of early motoring history, and a look back at Indiana’s automotive past, order this soft cover, 114-page book for $9.99.
In today’s world, we take for granted our paved highways and interstate system, zipping along with the intent to arrive at our destination as quickly as possible. We also (for the most part) take for granted the reliability of our vehicles. This was not the case in 1913. In 1904, the Office of Public Roads did its first inventory of U.S. roads. It found there were 2,151,570 miles of rural public roads – 93% of them dirt. Of the remaining 7%, 38,622 were stone or macadam, 108,232 miles were gravel and the remaining 6,810 miles were shell, sand, clay, brick, or other materials. By 1914, the miles of surfaced roads had risen to 257,291. Given that most of the surfaced roads were in and around population centers, one can begin to imagine what a cross-country tour in 1913 must have been like.
In 1913, Indiana was second only to Detroit in automobile production. There were more than 40 manufacturers of cars and trucks in Indiana in addition to various related businesses. In 1911, wanting to get the word out about the reliability of Indiana cars, the manufacturers banded together and did a four-state tour (Ind., Ill., Mo., Iowa). After the success of that initial tour, the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers Association (IAMA) was formed. A second four-state tour was held in 1912 (Ind., Ohio, W.V., Ky.). These were not competitive events, but ones in which the features and reliability of Indiana cars were showcased. In 1913, the IAMA decided on a month-long tour Indiana to the Pacific Ocean to not only promote Indiana-built cars and trucks, but also to generate interest in the Good Roads movement and the proposed Ocean to Ocaen Rock Highway, later known as the Lincoln Highway.
The Horvath’s book takes the reader from the beginning of the IAMA through the tour preparations and on the tour itself. The tour was a big deal – some of the roads on which the tourists traveled had only been finished the night before they were scheduled to arrive in a town. Several state governors rode along as the tour passed through their state and the winner of the first Indianapolis 500, Ray Harroun, was one of the tour participants. The book follows the hazards of motor travel in 1913 and also covers the greetings that tourists received in towns through which they passed. There were 18 cars and two trucks that began the 3,600-mile tour, and only two didn’t make it to Los Angeles…and it was not to mechanical difficulties. The IAMA’s tour to the Pacific was a success both in proving the reliability of the Indiana-built vehicles and in promoting the Good Roads movement. The book closes with four appendices – dignitaries, tour participants, tour itinerary, and information on A.L. Westgard, who was a force in the early roads movement. This reader feels it is important to record our early automotive history, especially the little-known pieces of the puzzle, and the Horvaths have done a great job in chronicling this part of our history.
We started our journey with the publication of Cruise IN: A guide to Indiana’s automotive past and present. This publication led to other books and articles relating to the car culture, including Indiana Cars: A history of the automobile in Indiana and 93 Tips for Buying a Collectible Car
Enjoy your visit at Cruise-IN.com.