Tag Archives: Lincoln Highway Association

Mileposts in Indiana automotive history-Part Two

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

1906 American Motors Company of Indianapolis develops the American Underslung car, one of the first examples of low-center-of-gravity engineering.

1906 Maxwell-Briscoe, (predecessor of Chrysler Corporation), builds its plant in New Castle. It is the largest automobile plant in the nation.

1906 National Motor Vehicle Company introduces a six-cylinder model, one of the first in America.


1907 Willys-Overland Motors is established by auto dealer John North Willys, who takes over control of Overland Automobile of Indianapolis and moves it in 1909 to the old Pope-Toledo plant in Toledo, Ohio.

1909 Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby and Frank H. Wheeler pool $250,000 in capital to form the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company and transform an Indianapolis west side farm into a two-and-a-half-mile oval that becomes synonymous with automobile racing. The Speedway is designed as an automotive testing ground for U.S. manufactured automobiles to establish American auto supremacy. After the August motorcycle and auto races, the macadam track is repaved with 3,200,000 ten-pound bricks.

1911 The first Indianapolis 500 Mile race is held May 30. A Marmon Wasp averages 75 miles per hour to win. The Wasp employs streamlining via elongated front and rear sections and adds the innovation of a rearview mirror.

1911 Haynes Automobile Company is the first to equip an open car with a top, a windshield, headlamps and a speedometer as standard equipment.

1912 Stutz Motor Car Company is founded by Harry C. Stutz, who merges his Stutz Auto Parts with Ideal Motor Car.

1912-Stutz-Model-A Roadster
1912-Stutz-Model-A Roadster

1912 The Davis car is the first to have a center-control gearshift and the Bendix self-starter.

1912 The Stutz Bearcat is introduced with a design patterned on the White Squadron racing cars that won victories in 1913. Stutz also produces family cars, while the Bearcat provides lively competition for the Mercer made at Trenton, New Jersey.

1913 On July 1, the Lincoln Highway Association is created with Henry B. Joy (president, Packard Motor Company) as president and Carl G. Fisher as vice president. The Lincoln Highway is conceived as America’s first transcontinental highway.

1913 Premier and Studebaker concurrently introduce a six-cylinder engine featuring mono bloc engine casting.

1914 The Haynes is one of the first autos to offer the Vulcan Electric Gear Shift as standard equipment.


Mileposts in Indiana automotive history -Part One

To learn more about Indiana’s automotive innovation, I invite you to pick up a copy of Indiana Cars: A History of the Automobile in Indiana click here.

Modern Highways are 100 Years Old

While doing some research this fall, I remembered the birth of our modern highways are 100 years old. Sure, some of our roads and trails predate 1913, but those routes were the precursor’s of today’s modern highway system.

In 1913, 180,000 cars were registered in the nation of 2.5 million miles, but less than seven percent were improved in any fashion. Most travel was in urban areas, with travel into the country being attempted in fair weather. Rain quickly turned country roads into thigh-deep mud ruts, making travel extremely difficult. Many travelers had to enlist the aid of a nearby horse team to extract them from the quagmire. Good roads came as automotive transportation and commerce expanded across the nation.

1907 Maxwell
1907 Maxwell on roads of the day

On July 1, 1913, a group of automotive capitalists met in Detroit to form the Lincoln Highway Association. Their goal: “To procure the establishment of a continuous improved highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, open to lawful traffic of all description without toll charges: such highway to be known, in the memory of Abraham Lincoln, as “The Lincoln Highway.” All they needed was a route.

Realizing the importance of reawakening interest in the Good Roads Movement, the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers Association decided that its 1913 Indiana-Pacific Tour in addition to promoting Indiana-built automobiles should also generate interest for building better roads.

Marmon No 22
The Lincoln Highway sponsored Marmon
On the 1913 IAMA Indiana-Pacific Tour

When the IAMA Tour left Indianapolis on July 1, 1913, the tourists experienced some delay due to the rains and the enthusiastic reception along the way. The rain continued for more than half of the trip. There were some soft spots on some of the hills. This was evidence that improved roads were needed.

The trail blazing efforts, like those of the Lincoln Highway Association and the IAMA Tour, soon leveraged road improvement efforts. On September 16, 1914, G.S. Hoag, secretary of the Nevada Automobile Association, communicated an urgent plea to both branches of Congress that a measure appropriating a substantial sum of money for public roads be distributed to several states and furnish needed employment to thousands of idle men. Mr. Hoag suggested the Lincoln Highway as the one road demanding first consideration.

The Lincoln Highway was no highway in the spring of 1915. Instead of being a completed highway to San Francisco, it more resembled a mudhole extending form Illinois to Wyoming. For the most part, the route was marked, but the little real improvement previously accomplished had been quickly swallowed up by the floods of spring. The route would never be this bad again.

1915 Studebaker
A 1915 Studebaker somewhere in
Indiana on the 1915 Coast-to-Coast Film Tour

On July 11, 1916, affairs related to good roads took a decided turn for the better when President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916, the first of many that would eventually see the highways of America built at public expense. This act was the first to contain any real funding for the nation’s roads as a whole. It appropriated some $75 million to be spent over five years to improve rural post roads and $10 million to be expended in ten years on forest road construction and maintenance.

In November 1921, President Harding signed the Federal Highway Act of 1921. Like the 1916 act, this bill provided $75 million in federal money to be matched on an equal basis with state funds. This bill stated that federal aid should be concentrated upon “such projects as will expedite the completion of an adequate and connected system of highways, interstate in character.”

In 1924, The Bureau of Public Roads of the Federal Government estimated that within an additional 10 years we would see the adequate completion of a basic American highway system if congressional appropriations were continued at the present scale.

The LHA understood, from the first, that the greatest benefit from its investment in automotive transportation could only be realized to the extent permitted by adequate, connecting highway improvement.

The thanks for our modern high highway system goes back to the efforts of automotive pioneers over 100 years ago.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

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.