Tag Archives: Lincoln Highway

Two automotive experiences

With fall just around the corner, I would like to offer two automotive experiences for your consideration.

I believe the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is one of America’s automotive treasures. This Car Crazy video of the Auburn museum is a great brochure. This clip distills the essence of the museum into a great video experience.

Anyone interested in collector cars has to visit the ACDAM in person. Even though the museum focuses on Indiana-build autos, it provides a great overview of the country’s golden automotive age. I’ve been there a number of times and still find something new each visit. If you plan to travel in the upper mid-west, I strongly encourage you to visit the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.

If you enjoy touring along America’s two-lane highways like I do, I recommend traveling along the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway is the country’s first transcontinental highway running some 3,389 miles across 11 states from New York’s Times Square to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.

This historical documentary video developed by the Harrison County Welcome Center outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa, provides a glimpse of this great road. Highway travel 100 years ago was quite perilous with most inter-city roads being unimproved.

Indianapolis native, Carl G. Fisher proposed building a coast-to-coast rock highway in the fall of 1912, and America’s lifestyle has never been the same. Even though most the sections of the Lincoln Highway have been bypassed by the Eisenhower Interstate System, travel today along the route provides an excellent experience of a bygone era.

Efforts by the Lincoln Highway Association and other entities have marked the route and provided other interpretive resources to ensure today’s travelers are able to encounter this automotive icon. Some enthusiasts have traveled the Lincoln end-to-end in one trip. Others like me, check it out in sections, one-at-a-time.

If you are looking for an automotive double-hitter, why not check out the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum and then drive about 30 miles south to Fort Wayne and start your trek west across the Lincoln Highway in Indiana to Dyer.

I invite you to check these two automotive experiences.

What was happening in Indianapolis on July 1, 1913?

At 2 pm, on July 1, 1913, more 70 people and 20 Indiana-built cars and trucks gathered around the south side of University Park in Indianapolis for the departure of the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers’ Association Indiana-Pacific Tour. At the time, the IAMA Tour was one of the largest transcontinental tours attempted in the United States.

Haynes & Gilbreath
Elwood Haynes, president of Haynes Automobile Company conversing with W. S. Gilbreath, secretary of the Hoosier Motor Club

The 1913 IAMA Tour was designed to promote Indiana-built automobiles to the larger market outside of the Midwest and to generate interest for building better roads. The reawakening Good Roads Movement members felt that the auto industry would only grow when travel by road was made easier. But, investment in roads would only occur when people showed more interest in the automobile industry. IAMA members envisioned a way to help make that happen – a cross country tour to build the country’s interest in automobiles, particularly Indiana’s products, and better roads.

When the IAMA Tour left Indianapolis on July 1, 1913, the Hoosier tourists experienced numerous thunderstorms, crossing the Rocky Mountains and the Western deserts in primitive automobiles that are hard to imagine 100 years later. The tour took 34 days to cover the 3,600 miles and allow for propaganda work and sociability. They passed through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. Nearly every vehicle accomplished this trek and arrived in Los Angeles after never being more than 24 hours behind schedule.

Marmon No 22
The Lincoln Highway sponsored Marmon was one of the tour participants that made it to California. Left to Right: Capt. Robert Tyndall, Carl G. Fisher, Charles A. Bookwalter, and Heine Scholler.

The 1913 IAMA Indiana-Pacific Tour served as a model of promoting Indiana-built automobiles and generating interest for building roads, like the proposed Ocean-to-Ocean Rock Highway, later to be known as the Lincoln Highway. This road was the impetus to the start of our Federal Highway System.

Previously all roads were developed and maintained by local governments. The first transcontinental highway, the Lincoln Highway, showed the federal government the opportunities brought by linking good roads from coast to coast. We were to arise from the mud onto paved roadways.

Henderson No. 4
Ray Harroun in the Henderson Motor Car entry at California State Capitol in Sacramento

Today we can dash across interstates, from city to city, state to state. This modern-day convenience owes a great deal of thanks to the 1913 IAMA Indiana-Pacific Tour.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

The federal highway system is a great idea

Recently, we returned from a fall vacation road trip, and I marveled at how the federal highway system is a great idea. Federal funding and planning for our cross country highways is almost 85 years old making our leisure and business transportation is much better because of it.

1906 Maxwell on road
1906 Maxwell on contemporary road

In 1909, there were 2.2 million miles of road in the United States. Only about 190,000 miles were surfaced. Most travel was in urban areas, with travel into the country mostly being attempted in fair weather. Rain quickly turned country roads into thigh-deep mud ruts, making travel extremely difficult. If they got stuck in the mud, many travelers had to enlist the aid of a nearby horse team to extract them from the quagmire.

Road building and maintenance were entirely the province of local government. There were no federal funds for roads in those years. The tiny state and county appropriations were sometimes wasted on projects that had little effect on the conditions of roads.

In the fall of 1912, Hoosier auto entrepreneur, Carl G. Fisher announced his idea for a coast-to-coast rock highway from New York to San Francisco to alleviate the problem of bad roads. With the enthusiasm of Indiana auto manufacturers, Fisher began a letter writing and personal visit campaign to representatives of the automotive trades across the country. Fisher believed that the success of the infant auto industry revolved around the use of better roads.

Within 30 days of his announcement, Fisher raised over a million dollars in pledges and considerable ink in the nation’s press. In early December, Fisher received a letter from Henry B. Joy, president of Packard Motor Car Company, pledging $150,000 and recommending that the road be built in the name of Abraham Lincoln. In the summer of 1913, Joy became president of the Lincoln Highway Association. The Lincoln Highway ran through 13 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.

The optimism of non-governmental funding development for the road soon led to reverting to the earlier practice of states, counties, and communities providing the major funding. Joy proposed that the association fund and oversee the construction of “seedling miles” in places where improvement was most needed. This was the way most highway development preceded across the country until the Federal-Aid Road Act of 1916. The act established provisions for the construction of rural Post Roads and construction and maintenance of National Forest roads in cooperation with the state and local authorities.

In fall of 1925, the federal highway plan introduced national numbered highways with a uniform style of regulatory and warning signs to replace the named routes across the country. With the completion of last section of U.S. Route 30 in Nebraska in 1935, the original Lincoln Highway became the first paved transcontinental highway in the country.

At mid-century, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act of 1956. The act authorized construction of a highway network that promised to hurry the nation’s commerce and military and greatly reduce driving time by eliminating stoplights, sharp curves, intersections, and no-passing zones.

The Interstate Highway System that we know today revolutionized highway travel and interstate commerce. Now, on a good day, one can drive from central Indiana to central Florida in 16 hours. A large amount of the commercial products we use daily are transported via interstate highways. These benefits are made possible by a 90 percent federal – 10 percent state funding formula and Federal Highway Administration certification.

Federal highway programs still benefit us on other U.S. highways across the country. On our recent trip, for instance, in Kentucky we used U.S. routes 25, 50, 150, 127, and 421 to travel along lesser traveled roads from Mt. Vernon to Madison, Indiana. I especially enjoy these back roads to get a taste of how life used-to-be during a simpler time in America.

I want to say thank you to all of my friends and relatives across the country for making our federal highway system possible through their tax dollars. What a great idea!

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

My links to early Indiana automobiles

While traveling on the Lincoln Highway just west of South Bend, Indiana, I was reminded of my links to early Indiana automobiles. Let tell you the rest of the story.

My father was born in 1909 on a farm along Michigan Road, the predecessor to the Lincoln Highway, just west of South Bend. Every time I go down Lincolnway past the airport I think about the time Dad took us to the edge of the airport sometime in the late 1950s. We found the remains of his Sumption Prairie schoolhouse. He mentioned the family farm was nearby on western end of the airport grounds along the highway. Today, this area has been greatly altered by numerous airport expansions.

I feel a link to the Lincoln Highway since his farm was along the road when it was routed in 1913. I can imagine Dad going to school, working and playing in the area. He was a witness to the early motorists along this famous pike.

After his family moved into town and he graduated from South Bend Central High School, he completed his Tool Maker Apprenticeship at Studebaker Corporation.

V. J. Horvath at Studebaker 1929
V. J. Horvath at Studebaker 1929

He told many stories about running a piston ring grooving machine along the engine manufacturing line. During the Depression, he left Studebaker and later moved to Indianapolis to work at Allison Division of General Motors.

Mormon Meteor II being loaded
Mormon Meteor II being loaded

I found this photograph in his photo collection of the Mormon Meteor II being loaded onto a truck. The Mormon Meteor II was built at Auburn’s Factory in Connersville, Indiana, in 1937. I can only speculate how he might have been involved with this Bonneville racer.

After World War II, he left Allison to work at machine shops around Indianapolis. During some of the work at these shops, he produced components for race car builders around Central Indiana.

My links to early Indiana automobiles started with the Lincoln Highway, Studebaker Corporation, and mid-century race cars. Then, while I was a youngster, Dad took me to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway many times. One of my earliest recollections is of Jack McGrath working a roadster around the first turn. Dad was my long-time racing companion.

My first-hand interest in automobiles started in the early 1950s and continues today. Thanks Dad!

To find more about Indiana car culture follow this link.

Hooray for good roads

The other day, while waiting in the constant construction traffic jam at 96th Street and Meridian St., I was reminded of the vast improvement of our roads since the early 1900’s.

1906 Maxwell on road
1906 Maxwell on road

In 1909, there were 2.2 million miles of roads in the United States. Only about 190,000 miles were surfaced. Most travel was in urban areas, with travel into the country being attempted only in fair weather. Rain quickly turned country roads into thick, deep mud ruts, making travel extremely difficult. This photo in our book Indiana Cars: A History of the Automobile in Indiana shows a 1906 Maxwell touring car stopped on a furrowed muddy road with the driver attempting to coax the family dog back to the car. Thank goodness we don’t have to endure roads like that today.

Good roads came as automotive transportation and commerce expanded across the nation. One of the beacons of the good roads movement was Hoosier entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher. In September 1912, at a dinner for the leaders of Indianapolis automobile manufacturing, he proposed the Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway, the nation’s first transcontinental highway from New York to San Francisco. Fisher proposed donations of cash from the manufacturers of automobiles and accessories to fund this great project. This project later became known as the Lincoln Highway and was off and running. In the mid-1920’s, the federal government took over the funding of interstate highways.

The Interstate Highway System we know today was proposed by President Eisenhower in 1956. The interstate highways of the 1960’s may have been state-of-the-art at the time, but they are severely stressed under today’s conditions.

So, I guess it’s time we all pause when we encounter road construction. We never had it so good. Happy motoring.

To find more about Indiana car culture follow this link.