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 American Underslung

1907 American Underslung

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

1912 Stutz Model A

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.

1914 Haynes Model 28 Touring

1914 Haynes Model 28 Touring Car

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 spring, 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.

Lincoln Highway Centennial Celebration is now mainstream

It’s now official. Per the March 1st edition of USA Today, The Lincoln Highway Centennial Celebration in Kearny, NB, is worth planning a trip around.

Why is this celebration significant? Fifty years before the Interstate Highway System was enacted, the Lincoln Highway, America’s first transcontinental highway, was proposed. Within three years of the founding of the Lincoln Highway Association, 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.

Some have called the Lincoln Highway “America’s Main Street.” It encouraged travel to communities with stops in hotels, mom and pop restaurants, and local tourist attractions. The Interstate Highway System wrought the demise of leisurely travel along these byways.

Studebaker at Kearney 1915

Studebaker at Kearney, Nebraska 1915

This summer the Lincoln Highway Association is hosting the Lincoln Highway Centennial Celebration in Kearney, NB, June 30 – July 1, 2013. Kearney is conveniently located on the Lincoln Highway in the center of the country, 1733 miles from Boston and 1733 miles from San Francisco.

On Saturday, June 29, two auto caravans will converge on Kearney, one from New York and the other from San Francisco. On Sunday, events will kick-off in downtown Kearney, five blocks will come to life celebrating the 1910s to 1950s. The celebration continues at the Great Platt River Road Archway, a world-class attraction about the routes that opened the West, on Monday. Check out www.visitkearney.org or www.lincolnhighway.org for more information.

Closer to home, Indiana’s part in the Lincoln Highway Centennial Celebration will take place when the Centennial Auto Caravan from New York tours the Lincoln Highway with an overnight stop in South Bend, on Wednesday, June 26. The Indiana Lincoln Highway Association invites you to come to the Studebaker National Museum to visit with the tourists for dinner at 6:30 pm and a self-guided tour of the museum. This should be a once-in-a-lifetime-event. For more information on this event visit www.indianalincolnhighway.org

I concur with USA Today and invite you experience some of these festivities celebrating the Lincoln Highway Centennial.

Hi all you roadies:

As many of you may know, I have been selected to present at the 99th Annual Purdue Road School. My presentation “Lincoln Highway Centennial and the Birth of the Federal Highway System” is on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, at 11:00 am. I invite you to come and see how Carl G. Fisher and the Lincoln Highway Association got us out of the mud and on to modern paved highways.

Road School Title Slide

Here is the information brochure.

Online pre-registration is available here.

I look forward to seeing some of my roadie friends at this event.


Touring two-lane highways

With spring just around the corner, my thoughts are turning to touring some two-lane highways.  I’d like to share some of our past tours for your consideration.   Indiana is fortunate to be the crossroads of many of the country’s early federal highways that are a relaxing way to get away from the hassle of interstate driving. 

 The National Road is the first highway built with federal funds and the most important route linking the Midwest with the Atlantic seaboard in the early nineteenth century.  In 1811, workers commissioned by the federal government began building this ambitious project.  It was the road that led wagons and coaches westward.

 The National Old Trails Association was formed in 1912 to mark the auto route and convince local and state officials to improve it.  In 1926, the Old National Route became the new U.S. 40.  Completion of Interstate 70 in the 1960s changed the importance of U.S. 40.  Today the National Road is a byway in the country’s transportation history.  You can check out (http://www.cruise-in.com/resource/National-Road-Indiana-Style.htm) for my notes if you are interested in following the Indiana section. 

Another historical significant route is the Lincoln Highway.  In late 1912, Indianapolis industrialist Carl G. Fisher proposed a plan to finance America’s first transcontinental highway from New York to San Francisco.  Fisher received a letter from Henry B. Joy, Packard Motor Company president, suggesting that the road be named for Abraham Lincoln.  Contributors were motivated by the idea that if decent roads were available, people would travel more and product demand would increase.  Within 30 days, he had $1 million in pledges and publicity nationwide. 

 On July 1, 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association was created with the route running through or touching 12 states.  The federal highway numbering system was enacted in 1925.  In Indiana, the highway was replaced with highways U.S. 30, U.S. 33, U.S. 20 and S.R. 2 as it meanders through the state from Fort Wayne to Dyer.  Historical markers for the Lincoln Highway and “Ideal Section” are found today along U.S. 30 near Dyer.  Remnants of the original highway can be found in eastern Allen county.  Check out (http://www.cruise-in.com/resource/Rediscovering-the-Lincoln-Highway.htm), my description of the Lincoln’s Indiana route.

Fisher was involved in another trailblazing project.  His conception of the north-south Dixie Highway from Chicago to Miami was shared with Indiana Governor Samuel Ralston in December 1914.  In April 1915, The Dixie Highway Association was formed.  the Dixie Highway followed a route through South Bend, Indianapolis, Paoli and then to New Albany.  In September 1916, Fisher and Ralston attended a celebration in Martinsville opening the Indiana section of the roadway.  Sometime after 1925, the southern route was straightened out from Indianapolis to Jeffersonville and marked U.S. 31.  See (http://www.cruise-in.com/resource/Dixie-Highway-Indiana.htm), my route notes as referenced in a 1916 tour book.

 I invite you to peruse these highways or others in your area to experience travel from another era.  It is a great way to get away from the hassle. 

 Do you have a favorite two-lane highway?