Book Review
Greetings from the Lincoln Highway – Centennial Edition
Brian Butko

Greetings from the Lincoln Highway cover The Lincoln Highway turns a hundred this year. Brian Butko’s Greetings from the Lincoln Highway turns eight. At first glance, the 2013 Greetings… looks an awful lot like the 2005 Greetings… with a soft cover and a “Centennial Edition” banner on the front and it’s a fact that, in many ways, it is the same. It has the same organization with an introductory chapter and a chapter, with map, for each state the highway passed through and a very high percentage of the words and pictures in those chapters are the same, too. Another thing that remains the same and which accounts for the small in percentage but large in number changes is the care and attention to detail. Butko probably didn’t catch everything in the book that the passage of time has altered but he sure tried and he sure got a lot.

Most of changes are tiny and hard to spot. A lot are downers; Diners and motels that were operating in 2005 but have been closed or worse. Some, like the growth of Pennsylvania’s Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor from 140 to 200 miles, are positive. A few changed words handle the bulk of these updates though some are more involved and a few include a photo change. New photographs are easier to spot than new words and I suppose a larger fraction of photos than words were changed but that’s just because the word count is higher that the picture count. The majority of the book’s graphics remain the same. Though I in no way benefit from the sale of this book, in the interest of full disclosure I need to say that I contributed a half dozen or so of the new photos.

Greetings from the Lincoln Highway insideAside from the occasional new photo, the most visible changes may be in the statistics and maps at the front of each state chapter. Here population numbers from the 2010 census replace those from the 2000 census and the maps get a line for the Proclamation Route. The Lincoln Highway Proclamation Route was a list of cities published by the Lincoln Highway Association on September 14, 1913. Shifts started happening almost immediately and a detailed route was never signed or published that matched the September 14 announcement. But several of the cities dropped in 1913 fought unsuccessfully to return and many have fought more recently and more successfully to be recognized. Butko acknowledges that by including the ephemeral route. All of the quotes from postcards and other period communication that appeared in the margins of the original are still there and a few more have been added.

Greetings from the Lincoln Highway is almost universally accepted as the best book available for anyone wanting to travel or otherwise interact with the Lincoln Highway of today. And it’s more. That’s something I had forgotten. “The Good, the Bad and the Muddy”, the book’s opening chapter, not only introduces the Lincoln Highway, it provides a nice overview of the early days of motoring. When the book moves on to the individual states and a more concentrated Lincoln Highway focus, it offers both history and guidance. It is not a lay-in-your-lap turn-by-turn guide book but the text and maps contain most of what is needed to travel any alignment of any segment. Doing it for real is certainly best but there are enough pictures that doing it in an easy chair ain’t too bad.

Greetings from the Lincoln Highway — Centennial Edition, Brian Butko, Stackpole Books, 2013, paperback, 11 x 8.5 inches, 288 pages, ISBN 9780811711746

Main Street across America coverI’m reading this book for the third time. I read it around 2005 when I was dabbling with short drives on the Lincoln Highway to my east. I reread it in 2009 when I was getting ready to drive the Lincoln from the east edge of Illinois to the west coast. My current read is in anticipation of another long, hopefully full length, drive of what Drake Hokanson calls Main Street across America. I never read the original, only the pictured Tenth Anniversary Edition which is now fifteen years old itself.

I’m reading the book primarily because Hokanson’s appreciation of the road puts me in just the right mood to appreciate it myself but there are other reasons, too. One is that, like Butko’s book above, much of the original remained in the anniversary edition and provides its own glimpses of the highway when it was only three-quarters, rather than a full, century old. Lastly, it’s a chance to appreciate Drake Hokanson. It you think the Lincoln Highway is largely forgotten now, imagine what it was like in 1988. Hokanson didn’t invent a new road like Carl Fisher and his buddies but he did kind of invent the remembering of it. And that’s pretty cool.

The Lincoln Highway — Main Street across America — Tenth Anniversary Edition, Drake Hokanson, University Of Iowa Press, 1999, paperback, 10.6 x 9.4 inches, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0877456766

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