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Lincoln Highway West: The Road   Locator map

There are much better places than this to learn about the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway Association website is one of those places. Its resources page points to many more and lists a good selection of related publications, too. The road's Wikipedia entry is rather extensive and even seems fairly accurate. The short story is that it was a road connecting New York City to San Francisco that officially existed from 1913 through 1926.

Carl Fisher is credited with proposing the highway. Fisher owned the Prest-O-Lite company, makers of carbide-gas headlight, and got other automotive business leaders, such as Goodyear's Frank Seiberling and Packard's Henry Joy, involved. Having a road to drive on would obviously grow the market for cars, tires, and headlights. Although not the first association promoting a coast to coast highway, the Lincoln Highway Association was the first to announce a complete routing. It should surprise no one that the 3389 mile long route that was announced on September 14, 1913, saw changes within a few weeks. Route changes would continue throughout the highway's existence with that September 14 alignment becoming known as the "Proclamation Route".

Fisher's first name for the road was the "Coast to Coast Rock Highway". "Rock" meant gravel and Fisher suggested it could be done for $10 million and be finished in time for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition to be held in San Francisco. To be fair, Fisher's $10 million estimate was only for materials since he believed that the actual construction would be done free by communities along the route. Even so, both the money and the time actually required would be well above Fisher's numbers. But Carl Fisher was an idea man. It took Henry Joy, as the first president of the Lincoln Highway Association, to turn those ideas into real gravel or even graded dirt. The two men were known to have their disagreements but both were key to the highway's creation. So too were fellows like pathfinders Henry Osterman and Gael Hoag. Even U.S. President Woodrow Wilson helped by kicking in his five bucks to become LHA member number one.

The Lincoln Highway, along with other "old roads", has seen increased interest in recent years. In the case of the Lincoln, writers like Drake Hokanson and Gregory Franzwa have added greatly to that interest. In recent years, Brian Butko has taken the lead and his Lincoln Highway News website is a great source of information about current LH doings. The previously mentioned Lincoln Highway Association is both a result of and a force in that increased interest. The original Lincoln Highway Association disbanded in 1928. The current incarnation was formed in 1992, just three years after Hokanson's "Main Street across America" was first published.

Technically, named interstate roads, such as the Lincoln Highway and the Yellowstone Trail, ceased to exist with the creation of numbered federal routes in November of 1926. Some of the promoting organizations stayed around a bit longer, however, and some made a bit of a splash. It was 1928 when the National Old Trails Road Association began erecting its Madonna of the Trail monuments and that's the same year that the original Lincoln Highway Association marked its road with 2,437 concrete markers.

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