Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category

Coast-to-coast rock highway proposed in 1912

September 10, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

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The Athenænum in Indianapolis, site of the meeting in September 1912 that launched what would become the Lincoln Highway.

When automobile pioneer Carl Graham Fisher proposed a coast-to-coast highway in 1912, the idea had been around for more than a decade. But Fisher knew how to get things done: he knew the people who could supply materials and funds and promotion on a nationwide scale. Men like Henry Joy, president of Packard, or Frank Seiberling, president of Goodyear, and just about every other manufacturer of cars and parts and highway materials—save Henry Ford.

AAA had advocated for a cross-country highway from its founding in 1902. A few paths were named, and for a time in 1911, there was even talk of a cross-country “Lincoln Way.” The New York Times said it would be “a great transcontinental highway to be built by the States through which it will pass”—but it was not to be.

A year later, the Old Trails Road (also called the Ocean to Ocean Highway, and later used in parts to lay out Route 66) became the first cross-country route to have an organization behind it, from New York City to Los Angeles. That same spring of 1912, AAA sent renowned pathfinder A.L. Westgard to explore three more possibilities: the Northwest, Overland, and Midland trails.

And in August 1912, still a month before Fisher’s meeting, Frances McEwen Belford had a bill introduced in Congress “establishing the Lincoln memorial highway from Boston, Mass., to San Francisco, Cal., ” though the bill died.

Finally, on September 10, 1912, Fisher and his business partner and best pal James Allison held a dinner at the Deutsche Haus (or German House, now the Athenæum) in Indianapolis for fellow industrialists to hear their dream of a “Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway.” On July 1, 1913, that road that would officially become the Lincoln Highway. It wasn’t first coast-to-coast road, but the other named routes paled in terms of marking, mapping, funding, improvements, and promotion. It might more accurately be called the first improved coast-to-coast highway.

As Fisher told them that night, “Let’s build it before we’re too old to enjoy it.” And a year later to the day, a Proclamation was issued by the Lincoln Highway Association describing the route in general terms. Now the real work would begin….

Autocar comes to the Lincoln Hwy in Pittsburgh

August 15, 2018

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The old Guffey residence, looking stately in this 1920 photo, would make way a few years later for a new Autocar branch. This corner of Baum Boulevard, at Liberty Avenue, was in the middle of the city’s burgeoning Automobile Row. [University of Pittsburgh, Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, 715.2032.CP.]

The Lincoln Highway entered Pittsburgh from the east via Baum Boulevard, the city’s Automobile Row. This neighborhood of large estates near Bloomfield and East Liberty spawned businesses to serve the horse-and-carriage trade between the city and the even-more-upscale suburb to the east. By the early 1900s, these businesses developed into auto repair shops and dealerships. In the above photo, you can see that the Autocar Company was about to demolish one more of the area’s stately homes for its local branch.

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1923 map showing that Autocar owned land at Baum and Liberty but had yet to build its dealership. [Historic Pittsburgh Maps.]

Autocar, at first a maker of autos, was founded in Pittsburgh in 1897 as the Pittsburgh Motor Vehicle Company. It got its new (and still current!) name in 1899 when it moved to Ardmore, Pa, on the Main Line west of Philadelphia, later to be along the Lincoln Highway. One of its offerings was the Pittsburgher car, but in 1912 the company switched to making only heavy-duty trucks.

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Ads for Pittsburgh’s new Autocar Factory Branch ran in all local papers on January 18, 1925.

Pittsburgh had its own Autocar factory branch near downtown. It would take till 1925 for the new dealership to be built; till then, Autocar Sales & Service filled the 1800 block of Forbes, a few blocks past Mercy Hospital. The new sales and service branch, seen below in 1932, filled an entire triangular corner at Baum Blvd. and Liberty Avenue.

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The same intersection in 1932 with the new Autocar dealership filling a corner of Baum Boulevard and Liberty Avenue. This view, looking northwest, also shows the Garden Tea Room. [University of Pittsburgh, Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, 715.3217002.CP.]

Autocar was later absorbed by the White Motor Company, which was later taken over by Volvo Trucks, then acquired by GVW Group, which revived Autocar as an independent company. Autocar, now based in Indiana, continues to produce three models of custom-engineered trucks and holds the distinction of being the oldest surviving vehicle manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere.

Driving the Lincoln Highway in 1919 ~ part 10, “Don’t wish this trip on your grandchildren!”

August 10, 2018

As our journey alongside Beatrice Massey comes to an end, she has a few words of wisdom for transcontinental travelers who might follow:

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Lincoln Park, 1920. This bronze of Rodin’s The Three Shades was installed in 1920; it now resides inside the museum. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc0140]


“Yes, this was indeed ‘the end of the road,’ with all of California yet to see. We had traversed the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific without an accident or a day’s illness, and with only two punctures! We look back on comparatively few discomforts, and many, many pleasures and thrilling experiences, with keen satisfaction.

“Unless you really love to motor, take the Overland Limited. If you want to see your country, to get a little of the self-centered, self-satisfied  Eastern hide rubbed off, to absorb a little of the fifty-seven (thousand) varieties of people and customs, and the alert, open-hearted, big atmosphere of the West, then try a motor trip. You will get tired, and your bones will cry aloud for a rest cure; but I promise you one thing—you will never be bored! No two days were the same, no two views were similar, no two cups of coffee tasted alike. In time—in some time to come—the Lincoln Highway will be a real transcontinental boulevard. But don’t wish this trip on your grandchildren!”

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Muddy roads in Indiana, just before work on the Ideal Section was started in 1920. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc2806]

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 8, California

June 26, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Our cross-country travelers of 1919 approach the West Coast, as recounted in the book It Might Have Been Worse:

“Beyond Reno the ascent of the Sierra Nevada begins, and you pass Lake Tahoe, six thousand feet high, the most delightful summer-resort region in America. The Lincoln Highway joins the other routes here, and is really a highway, making a glorious finish in Lincoln Park, San Francisco. One of the finest views is the mighty canyon of the American River, with the  timbered gorge and the rushing stream two thousand feet below. You are held spellbound by the scenery, as you descend the western slope to Sacramento, the capital of California, 125 miles from San Francisco….

“With four hundred miles of navigable waterways, transportation facilities are exceptional, and it is small wonder these valleys of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin are the banner ‘growing section’ of the state. It was like driving through a private estate all the way to Oakland, where our first view of glorious San Francisco harbor greeted us. Oakland and Berkeley, ‘the bedrooms’ of San Francisco (as a prominent banker explained to us), are on the east shores of the bay. On the front of the City Hall in Oakland (which, by the  way, we were told is the tallest building in California) was the sign, typical of these open-hearted people, ‘Howdy, Boys!’ (to the returning soldiers) in place of the proverbial ‘Welcome.’…

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“Road near Oakland, California,” c. 1920. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc0022]

“We were landed at the ferry slip, and with a sensation never to be forgotten we drove off the wharf into San Francisco — ‘the city loved around the world’ — built upon hills overlooking the expanse of the Pacific, with a cosmopolitan throng of half a million people. We could not  have reached here at a more fortunate or auspicious time. San Francisco was en-fete in honor of the fleet. Every street and building was festooned with flags, banners, and garlands of flowers…. Bands were playing, auto-horns were tooting, and the air was alive with excitement — joyous, over-bubbling pleasure, that had to find a vent or blow up the place….

“The next day the Transcontinental Government Motor Convoy arrived, which added to the celebration that lasted a week. It had come over the Lincoln Highway, with every conceivable experience; the gallant young officer in command, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles McClure, told us at dinner the next evening that ‘Our worst experiences were in the desert. The sand was so  deep and the trucks were so heavy that at times we only made a mile an hour. When one got stuck, the men cut the sagebrush and filled the ruts, and then we were able to crawl.’ The city gave them an ovation, and “dined” them as well — and doubtless would have liked to have ‘Vined’ them also.”

Driving in 1919 ~ part 7, from gumbo to dessert

June 22, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Our travelers left the Lincoln Highway soon after Pittsburgh for a more northerly route. In North Dakota, they bogged down in gumbo just like LH travelers did in Iowa. After waiting out a rain shower under a tree, they set out:

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LHA President Henry Joy struggles to navigate the group’s official Packard through the gumbo of Iowa in 1915 [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc1964]

“We noticed that the cars coming in were covered with mud and concluded that they had come over country roads. Surely not the National Parks Highway! So down went the top, and off we started in a wet atmosphere, but not really raining. The chains had not been disturbed since they were comfortably stowed away on leaving New York. One man advised us to put them on, but with a superior don’t-believe-we-will-need-them air we left our tree shelter. He called out after us, ‘Say, strangers, you don’t know what you all are getting into!’ We didn’t, but we jolly soon found out! In ten minutes we had met gumbo, and were sliding, swirling, floundering about in a sea of mud! I will try to describe it. A perfectly solid (apparently) clay road can become as soft as melted butter in an hour. Try to picture a narrow road, with deep ditches, and just one track of ruts, covered with flypaper, vaseline, wet soap, molasses candy (hot and underdone), mire, and any other soft, sticky, slippery, hellish mess that could be mixed — and even that would not be gumbo!”

After visiting Yellowstone, they still had a long way just to reach Nevada. Other tourists repeatedly told them to ship their car to Reno, which would put them back on the Lincoln Highway and near the California border. But they pressed onward across the barren landscape:

“The sand was deeper and the chuck-holes, even with the most careful driving, seemed to rack the car to pieces. If we had had an accident, the outlook would have been decidedly vague for us. Not a car or a telegraph pole in sight. By ten o’clock that morning the sun scorched our skin through our clothing. But we had one good laugh. Over a deep chuck-hole there had been built a stone bridge. On one end, in large black letters, was ‘San Francisco’ (the first sign we had seen with that welcome name) and on the other end was ‘New York’! The incongruity struck us as being so absurd that we roared with laughter.”

They finally gave up at Montello, Nevada, and put their car (and themselves) on a train for the final 400 miles to Reno:

“It cost $3.85 per hundred pounds and $5.73 war-tax to ship the car to Reno (or to San Francisco — no difference in the rate to either place). It weighed, including four spares and other equipment, 4960 pounds, and the bill was $196.69.”

 

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 6, smoky Pittsburgh

June 7, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Continuing our look at Beatrice Massey’s memoir of a cross-country trip, It Might Have Been Worse:

“We had come 442 miles, from New York to Pittsburgh, over fine roads and through beautiful country. Approaching Pittsburgh, we came in on a boulevard overlooking the river and ‘valley of smoke.’ Great stacks were belching out soot and smoke, obliterating the city and even the sky and sun. They may have a smoke ordinance, but no one has ever heard of it. We arrived at the William Penn Hotel, in the heart of the business center of the city, a first-class, fine hotel in every regard. We found the prices reasonable for the excellent service afforded, which was equal to that of any New York hotel. The dining-room, on the top of the house, was filled with well-dressed people, and we were glad that we had unpacked our dinner clothes, and appeared less like the usual tourist, in suits and blouses.

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Downtown Pittsburgh in 1919. [University of Pittsburgh, City Photographer Collection, 715.1924A.CP.]

“It was frightfully hot during our two days’ stay. You go out to drive feeling clean and immaculate, and come in with smuts and soot on your face and clothes, looking like a foundry hand. The office buildings are magnificent, and out a bit in the parks and boulevards the homes are attractive, and many are very handsome, especially in Sewickley. But aside from the dirty atmosphere one is impressed mostly by the evidences of the outlay of immense wealth. An enthusiastic brother living there took us through a number of the business blocks, and told us of the millions each cost and the almost unbelievable amount of business carried on. I can only describe Pittsburgh as the proudest city I’ve visited. Not so much of the actual wealth represented, but of what the billions had accomplished in great industries.

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Mills lined Pittsburgh’s rivers in 1919. Photo by Hugh C. Torrance. [Carnegie Museum of Art, 83.21.25.]

“We went out in the evening and stood on one of the bridges to look over the river lined with monster furnaces. The air was filled with sparks, jets of flame bursting through the smoke. All you could think of was Dante’s Inferno visualized. And what of the men who spend their lives in that lurid atmosphere, never knowing if the sun shone, nor what clean, pure air was like in their working hours ? I shall never look at a steel structure again without giving more credit to the men who spend their waking hours in those hells of heat and smoke than to the men whose millions have made it possible.”

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 5, yes, tarvia

June 5, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

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A 1920s postcard of Reel’s Corners, Pa., (now US 30 and PA 160), part of the famed “Seven Mile Stretch” on the Lincoln Highway east of Stoystown.

Onward through Western Pennsylvania with Beatrice Massey in her new Packard:

“It was with regret that we left the next morning for Pittsburgh. The day was clear and cool and the best part of the Lincoln Highway was before us; in fact, the first real thrill so far, and one of the high spots of the trip. This was a stretch of seven and a half miles of tarvia road on the top ridge of the Alleghany Mountains, as smooth as marble, as straight as the bee flies, looking like a strip of satin ribbon as far as the eye could see. On both sides were deep ravines,well wooded,and valleys green with abundant crops, and still higher mountains rising in a haze of blue and purple coloring, making a picture that would never be forgotten. The top was down and we stopped the car again and again, to drink it in, and, as one of us remarked, ‘We may see more grand and rugged scenery later on, but we shall not see anything more beautiful than this’ — and it proved true.”

Driving the Lincoln in 1919 ~ part 3: good roads

May 23, 2018

Beatrice wrote that they followed the Lincoln Highway to Pittsburgh — making it sound like they’d been on it since NYC —  but they didn’t pick up the LH until Chambersburg, Pa., on the way to their third overnight stop in Bedford, Pa.

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“One of the all-absorbing pleasures in contemplating a long trip is to map out your route. You hear how all your friends have gone, or their friends, then you load up with maps and folders, especially those published by all the auto firms and tire companies, you pore over the Blue Book of the current year, and generally end by going the way you want to go, through the cities where you have friends or special interests. This is exactly what we did.

“As the trip was to be taken in mid-summer, we concluded to take a northern route from Chicago, via Milwaukee, St. Paul, Fargo, Billings, Yellowstone Park, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Reno, Sacramento, to San Francisco (see map), and, strange to relate, we followed out the tour as we had planned it. With the exception of a few hot days in the larger cities and on the plains, and, of course, in the desert, we justified our decision. As I have stated, we drove 4154 miles, through sixteen states and the Yellowstone Park, in thirty-three running days, and the trip took just seven weeks to the day, including seventeen days spent in various cities, where we rested and enjoyed the sights….

“We followed the Lincoln Highway to Pittsburgh, and have only praise to offer for the condition of the road and the beauty of the small towns through which we went. Of all the states that we crossed, Pennsylvania stands out par excellence in good roads, clean, attractive towns, beautiful farming country and fruit belts, and well-built, up-to-date farm buildings. In other states we found many such farms, but in Pennsylvania it was exceptional to find a poor, tumble-down farmhouse or barn. The whole state had an air of thrift and prosperity, and every little home was surrounded by fine trees, flowers, and a well-kept vegetable garden.

“Our objective point was the charmingly quaint town of Bedford, and the Bedford Arms. This part of Pennsylvania was more beautiful than what we had been through, and every mile of the day’s run was a pleasure.”

 

Driving the Lincoln in 1919 ~ part 2: depart NYC

May 16, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

When Beatrice Massey and her husband decided to set out for the West Coast in 1919, they invited two friends to join them in their Packard.

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The 42nd Street dock in New York City. This photo, taken five years later in 1924, shows LHA Field Secretary Gael Hoag with the group’s official Packard. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc2893.]

“We picked them up at the Seymour Hotel in New York City, at three o’clock, Saturday, July 19th, and started for the Forty-Second-Street ferry in a pouring rain, as jolly and happy a quartette as the weather would permit. Our guests were a retired physician, whom we shall speak of as the Doctor, and his charming, somewhat younger wife, who, although possessing the perfectly good name of Helen, was promptly dubbed ‘Toodles’ for no reason in the world….

“It had rained steadily for three days before we started and it poured torrents for three  days after; but that was to be expected, and the New Jersey and Pennsylvania roads were none the worse, and the freedom from dust was a boon. We chose for the slogan of our trip, ‘It might have been worse.’ The Doctor had an endless fund of good stories, of two classes, ‘table and stable stories,’ and I regret to say that this apt slogan was taken from  one of his choicest stable stories, and quite unfit for publication. However, it did fit our party in its optimism and cheery atmosphere.

“With a last look at the wonderful sky-line of the city, and the hum and whirl of the great throbbing metropolis, lessening in the swirl of the Hudson River, we really were started;  with our faces turned to the setting sun, and the vast, wonderful West before us.”

* From Beatrice Massey’s book, It Might Have Been Worse: A Motor Trip from Coast to Coast, 1920.

Driving the Lincoln Highway in 1919 ~ part 1

May 8, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

I love early automobile memoirs for capturing the feel of travel a century ago. It was common for wealthy Easterners in the 1910s to take their new play-toys across the country, then detail the experience in print (and just as often returning the car and themselves back east by rail). Of course, these travelers often packed up their elite mindsets (along with silver tea sets) but after a few days on the road, they found it would not be all smooth highways and fancy hotels, and instead were forced to fix flats and camp by the side of the road.

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In 1916, Emily Post (not yet known as an expert on etiquette) wrote a book about her travels, By Motor to the Golden Gate. This inspired Beatrice Larned Massey to follow in her tire tracks, so to speak.

“I was fired by a desire to make a similar tour,” she wrote, but World War I delayed her for three years. “Then the ‘motor fever’ came on again…. After talking and planning for three years, we actually decided to go in ten minutes — and in ten days we were off.”

She captured her adventures from New York to San Francisco in her own book, It Might Have Been Worse: A Motor Trip from Coast to Coast, published in 1920. Most of her trip was not along the Lincoln Highway, though she followed much of the route through Pennsylvania, plus all of the trip gives wonderful insight into early auto travel.

Let’s get her started:

“All the necessary arrangements were quickly made; leasing our home, storing our household goods, closing up business matters, getting our equipment and having the car thoroughly looked over, and all the pleasant but unnecessary duties occupied the last few days. Why will people write so many letters and say so many good-bys, when a more or less efficient mail and telegraph service circles our continent? But it is the custom, and all your friends expect it — like sending Easter and Christmas cards by the hundreds. We are victims of a well-prescribed custom.

“It is always of interest to me to know the make of car that a friend (or stranger) is driving; so let me say, without any desire to advertise the Packard, that we had a new twin-six touring car, of which I shall speak later on. I believe in giving just tribute to any car that will come out whole and in excellent condition, without any engine troubles or having to be repaired, after a trip of 4154 miles over plains and mountains, through ditches, ruts, sand, and mud, fording streams and two days of desert-going. And let me add that my husband and I drove every mile of the way. It is needless to say that the car was not overstrained or abused, and was given every care on the trip. In each large city the Packard service station greased and oiled the car, turned down the grease-cups, examined the brakes and steering-gear, and started us off in ‘apple-pie’ order, with a feeling on our parts of security and satisfaction.

“The subject of car equipment, tires, clothes, and luggage will take a chapter by itself. But let me say that we profited in all these regards by the experience and valuable suggestions of Mrs. Post in her book.

“When we first spoke to our friends of making this trip, it created as little surprise or comment as if we had said, ‘We are going to tour the Berkshires.’ The motor mind has so grown and changed in a few years. Nearly everyone had some valuable suggestion to make, but one only which we accepted and profited by. Every last friend and relative that we had offered to go in some capacity — private secretaries, chauffeurs, valets, maids, and traveling companions. But our conscience smote us when we looked at that tonneau, the size of a small boat, empty, save for our luggage, which, let me add with infinite pride and satisfaction, was not on the running-boards, nor strapped to the back. From the exterior appearance of the car we might have been shopping on Fifth Avenue.”

* to be continued….