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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 4, Bedford PA

June 4, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Beatrice Larned Massey, her husband, and their two friends had stopped in Harrisburg, Pa., then headed to Chambersburg, where they joined the Lincoln Highway. Now they pointed their new Packard twin-six touring car towards Bedford:

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Unidentified tourists along the Juniata River east of Bedford, Pa. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc2371.]

“Our third day was still a drizzle; we would no sooner have the top down than we would have to put it up again, and often the side curtains as well. 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.

“I have not spoken of our lunches, a most important item by one o’clock. We had brought a small English hamper, fitted with the usual porcelain dishes, cutlery, tin boxes, etc., for four people, and unless we were positive that a good place to eat was midway on the road, we prepared a lunch, or had the hotel put one up for us. This latter plan proved both expensive and unsatisfactory. Usually Toodles was sent foraging to the delicatessen shops for fresh rolls, cold meats and sandwiches, eggs, fruit, tomatoes, and bakery dainties, and the hotel filled our thermos bottles with hot coffee. We carried salt and pepper, mustard, sweet and sour pickles, or a relish, orange marmalade, or a fruit jam, in the hamper, and beyond that we took no staple supplies on the whole trip. We met so many people who carried with them a whole grocery-store, even to sacks of flour, that you would imagine there was not a place to get food from the Atlantic to the Pacific….

“We have been told so often that one has to develop an ‘open-air’ spirit to really enjoy a long motor trip! Quite true! I can’t imagine what the fun can be of touring in a closed limousine, and yet we have met that particularly exclusive party more than once. On the whole, an absence of flies, ants, mosquitoes, and sand and dust in one’s bed and food does not detract from the pleasure of the trip. It may be all right to endure such annoyances for a few days in the woods, to fish or hunt but weeks and more weeks of it….!

“But I have digressed, and left you at the Bedford Arms, one of the most artistic, attractive inns that we found. The little touches showed a woman’s hand. Flowers everywhere, dainty cretonnes, willow furniture, and pretty, fine china; in appearance, courtesy, and efficiency, the maids in the dining room might have come from a private dwelling.

“Will someone tell me why there are not more such charming places to stop at on our much-traveled main highways. Why must hotel men buy all the heavy, hideous furniture, the everlasting red or green carpets and impossible wall-paper, to make night hideous for their guests—to say nothing of the pictures on their walls? It is a wonder one can sleep.

“There is much of interest to see in Bedford—really old, artistic houses, not spoiled by modern gewgaws, set in lovely gardens of old-fashioned flowers, neatly trimmed hedges, and red brick walks. There were few early Victorian eyesores to mar the general beauty of the town. As we were walking down the main street about sunset, we heard a great chattering and chirping, as if a thousand birds were holding a jubilee. Looking up, we found, on a projecting balcony running along the front of all the buildings for two blocks, hundreds of martins discussing the League of Nations and Peace Treaty quite as vigorously as were their senatorial friends in Washington. They were fluttering about and making a very pretty picture. It sounded like the bird market in Paris on a Sunday morning, which, in passing, is an interesting sight that few tourists ever see.”

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….

 

Iowa Gumbo Snared Lincoln Highway Travelers

January 16, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Early motorists writing of cross-country journeys had little to say east of the Mississippi; once on Iowa’s dirt roads, they couldn’t stop. Iowa was notorious for “gumbo” mud, a result of the land between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers once having been submerged. Superb for crops, that same rich soil stymied cars when wet.

Making matters worse, Iowa’s roads were improved at the county level, where voters preferred minor overall improvements over diverting more funds to the Lincoln Highway. LHA president Henry Joy took the state legislature to task in a scathing article for Collier’s in 1916: “Not a wheel turns outside the paved streets of her cities during or for sometime after the frequent heavy rains…. Millions of dollars worth of wheeled vehicles become, for the time being, worthless.”

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Henry Joy in gumbo near La Mouille, Iowa, June 1915. [UM 1964]

That article followed a 1915 trip that Joy made with LHA secretary Austin Bement and Packard mechanic Ernie Eisenhut in a new Packard 1-35 Twin Six, the first 12-cylinder production car. His photo album, with hundreds of snapshots from the muddy 2,885-mile journey, can be found at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Library. The captions themselves are often entertaining:

“Nearing Tama, Iowa, our rear wheels threw gumbo higher than the telephone poles.”

“The natives took reserved seats to watch us work their roads.”

“Three hours were spent in this mud hole near Tama.”

“Four hours were needed to dislodge us from the Lincoln Highway east of Marshaltown.”

“He pulled us out for $3.00 and a drink of whiskey.”

In By Motor to the Golden Gate (1916), future etiquette writer Emily Post wrote, “Illinois mud is slippery and slyly eager to push unstable tourists into the ditch, but in Iowa it lurks in unfathomable treachery, loath to let anything ever get out again that once ventures into it. Our progress through it became hideously like that of a fly crawling through yellow flypaper…. Our wheels, even with chains on, had no more hold than revolving cakes of soap might have on slanting wet marble.”

By 1920, with more than 430,000 registered vehicles, Iowa still had only 25 miles of paved roads outside of cities. The 1924 LHA guide warned, “It is folly to try to drive on Iowa dirt roads, during or immediately after a heavy rain.”

Dry spells brought horrible clouds of dust but it was the gumbo that was forever remembered. George Schuster said it best in his recollection of Ogden, Iowa, during the 1908 New York–to–Paris race: “It rained all day, the mud is nearly hub deep. We slid from one side of the road to the other. We covered more miles sidewise than ahead.”

Nebraska’s 1733 Ranch in 1915

November 1, 2016

A century ago, Lincoln Highway tourists crossing Nebraska often stopped five miles west of Kearney for a photo at the 1733 Ranch. Its sign “1733 miles to Frisco, 1733 miles to Boston” was iconic … except that both mileages were wrong and the Lincoln Highway never went to Boston.

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The 1915 LHA guidebook lists Kearney as 1752 miles from San Francisco and 1632 miles from New York City. So why 1733, and how did Kearney come to promote itself as the “Midway City”?

History professor John T. Bauer wrote in the Summer 2015 issue of Nebraska History that the 1733 mileage is derived from the railroad route between the two, which the city embraced as early as 1890.

When the LHA movie caravan crossed the country in 1915 to produce a promotion film, hundreds of photos were taken by Edward Holden, secretary to LHA vice president and field secretary Henry C. Ostermann. The above photo then leads to an interesting question; the  1733 Ranch name has long been said to stem from new owners in 1917, but this 1915 photo indicates otherwise.

The modern LHA now sells a CD with 300 of Holden’s photos at the Lincoln Highway Trading Post.

The ranch itself is long gone—only the 1733 Estates remind us of that long-ago era.

Blair to again cross IN on the Lincoln Highway

January 27, 2014

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
Three years after walking across his home state to raise funds and awareness for the Lincoln Highway Association and the Alzhiemer’s Association, Jeff Blair is preparing to do it again. He says “I want to celebrate my 66th birthday by walking the 150+ mile distance over 11 days just to prove I still can!”

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Jeff will leave Dyer, Indiana (on the Indiana/Illinois border) on April 25, 2014, and head east along the 1928 version of the first transcontinental highway, which is more direct than the original route. He’ll reach the Indiana/Ohio border on May 5.

Find out more at www.blairwalk.com

Postcard exhibit at Lincoln Highway museum

January 2, 2014

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
The Lincoln Highway Experience Museum east of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, has launched a new postcard exhibit. “Wish You Were Here” features six greatly-enlarged postcards showing iconic locations along the Lincoln Highway in central and western Pennsylvania.

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A screen shot from the Trib Live news story about the postcard exhibit.

The postcard backs are also reproduced, including the personal handwritten messages. All paid visitors to the museum will also receive a free new postcard (and stamp) to write out and address while at the museum.

The museum has an archive with more than 3,000 Lincoln Highway postcards. It is located just west of the Kingston Bridge on US 30 eastbound. The exhibit is located in a room of the historic 1815 Johnston House, one of the oldest structures along the Lincoln Highway.

Read more at
http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourligonier/5236930-74/postcard-museum-highway

Drive-In Gas Station’s 100th on Lincoln Highway

December 2, 2013

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
On December 1, 1913, the Lincoln Highway had only celebrated its dedication a month earlier when the world’s first architect-designed drive-in gas station opened along the new coast-to-coast road in Pittsburgh.

Gulf’s pioneering station in Pittsburgh.

Gasoline had been sold for years at hardware stores and other businesses serving the burgeoning auto industry. There were also places selling only gasoline, even drive-in stations.

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But the fuel was often kept in barrels and poured from large cans. And unlike those existing buildings or informal shacks, Gulf Oil had an architect design the new building to efficiently and elegantly pump gas and provide other services. In fact, the following year, the station would start giving away the first free oil company road maps.

The station featured a canopy to shield motorists from weather, new Bowser hand-cranked pumps, large incandescent-lit signs, attendants on duty day and night, and the checking of fluids — all new to the industry.

The station was on Baum Boulevard (the Lincoln Highway) at St. Clair Street. Baum was quickly becoming Pitsburgh’s “automobile row” (common in all cities), filling with garages, tire shops, and car dealers — even the local auto club. Baum already served the carriage trade so this was a natural outgrowth. That itself made sense since Baum connected the city to the mansions being built to the east along on Penn Avenue in Point Breeze — also  the Lincoln Highway.

An informal station was already operating on the site when landowner James Mellon contracted the new station. The Mellon family was Gulf’s first and foremost investors, intertwining their Mellon Bank and Gulf Oil for decades. Gulf was an early proponent of branding gas, especially with its bright orange circle logo, as opposed to generic gas that was also often of lower quality; a branded station was a natural next step.

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The station didn’t last long, perhaps as late as 1950. Since then it’s been a parking lot. In 2000, the Gulfoil Historical Society campaigned for, and helped erect, a state historical marker to the station. I visited the site today, on the station’s 100th birthday, in the Lincoln Highway’s 100th year.