We continue our conference countdown with the Lincoln Highway.
I’ve lived most of my life on one side or the other of Highway 30 which for most of its route follows what was once the Lincoln Highway, so it’s always a surprise to me when people haven’t heard of it. After all it stretches across the country from New York to California, but there are those who’ve never come across it.
The Lincoln Highway was the first paved road across the country. First it was just a route, then a few seedling miles of cement (one just outside of Mt. Vernon, Iowa near where I live), but it was the main way to get across the country for decades until a new system of naming highways turned route names with personality and cool symbols into a set of numbers as part of the newly nationalized system. ( For instance, if you’ve researched at the Hoover Presidential Library you will have driven on what used to be the old Herbert Hoover Highway – with its 3 H logo and maybe on the Red Ball Route with its logo like a Japanese flag, they really were fun.) When it became clear that the name Lincoln Highway would be lost, in a national effort ,Boy Scouts marked the route with cement posts topped with a massive Lincoln Penny like coin the size of your fist to memorialize it. Most are either missing altogether or removed to museums, but sometimes you will still come across one in it’s original location. Today as you make your way throughout the Midwest you often find a town or a county that has in someway marked their local piece of the highway. My favorite way is when they repaint the telephone poles with the red,
white, and blue bands as they originally did. Much more frequently you see signs and cloth banners declaring the path of the Lincoln Highway and street and store names declaring the connection. This video provides an excellent introduction on the road, why it is important, and how it changed driving.
Find much more information about the Lincoln Highway in Iowa and some more Lincoln Highway signs complete with some of the signs you might see as you’re driving along the route.
The Henry Ford Museum posted this lovely little 2 minute video,Fording the Lincoln Highway, with the highlights of a trip the 10 millionth Model T took driving across the country in a caravan on the Lincoln Highway. It was a silent movie and the text screens have been cut way too short, but the text from all of them appears the information about section below the video when you watch it on YouTube. You may want to pause and read them.
And the next time you’re out driving keep a look out for signs, markers, businesses, or even painted telephone poles to tell you that you are on the Lincoln Highway. (A good part of the former route, not all is incorporated by modern Highway 30 which might help you find some of it.)