One of the greatest inventions of the progressive era is the automobile, and is something that we still see everyday. Most of us probably have our driver’s license and own a car. In school, we’ve been told about Henry Ford and how the automobile industry led to the invention of the moving assembly line. However, because of rising gas prices, many people no longer partake in the American phenomenon of a cross country road trip. Starting in the late 1910s the road trip became a “must have” experience. This vacationing trend was aided by the “building” of the Lincoln Highway.
The Lincoln Highway was built to make cross country traveling less expensive and more fun. This was done by connecting roads through the country to form one continuous route from New York to San Fransisco. Today, many of these roads are still in use, they are marked with the Lincoln Highway sign such as the one to the left.
During the 1910s and 1920s, the cross country road trip became very popular. However, it was not an easy trek. Before your cross country trip you could buy the “Official Road Guide to the Lincoln Highway;” a book on what situations you may encounter and how to deal with them. Some suggestions provided were to not continue your drive during or immediately following a rain storm; and pick your camping spot early to avoid choosing it in the dark because you might end up sleeping on rocks. Despite the downfalls to an underdeveloped highway, the Lincoln Highway soon became one of the most efficient ways to travel across the country.
Lincoln Highway was also useful to the towns it traveled through. Many small towns along the route were able to aide travelers by building hotels and restaurants for their convenience. In return, the travelers helped the economy of those small towns. One such town is Fremont, Nebraska. This small town is 154 miles from the halfway point along the 3,466 mile journey. Below is a postcard with a picture of the stretch of Lincoln Highway that went through downtown Fremont.
Although Woodrow Wilson never traveled the Lincoln Highway, he was the first official member of the Lincoln Highway Association, which he joined in 1913 after making a $5 donation. He was also an automobile enthusiast and enjoyed going for a drive when the weather permitted. After his presidency he moved to his home on S. street where he lived for about three years. In that time he went for a drive almost every day and owned several cars, including a Pierce-Arrow Limousine, which his friends purchased for him from the White House and a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, which his friends gave him for his 67th birthday in 1923. The Wilsons also owned an electric car and you can see a car just like the one the Wilsons and their secret service agents drove in the White House at the Woodrow Wilson House. You can also see an example of a Lincoln Highway road marker at the American History Museum’s exhibit America on the Move.