National Lincoln Highway Centennial

Celebrating the first transcontinental highway in the United States

Andy Bolig - March 20, 2012 12:35 PM


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Before the federal highway system was established in 1925, roads carried names like the Lincoln Highway, the Yellowstone Trail or the Old Spanish Trail.

The public is invited when the Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) marks the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway with a celebration June 30 - July 5, 2013 in Kearney, Neb.

In the early 20th century as Americans began traveling further from home by automobile, the country needed improved roads linking cities and towns.  Up to that time, most roads were primarily local and distant travel between towns was by rail.
        The Lincoln Highway, begun in 1913, was the first transcontinental highway in the United States.   It was the idea of Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder Carl Fisher, who, with help from industrialists Frank Seiberling (Goodyear) and Henry Joy (Packard), envisioned an improved road stretching 3380 miles from New York City to San Francisco.  Fisher established the Lincoln Highway Association on July 1, 1913 to both promote the road and fund the project.

        The LHA Centennial Celebration will include three parts.  First, two automobile tours will depart from Times Square in New York City and Lincoln Park in San Francisco following the Lincoln Highway route to Kearney, Neb. arriving on June 30.

        Second, the City of Kearney will host a two-day Centennial Celebration beginning June 30 with the arrival of the Centennial Auto Tours, along with hundreds of antique, classic and modified cars from local and national car clubs displayed on the brick streets of downtown Kearney.  Historical re-enactors, period music and food, and national and local history will be celebrated throughout the downtown area. 

        The LHA official Centennial Celebration will take place July 1 at The Great Platte River Road Archway. Over I-80, the Archway attraction features the Lincoln Highway and other national transportation routes that followed the Platte Valley. The Archway campus will host the Centennial Auto Tour vehicles and others, an early 1900's tourist camp and education camp, food and craft vendors and a gala that evening. The official centennial program will commence at 1pm.

        Third, the LHA will hold its annual conference July 2-5 in Kearney. The association holds a conference each year somewhere along the Lincoln Highway corridor from New York to San Francisco. Events include road tours along the Lincoln Highway, visits to historic sites, speakers on various aspects of the highway, a business meeting and banquet.

        Before the federal highway system was established in 1925, roads carried names like the Lincoln Highway, the Yellowstone Trail or the Old Spanish Trail. Colorful roadside signs and painted telephone poles marked the routes of these highways. 

        Henry Joy came up with the idea of naming the highway to honor Abraham Lincoln.  As far as Joy was concerned, directness was the most important factor. Using existing roads, the route deliberately avoided the larger cities when practicable in order to maintain as straight a course as possible.  The highway started in Times Square in New York City and passed through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California, ending in Lincoln Park in San Francisco.  Other alignments included West Virginia and Colorado.  Today, parts of U.S. Routes 30, 40, 50 and I-80 follow portions of the Lincoln Highway route across the country.

        The original Lincoln Highway Association ceased activity at the end of 1928. Its last major activity was to mark the highway not as a route from one destination to another, but as a memorial to Abraham Lincoln. Today, the Lincoln Highway Association, re-established in 1992, works to preserve and promote America’s first transcontinental highway.

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