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Lincoln Highway History

LHHC Museum building

The Lincoln Highway Story
Unsuitable road - Model T stuck in the mudIn 1913, the automobile was still in its infancy. Those that had cars found road conditions were unsuitable for driving. City streets were often paved, but rural roads were primarily dirt tracks connecting farmlands. (Picture courtesy of the Iowa Dept. of Transportation)

A group of visionary businessmen from the automotive industry led by Henry B. Joy and Carl Fisher, formed the Lincoln Highway Association (LHA). The LHA successfully spearheaded the creation of a publicly-funded road that stretched from New York City, NY to San Francisco, CA. The road would be the first transcontinental highway. The LHA engaged in very little actual road building, but it did fire the public's imagination and soon their project was under way. When it was complete, it stretched 3,389 miles.

In Pennsylvania, much of the Lincoln Highway was constructed by improving and linking up pre-existing roads, including the early turnpikes, like the Chambersburg and Bedford Turnpike and Forbes Road. It was a focal point of the Good Roads Movement, which would ultimately lead to the development of decent highways all over the nation.

The creation of the highway had a significant impact on how people traveled. No longer were they held to the schedules of railroads. Instead, more and more people chose to tour America by driving the The Coffee Pot buildingLincoln Highway. As automobiling became more popular, the face of the roadside changed.

Filling stations, tourist cabins, motor courts, and restaurants lined the Lincoln Highway to service travelers. As competition for the travelers' business increased, entrepreneurs became creative in their attempts to solicit customers. They built unique structures, like the giant Coffee Pot building in Bedford PA, in which to run their businesses.
The Lincoln Highway in 1918
The Lincoln Highway was also crucial to the development of commercial traffic. During World War I, railroads were unable to handle the amount of freight being sent to the eastern seaboard ports. The favored alternative to the railroad was the use of truck convoys over the Lincoln Highway. The picture to the left is a section of the Lincoln Highway in 1918.

1928 Cement Highway Marker
By 1925, the transcontinental route was completed. However, in that year, the United States instituted a system of numbered highways and eliminated name designations. In Pennsylvania, the Lincoln Highway became Route 30. In 1928, Boy Scouts from across the country erected concrete markers along the route, some of which still remain today, in order to preserve the identity of the Lincoln Highway. In 1940, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, with its tunnels blasted through the mountains, provided a quicker and easier route across the state.

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