On October 31, 1913, hundreds of towns and cities in the 13 states along the route celebrated the dedication of the Lincoln Highway, making it the biggest celebration ever held in the United States at that time.
People from all walks of life gathered for parades, bonfires, speeches, dances, concerts, fireworks and even cannon fire.
Three states (Nebraska, Wyoming and Nevada) issued proclamations and declared October 31, 1913 a holiday.
In Council Bluffs, Iowa they celebrated with factory whistles, the ringing of fire bells and a nightime tourchlite parade that began at 12:01 am on the 31st and continued all day long.
In downtown Omaha, Nebraska, over 10,000 people attended a huge bon fire of 3 train carloads of railroad ties, and towns up and down the Platee river from Omaha formed what they called a 300 mile line of fire consisting of bon fires and flares.
Wooster, Ohio held auto races, speeches and even a Mascarade Ball.
Since the day was also Halloween, farmers placed Jack-o-lanterns on fence posts for miles and miles across Indiana, while Carl Fisher (the founder of the Lincoln Highway) celebrated in South Bend, Indiana with an auto parade and a 40 foot bon fire that reportedly could be seen for 20 miles.
In Cheyenne, Wyoming they fired cannons to mark the occasion.
During another dedication ceremony in Iowa, State Engineer Thomas H. MacDonald said he felt it was “…the first outlet for the road building energies of this community.” He went on to advocate the creation of a system of transcontinental highways with radial routes. In 1919, MacDonald became Commissioner of the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR), a post he held until 1953, when he oversaw the early stages of the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways.
So why all the celebration? As the first automobile road across America, the Lincoln Highway brought great prosperity to these cities, towns and villages along the route. The Lincoln Highway became affectionately known as “The Main Street Across America.”
On July 1, 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) was established “to procure the establishment of a continuous improved highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, open to lawful traffic of all description without toll charges.” The first goal of the LHA was to build the rock highway from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. The second goal was to promote the Lincoln Highway as an example to, in Carl Fisher’s words, “stimulate as nothing else could the building of enduring highways everywhere that will not only be a credit to the American people but that will also mean much to American agriculture and American commerce.”
The Lincoln Highway was also America’s first national memorial to President Abraham Lincoln, predating the 1922 dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. by nine years.
Now WE know em
- What was the first coast-to-coast road across the United States? (carl-leonard.com)
- Celebrating 100 years of the Lincoln Highway (cnnphotos.blogs.cnn.com)