100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Transcontinental Highway Proposed

In 1880 bicycle enthusiasts met to form the League of American Wheelmen to promote the use of bicycles. In 1892 the LAW published Good Roads Magazine which eventually reached a circulation of 1 million. One of the things advocated was the improvement of roads in America. In 1893 the US Department of Agriculture initiated a systematic evaluation of existing highway systems.

As the automobile developed it became apparent that whereas most goods had been delivered by rail, transportation of materials and businesses would be more and more dependent on reliable roadways. There was no federal highway system and many state government forbade funding “internal improvements” relying on local governments to build and maintain roads.

Carl G Fisher made his fortune in automobile manufacture with the Prest-O-Lite compressed carbide-gas headlights used on most early cars and founded the Indianapolis 500. He foresaw the needs of good roads to help the growth of the automobile industry. In 1912 he began promoting his dream of a transcontinental highway.

On September 1, 1912 Fisher hosted a dinner for his colleagues in the automotive industry and unveiled his plans for the Lincoln Highway to be completed by May 1, 1915, in time for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. He estimated the cost at about $10 million. “A road across the United States! Let’s build it before we’re too old to enjoy it!”

Carl G Fisher


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