Before David Buick moved from affixing porcelain to cast iron bathroom fixtures, before Louis Chevrolet came to America in the employ of Fiat, and before Henry Ford’s tantrum that led to the founding of Cadillac, the bicycle was transforming American transportation. In 1890 the number of American bicycle manufactures numbered fewer than 30. Five years later there were more than 300 companies producing bicycles, including the Wright brothers of aviation fame, and they could not meet the ever growing demand.
Even though rural roads were little more than trails, and tires were woefully inadequate for off road travel, bicycle clubs were organizing outings, tours, and races that further fueled the explosive interest in bicycling. One club in Kalamazoo, Michigan began organizing regular tours to St. Louis, a trip that followed much of what would become Route 66 in 1926. In 1896 the League of America Wheelman, an organization that launched the Good Roads movement, estimated that more than 1,000,000 bicyclists were on the roads. This is all the more surprising when one considers that a bicycle at the time often costs $100 or more.
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Moving buildings from the Kingman Army Airfield to Kingman. Photo Mohave Museum of History & Arts
Kingman, Arizona has a long and colorful aviation history. Each chapter has led to a number of diverse contributions to the community. In 1919 the Gulf-to-Pacific Squadron set up to use the airfield in Kingman, roughly the location of Mountain View Cemetery on Stockton Hill Road today, as a base for a series of historic flights over the Grand Canyon. From High in Desert Skies by William Kalt III, “On February 24, 1919 locals provide “70 high-test” gasoline and Mobil “B” oil for the aircraft and Lt. Jones pilots a history making aerial exploration of Arizona’s spectacular chasm.”
“Returning to Kingman, the aviators attempt to fly above a fierce wind, but the capricious currents play mean all the way. After landing, Lt. Searle telegraphs Arizona Governor Thomas Edward Campbell, writing, “Lt. E.D. Jones and I made first flight over Grand Canyon today. Very cold, scenery wonderful, impossible to describe. Wednesday expect to make moving pictures.”
In 1928, T.A.T (Transcontinental Air Transport) came to town. Pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh was in charge of establishing air ports for the fledgling airline, and in 1929 he arrived in Kingman to survey a site and oversee construction. The Hotel Beale served as his headquarters, and Amelia Earhart attended ribbon cutting ceremonies when “Port Kingman” opened. Surprisingly the terminal building survived decades of urban sprawl and is today a part of the Brown Drilling complex.
In November of 1926, U.S. 66 was added to the list of federal highways and a few months later Cyrus Avery of Tulsa, Oklahoma spearheaded creation of the U.S. Highway 66 Association. This quasi chamber of commerce for the Route 66 corridor hit the ground running with creation and development of a marketing campaign to brand that highway as the Main Street of America.
Route 66 may not be America’s most scenic or even its most historic highway. However, from its inception it has always had the best press and publicity. As a result U.S. 66, a highway that ceased to exist in 1985, is the most famous highway in America. It has become an international symbol of freedom, of the great American road trip, and of the romanticized American experience.
For communities along the highway corridor in the southwest, Route 66, and the National Old Trails Road that preceded it represented unprecedented opportunity for economic growth. Once remote desert locations such as the 7V Ranch near Hackberry, Arizona were transformed into thriving centers of commerce.
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In this weeks posting we showcased Ed’s Camp, the gold rush in the Black Mountains of Arizona, and the story of a highway signed with the double six. In this exciting new series that began with the sharing of Edsel Ford’s travel journal, we chronicle the dawning of the American auto industry, and the transformation of America.
It is an adventure that you won’t want to miss. For a commitment of as little as $1 per month you can join the adventure, and assist us as we work to build a Route 66 community of the future one partnership at a time.