In 1915, Edsel Ford and his college buddies set out on an epic adventure from Michigan to the Panama Pacific Exposition. Photo Historic Vehicle Association

Kingman, Arizona, Friday July 16, 1915 – Stayed around town all day until 4:30 on account of heat. Met party in Stutz from St. Louis – Mr. and Mrs. Scott and 3 children, also Mr. Hillerby. Arrived at Needles 8:30 P.M. after being informed that highwaymen were along the road. Heat very oppressive. Slept on porch of hotel. Stutz crew half hour after ourselves. Day’s run 72 miles.

In the summer of 1915, the then 21-year old Edsel Ford and some college buddies, H.V. Book, R.T. Gray Jr. and J.H. Caulkins Jr. set out on a grand adventure from Dearborn, Michigan. In Indianapolis, Indiana they met up with other friends, Frank Book and William Russell. Their destination was the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. Their convoy consisted of a new Ford, a new V8 Cadillac and a Stutz. As with countless tourists in the decades that followed them, they chose a route through the southwest to see sites of wonder such as the Grand canyon and Painted desert. They followed the National Old Trails Road through New Mexico, Arizona and across the desert in California. In 1926 much of this early highway would be incorporated in U.S.66, iconic Route 66.

Edsel kept a meticulous but succinct illustrated journal that chronicles the challenges of pioneering motorists. In spite of the many obstacles encountered on cross country road trips, in ever increasing numbers peoples were exploring America by automobile. In 1915 more than 20,000 people from outside of California attended the Panama Pacific Exposition by driving to the event.

The journal of Edsel Ford. Needles, California to Los Angeles, Saturday July 17th through Sunday July 18th. All had various things to do to cars. Got driveshaft from express office, bought a tire, repaired several tubes; bought some clothing. Started west at 6:25 P.M. in procession of eight cars – a Jeffrey, two Fords, two Chalmers, two Stutz, and a Cadillac. Thirty miles out Chalmers broke a spring. Roads in desert were fair. Stopped for midnight lunch. Played phonograph, fixed a tire. Stopped at Ludlow for gas, had to wake up the Desert Queen to get it. Arrived in Barstow at 7:00 A.M., sunrise very fine. No trouble on desert. Run to Barstow 168 miles. Ate breakfast at Harvey House in Barstow, California. Left our friends, the Scott’s, and on leaving discovered Stutz had another broken spring. Stutz crew started on ahead and all arrived together at San Bernardino for lunch. Expected to make good run into Los Angeles on beautiful road, but about 15 miles out Stutz broke bearing in left rear hub. Left it in the ditch; all went in on Cadillac and Ford. Arrived in Los Angeles by way of Pasadena at 7:00 P.M. Took cars to White garage. Day’s run 140 miles.

When reading the journal, or By Motor to The Golden Gate, a book written by Emily Post that chronicled her motoring adventure from New York to California in 1916, one must keep in mind that the automobile was a vast improvement over travel by horse and wagon. And one must also keep in mind that cars and roads had improved rather dramatically since 1903 when Dr. Horatio Jackson completed the first transcontinental trip by automobile.

In 2018, I reprinted Edsel’s entire journal in serial format on our Patreon based crowdfunding website. Most recently, as exclusive content, I began sharing in serial format the story of Alexander Winton’s ill fated attempt to drive from coast to coast in 1901. This is reprinted from a lengthy multipart series of articles that was published in 1901. This an example of the type of exclusive content we provide in exchange for support of the crowdfunding initiative that makes many Jim Hinckley’s America programs possible. This includes the weekly travel planning newsletter with free promotion for event organizers, some of our live stream programs, and presentations for organization such as was recently made for the Rotary Club in El Paso via Zoom.

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