Edsel’s Grand Adventure

Edsel’s Grand Adventure

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. (more…)

Out With The Old, In With The New

Out With The Old, In With The New

The historic Hotel Brunswick in Kingman, Arizona

Adios (and good riddance) 2020. Hello 2021. It has been, shall we say, an interesting year. It has also been a year of opportunity, of challenge, of loss, of frustration, and of concern for friends and family. It has been an historic year, a world altering year and a year of discovery. And so I, for one, am eagerly looking toward 2021 with just a hint of apprehension and a bit of excitement.

With the cancellation of presentations, classes and the scheduled speaking tour I have had ample time to rediscover the simple pleasure of very long walks in the desert, to read, to work on learning about new technologies and how to harness them, and finding new ways to tell people where to go. But, to be honest, I have had to fight the crippling sense of futility and linked depression that seems to be lurking in the shadows this year. I suppose some of this can be attributed to the difficulty of accepting the fact that the entire world has been forever changed resultant of the pandemic and then seeing opportunity for Jim Hinckley’s America in the dawn of a new era.

Support of the crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform (www.patreon.com/jimhinckleysamerica) has proven to be more important than ever in 2020. This and learning to use Zoom have made it feasible to make presentations on Route 66 and travel for various groups such as the Rotary Club of El Paso and the Inland Empire Gardner’s in Spokane, Washington. The response received as well as seeing how important things like these presentations are to people experiencing isolation resultant of quarantine or illness has provided a distinct since of satisfaction. As always, the quickest way to get out of a funk is to help others.

In a similar manner the development of the weekly Coffee With Jim program that is live streamed on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page Sunday mornings has been quite interesting. Sponsored in part by the iconic Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri, the program has apparently become an oasis in a sea of bad news for many people. I keep it light, fast paced and fun. Aside from a weekly trivia contest with prizes, and a plug for my books and sponsors, I cover topics that inspire thoughts of road trips, that inspire, and that are somewhat educational.

I am still surprised that people inspire me, and on occasion pay me, to beat my gums. This past Sunday’s program about interesting cemeteries on Route 66, and their surprising military or celebrity association, attracted an international audience of almost 5,500 people. And that was before it was archived with other episodes as well as programs in the On The Road With Jim series on the YouTube channel. This Sunday the topic will be an historic look at Christmas celebrations in America.

Counted among the interesting projects developed in 2020 to ensure that my dearest friend and I continue eating on a regular basis is blog writing for clients of MyMarketing Designs. When this company builds a website they offer a blog writing service for clients. I am the writer of those blogs. And so it has been an educational experience as well as a challenge to find material to write blogs for a kite store, for an RV sales and service company, for an air conditioning company and for several other companies.

I returned to my roots in 2020 with the writing of a weekly feature on automotive history for MotoringNZ, an online automotive publication based in New Zealand. My career in exchanging the written word kicked off in 1990 with an automotive feature written for Hemmings Motor News. For most of the next ten years the majority of my published work was on the formative years of the American auto industry. This included a stint as associate editor for the now defunct Cars & Parts magazine, and the writing of a regular feature entitled The Independent Thinker. These often overlapped with travel stories when I wrote about museums or Edsel Ford’s cross country adventure in the summer of 1915.

Shortly after I began writing for Motoring NZ, I adjusted the format for 5 Minutes With Jimour weekly audio podcast. It is now a journey through time with stories about automotive pioneers like Louis Chevrolet, the origins of automotive manufacturing companies, fascinating and and odd inventions, and similar subjects. The real boost for this project came with arrangement that allowed for it to be professionally edited by a New Zealand radio engineer. The audio podcast is now sponsored in part by the one of a kind Roadrunner Lodge in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Author Jim Hinckley with a mug from Victoria’s Sugar Shack during Coffee With Jim ©

Speaking of sponsors we have been working on developing innovative ways to provide low cost or even free promotional opportunities for businesses, communities and museums this year. Now more than ever it is important that we build supportive cooperative partnerships. One of these initiatives is the Coffee Mug of The Week sponsorship. Each week on the Coffee With Jim live stream program I give a shout out to a business or museum that has sent us a coffee cup. It is the least I can do for business owners, many of them friends or acquaintances, that are struggling this year.

Several years ago I developed a series of community educational programs on area history, Route 66 and the economics of tourism for Mohave Community College. This spring they were cancelled, which was a kick in the income. But they were picked up again this fall via Zoom and that gave me an opportunity to learn more about this platform. It also proved to be the next logical step in developing and packaging these classes for other community colleges or communities. And that is just what I will be doing come 2021.

I have also launched a free weekly (soon to be biweekly) travel planning newsletter. In addition to providing another promotional venue for advertising sponsors, road trip inspiration and travel planning tools, it is a venue where I can offer event organizers free promotion.

This morning there was another glimmer of hope for 2021. It was in the form of negotiations about a new book with a publisher I worked with several years ago. Details will be forthcoming soon but suffice to say that book number twenty may be debuting next fall.

Author Jim Hinckley with a Dutch group traveling Route 66 at the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman, Arizona. ©

So, as 2020, the year of COVID 19 and a never ending election, draws to a close I bid adios. And as I count down the days to 2021, there is eager anticipation with a faint of apprehension.




Changing Times

Changing Times

Photo TWA Museum

In a mere twenty years, two short decades, the world had been transformed. In 1909 manufacturers in the United States had produced 828,000 horse drawn vehicles, and about 125,000 automobiles. In 1929 automobile production had soared to more than one million vehicles, and the manufacture of horse drawn vehicles had plummeted to fewer than 4,000 units. By the 1920s more American families owned an automobile than had indoor plumbing. In 1919 the first tricolor lights began regulating traffic in Detroit. Ten years later the first cloverleaf interchange opened in Woodbridge, New Jersey. And on July 7, 1929, an entirely new concept in transportation made its debut.

On this date passengers boarded a special Pennsylvania Railroad Airway Limited train at New York City’s Pennsylvania Station. It was an overnight trip to Columbus, Ohio. At the city’s new airport terminal two Ford Tri-Motor airplanes emblazoned with the name of Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) transported them west to  Waynoka, Oklahoma. IN that city the passengers boarded an Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe train for an overnight trip to Clovis, New Mexico. The next morning wo other TAT airplanes were boarded for a three-stop flight that would end at the Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale, California. It was unprecedented, people could now travel coast to coast in a mere forty-eight hours.

Mirroring the first decades of the American auto industry, TAT and the pioneering airline industry is a conflicting story of merger, buy out and corporate raiding. TAT was founded in 1928 with a goal to establish fast and safe coast to coast passenger service. Comfort that mimicked what was available on passenger trains was also a part of the company’s mission. This amazing feat would be accomplished by using established Pennsylvania Railroad and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway trains, and new state of the art Ford Tri Motor airplanes. Two years prior Jack Frye, Paul Richter and Walt Hamilton had launched Standard Airlines (SAL),to provide passenger service between Los Angles and Phoenix, Arizona. In March 1930, Standard Airlines was sold to Western Air Express (WAE). Jack Frye served as the company’s Chief of Operations. In October of that year, TAT and WAE merged to create TWA.

POrt Kingman, the TAT terminal in Kingman, Arizona. Photo TWA Museum

TAT was born in an historic informal meeting at the Engineers’ Club in New York City. In attendance of this 1927 gathering were Colonel Paul Henderson, the former Assistant Postmaster General and current Vice-President of National Air Transport, C.M. Keys, an aviation executive, banker and an ardent aviation enthusiast, and Charles Lindbergh. During the discussion about passenger air service, Henderson drew a rough map of the United States on the back of an envelope he pulled from his vest. Then he began identifying logical stopping points connected by a line that indicated available rail service. In the months that followed there were meetings with potential investors and attorneys, funding was secured, arrangements were made with Ford Motor Company, limited partnerships were established with railroad companies, and Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) was established.

Equally as ambitious was the plane to establish airfields and terminals in relatively remote western communities such as Winslow and Kingman, Arizona. As an historic footnote, Lindbergh was tasked with this project and often stayed at the Hotel Beale in Kingman, Arizona during construction of Port Kingman. Amelia Earhart stayed at the hotel during the ribbon cutting ceremonies. This terminal building has survived into the modern era as the headquarters for Brown Drilling. And recently the site of the Western Air Express airfield was rediscovered.

The TAT endeavor was relatively short lived. A crash that resulted in the death of all on board near Mt. Taylor in western New Mexico on September 3, 1929 dramatically curtailed the company’s ambitious plans. It also led to the implementation of safety initiatives and hindered development of confidence in passenger air service. Still, the TAT endeavor stands as a milestone in transportation history. The surviving remnants, such as the terminal in Kingman, are tangible links to the dawn of a new era, changing times that forever transformed the world.

The recently discovered plans for the Western Air Express airfield in Kingman, Arizona

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Inspiration In A Life Well Lived

Inspiration In A Life Well Lived

J Walter Christie pioneered the use of front wheel drive in the development of his race cars. Who remembers Mr. Christie today?

He never complained and refused to see himself as disabled. He perfected the electric razor, developed a balancing mechanism for steam turbines, and transformed the Perfect Circle corporation into the largest manufacturer of piston rings in the world. Perhaps his most transformative contribution was the invention of cruise control. His was a life well lived. But the inspiration comes from knowing that Ralph Teetor was blind. He had been injured as a child, and as a result one year later he lost his sight.

Charles Richard Patterson created a profitable but small business empire in Greenfield, Ohio. His success becomes all the more amazing when one considers that he was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation in 1833. Historians are unsure how he came to live in Greenfield, a hotbed of abolitionist activity before the Civil War. There is a possibility that his freedom had been purchased, but a number of African Americans in town had escaped slavery.

He apprenticed in a blacksmith shop that also was engaged in carriage and wagon making. In 1873, he formed a business partnership J.P. Lowe, another carriage maker in town, J.P. Lowe. In 1893 he bought out his partner and purchased the shop where he had begun his career,  and formed C.R. Patterson & Sons. By 1900 his carriage and wagon manufacturing and repair company was employing an integrated workforce of nearly fifty men. His sales catalog listed twenty-five models including doctor buggies, freight wagons, surreys, and closed carriages.

With Patterson’s death in 1910, his son Frederick took the helm of the company. He was college-educated and was the first African American athlete to play football at Ohio State University. He was also the vice president of the National Negro Business League that had been founded by Booker T. Washington. He also charted a new course for the company with diversification that included repair and services for automobiles.  The first ad for auto repair services appeared in the local paper in 1913. The repainting of bodies and the reupholstering of interiors was the initial service offered. Then mechanics were hired and the company became a full service auto repair facility.

Resultant of the endeavors success, in 1915 C.R. Patterson & Sons began manufacturing automobiles. Advertisement announced the availability of the Patterson-Greenfield automobile at a factory sales price of $685. “Our car is made with three distinct purposes in mind. First — It is not intended for a large car. It is designed to take the place originally held by the family surrey. It is a 5-passenger vehicle, ample and luxurious. Second — It is intended to meet the requirements of that class of users, who, though perfectly able to spend twice the amount, yet feel that a machine should not engross a disproportionate share of expenditure, and especially it should not do so to the exclusion of proper provisions for home and home comfort, and the travel of varied other pleasurable and beneficial entertainment. It is a sensibly priced car. Third — It is intended to carry with it (and it does so to perfection) every conceivable convenience and every luxury known to car manufacture. There is absolutely nothing shoddy about it. Nothing skimp and stingy.”

The company continued producing and manufacturing horse drawn vehicles, but the focus was increasingly shifted toward the manufacture of automobiles even though sales were less than anemic. Orders began to come in, and C.R. Patterson & Sons officially entered the ranks of American auto manufacturers. Over the years the company diversified offerings to include coupes and sedans, and in 1918, a stylish “Red Devil” speedster. The vehicles were powered by a 30-horsepower four cylinder engine supplied by Continental in Muskegon, Michigan. They also featured a full floating rear axle, cantilever springs, electric starting and lighting, and a split windshield that opened for ventilation. Information is scant but apparently owners were very satisfied with the quality and durability of the cars.

Small independent manufacturers, even those that offered a quality product, were challenged to compete with larger companies that continued to develop improved means of mass production. The problems were magnified with severe post WWI economic recession. As the profit margin on each Patterson-Greenfield automobile was low, the company was poorly positioned to weather the storm. In late 1919 the C.R. Patterson & Sons company halted auto production. They reorganized to focus entirely on the repair of vehicles. Then in the early 1920s, the company diversified again and began building truck and bus bodies to be fitted on chassis made by other manufacturers. Then in 1930, in the dawning of the Great Depression, sales evaporated. Still, the company survived until 1939.

The Patterson family, a life well. The Patterson family, a story of inspiration.

Celebrating The Holidays In The Year of Apocalypse

Celebrating The Holidays In The Year of Apocalypse

In my short time here on planet earth I have survived a couple of hurricanes and tornados, an ill advised attempt to earn my pay on the rodeo circuit, several car accidents, an epic desert dust storm or two, a few blizzards in the north country, a couple of wild monsoon storms, appendicitis, pneumonia, a kayaking trip on the Colorado River (in a leaking kayak), a few broken bones and a couple of good wallops to the head. In a few weeks, Lord be willing and if the creek doesn’t rise, to this list of tragedies that I have survived will be added 2020, the year of the apocalypse. And that takes us to celebrating the holidays in a time of pandemic, a never ending election, two headed sharks, poisonous earth worms invading Georgia, face masks, overwhelmed food banks, unprecedented opportunity, Zoom meetings, and virtual Christmas parties.

Needless to say, the holiday season this year will be different. Travel is questionable. Family gatherings via Zoom is just downright odd. Employees at the post office, Fed Ex and UPS are being buried as people break all records with on line ordering. Walmart is, well, Walmart. Restaurants are closed, or open, maybe.

As you may have noticed I am being a bit facetious today. It is my feeble way of injecting a bit of levity into a tense situation, to try to get people to smile a bit, to make the best of a bad situation, and to find some humor in a generally humorless year. But on more serious note, for your Christmas shopping I would like to suggest that you consider thinking outside of the box this year. With that said, let me give you a few ideas.

Let’s start with One Stop 66. Consider this a virtual flea market for Route 66 businesses, artists, photographers and authors. You will find lots of interesting and unique gift ideas on this site. As a bonus you will be giving small businesses a much needed helping hand, and ensuring that authors or artists don’t become starving artists or authors. Did I mention that the owners of the website have created an array of colorful Route 66 centennial merchandise?

Next, how about handcrafted wooden bowls from a Dutch artisan? These might strain the budget a bit, especially with the cost of shipping from the Netherlands, but they are more than a mere gift. These would be heirlooms shared for generations to come.

Even though we now use our phones as calendars, as well as a device to watch videos about cats and the people of Walmart, and on occasion make calls, the old fashioned wall calendar is a gift that keeps on giving for at least twelvemonths. This is especially true if it is a fine art calendar from internationally acclaimed photographer Jim Livingston based in Amarillo, Texas. His prints depicting scenes from Route 66, the Texas Panhandle and the great Plains are on display in banks, prestigious offices and homes.

Treat yourself or the adventurer in your family with a road trip inspiring book or a series of true crime stories that reads as a novel. Both books, 100 Things To Do On Route 66 Before You Die or Murder And Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66. Both books written by yours truly are available at a special discounted rate on the Jim Hinckley’s America website. As a bonus, I will deface them with my signature. This will not lower the value of the books. Just kidding. Murder and Mayhem was the recipient of the Independent Publisher silver medal award. Unfortunately I can only offer domestic shipping resultant of prohibitive costs for international mailings.

And of course, if you would prefer putting your holiday funds to something that provides a service there is always our crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform. By committing to support you would have access to exclusive content. And you would be supporting our work to develop educational programs such as the forthcoming presentation about Route 66 for the Rotary Club in El Paso, Texas. This year we have used crowdfunding to subsidize discounted advertising on the Jim Hinckley’s America travel network for struggling businesses. It has also made it possible for us to offer free promotional programs such as the coffee cup sponsor initiative on the weekly Coffee With Jim live streamed program, the free weekly travel planning newsletter that includes event promotion, and the creation of other live stream programs.

Bottom line, the folks who own Amazon and Walmart have done rather well this year. Now it’s time to lend a bit of support to the small businesses that add color, vibrancy and life to small town America. This whole year has been unusual and different. Let’s carry that into the holiday season and think about buying gifts that have character, and that are as unique as the person you are buying them for.