Bicycles were all the rage. For the manufacturers of bicycles, bicycle
parts, and accessories it was a gold rush. In just four years bicycle ownership had increased by an astounding 250% and clubs organized tours that were hundreds of miles in length. The League of American Wheelmen became a powerful political force that lobbied for better roads. Astute businessmen such as Orville and Wilbur Wright were quick to capitalize on the
In the shadows of bicycle mania, a new technological wonder was being prepared for its debut. Ransom E. Olds mused on the advantages of a horseless carriage in an interview published by Scientific American in the 1880’s. In the early 1890’s the Duryea brothers became the first to begin manufacturing these horseless carriages, and Montgomery Ward noted that they were a sight to behold, something that every parent should take the children to see before the fad passed. Barnum & Bailey Circus gave a Duryea Motor Wagon top billing over the bearded lady AND the albino. (more…)
In my world the past and present blend seamlessly. There are
days when I spend hours reading century old journals, perusing old newspapers, and then write about a trip across the Mojave Desert in 1915. In my office, all around me are tangible links to an earlier time that stand in stark contrast to the computer and keyboard. I even start my day by shaving with a circa 1940 razor (do you know how hard it is to find simple double edged blades today?). There are rare occasions when a bit of the future gets tangled into the mix, such as when I work with the members of the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation and their ongoing efforts to establish a dedicated museum that will chronicle the evolution of the electric vehicle.
On occasion, when there is time for meditation on a long morning walk, I envision my work as the crafting of a time a machine. As an example, on our premium content crowdfunding site, I am launching a new series. Every Saturday morning, commencing on March 10, I will be sharing one entry, verbatim, with original photos where possible, from Edsel Ford’s daily journal written during his adventure to California along the National Old Trails Highway during the summer of 1915. (more…)
Last year I was privileged by opportunities to speak
about Route 66 and that highways renaissance at Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri, the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, at the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Bloomington-Normal, at a fund-raising event for the Route 66 Association of Kingman, at the first European Route 66 Festival, at a school in Bensheim, Germany, and at a Promote Kingman event where the new video series, Jim Hinckley’s America: A Trek Along Route 66 was introduced. This year I am narrowing the focus by developing a presentation that centers on the marketing of the Main Street of America in western Arizona over the course of the past century.
An early view of the Hotel Beale courtesy Mohave Museum of History & Arts
The story of Route 66 promotion actually commences a decade or so before that highways certification on November 11, 1926. The short version of a long story, one that I will provide more detail on in my presentation, is how the National Old Trails Highway was rerouted across northern Arizona, a rather dramatic realignment from the original route from Springerville to Yuma where it connected with the Ocean-To-Ocean Highway.