Legend of The Double Six

Legend of The Double Six

The National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, a stop on our fall tour.

On June 27, 1985, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials decertified US 66 and voted to remove all its highway signs. So, officially Route 66 doesn’t exist. And yet an argument could easily be made that today that storied highway is more popular than at anytime in its history.

US 66 was a mere highway that connected Chicago, Illinois with downtown Los Angeles, California when it was certified in November 1926. But almost from inception, marketing and promotion ensured it was in a class all its own. It quickly evolved from highway into an icon that came to symbolize the quintessential American road trip.

In the spring of 1927 the US Highway 66 Association was formed to lobby for having the highway paved from end to end, and to market the highway. In essence it served as a sort of chamber of commerce for the linear Route 66 community.

One of the associations first initiatives that branded the highway as the Main Street of America. This tagline was borrowed from a marketing campaign for the National Old Trails Road, predecessor to Route 66 in the southwest, launched in 1913.

The Transcontinental Footrace along Route 66 that garnered international media coverage in 1928 gave he highway a promotional boost. Likewise with a promotioonal campaign that linked Route 66 with the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. And of course there was The Grapes of Wrath, the book and the movie, the song and the television program as well as movies such as Easy Rider.

As Jim Hinckley’s America has as its foundation the sharing of America’s story, and telling people where to go, it isn’t surprising that many of the adventures that we share are linked to Route 66, especially as we draw closer to the centennial in 2026. We inspire road trips and bring history ot life through podcasts and programs, social media network and YouTube channel videos, books and feature articles, tourism development work and educational programs.

A presentation about Route 66 in Arizona at the Perfroming Arts Center in Apache Junction, Arizona ©Jim Hinckley’s America

For 2023, aside from custom programs for events or organizations, we have created a fun filled, fast paced, trivia filled presentation about the dawning of the American road trip. We are currently booking for spring and summer, and are making plans for a Route tour this coming fall.

And we are taking the Car Talk From The Main Street of America podcast in a new direction. Yes, we will still be inspiring road trips and talking about, and with, interesting people. And we will be sharing fascinating stories about the dawning of the American auto industry.

But the emphasis will be placed on steam and electric automobiles. The goal being to counter myth with fact, and highlight these vehicles role in the past, the present and the future of the auto industry.

We are also making plans to take the Jim Hinckley’s America show on the road. In the first engagement for 2023, nearly every seat in the house at the Performing Arts Center in Apache Junction, Arizona was full for the Route 66 in Arizona program. This was my first program made on behalf of the Arizona Lecturer Series.

On the weekend of February 11 at the Route 66 Info Fair in Needles, California, I will be speaking about Edsel Ford’s epic journey along the National Old Trails Road in the summer of 1915. And,of course, I will also be telling people where to go as we give assistance with their Route 66 travel planning.

It is shaping up to be quite a year. We hope to see you on the road this year. In the meantime, get out there on the road and dsicover America.

 

 

 

Lessons Learned

The embryonic electric vehicle museum is the first and only museum dedicated to this style of vehicle. Credit Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation

Mention Porsche and visions of fast, sleek cars come to mind. But for the company’s namesake Ferdinand Porsche it was electricity, not gasoline, that first piqued his interest.

In 1893, at age 18, Porsche electrified his parents’ house. Before the turn of the century he was working for the Vereinigte Elektrizitäts-AG Béla Egger company in Vienna. It was that company that he first began designing and experimenting with automobiles. They were battery driven electric cars.

In 1900 he designed a highly advanced automobile. The ‘Semper Vivus’, his second car, was launched as the production-ready Lohner-Porsche ‘Mixte’. It had an internal gasoline engine powered by naptha. But rather than driving the car the engine was used to power a generator that sent a charge to the wheel hubs for propulsion.

The first decades of the 20th century, much like the first decades of the 21st century, were an era of innovation in the auto industry. But the innovators of the 21st century had a slight advantage as they were standing of the shoulders of pioneers.

Byron Carter capitalized on the bicycle mania of the 1890s and produced a quality two wheeld product in Jackson, Michigan. Still, there was little to differernate his bicycles from hundreds of others on the market at the time.

His, cars, however, were another matter. The Cartercar was friction drive, which eliminated the need for a transmission. The Carter Two Engine was even more radical in design. It was a four cylinder automobile, with conventional transmission. The selling point was reliability. Under the hood was a second four cyclinder engine, in case of mechanical failure with the first engine!

Before the introduction of the electric starter on the 1912 Cadillac, steam and electric powered cars were the industry leaders. These were the trend setters. A White steamer was the first automobile to replace carriages at the White House. A Stanley built steamer set a land speed record of nearly 150 miles an hour in 1906.

Rapid advancement of gasoline engine technology, and development of an electrical system that included starter and lights, proved the death knell for steeam powered cars. Electric cars fell out of favor, but as we see today, they still pique the interest of innovators who see a different future for the automobile.

Detroit Electric enjoyed strong brand loyalty. And they found a market in the growing number of female drivers as they were relatively clean and easy to operate, especially in comparison to cars such as the Model T Ford. Still, by 1914 the company reached its zenith when annual production topped 4,000 vehicles. The comapny continued producing vehicles into the 1930s, and even built a limited edition vehicle that used by the postal service.

The past, the present and the future of alternative energy vehicles, and supportive infrastructure are a regular topic of discussion on Car Talk From The Main Street of America, a podcast from Jim Hinckley’s America. We guarantee that the program will provide lots of fodder for trivia fueled discussions, be filled with surprising stories, and will have you looking at Tesla built cars in a whole new way.

A Shocking Story

On display at Ye Ole Carriage Shop in Spring Arbor, Michigan is the oldest existent vehicle manufactured by the Jackson Automobile Company of Jackson, Michigan

As with most people who become an historic milestone through an untimely demise, Mr. Henry Bliss never knew that unexpected death would bestow upon him a dubious form of immortality. He simply stepped from the New York City streetcar that September afternoon in 1899 and became the nation’s first pedestrian struck and killed by an automobile. That automobile was an electric taxicab.

That is how episode three of the new Jim Hinckley’s America audio podcast Car Talk From The Main Street of Americascheduled for publication on August 9th begins. It seemed a fitting opening to kick off a program about the long history of electric vehicles, and the equally long history of controversy. And, of course, as with everything that we do at Jim Hinckley’s America, the new program also has a road trip component as I will also be talking about the world’s only EV museum that happens to be located along Route 66.

At the dawning of the American auto industry steam and electric vehicles dominated. Steam was an understood technology as it had been powering trains and factories for decades. Compared to the first generation of gasoline powered vehicles an electric car was much easier to operate. And companies that manufactured electric vehicle were not constrained by the Selden patent that created a stranglehold on gasoline powered automobile manufacturing in the years bracketing the dawn of the 20th century. The story of that patent is an interesting tale for another day.

This new podcast will not be replacing Coffee With Jim, the Sunday morning program dedicated to road trips, to travel, to travel writing and photography, and to road trip inspiration. Both podcasts will be available on various platforms including Spotify and iHeart radio. However, the Sunday morning program will be the only one to be interactive with both call ins and typed comments. Afterwards, the Podbean based podcast will be made available on other platforms.

Long before Tesla and Rivian had people discussing electric vehicles, their shortcomings, their future and the conspiracy theories that seem to permeate every aspect of American society since alternative facts replaced truth and logic, I had a fascination for electric and steam powered vehicles. Did you know that the first automobile produced by Studeabker was an electric designed in part by Thomas Edison? Did you know that Studebaker didn’t produce a gasoline powered vehicle until 1904 or that the company continued producing electric vehicles until 1912?

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

The program about electric vehicles will illustrate the diversity of the podcast that Stan Hustad and I are creating. The first program, with a bit of audio issue, was about Edsel Ford, his many contributions to the develop of the auto industry, and his epic adventure with college buddies in 1915. The second program profiled the amazing Florence Lawrence and other female automotive pioneers. Did you know that Lawrence devised the first practical turn signal?

Plans are for the fourth program to be about the Desert Classic, better known as the Cactus Derby. Held between 1909 and 1914 this incredible series of automobile races was a test of endurance for man and machine. It was also a bit of a demolition derby. By 1914 the race had become an international media sensation, in part because counted among the drivers were Louis Chevrolet and Barney Oldfield.

Telling people where to go, sharing stories about inspirational people and fascinating places, and inspiring road trips, that is the foundation of Jim Hinckley’s America. And it is the cornerstone for Car Talk on The Main Street of America.

 

 

Nothing New Under The Sun

Nothing New Under The Sun

The fellows name was Bliss. As with most people who become an historic milestone, Mr. Henry Bliss never knew

The embryonic electric vehicle museum is the first and only museum dedicated to this style of vehicle. Credit Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation

that unexpected death would bestow a dubious form of immortality. He simply stepped from the New York City streetcar that September afternoon in 1899, and became the nations first pedestrian struck and killed by an automobile. Today’s editorial in the Kingman Daily Miner about the world’s first museum dedicated exclusively to the electric vehicle led me to reflect on Bliss, his demise, and how there is little new under the sun.

The electric vehicle museum in Kingman, Arizona was born of a limited partnership between the city and the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation during the Route 66 International Festival in 2014, an event that was aptly themed Kingman: Crossroads of the Past & Future. For reasons not understood the museum has never progressed beyond the initial stage even though it garners international media attention and the collection continues to grow. The prestigious Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles recently donated 15 historically significant vehicles. (more…)

A Survival Guide For The Modern Era

A Survival Guide For The Modern Era

There is an old adage that the two certainties in life are

death and taxes. There are, however, two more adages that you can bank on. One, times change, whether we like it or not. Two, it is up to you to create the survival guide for the modern era and to keep it updated. In short, adapt and learn to adapt or face the consequences. You can bet money that the best blacksmith in town had fallen on hard times by 1915 if he hadn’t added automobile repair to the services offered.

Fred Harvey Company Touring Coach 1918

By 1918 the Fred Harvey had adapted to changing times by adding touring coaches as a means to ensure hotel properties remained profitable. Courtesy Mohave Museum of History & Arts.

The Fred Harvey Company pioneered development of hotel and restaurant chains. They didn’t, however, rest on their laurels after dominating the railroad hotel business in the southwest. They developed tours, added buses, and began marketing to tourists traveling by automobile.

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As an author I have, with a degree of success, made the transition from typewriter and carbon paper to word processor. Marketing, a crucial skill for the writer that is going to transition from hobbyist, is another matter. There are indications that I have been somewhat successful in regards to shameless self promotion. As an example, yesterday I learned that Route 66: America’s Longest Small Town is going into a second printing even though the book was released this past April.

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