Six Decades On Route 66

Six Decades On Route 66

Photo Oregon Museum of History

Ezra Manning Meeker was born on December 29, 1830. He died on December 3, 1928. He is a role model for anyone that struggles to adapt to new technologies, or make sense of a rapidly changing world.

In an ox cart he, his new bride and an infant son traveled west over the Oregon Trail in 1852. He built an empire with the growing of hops, and was the first mayor of Puyallup, Washington. Meeker made four trips into the Yukon country during the gold rush of the late 1890s.

In the first years of the 20th century, as America embraced the automobile and technologies that promised a bright, new future, Meeker worried that the Oregon Trail and its role in the development of the country was being forgotten. And so he launched a publicity campaign to have it marked awith monuments.

In the years 1906, 1907, and 1908 he retraced his steps along the Oregon Trail by wagon. He gave interviews along the way, and spoke in communities along the trail as well as in towns during his journey to New York City. And in Washington, D.C. he met with President Theodore Roosevelt.

His fame, and public awareness about his campaign to erect monuments along the Oregon Trail, grew exponentially as launched a national speaking tour, began writing books, and worked to establish the Oregon-California Trails Association. And he traveled the Oregon Trail again by oxcart in 1910, 1911 and 1912.

With a friend and an automobile donated by National, he expanded on his speaking tour. And he took time in the late teens to assist his son with construction of the first service station and campground complex in the Cajon Pass along the National Old Trails Road, predecessor to Route 66.

In 1924 he traveled by airplane to Dayton, Ohio for an event honoring pioneers. And in 1928, during a trip to Michigan where he was to meet Henry Ford and discuss a promotional campaign for the new Model A, Meeker fell ill. Henry Ford personally saw to his care.

Meeker recovered, and traveled home to Washington. Shortly after his return, he again took ill nad passed away shortly afterwards.

When I encounter issues with Facebook, a seemingly necessary evil, my thoughts turn to Mr. Meeker. I reflect on his ability to adapt, to even thrive, in changing times. That gives me a broader perspective, which in turn helps me think of new and creative ways to inspire road trips and to tell people where to go.

Facebook has become an integral component in marketing. But it is far from being a dependable promotional venue. Quite the opposite. The Jim Hinckley’s America page with nearly 8,000 followers has been locked since February 18. Countless hours have been spent on attempts to resolve the issue, and I have yet to receive a response. These were hours that could have been spent on telling people where to go. And now, the James Hinckley page on Facebook has been locked on several occassions. Fortunately I have been able to resolve this problem with minimal effort and expenditure of time.

Now, I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Hit me in the head with 2 x 4 and tell me it was an accident. Chances are that I will believe you. But around the fifth time, I start to get suspicious. Suffice to say, Facebook and I are about to part ways.

We become so dependant on a tool or something that we accept as a service, it becomes difficult to imagine life without it. But as I step back, and as I reflect on Mr. Meeker, I see alternatives. So, we are going to continue developing this website. As per Mr. Meeker, I will be pursuing interviews and speaking engagements. I will be taking the show on the road. And I will be tapping into other opportunities’ for sharing adventures and inspiring road trips such as our podcasts, Coffee With Jim and Car Talk From The Main Street of America. 

Enough time has been spent in frustration. Now it is time to see the issues with Facebook as an opportunity. It is time to find other means of sharing stories from my six decades on Route 66.



The Phoenix

The Phoenix

We are living through one of the most fascinating, most unnerving, most trans-formative periods the world has seen since at least WWII. To be honest I would rather be reading about it in history books rather than watching it unfold. I would like to skip to the end of this book or even wait for the movie. I would bet my bottom dollar that I am not the only one thinking these type of thoughts.

I can only imagine how the people living through the triple upset – WWI, the Spanish flu pandemic and the deep economic recession that followed on the heels of these two disasters – must have felt. For those folks, however, it was five tumultuous years that forever transformed the world. The current crisis that is still unfolding has changed the world in less than four months and nothing will ever be the same when we return to normal, whatever that may look like.

Since launching Jim Hinckley’s America my life has revolved around tourism (telling people where to go) and bringing history to life. This storm will pass but until then tourism is as extinct as the woolly mammoth. And after the storm passes, what will tourism be like? With this thought in mind I have been working to develop a short term and long term strategy for me as well as for some of my clients such as the City of Cuba. And I have also been working on developing as well as expanding current programs in a manner that provides maximum entertainment and inspirational value for fans, that gives sponsors and advertising partners the best return on their investment, and that provides support for the Route 66 community.

First there is 5 Minutes With Jimour weekly audio podcast that is made available every Sunday morning. We keep it simple and fun with a blending of history, trivia and travel tips. As an example on our first program for April, I tell the story of an amazing Old West shootout in Holbrook, Arizona, and give directions to the historic homestead associated with the incident. Previous programs told the story of the Cactus Derby, a race that featured the best racers of the day including Louis Chevrolet and Barney Oldfield. There have also been programs about my favorite places for pie on Route 66 (Grand Canyon Caverns and Victoria’s Sugar Shack to name two), infamous and overlooked murders, and automotive history.

Historic Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona is featured in a live stream program as part of the ‘walkabout” series. ©

On the crowdfunding site using the Patreon platform I have been sharing my autobiography in serial format as exclusive content. In light of the current Coronavirus induced economic situation this funding source is more important than ever as I am suspending fees charged to some advertising sponsors. I will continue to keep their name in front of people but if they are closed it just doesn’t seem right to be charging them. I have also discounted advertising packages by 50%, and am offering free listing for businesses with online stores across all platforms in the Jim Hinckley’s America network. And so to keep things going, to be able to support the Route 66 community and small businesses that are its life blood I am more dependent than ever on crowdfunding.

As so may people are in self quarantine and restricted on travel, I am providing short live stream programs on our Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page. This are being shot from various locations around Kingman, Arizona during my walkabouts. As I always say, shared adventures are the best adventures. A hearty thank you to the City of Cuba for their support of this project.

One project that I am quite excited about is the new Coffee With Jim program that is live streamed to our Facebook page on Saturday mornings from the offices of Jim Hinckley’s America. As book and movie reviews are a part of the weekly format, this will provide authors with a promotional platform. The fast paced half hour program features things like excerpts from the 1901 travel journal of Alexander Winton, travel related news and updates, product reviews and much, more. So, it also serves as a promotional platform for small businesses as well as communities that submit items for review or coupons. After the broadcast the video is added to our YouTube and Vimeo channels.

A 1914 guide to roads and highways in Arizona

I have also dramatically adjusted the format of the weekly newsletter that is published every Friday morning. This is offered free with registration through our Facebook page. It too features reviews, travel tips and news, and information on communities, events and new products.

The website is getting some much needed improvements as well. Much of the information will need to be upgraded or modified resultant of current travel restrictions and the economic climate.

Bottom line. Like everyone else in the world right now I am sailing into uncharted waters through an impenetrable fog. And like everyone else I am as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Still, the show must go on. And so I will continue using Jim Hinckley’s America as my platform for telling people where to go.



Take The Children To See The Fad Before It Passes

Take The Children To See The Fad Before It Passes

One of the overlooked chapters from the story about the dawning of the American auto industry is how it went from being a circus sideshow curiosity to multi-million dollar industry in less than two decades.

“Take the children to see the fad before it passes.” Even astute entrepreneurs with vision can be wrong when it comes to predicting the future. These words were spoken by Montgomery Ward, the pioneering department store tycoon, in 1896 when the circus came to town with promotional posters that gave a Duryea Motor Wagon top billing over the albino, bearded lady and dog boy. It was the dawn of a new era, a time of such dramatic transition that within 20 years every aspect of American society had been transformed.

Buffalo Bill Cody at the tiler of a 1903 Michigan. Photo Jim Hinckley collection.

Within seven years of Ward’s recommendation, shorty after the turn of the century, an automobile had been driven from coast to coast. David Buick, Henry Ford, Ransom E. Olds, and dozens of swashbuckling captains of industry were establishing automotive manufacturing empires worth tens of millions of dollars. By 1906 a steamer built by the Stanley brothers had been driven to nearly 150 miles per hour, a new record, on Ormond Beach in Florida. In 1909, 828,000 horse drawn vehicles and 125,000 automobiles rolled from American factories. Two decades later a mere 4,000 horse drawn vehicles were manufactured.

What fueled such a dramatic societal evolution? Marketing. Advertisement. Promotion. An advertisement for the 1900 Porter Stanhope featured a small lithograph type print of the car and a heading in bold print, The Only Perfect Automobile.” Several hundred words of descriptive prose followed. It was groundbreaking, after all in the May 1897 issue of Motorcycle,  editor Edward Goff said, “The manufacture of a motorcycle (or automobile) is in a position to take advantage of more free advertisement than any other industry.”

Digital Camera

As early as 1903, even though the automobile was still somewhat of a novelty, a tsunami of competition in the industry necessitated advertisement, marketing, and promotion if an automotive manufacturer was to survive. Enter Ernest Elmo Calkins, owner of an advertising agency that chose artistic standards that showcased cars in attention getting scenes rather than lengthy word pictures. Within a few years Calkins & Holden, with the luxury auto manufacturer Pierce Arrow as a primary client, had become the first company to exclusively develop automotive advertising campaigns.

As automotive technologies were being advanced with stunning speed, it was appropriate that the next stage in advertising and marketing would utilize something new as well as exciting. Cadwallader Washburn Kelsey, Cal to his friends, launched his career in automotive marketing with Maxwell-Briscoe. His promotional stunts were worthy of P.T. Barnum. Then in 1907 he contracted with Lubin Film Studios, a pioneering cinematography company that specialized in the making of nickelodeon films for theaters in the northeast, to film his stunts. The automotive commercial was born.

Automobile manufacturers sold dreams made manifest in steel and glass. Automobile marketing companies simply sold the dream. They transformed the automobile from sideshow curiosity to necessity. They replaced the horse by instilling a hunger for horsepower. The art of selling the sizzle rather the steak, that is the fuel that drove the evolution transformed America, and the world.