The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


October 25, 2013

Herrity History: Lincoln Highway and Eisenhower

People have been traveling across America since Lewis and Clark. First pioneer trails and then muddy roads, followed by the initial paving and now super highways.

The Lincoln Highway, now U.S. 30 wandered through 14 states and stretched from Times Square to Lincoln Park in San Francisco — more than 3,300 miles. It is now 100 years since Carl Fisher first envisioned this wonderful thought of joining all of America by automobile.

The first seedling mile of many was built in Malta, Ill., in 1914 and it was these little samples portending what was to come that impressed a young, handsome, Army Officer, Dwight Eisenhower, the most. Much of his life revolved around logistics and moving trucks, and men around for war.

He was also impressed by the German autobahns in Europe which he saw during World War I.

WWI was another catalyst in the development of highways. Dwight Eisenhower was a young officer who worked on the highway concept as one of his duties which, undoubtedly, kept him thinking about highways.

In the 1950s, President Eisenhower was instrumental in building the newer, more modern system — the Interstate Highway System — and our own Interstate 80 is part of it. Ironically, Interstate 80 took much traffic from the Lincoln Highway, AKA U.S. 30.

The Lincoln Highway helped open up America in many ways. Average people joined the wealthy and toured the country. It was relatively easy. It even helped civil rights.

Blacks moved from the South and they too wanted to travel. “The Negro Traveler’s Green Book” showed where minority motorists could stay.

Twin Oaks, 4 miles east of Fulton, was one of those motor courts, like the one in the classic 1935 movie, “It Happened One Night” with Claudette Colbert and Clark Garble. These were the precursors of motels and American Blacks often stayed in these, even before the 1964 Civil Rights law.

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