The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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October 25, 2013

Herrity History: Lincoln Highway and Eisenhower


Eisenhower’s convoy traveled America in 1919, and later In 1920, there was a huge celebration — at which local attorney Frank Ellis spoke, and a large permanent marker was dedicated at the corner of highways 30 and 67. The elegant man in the white Panama suit pictured in the last chapter was Frank Ellis, notable Clinton attorney who built two beautiful mansions in Clinton (one survives at 960 N. Fourth St.) and he built his invalid daughter a gorgeous, full-sized play house next to the mansion on Sixth Avenue South and he also brought the first set of golf clubs to Clinton in 1898. He was still a vibrant leader giving the speech in that 1920 picture.

By Sept. 1, 1928, much of the highway was completed and there was a grand opening and on that day Boy Scouts erected nearly all of the 3,000 cement markers. Founder Carl Fisher’s crazy idea had reached fruition in just a dozen years. Iowa and the Midwest’s gumbo dirt roads had been conquered in what many had called an “impossible dream.”

Everyone got behind this concept. Roads were imperative for the great new invention of the 20th Century — the automoblle. People wanted to see America, which was almost a finished product of geography at that time.

In addition, tire companies, cement factories, businessmen and every American wanted this project to succeed. Local governments had to contribute by preparing the roadbed while the government paid for the highway itself. A Mason City company donated 3,000 barrels of cement worth $6,800.

In 1919, Henry Ostermann, a Lincoln Highway promoter, liked to travel the unpaved Lincoln Highway in his Packard touring car and traversed it some 30 times. The speed limit for trucks was 18 mph at that time. He was a 43-year-old man of adventure who married in 1920 and was killed that year while driving 50 mph on a good section of road.

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