The Lincoln Highway was dedicated on October 31, 1913 — 100 years ago tonight. Bonfires, parades, concerts, and speeches were held all along the coast-to-coast route on Halloween.
West of Chambersburg, Pa., Shatzer’s Fruit Market (2197 Lincoln Way West) has been serving the public since 1933. Outside is one of the decorated fiberglass pumps sponsored by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor along with one of LHHC’s interpretive panels. ~ Photo by Brian Butko, October 2007.
Have you wondered if there was any significance, or is the date a coincidence? Most likely, the LHA’s directors chose it knowing it was a time for public celebrations. The U.S. was just beginning to celebrate Halloween in 1913 but there was a centuries-old tradition of bonfires, parades, and dressing up on All Hallows’ Eve that recent immigrants had brought here. LHA leaders were masters at harnessing public relations, and what better date to choose for fanciful nighttime celebrations than the one day a year that such activities already took place?
The San Francisco Chronicle (October 26, 1913) reported, “It is the idea of the boosters of the transcontinental motorway that the dedication be a sort of spontaneous expression of gratification and it has been left to each city and town along the route of the proposed highway to devise and carry out its own plan of celebration.”
On the 31st, the Chronicle added, “The exercises will be a fitting Halloween celebration, but overshadowing all the goblins and ghosts of the evening there will be the spirit of the great national boulevard.”
In the dedication proclamation from Wyoming, Governor Joseph Carey stated, “It is thought especially fitting that on the evening of October 31st there should be an old-time jollification to include bonfires and general rejoicing; this for the purpose of impressing upon the people and especially the younger generation-the services and unselfish life of Lincoln, and for the further purpose of painting a big picture so far as amusements are concerned of the highway which is to cross our state.”
Some of that wording likely came from an LHA press release, as an article in the November 1 Salt Lake Tribune noted it had been “the request of the directors of the Lincoln Highway to make October 31 an evening of general rejoicing.”
And so the Lincoln Highway was dedicated that night 100 years ago in a spirit of pride and optimism. May we do the same for the coming century.