Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 6, smoky Pittsburgh

June 7, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Continuing our look at Beatrice Massey’s memoir of a cross-country trip, It Might Have Been Worse:

“We had come 442 miles, from New York to Pittsburgh, over fine roads and through beautiful country. Approaching Pittsburgh, we came in on a boulevard overlooking the river and ‘valley of smoke.’ Great stacks were belching out soot and smoke, obliterating the city and even the sky and sun. They may have a smoke ordinance, but no one has ever heard of it. We arrived at the William Penn Hotel, in the heart of the business center of the city, a first-class, fine hotel in every regard. We found the prices reasonable for the excellent service afforded, which was equal to that of any New York hotel. The dining-room, on the top of the house, was filled with well-dressed people, and we were glad that we had unpacked our dinner clothes, and appeared less like the usual tourist, in suits and blouses.

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Downtown Pittsburgh in 1919. [University of Pittsburgh, City Photographer Collection, 715.1924A.CP.]

“It was frightfully hot during our two days’ stay. You go out to drive feeling clean and immaculate, and come in with smuts and soot on your face and clothes, looking like a foundry hand. The office buildings are magnificent, and out a bit in the parks and boulevards the homes are attractive, and many are very handsome, especially in Sewickley. But aside from the dirty atmosphere one is impressed mostly by the evidences of the outlay of immense wealth. An enthusiastic brother living there took us through a number of the business blocks, and told us of the millions each cost and the almost unbelievable amount of business carried on. I can only describe Pittsburgh as the proudest city I’ve visited. Not so much of the actual wealth represented, but of what the billions had accomplished in great industries.

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Mills lined Pittsburgh’s rivers in 1919. Photo by Hugh C. Torrance. [Carnegie Museum of Art, 83.21.25.]

“We went out in the evening and stood on one of the bridges to look over the river lined with monster furnaces. The air was filled with sparks, jets of flame bursting through the smoke. All you could think of was Dante’s Inferno visualized. And what of the men who spend their lives in that lurid atmosphere, never knowing if the sun shone, nor what clean, pure air was like in their working hours ? I shall never look at a steel structure again without giving more credit to the men who spend their waking hours in those hells of heat and smoke than to the men whose millions have made it possible.”

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Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 5, yes, tarvia

June 5, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

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A 1920s postcard of Reel’s Corners, Pa., (now US 30 and PA 160), part of the famed “Seven Mile Stretch” on the Lincoln Highway east of Stoystown.

Onward through Western Pennsylvania with Beatrice Massey in her new Packard:

“It was with regret that we left the next morning for Pittsburgh. The day was clear and cool and the best part of the Lincoln Highway was before us; in fact, the first real thrill so far, and one of the high spots of the trip. This was a stretch of seven and a half miles of tarvia road on the top ridge of the Alleghany Mountains, as smooth as marble, as straight as the bee flies, looking like a strip of satin ribbon as far as the eye could see. On both sides were deep ravines,well wooded,and valleys green with abundant crops, and still higher mountains rising in a haze of blue and purple coloring, making a picture that would never be forgotten. The top was down and we stopped the car again and again, to drink it in, and, as one of us remarked, ‘We may see more grand and rugged scenery later on, but we shall not see anything more beautiful than this’ — and it proved true.”

Driving the Lincoln in 1919 ~ part 4, Bedford PA

June 4, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Beatrice Larned Massey, her husband, and their two friends had stopped in Harrisburg, Pa., then headed to Chambersburg, where they joined the Lincoln Highway. Now they pointed their new Packard twin-six touring car towards Bedford:

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Unidentified tourists along the Juniata River east of Bedford, Pa. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc2371.]

“Our third day was still a drizzle; we would no sooner have the top down than we would have to put it up again, and often the side curtains as well. Our objective point was the charmingly quaint town of Bedford, and the Bedford Arms. This part of Pennsylvania was more beautiful than what we had been through, and every mile of the day’s run was a pleasure.

“I have not spoken of our lunches, a most important item by one o’clock. We had brought a small English hamper, fitted with the usual porcelain dishes, cutlery, tin boxes, etc., for four people, and unless we were positive that a good place to eat was midway on the road, we prepared a lunch, or had the hotel put one up for us. This latter plan proved both expensive and unsatisfactory. Usually Toodles was sent foraging to the delicatessen shops for fresh rolls, cold meats and sandwiches, eggs, fruit, tomatoes, and bakery dainties, and the hotel filled our thermos bottles with hot coffee. We carried salt and pepper, mustard, sweet and sour pickles, or a relish, orange marmalade, or a fruit jam, in the hamper, and beyond that we took no staple supplies on the whole trip. We met so many people who carried with them a whole grocery-store, even to sacks of flour, that you would imagine there was not a place to get food from the Atlantic to the Pacific….

“We have been told so often that one has to develop an ‘open-air’ spirit to really enjoy a long motor trip! Quite true! I can’t imagine what the fun can be of touring in a closed limousine, and yet we have met that particularly exclusive party more than once. On the whole, an absence of flies, ants, mosquitoes, and sand and dust in one’s bed and food does not detract from the pleasure of the trip. It may be all right to endure such annoyances for a few days in the woods, to fish or hunt but weeks and more weeks of it….!

“But I have digressed, and left you at the Bedford Arms, one of the most artistic, attractive inns that we found. The little touches showed a woman’s hand. Flowers everywhere, dainty cretonnes, willow furniture, and pretty, fine china; in appearance, courtesy, and efficiency, the maids in the dining room might have come from a private dwelling.

“Will someone tell me why there are not more such charming places to stop at on our much-traveled main highways. Why must hotel men buy all the heavy, hideous furniture, the everlasting red or green carpets and impossible wall-paper, to make night hideous for their guests—to say nothing of the pictures on their walls? It is a wonder one can sleep.

“There is much of interest to see in Bedford—really old, artistic houses, not spoiled by modern gewgaws, set in lovely gardens of old-fashioned flowers, neatly trimmed hedges, and red brick walks. There were few early Victorian eyesores to mar the general beauty of the town. As we were walking down the main street about sunset, we heard a great chattering and chirping, as if a thousand birds were holding a jubilee. Looking up, we found, on a projecting balcony running along the front of all the buildings for two blocks, hundreds of martins discussing the League of Nations and Peace Treaty quite as vigorously as were their senatorial friends in Washington. They were fluttering about and making a very pretty picture. It sounded like the bird market in Paris on a Sunday morning, which, in passing, is an interesting sight that few tourists ever see.”

Driving the Lincoln in 1919 ~ part 3: good roads

May 23, 2018

Beatrice wrote that they followed the Lincoln Highway to Pittsburgh — making it sound like they’d been on it since NYC —  but they didn’t pick up the LH until Chambersburg, Pa., on the way to their third overnight stop in Bedford, Pa.

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“One of the all-absorbing pleasures in contemplating a long trip is to map out your route. You hear how all your friends have gone, or their friends, then you load up with maps and folders, especially those published by all the auto firms and tire companies, you pore over the Blue Book of the current year, and generally end by going the way you want to go, through the cities where you have friends or special interests. This is exactly what we did.

“As the trip was to be taken in mid-summer, we concluded to take a northern route from Chicago, via Milwaukee, St. Paul, Fargo, Billings, Yellowstone Park, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Reno, Sacramento, to San Francisco (see map), and, strange to relate, we followed out the tour as we had planned it. With the exception of a few hot days in the larger cities and on the plains, and, of course, in the desert, we justified our decision. As I have stated, we drove 4154 miles, through sixteen states and the Yellowstone Park, in thirty-three running days, and the trip took just seven weeks to the day, including seventeen days spent in various cities, where we rested and enjoyed the sights….

“We followed the Lincoln Highway to Pittsburgh, and have only praise to offer for the condition of the road and the beauty of the small towns through which we went. Of all the states that we crossed, Pennsylvania stands out par excellence in good roads, clean, attractive towns, beautiful farming country and fruit belts, and well-built, up-to-date farm buildings. In other states we found many such farms, but in Pennsylvania it was exceptional to find a poor, tumble-down farmhouse or barn. The whole state had an air of thrift and prosperity, and every little home was surrounded by fine trees, flowers, and a well-kept vegetable garden.

“Our objective point was the charmingly quaint town of Bedford, and the Bedford Arms. This part of Pennsylvania was more beautiful than what we had been through, and every mile of the day’s run was a pleasure.”

 

Driving the Lincoln in 1919 ~ part 2: depart NYC

May 16, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

When Beatrice Massey and her husband decided to set out for the West Coast in 1919, they invited two friends to join them in their Packard.

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The 42nd Street dock in New York City. This photo, taken five years later in 1924, shows LHA Field Secretary Gael Hoag with the group’s official Packard. [University of Michigan–Special Collections Library, lhc2893.]

“We picked them up at the Seymour Hotel in New York City, at three o’clock, Saturday, July 19th, and started for the Forty-Second-Street ferry in a pouring rain, as jolly and happy a quartette as the weather would permit. Our guests were a retired physician, whom we shall speak of as the Doctor, and his charming, somewhat younger wife, who, although possessing the perfectly good name of Helen, was promptly dubbed ‘Toodles’ for no reason in the world….

“It had rained steadily for three days before we started and it poured torrents for three  days after; but that was to be expected, and the New Jersey and Pennsylvania roads were none the worse, and the freedom from dust was a boon. We chose for the slogan of our trip, ‘It might have been worse.’ The Doctor had an endless fund of good stories, of two classes, ‘table and stable stories,’ and I regret to say that this apt slogan was taken from  one of his choicest stable stories, and quite unfit for publication. However, it did fit our party in its optimism and cheery atmosphere.

“With a last look at the wonderful sky-line of the city, and the hum and whirl of the great throbbing metropolis, lessening in the swirl of the Hudson River, we really were started;  with our faces turned to the setting sun, and the vast, wonderful West before us.”

* From Beatrice Massey’s book, It Might Have Been Worse: A Motor Trip from Coast to Coast, 1920.

Driving the Lincoln Highway in 1919 ~ part 1

May 8, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

I love early automobile memoirs for capturing the feel of travel a century ago. It was common for wealthy Easterners in the 1910s to take their new play-toys across the country, then detail the experience in print (and just as often returning the car and themselves back east by rail). Of course, these travelers often packed up their elite mindsets (along with silver tea sets) but after a few days on the road, they found it would not be all smooth highways and fancy hotels, and instead were forced to fix flats and camp by the side of the road.

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In 1916, Emily Post (not yet known as an expert on etiquette) wrote a book about her travels, By Motor to the Golden Gate. This inspired Beatrice Larned Massey to follow in her tire tracks, so to speak.

“I was fired by a desire to make a similar tour,” she wrote, but World War I delayed her for three years. “Then the ‘motor fever’ came on again…. After talking and planning for three years, we actually decided to go in ten minutes — and in ten days we were off.”

She captured her adventures from New York to San Francisco in her own book, It Might Have Been Worse: A Motor Trip from Coast to Coast, published in 1920. Most of her trip was not along the Lincoln Highway, though she followed much of the route through Pennsylvania, plus all of the trip gives wonderful insight into early auto travel.

Let’s get her started:

“All the necessary arrangements were quickly made; leasing our home, storing our household goods, closing up business matters, getting our equipment and having the car thoroughly looked over, and all the pleasant but unnecessary duties occupied the last few days. Why will people write so many letters and say so many good-bys, when a more or less efficient mail and telegraph service circles our continent? But it is the custom, and all your friends expect it — like sending Easter and Christmas cards by the hundreds. We are victims of a well-prescribed custom.

“It is always of interest to me to know the make of car that a friend (or stranger) is driving; so let me say, without any desire to advertise the Packard, that we had a new twin-six touring car, of which I shall speak later on. I believe in giving just tribute to any car that will come out whole and in excellent condition, without any engine troubles or having to be repaired, after a trip of 4154 miles over plains and mountains, through ditches, ruts, sand, and mud, fording streams and two days of desert-going. And let me add that my husband and I drove every mile of the way. It is needless to say that the car was not overstrained or abused, and was given every care on the trip. In each large city the Packard service station greased and oiled the car, turned down the grease-cups, examined the brakes and steering-gear, and started us off in ‘apple-pie’ order, with a feeling on our parts of security and satisfaction.

“The subject of car equipment, tires, clothes, and luggage will take a chapter by itself. But let me say that we profited in all these regards by the experience and valuable suggestions of Mrs. Post in her book.

“When we first spoke to our friends of making this trip, it created as little surprise or comment as if we had said, ‘We are going to tour the Berkshires.’ The motor mind has so grown and changed in a few years. Nearly everyone had some valuable suggestion to make, but one only which we accepted and profited by. Every last friend and relative that we had offered to go in some capacity — private secretaries, chauffeurs, valets, maids, and traveling companions. But our conscience smote us when we looked at that tonneau, the size of a small boat, empty, save for our luggage, which, let me add with infinite pride and satisfaction, was not on the running-boards, nor strapped to the back. From the exterior appearance of the car we might have been shopping on Fifth Avenue.”

* to be continued….

 

Iowa Gumbo Snared Lincoln Highway Travelers

January 16, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Early motorists writing of cross-country journeys had little to say east of the Mississippi; once on Iowa’s dirt roads, they couldn’t stop. Iowa was notorious for “gumbo” mud, a result of the land between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers once having been submerged. Superb for crops, that same rich soil stymied cars when wet.

Making matters worse, Iowa’s roads were improved at the county level, where voters preferred minor overall improvements over diverting more funds to the Lincoln Highway. LHA president Henry Joy took the state legislature to task in a scathing article for Collier’s in 1916: “Not a wheel turns outside the paved streets of her cities during or for sometime after the frequent heavy rains…. Millions of dollars worth of wheeled vehicles become, for the time being, worthless.”

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Henry Joy in gumbo near La Mouille, Iowa, June 1915. [UM 1964]

That article followed a 1915 trip that Joy made with LHA secretary Austin Bement and Packard mechanic Ernie Eisenhut in a new Packard 1-35 Twin Six, the first 12-cylinder production car. His photo album, with hundreds of snapshots from the muddy 2,885-mile journey, can be found at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Library. The captions themselves are often entertaining:

“Nearing Tama, Iowa, our rear wheels threw gumbo higher than the telephone poles.”

“The natives took reserved seats to watch us work their roads.”

“Three hours were spent in this mud hole near Tama.”

“Four hours were needed to dislodge us from the Lincoln Highway east of Marshaltown.”

“He pulled us out for $3.00 and a drink of whiskey.”

In By Motor to the Golden Gate (1916), future etiquette writer Emily Post wrote, “Illinois mud is slippery and slyly eager to push unstable tourists into the ditch, but in Iowa it lurks in unfathomable treachery, loath to let anything ever get out again that once ventures into it. Our progress through it became hideously like that of a fly crawling through yellow flypaper…. Our wheels, even with chains on, had no more hold than revolving cakes of soap might have on slanting wet marble.”

By 1920, with more than 430,000 registered vehicles, Iowa still had only 25 miles of paved roads outside of cities. The 1924 LHA guide warned, “It is folly to try to drive on Iowa dirt roads, during or immediately after a heavy rain.”

Dry spells brought horrible clouds of dust but it was the gumbo that was forever remembered. George Schuster said it best in his recollection of Ogden, Iowa, during the 1908 New York–to–Paris race: “It rained all day, the mud is nearly hub deep. We slid from one side of the road to the other. We covered more miles sidewise than ahead.”

Utah’s Carl Fisher Monument

January 9, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

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The Carl Fisher Monument, dedicated in 2009, was spearheaded for 10 years by Rollin Southwell. It is on SR 199, mp 12, along Fisher Pass, which was part of a plan by the LHA to shorten its route across the Great Salt Lake Desert. Rollin passed away in 2013 but had sent me notes about the project:

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“Carl Fisher’s donation to the State of Utah was the first of a series from automobile manufacturers to improve the roads in Utah and Nevada. Tooele County has more miles of the Lincoln Highway than any other county along the route. It will now be home to the only monument to Fisher, creator of the Lincoln Highway. There are four major parts to the monument:
* The rock was one of the rocks moved in the Devil’s Gate Narrows to make the pass suitable for autos in the construction phase of the Fisher Pass.
* The monument itself tells the story of Carl Fisher’s money, the Lincoln Highway Association, and the State of Utah.
* The beacon represents the Lighthouse that was to be built on the north side of Granite Peak as a guide for tourists across the Great Salt Desert, and was to have used gas from Prest-O-Lite, a company once owned by Fisher.
* The concrete marker recalls the building of the final section, the end of the Goodyear cutoff, and Fisher Pass as part of the Lincoln Highway.”

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Lincoln Highway ~ A Re-Introduction

January 7, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

In the years since my LH books were published, interest in the famous cross-county road has blossomed thanks to the Internet, especially Facebook. But it seems that history of the road, so talked about a decade ago, has once again faded. Heck, the early years of the new Lincoln Highway Association, now itself a quarter-century old, is being forgotten too

Facebook became a better, faster way to share LH info and images, but maybe it’s time to return with some stories that need a bit more explaining. For example, one favorite abandoned stretch of LH hidden in the woods of central PA deserves more than just a photo and caption. This blog is the perfect place for sharing that story.

For now, let’s start with some basic LH history. Here’s the first page of Introduction to my book, Greetings from the Lincoln Highway. It’s gone out of print so hard copies can be hard to find, but we can share it here ~ enjoy.

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Nebraska’s 1733 Ranch in 1915

November 1, 2016

A century ago, Lincoln Highway tourists crossing Nebraska often stopped five miles west of Kearney for a photo at the 1733 Ranch. Its sign “1733 miles to Frisco, 1733 miles to Boston” was iconic … except that both mileages were wrong and the Lincoln Highway never went to Boston.

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The 1915 LHA guidebook lists Kearney as 1752 miles from San Francisco and 1632 miles from New York City. So why 1733, and how did Kearney come to promote itself as the “Midway City”?

History professor John T. Bauer wrote in the Summer 2015 issue of Nebraska History that the 1733 mileage is derived from the railroad route between the two, which the city embraced as early as 1890.

When the LHA movie caravan crossed the country in 1915 to produce a promotion film, hundreds of photos were taken by Edward Holden, secretary to LHA vice president and field secretary Henry C. Ostermann. The above photo then leads to an interesting question; the  1733 Ranch name has long been said to stem from new owners in 1917, but this 1915 photo indicates otherwise.

The modern LHA now sells a CD with 300 of Holden’s photos at the Lincoln Highway Trading Post.

The ranch itself is long gone—only the 1733 Estates remind us of that long-ago era.