Posts Tagged ‘Packard’

Iowa Gumbo Snared Lincoln Highway Travelers

January 16, 2018


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.”


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.”


Lincoln Highway talks will cover NY-to-SF travel

February 15, 2011

Two Lincoln Highway talks are planned this week. Bonnie Heimbach, project director of the Lincoln Highway Coalition, will speak at Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society’s Brown Bag Luncheon from noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011 (at the Water Works Building, 622 Park Ave., Genoa) about the transcontinental road and its impact on Illinois. The luncheon also will feature the LHC’s traveling exhibit of the Lincoln Highway. There is no charge to attend, but donations are welcome. For more information, call (815) 784-5559.

Above, the offical LHA Packard visits the. MacMahon memorial brick pillar near Crestline, Ohio. Courtesy Univ. of Michigan, Special Collections Library.

On Saturday, February 19, Bob Lichty, Past President of the Lincoln Highway Association and former board member of Ohio’s Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, will discuss the Lincoln Highway at The National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio, northwest of Youngstown. His talk will include a brief history of the road, recollections of the 2003 Cross Country tour, and a preview of the LHA centennial tours in 2013.

The presentation, from 11 a.m. to noon, is part of the museum’s Coffee and Donut Seminar Series that coincides with its 1th Annual Antique Motorcycle exhibit, “Motorcycles on Main Street,” which feature a collection of more than 30 significant two wheel machines. They are on display through May 29 alongside 25 beautiful Packard automobiles and memorabilia from the museum’s outstanding collection.

The educational seminars are free and open to the public but you must pre-register. For more information or to registar call the museum at (330) 394-1899.