We’ve mentioned the recreation of Alice Ramsey’s cross country trip set for 2009, but readers can relive the original journey courtesy of author and researcher Gregory Franzwa. Alice recounted her adventures 54 years after her 1909 trip in Veil, Duster, and Tire Iron—problem is, it’s extremely hard to find a copy of that book. Franzwa has not only republished the original text but done us all the favor of unearthing where her travels literally took her, from roads to hotels to restaurants. Much of her route (well, west of Ligonier, Indiana) would become the Lincoln Highway four years later.
Alice Ramsey’s story was once well-known: on June 9, 1909, she and three female companions set off from NYC in a new, dark green Maxwell DA. She reached the Pacific 59 days later, becoming the first woman to drive coast-to-coast. The text and illustrations from her 1963 book are here along with 108 new endnotes that add lots of info as to the route and stops.
But the endnotes, following each chapter, are just part of the amazing supplemental material that’s been added. Almost half of Franzwa’s book consists of Chasing Alice, a conversational guide retracing the author’s research journeys. Filled with vintage ads, photos, and modern maps and pictures, the reader tags along as Franzwa tries to find remnants of the original trip. Along the way, fellow researchers, librarians, web sites, and friends help out, like Van and Bev Becker, who combed Mechanicsville, Iowa, for clues to Alice’s overnight stop there. Not only did they locate the buildings that housed the hotel, the livery stable, and the restaurant, but they dug up the hotel’s gold-embossed registers listing the four women travelers, their rooms, and even the time of their wake-up call!
The book ends with a preview of the work being done by Richard Anderson to rebuild a 1909 Maxwell DA and recreate the trip on its centennial. All parts of the book will have you yearning for the open road.
Alice’s Drive: Republishing Veil, Duster, and Tire Iron
by Alice Ramsey, Annotation and “Chasing Alice” by Gregory M. Franzwa
Patrice Press, 265 pp, 161 illustrations, 108 notes, index, softcover