Fisher launched highway idea 96 years ago today

On September 10, 1912, Carl Fisher invited auto industry leaders to dinner at Das Deutsche Haus (“The German House,” a community center now called the Athenæum) in Indianapolis to announce his idea for a “coast-to-coast rock highway.” His call to action: “Let’s do it before we’re too old to enjoy it!” It wasn’t the first proposed cross-country highway, nor the first to invoke Lincoln’s name, but as the Lincoln Highway it would become the best-known transcontinental trail.

Carl Fisher. Courtesy University of Michigan, Special Collections Library.

A year later, Fisher was returning from the Conference of Governors in Colorado with LHA president Henry Joy and v-p Arthur Pardington. On the train ride home, they drafted the Proclamation of the Route of the Lincoln Highway that was published September 14. Nonetheless, September 10, 1913, has somehow become an urban legend that web sites incorrectly cite as the “opening” of the Lincoln Highway. The US Census Bureau has gone as far as posting the error in print and audio:
http://www.census.gov/pubinfo/www/broadcast/radio/profile_america/012539.html

There are many dates associated with the establishment of the LH but “opening” is not a term that captures the essence of the road’s genesis as a connection and improvement of existing routes (nor is “completed”).

Interestingly, 20 years to the day after Fisher’s call for action (September 10, 1932), the Westinghouse Bridge above Turtle Creek east of Pittsburgh was dedicated, rerouting US 30 to the massive concrete span and emblematic of the great volume of traffic that the LH had brought to the valley below.

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