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Adrian Neil tells of Lincoln Highway

SPECIAL SERIES - Tama's Lincoln Highway Bridge Festival - May 14 & 15

May 6, 2010
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald
Dear Editor:

The articles you have printed in your paper regarding the Lincoln Highway have been very interesting. I was born and grew up in Tama and am well acquainted with the Highway and the bridge in the East part of town.

I have always been interested in history and have read a lot about how our country started and grew. I knew that our son and daughter and grandchildren would not read the books that I have read. This prompted me to write an article about the unusual things in our history that most people are unaware of. These facts are not taught in our schools.

A part of the article that I wrote tells some interesting information about the Lincoln Highway and how it came to be.

Jack McClure of Tama is my wife’s brother and he and his wife save The Tama News Herald and when we get together we get a bundle of your paper. They are very interesting even though they are months and months old.

I am sending you the part of my article that tells what I have found from my reading about the Lincoln Highway. I think you will find it interesting.

Also enclosed is a list of the books that were used as reference for the article that I wrote.

My wife is the former Bette McClure of Tama. We both graduated from Tama High School in 1941.

Adrian M. Neil

Wildwood, Fla.

Editor’s Note:

Part I of Mr. Neil’s article follows:

Lincoln Highway origins

By Adrian M. Neil

At the start of the twentieth century there was no organized network of connected roads in any state of the union. In the rural areas as late as 1907 there was not a single mile of paved road.

In 1909 the United States produced over 100,000 cars and Carl G. Fisher, a former race car driver and automobile dealer, built the Indianapolis Speedway. This great race track was paved with brick which helped to call attention to the terrible condition of the nations roads.

Fisher had a seemingly limitless amount of energy and when he set out to do something he kept at it until it was finished. He was determined to do something about the deplorable condition of the roads in the United States.

September 6, 1912 Fisher invited some of his friends and colleagues in the motor trade to dinner to explain his idea for a “road across America”.

At the time this seemed like a pretty far fetched idea, but in years to come this road that he envisioned became the “Lincoln Highway” and was the most famous highway in the world. It ran from New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.

During the next several years many of the motor car manufacturers sent one or more of their cars on trips across the country as advertising to show the durability of their machines. Packard sent a car on this journey every year and gained a lot of publicity for their car.

Fisher’s original name for this great highway was the “Coast-to-Coast Rock Highway”. He imagined it would be graded and graveled the entire length and picked a number out of the air $10 million to be the cost. He also invited the automobile industry to put up the money to build it. His plan called for the companies to pledge one third of one percent of their gross revenue to a highway fund. The money was not to be paid in until at least $10 million had been pledged.

Frank Seiberling, President of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. pledged $300,000.00 immediately. Roy Chapin, President of Hudson Motor Car Co., pledged and the management of Willy-Overland which ranked second in sales to Ford also pledged immediately.

At this time Henry Ford had 118,000 Model T’s on the streets and dirt tracks of America and was making about three quarters of the cars made in the United States.

Since the Ford Motor Company had not pledged anything for building the highway Fisher went to the Ford factory to see Mr. Ford and was told that he was at the Michigan State Fair. When Fisher finally located Ford, he found him leaning on the top rail of the fence surrounding the pigpens looking at the pigs.

Fisher convinced Ford that this highway project was good for everyone and Ford told him to come to his office the next morning.

When Fisher arrived at Ford’s office the next morning Mr. Ford’s secretary brushed him off. Mr. Ford had changed his mind.

Then Fisher tried everything to get Henry Ford to reconsider. He got Thomas Edison and James Couzens and even Vice President of the United States, Charles W. Fairbanks, to write letters to Ford to urge him to back this project.

Henry Ford never gave in but Edsel Ford later personally contributed quite a lot to the project.


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