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Chapter: Mr. Lincoln's Highway

According to Michael Wallis in this chapter, before Abraham Lincoln was president or even a lawyer, he became a self-trained surveyor for Sangamon County in Illinois. This means that he gathered information about the land and property. People used that kind of information to plan their projects, such as roads. For one project, he earned $28.75 for surveying 27 miles of land and road north of Springfield that went through the town of New Salem where he lived.

After he became a lawyer, he remained tied to the land and roads and he often helped people fight to keep their property. Although Lincoln believed that roads should be improved, with statements such as, “The poorest and most thinly populated countries would be greatly benefited by the opening of good roads, and in the clearing of navigable streams,” when others wanted to straighten out roads, they often infringed on the rights of landowners. Lincoln helped people relocate county roads around where people lived so they could keep their own private property.

Decades later, a man named Carl G. Fisher came up with the idea of having a road that went from the eastern side of the United States to the western. He called this proposed road, “The Coast to Coast Rock Highway” on September 12, 1912. Another man, Henry B. Joy who was the president of the Packard Motor Car Company had another idea later that year. He thought this proposed road should be a memorial to Abraham Lincoln. With that idea by Joy, on July 1, 1913 the Lincoln Highway Association formed with the purpose of planning a road going from coast to coast. It did not take these men long to develop a route and by October 31, 1913 cities along the route celebrated with hundreds of parades, celebrations, and dances.

In this chapter, Wallis includes a reference found in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette newspaper from Sunday, July 11, 1915 in which a map included the description, “The Costliest Memorial Ever Planned: The Great Lincoln Highway.”


Discussion Question:

Of all of the people in the United States, what are some reasons why automakers would choose Abraham Lincoln to honor?

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