The Lost Highway: The Tale of the Lincoln Highway, America’s First Cross Country Road

THE FIRST PODCAST  In 1900, there were about 8,000 registered automobiles in the United States. They were a genuine novelty. Those that attempted to go on ‘road trips’ met with a frustrating reality — there were no drivable roads, no unified road maps, no nation-wide infrastructure of gas stations or amenities. The first automobiles to attempt cross-country travel were essentially UFOs streaking through a sparsely populated and isolated America.

This is the story of how that all changed. This is the story of the Lincoln Highway, the first cross-country road in the Untied States, linking Times Square in Manhattan with Lincoln Park in San Francisco via a patchwork of pre-existing roads in twelve states.

The Lincoln Highway was developed by automotive executives who wanted to use the cross-country road to promote automobile sales. It accomplished more than that; the Lincoln Highway invented the pleasures and eccentricities of American road travel.

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A 1916 route map for the Lincoln Highway:

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  • bjmack

    Great article. I’ve travelled dozens of times, NYC-California and never ceases to amaze me how smooth and fast the journey is. Must have been amazing doing this in the early 1900’s. Thanks much!!

  • GardenStater

    I first read of the Lincoln Highway when I was a high school student and read “Earth Abides.” The main character (the only person left alive after some kind of plague) travels from San Francisco to New York City via the Lincoln Highway. It’s one of my goals to drive the full length of it one day.

  • barrypopik

    I have a seven-year-old article on this on my “Big Apple” website. Lincoln Highway was called “America’s Main Street” in 1919 and “Main Street Across America” in 1971.

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