Postcard Scenes of the Lincoln Highway
The Closest You'll Get to the Way It Was
By George Clark
Postcards from George Clark
The Lincoln Highway motorist was offered a choice of bridges when crossing the Mississippi River. The postcard seen here is the "north" bridge. The advertisement of the Lyons and Fulton Bridge Company in the 1924 Guide (p. 332) depicts their bridge as the "Official Crossing." The caption on the reverse side of the card states, "the only bridge in the Mid-west illuminated with sodium vapor lights".
The "south" bridge (not shown here) is mentioned in the 1916 Guide and it states that the "Lincoln Highway markers will direct tourists to the approaches of both bridges on the Iowa and Illinois sides". Also, in an advertisement in the 1924 Guide (p. 336), the operators of the "south" bridge, the Clinton-Illinois Bridge Company, exhorts the motorist to use this bridge inasmuch "as it is the shortest and quickest route to Clinton, Iowa. No speed cops patrol this stretch as is the case with the other route...."
This postcard of the Lafayette Hotel in Clinton, Iowa was discovered in a postcard specialty shop in Cheshire, Connecticut. Looking only for captions containing the words "Lincoln Highway," it wasn't until after George returned home did he examine it more thoroughly and discovered the Lincoln Highway sign prominently posted on the corner of this intersection. The Lafayette Hotel was the Control for the Lincoln Highway motorist in Clinton. Advertisements for the Lafayette can be found in the 1916 and 1924 Guides. In 1916, room rates ranged from $2.50 to $4.00. Sometime prior to 1924, new management took over and daily rates were quoted at $3.00 to $5.00. It seems that present day takeovers are following the same price-increase philosophy.
There is no mention of this famous institution in either the 1916 or 1924 Guide. The caption on the reverse states, "Site of Father Flanagan's Boys Home. Located ten miles west of Omaha on the Trans-Continental Lincoln Highway." It is believed that the highway is just to the left of this scene and out of sight.
The Midway Hotel is the Control in Kearney, Nebraska. It claims to be the midway point - 1933 miles from New York and 1933 miles from San Francisco. Their advertisement in the 1924 Guide (p. 389) carries another byline, "On Lincoln Way Look For The Electric "L" In The Tower". However, this is not depicted in their advertisement. In this postcard, the word HOTEL has since been added to the tower. While not discernible in this reproduction, the last letter in HOTEL depicted on the card appears to be somewhat different from the first four letters and, upon close scrutiny, appears to be modified to create an illuminated "L".
This rare postcard well depicts the Virginian Hotel (center), which is the Control in Medicine Bow, Wyoming. The 1924 Guide states, "The Virginian Hotel takes its name from Owen Wister's novel of that name, the manuscript having been written here." Despite a population of three hundred, the town offers the services of two hotels, two garages, two banks with the Union Pacific tracks and railroad station (see foreground). Medicine Bow is now in the backwash of I-80.
This scene from Green River is undoubtedly the most spectacular sight in Wyoming. The business section of the town is around the base of the butte and cannot be seen in this view. The 1924 Guide states it"is picturesquely situated between the river and precipitous bluffs 700 feet high." Division headquarters of the Union Pacific are located here. Hotel Tomahawk has an advertisement in the Guide which states in part, "The Most Wonderful Scenery In America Is In Green River".
According to the 1924 Guide (p. 440), Parley's Summit is a control and landmark only. No accommodations or supplies are available. What about drinking and radiator water? Is that the Lincoln Highway which runs parallel to the base of the flume? Or is it nearby and out of sight? Surely, some Traveler subscriber will send a letter to the editor enlightening us (the editor likes letters).
Cave Rock is a dominant landmark along the shore of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The wording on the front of the card is incorrect - it is not in California. The original trail, Bonanza Road, later to become the Lincoln Highway, was carved from sheer rock, except for one section where a wooden bridge was constructed. Note the rock-supported approaches to the wooden bridge. The control is at this trestle-like bridge (see 1924 Guide, p. 487) which lists Cave Rock as only a landmark on Lake Tahoe offering splendid campground sites. "For some three-quarters of a century, all that stood between the drivers of vehicles and eternity on the Cave Rock curve of the lake shore road was a jackstraw structure of support timbers and planking. Horse and mule teams hauling heavily-loaded wagons creaked over the wooden bridge at funereal speeds, and after the turn of the century, gasoline bumers coughed across with their dusted, goggled drivers carefully working throttle and brake. Female passengers were cautioned to keep their eyes on the sky above and never look down" (The Saga Of Lake Tahoe by Edward Scott, 1957, Vol II, pp. 62-63).