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October 25, 2012 — The Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) will mark the 100th anniversary of the first road across America with three major events in 2013.
First, two automobile tours will depart from Times Square in New York City on June 21 and Lincoln Park in San Francisco on June 22 following the original Lincoln Highway route, to Kearney, Nebraska arriving on June 30.
The tours will travel the original alignments of the Lincoln Highway covering many miles of two-lane history, four-lane progress, and even gravel scenic beauty from America’s urban centers, through pastoral farm lands, over breathtaking mountains and rolling prairies. Miles per day are kept to an average of 240 per day to permit time to stop for tourist attractions and for the pace of the older cars. After the annual conference tour leaders will lead self-guided tours back to each coast for those who want to travel the entire road this year. Discounted hotel rates and automated booking services will be provided by Holiday Inn and its parent company Intercontinental Hotels, the official Lincoln Highway hotel sponsor.
Second, the City of Kearney will host a two-day Centennial Celebration beginning June 30 with the arrival of the Centennial Auto Tours, along with hundreds of antique, classic and modified cars from local and national car clubs displayed on the brick streets of downtown Kearney. Historical re-enactors, period music and food, and national and local history will be celebrated throughout the downtown area.
The LHA official Centennial Celebration will take place July 1 at The Great Platte River Road Archway. Over I-80, the Archway attraction features the Lincoln Highway and other national transportation routes that followed the Platte Valley. The Archway campus will host the Centennial Auto Tour vehicles and others, an early 1900s tourist camp and education camp, food and craft vendors and a gala that evening. The official centennial program will commence at 1 p.m.
Third, the LHA will hold its annual conference July 2–5 in Kearney. The association holds a conference each year somewhere along the Lincoln Highway corridor from New York to San Francisco. Events include road tours, visits to historic sites, speakers on various aspects of the highway, a business meeting and banquet.
In the early 20th century, as Americans began traveling further from home by automobile, the country needed improved roads linking cities and towns. Up to that time, most roads were primarily local and distant travel between towns was by rail.
The Lincoln Highway, begun in 1913, was the first transcontinental highway in the United States. It was the idea of Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder Carl Fisher, who, with help from industrialists Frank Seiberling (Goodyear) and Henry Joy (Packard), envisioned an improved road stretching 3380 miles from New York City to San Francisco. Fisher established the Lincoln Highway Association on July 1, 1913 to both promote the road and fund the project.
Before the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1925 established a system of numbered routes in 1925, roads carried names like the Lincoln Highway, the Dixie Highway, the Yellowstone Trail or the Old Spanish Trail. Colorful roadside signs and painted telephone poles marked the routes of these roads.
Henry Joy came up with the idea of naming the highway to honor Abraham Lincoln. As far as Joy was concerned, directness was the most important factor. Using existing roads, the route deliberately avoided the larger cities when practicable in order to maintain as straight a course as possible. The highway started in Times Square in New York City and passed through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California, ending in Lincoln Park in San Francisco. Other alignments included Colorado in 1915 and West Virginia in 1927. Today, parts of U.S. Routes 30, 40, 50 and I-80 follow portions of the Lincoln Highway route across the country.
The original Lincoln Highway Association ceased activity at the end of 1928. Its last major activity was to mark the highway not as a route from one destination to another, but as a memorial to Abraham Lincoln. Today, the Lincoln Highway Association, re-established in 1992, works to preserve and promote America’s first transcontinental highway.
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