Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930

Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930

Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930

Dixie Highway: Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930

Synopsis

At the turn of the twentieth century, good highways eluded most Americans and nearly all southerners. In their place, a jumble of dirt roads covered the region like a bed of briars. Introduced in 1915, the Dixie Highway changed all that by merging hundreds of short roads into dual interstate routes that looped from Michigan to Miami and back. In connecting the North and the South, the Dixie Highway helped end regional isolation and served as a model for future interstates. In this book, Tammy Ingram offers the first comprehensive study of the nation's earliest attempt to build a highway network, revealing how the modern U.S. transportation system evolved out of the hard-fought political, economic, and cultural contests that surrounded the Dixie's creation.

The most visible success of the Progressive Era Good Roads Movement, the Dixie Highway also became its biggest casualty. It sparked a national dialogue about the power of federal and state agencies, the role of local government, and the influence of ordinary citizens. In the South, it caused a backlash against highway bureaucracy that stymied road building for decades. Yet Ingram shows that after the Dixie Highway, the region was never the same.

Excerpt

This is a history of the Dixie Highway, a hugely ambitious route built between 1915 and 1926 that proved the promise of the automobile age and helped inspire a federal highway program. Made up of hundreds of short, rough, local roads stitched together into a continuous route, the Dixie Highway looped nearly 6,000 miles from Lake Michigan all the way to Miami Beach and back again. It was originally conceived as a single tourist road to steer wealthy motorists from cities such as Chicago and Indianapolis through the South on their way to fancy vacation resorts in south Florida. Yet within a few short years, the Dixie Highway became a full-fledged interstate highway system—the first in the country’s history—and served tourists, businessmen, farmers, and everyday travelers alike. By eroding distinctions between old farm-to-market roads and new automobile tourist highways, the Dixie Highway galvanized broad public support for modern state and federally funded roads and highways in the twentieth century.

The life span of the Dixie Highway was brief but exceptional. It began as an experiment by auto industry pioneers and their allies in the Progressive Era Good Roads Movement, a loose confederation of individuals and organizations committed to improving the nation’s roadways. When the route was first proposed in 1914, the only good roads in the nation were in the urban Northeast, where denser populations, shorter distances, and market necessities had produced fine city streets and passable intercity routes in the nineteenth century. Elsewhere over the vast continent, atrocious roads administered by county officials and inadequately maintained by convicts or statute labor stifled the economy and isolated Americans from one another. The southern United States . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.