This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway, the first coast to coast road in America. Beginning at Times Square in New York and ending at Lincoln Park in San Francisco, it was formally dedicated October 31, 1913, making it America’s first national memorial to President Abraham Lincoln, predating the 1922 dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. by nine years.
As the first automobile road across America, the Lincoln Highway brought great prosperity to the hundreds of cities, towns and villages along the way. One of those cities was Delphos. Affectionately known as “The Main Street Across America,” the Lincoln Highway actually came down Main Street in Delphos in the early years, coming into town from the east on 2nd Street before turning north on Main St. to 5th Street where it continued west.
Within a few years, towns like Delphos began to see increased traffic on their Main Street as Americans discovered the sense of freedom that comes from driving the open road. Many of these travelers stopped, supporting local businesses. New businesses opened, including confectionaries, restaurants, motor lodges, and gasoline stations. To capitalize on the popularity of the highway, many businesses were named after it. In Delphos we had the Lincoln Highway Dairy, Lincoln Inn, Lincoln Highway Garage, and Lincoln Highway Candy Kitchen.
Because the state and federal governments did not fund roads, leaving that up to counties and townships, the Lincoln Highway Association solicited companies and individuals for money to operate and to improve the routes they had chosen. Many businesses did this because of what they had to gain by increased car usage, but many individuals gave as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln.
There were no road maps so the association published a guide which told the distance to the next town and the amenities they had to offer travelers such as hotels, restaurants, and gasoline. A control center was established at each town so the odometer could be reset to zero. Delphos has one which can be seen on the corner of 5th and Main at Best One Tire.
A special postcard collection of the Lincoln Highway is now on display at the museum along with our regular display which includes a Lincoln Highway Association certificate issued in 1914 to Joseph Jettinghoff, a Lincoln Highway radiator emblem which was issued in 1918 to a contributor, and an original 1924 Lincoln Highway Road Guide which was recently donated by Mike Buettner of Lima, president of the Ohio Lincoln Highway Association.
The museum is open every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 3 pm and every Thursday from 9 am to noon. Please visit soon.
Printed in the Delphos Herald August 10, 2013