1906 Hoosier Road Trip

Not unlike computers driving the need for software applications in the 80's or the i-Phone powering the popularity of apps today, automobiles ignited demand for good roads in the early 20th Century. This was particuarly acute in North America as centuries of civilization had produced a superior road system in Europe. The United States had just a few hundred miles of paved roads, much of the rest of the "roads" across the country would be more accurately described as paths or trails today. The attached article, published in the April 29, 1906 edition of the Indianapolis Star, provides a snapshot of those conditions.
The dearth of quality roads in the United States was a motivator for Carl Fisher to develop the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where manufacturers could find a running surface good enough to test their cars. Fisher was not only an entrepreuer but an activist as well. He saw himself as a central figure in leading America's automotive industry and that without quality roads the automobiles of this country would be crushed under by a European invasion of superior product. He was the initiating force for both the first transcontinental highway, the Lincoln Highway, as well as the Dixie Highway, the first fast auto route from the Mid-West to Florida. Consider too, that this lack of quality roads naturally drove much of American auto racing to dirt horse tracks - ovals, a truly American form of motorsport that still dominates in our country today.
This brief article contains a good selection of grainy images that help visualize a road trip organized by the Hearsey Vehicle Company, a dealership and garage in Indianapolis that was owned by a gentleman known as H.T. Hearsey. The trip was south from Plainfield through Martinsville and Brown County. By no means does this description approach the precision of a map, but some of the roads such as Washington Street obviously still exist. Actually, the narrative is more quaint than detailed, complete with landmarks like an old church or a log cabin such as farmer Hiram Skeggs who shared his rustic, raw timber abode with a wife and 10 children. Along the way, friendly liverymen Jake Kellow and John Hickman were ready with directions to Samaria and Trafalgar. One final thought on the article. It references a "speedway" in a couple of spots. Do not confuse this with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as construction of that wonder of the world did not commence until the spring of 1909 and, as stated, this is a 1906 article.

DayTrip.pdf4.56 MB