Indiana Bureau of Good Roads

These articles discuss the need for and debate over developing modern public roads in early days of automobiles. This was an ongoing debate - inevitably linked to the role of government in what projects should receive public funding - as American society grappled with a huge "inflection point" in the technology of transportation and the demands placed on roadways. The article in attachment Roadso92708 (published in the Indianapolis Star September 27, 1908) has a great quote from John G. Shanks, a member of the board of commissioners of Daviess County. Shanks was speaking to a statewide meeting of Indiana county commissioners in a conference on public roads:
"We must get over the old and mistaken idea that we are living in the day of the saddle and pack horse. There was a time when the wear and tear on the roads was not that great. But the time has now come when any road built of anythng but the best and most durable materials is going to show signs of wear in a remarkably short time. This is true because of the use of automobiles and other similar vehicles, all of which ruin an ordinary road. It is either a question of eliminating the automobile or our present system of building roadways."
In November 1908 the Indiana Board of Trade held a conference and within it was a meeting of the Indiana Bureau of Good Roads, a name which tend to indicate the relative newness of the bureau and the growing recognition of a need for the highway systen to evovled. The article in attachment Roads112208 reports on the meeting  and the call for "education" that emerged. With the industrial age well established the tension between urban needs and the prevailing views of "country folk" is apparent throughout the November 22, 1908 Indianapolis Star article. Here is an excerpt from a letter the bureau sent to farmers throughout Indiana:
"The farmers of Indiana have a vital interest in better roads. They are not realizing their own desires for ideal highways. The cities are making rapid strides in building good and permanent streets. The country and the cities alike are interested in good streets and good roads. Their interests are wholly mutual. Free rural delivery, the automobile, farm traffic and comfort, as well as fair economy demand that roads should be more permanently constructed, more practically repaired and more economically maintained. This cannot be done under the current system."
If that was a letter to the farmers referring to them as "they" and with the lecturing tone that they "are not realizing" would seem ill advised - but it may have been a sign of the times. Regardless, this was one of the great issues of the day in American politics and very much at the core of why Carl Fisher and his associates believed a great speedway was essential to the health of the American automobile industry.

Roads092708.pdf332.44 KB
Roads112208.pdf240.03 KB