Prep for National Good Roads Convention

Anticipating the National Good Roads and Legislative Convention the Indianapolis Star published an article discussing the state of roads in the United States and the various stakeholders involved with their improvement and the priority that should be given to the work. The article was published April 11, 1909.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) was taking the lead in calling the meeting but also attempted to involve the various stakeholders such as the National Grange, the American Road Makers Association and the automobile industry - largely represented by the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers and the American Motor Car Manufacturers' Association. The National Grange, founded in 1867, was and still is an advocacy group for farmers and those involved with agriculture. The American Road Makers Association has evolved too, now known as the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. The times were different, obviously, and I feel this was aptly captured by this quote from Cecil Gibson of the Indianapolis automobile company Gibson Automobile:
"It will be but a few years before we must stop using the terms farmers and motorists and say, rather, farmers and tourists as with a properly developed system to good roads the farmer will find it more economical to market his produce with motor vehicles."

Another insightful comment was attributed to another Indianapolis automobile executive, B.W. Twyman of the Motor Car Sales Company. He compared the push for improved roads to the advances of the railroad system in the 19th Century:
"The automobile is to play the same part in the road building of the next twenty-five years that the steam locomotive played three-quarters of a century ago. To waken the people from their lethargy concerning proper road building, some such force as the locomotive or the automobile must come."

The comment was pretty prophetic and underscored one of the big challenges the good roads movement faced - convincing a largely agrarian society still transitioning into the industrial age that the use of automobiles and the subsequent need for quality roads was in their interests. To this points the article offers economic statistics asserting that farmers would see $250M of annual value with proper roads. Where these numbers came from or how they were developed is unclear but it seems certain skeptics would argue the point. In its purest sense this is an early age conflict about the role of government and how the benefits of increased taxation could be equitably distributed - if they were to be distributed at all. Another interesting statistic cited in this article is attributed to the National Department of Public Roads and reports that their were 2,150,000 miles of public roads at the time - but only 7 percent were judged to be "improved."
Another development that was hailed as a breakthrough with potentially powerful impact was the AAA's introduction of a new magazine, American Motorist with John Bruce. The article represents the view from several industry leaders that a dedicated magazine was essential to promoting all aspects the emerging motorized world.

Roads041109.pdf758.87 KB