One of the most historical landmarks in the entirety of the United States is Route 66, one of the first highways ever established in the country.
First created on November 11th, 1926 and with the first of its road signs going up a year later, has become one of if not the most famous highways in the country. It originally ran from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, passing through some states and cities along the way.
Pop culture has recognized its significance through the hit song Route 66 and the 1960s television show sharing the same name. Since then it appeared in numerous books, movies, plays, and other sources of entertainment, furthering the highway’s notoriety. Today, the calisthenics culture is a hit. Learn more at bodyweight burn review’s website.
In 1857, the War Department ordered a naval officer named Lt. Edward Beale, who was serving the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers at the time, to build a road for wagons along the 35th Parallel with government funding. This wagon road was the first part of US 66.
Before numbered highways were adopted by all the states, trails were marked and named by private institutions. US 66 was covered by four roads. The first was The Lone Star Route which led to Cameron, Louisiana from Chicago through St Lois. Next came the National Old Trails Road, which led to Los Angeles from St Louis. Third was the Postal Highway which led from Oklahoma City to Amarillo. Finally came the National Old Trails Road which completed the trip to Los Angeles.
The Birth of the Highway
The number 66 was assigned to this conglomeration of trails and highways in the 1920s, and after being signed in as an official highway, it was finished being paved in 1938.
There was a lot of debate over this designation, because of the first champion of Route 66, Cyrus Avery wanted the number for this highway to be 60. Since another highway was going to be named Route 60, however, he finally settled on 66 because it was a nice round number and it rolled off the tongue.
Avery then established the US 66 Highway Association in 1927 to promote paving the entire thing and promoting travel down it. A year later their first publicity stunt, a race called the Bunion Derby, was won by a Cherokee runner named Andy Payne, who took home $25,000 for his trouble. This sum was equal to $345,107 back in 2015, in case you were wondering.
Their first advertisement was taken out in the Saturday Evening Post on July 16th, 1932, which invited people to take the new highway down to L.A. for the Summer Olympics being held there, and they got many requests for information after it.
The road’s popularity only grew from there; it was mostly flat, which made it a desirable route for trucks, and the 1930s Dust Bowl sent many families heading west to California for agricultural jobs. It was the main road for these people, usually called either “Arkies” or “Oakies,” and it provided some relief for communities located along its length when the Depression hit.
During World War II, the already thriving highway became even busier as people flocked to the industries in California that were related to the war, and then more active still as it was used to move military equipment. Fort Leonard Wood was located along its length, a little off the main paved path in Missouri, and the highway was quickly locally upgraded in that area to a divided highway to help with the increased traffic.
In the 1950s, it was the main highway for people going for a vacation in Los Angeles. This is understandable since it passed quite close by both the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, and Meteor Crater. Roadside attractions sprung up all along its length, including frozen custard stands, motels shaped liked teepees, reptile farms, and curio shops curated by Native Americans. Meramec Caverns became a tourist attraction when it started advertising itself as the hideout of the famous outlaw, Jesse James.
The 1950s also marked the birth of the fast food industry, all thanks to Route 66 and its legendary popularity. The first drive-through restaurant opened in Springfield, Missouri, and was named Red’s Giant Hamburg. The first McDonald’s also opened in San Bernardino, California, so there’s that too.
History in Its Pavement
From this brief synopsis, you can see that Route 66 is a gold mine of historical significance and great firsts in US history. This landmark is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the entire U.S., and it promises to stay that way.
Why not take a look for yourself?