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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Automobile Club of America


The New York Times
April 3, 1900

Transcontinental Highway with Great Coast Feeder Added.


Notable Gathering at the First Dinner of the Organization—Suggestions by Gen. Miles.

The Automobile Club of America held its first dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria last night, the especial object of the occasion being to inaugurate the movement for the construction of a transcontinental road.  The scheme developed in a set of resolutions, however, embraced a broader one—one that provided for a good road from St. Augustine, Fla., to Portland, Me., and from this, branching out from New York, the cross-country or main road taking in the principal cities en route to San Francisco.

There were about a hundred persons present at the dinner, including Gen. Miles, head of the committee having in charge the agitation in favor of the movement; Francis E. Stanley, Col. Peter Michie of the United States Military Academy, Col. R. L. Hoxie of the Engineer Corps, Col. S. E. Tillman of West Point, and Col. John Jacob Astor.

George F. Chamberlin, Acting President of the club, presided, and among others present were ex-Mayor W. L. Strong, Julian Hawthorne, Isaac B. Potter, ex-President of the League of American Wheelmen; Col. A. A. Pope, M. Verdry of Georgia, A. R. Shattuck, Chairman of the club's Committee on Good Roads; Gen. G. M. Smith, J. M. Seligman, Amzi L. Barber, Whitney Lyon, Homer W. Hedge, Charles R. Flint, and E. E. Schwarzkopf.

The purpose of the gathering was summed up in resolutions which, after setting forth the need of a National highway, gave as a feasible route one which would embrace Boston, with connections with Portland, and a southern branch taking in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Charleston, Savannah, and St. Augustine, with the western main road passing through Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Erie, Cleveland, Toledo, Adrian, Cold Water, Elkhart, South Bend, Chicago, Davenport, Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings, Denver, Sacramento, and San Francisco.  A Pacific Coast branch would take in Los Angeles and Seattle.

The resolutions proposed that the National Government should pay one-third the cost; the twenty-five States and Territories through which the road would pass, one-third, and the cities and towns one-third.  It was further suggested that the surveys should be carried on through three years, dividing the routes into thirds, one year being given to each third.  The military importance of such highways were set forth, as well as the roads' influence as an example of road building to the communities which they would pass.

In view of the rapidity of motion which science is substituting for slower forms of locomotion, two points were urged—that of width and the avoidance of curves.  In the boulevard which has been built out of Boston, the width is 125 feet.  It was suggested that at first the width of the proposed road might be half this, but that the right of way should be secured for the full width.

Acting President Chamberlin, in his opening address, called attention to the fact that one of the prime objects of the club's organization was to foster an interest in good roads.  The building of railroads, he said, had obscured the movements for National highways begun early in the century, but with the improvements now made in vehicles, it once more behooved all citizens that the question should be revived.

Gen. Miles was then introduced.  He complimented the club on being the pioneer in this new movement on a large scale.  He said that in the building of the transcontinental railroads which had been aided by the Government there had been something more than a commercial incentive.  The co-meeting of the East and the West was of patriotic import.  He reviewed the route suggested and advised that the question of military importance should be left out.  There were other, ample reasons for good roads which must appeal not only to the automobilist and wheelman, but to the farmers of the country.

Ex-Mayor Strong spoke next, first jestingly scoring the automobile as the terror of the ladies who drive old and gentle horses, then reviewing the history of roads in this country, his own experience taking him back to the corduroy road.  He said that this State should itself build a highway on modern ideas from New York to Buffalo, adding that it was primarily of interest to the farmers, to whom it would be a saving of time, labor, and power.

Julian Hawthorne, speaking next, said that this century had been a machine which had been annihilating time, space, and labor.  Curiously enough, however, he said, he had found that he was compelled to work nine times as hard as his forefathers, but in this proposed road he saw emancipation from this condition.  He then contrasted some early Indian messengers setting out to carry a message from their tribe to some other tribe in the Far West with the journey the new road presented with the modern vehicle.

Col. Pope predicted that while there were only about 1,000 automobiles in New York to-day, ten years from now there would be 100,000.  It had been said that they were expensive machines, but the business man was not going to consider the first cost if in the long run there was to be saving.  He told of the good roads movement in Massachusetts, and its success, and added that New York, the richest State, had about the poorest roads.

The resolutions were adopted after being seconded by Col. Astor.

In his return trip from Ardsley on Saturday, S. T. Davis made the run from Ardsley Gate to Central Bridge in thirty-six minutes.

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