The Drive to Improve America's Roads
An AAA Good Roads Official on his transcontinental auto trip passes the only road sign in evidence along the dusty, desolate road near Glendive Montana. July 1912
At the turn of the 20th Century, many of America's roads were no more than rutted trails filled with mud when it rained and with choking dust when it was dry. In the Western states, there was often no road at all.
The drive to improve the country's roadways began in the 1890s motivated by the farmers' need to efficiently get their goods to market and by the popularity of America's latest craze - bicycle riding. The advent of the automobile accelerated this process.
"Good Road" campaigns sprang up in a number of states. Private organizations - most notably the American Automobile Association - lobbied for improved and standardized roads. These efforts culminated in the passage by Congress in 1916 of the Federal Aid Road Act that established federal funding for improving roads.
This intrepid AAA official has embarked on a coast-to-coast inspection tour of America's roads. The camera has caught him (and his faithful dog in the back seat) on what passes for a road near Glendive, Montana in July 1912. An early advertising billboard adorns the side of the road.
For more, see: Early Adventures with the Automobile