America’s Lincoln Highway: Concrete, Clay and Character

by Pat Hickey

 

Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.

 Woody Guthrie

The 19th Century was the Age of Discovery, National Tragedy, and the Railroad. Lewis and Clark tramped westward from Virginia to the Pacific Northwest leading the way of thousands of American settlers who wanted an American continent. These pioneers blazed trails and cut paths to other great American ocean, but were divided about slavery as an economy measure, or the evilest treatment of human beings.

 During the Civil War that decided the fate of the Union, President Abraham Lincoln challenged energetic men of business to unite America with a transcontinental railway. Railways wired the nation in all directions and became icons of the age. In literature, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain employed railroads as cultural and philosophical pathways as much as geographical delineations. Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, stands out in my imagination as an example railroad acting as metaphor, as much as Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.  When Edison’s magic lantern lit the imagination of citizens and The Great Train Robbery set the standard for Western plot development. All roads were not railed.

Most American roads were muddy tracks in the landscape. At the end of the 19th century, the automobile crawled out of the nursery and onto those unpaved trails from brick paved streets in towns and cities. They were dangerous roads. Auto enthusiasts and the people they barely missed on those early thoroughfares searched for a better way, which demanded paved roads. Boosterism was a Turn-of-Century method for getting what the public demanded, whether it be Temperance, Women’s Suffrage, or Safe Paved Roads. Boosters and Shoulder punchers were the social media of the early part of the last century. “Say, neighbor(punch) we need paved roads! How about it?”

Boosters followed ‘the way ahead’ envisioned by Carl Fisher of Indianapolis, Indiana. This Hoosier industrialist (headlights for automobiles), athlete (auto driver & builder of Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and pioneer (Lincoln Highway: US RT 3) raised millions of dollars from private donors to plan and execute the completion of the first national paved highway. Carl G. Fisher and his fellows formed The Lincoln Highway Association (1913-Present). Unlike today’s techy oligarchs, The Good Roads enthusiasts put their money where their mouths lived, under the eyes, the noses and just above the chins. 

The only pedigreed capitalist of that progressive era to break ranks with the pioneer investors of the American Interstate Highway System was Henry Ford. Henry Ford, who profited from the Third Reich, while taking millions of dollars from American taxpayers in WWII, Henry Ford believed that the Federal Government must pay for a transcontinental highway and not industrious robber barons like himself. Aldous Huxley apotheosized Ford via time itself in Brave New World. In our dystopian times,” Henry Ford begat Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg.” 

Carl G. Fisher and his fellows were unreconstructed altruists.

Lately, I have been reading of former internet technicians who regret the algo-genies that they have helped pop out of test tubes. Beginning with a Casandra-Come-Too-Lately piece in The Guardian to Bill Joy of Wired magazine to the Showtime series Superpumped: The Battle for Uber, Tech Rebels view the information highway, social media, and taxi-cab manipulation as the road to perdition for human beings wired to algorithms in the hands profit driven puppet masters, at best and social engineers at the most diabolical.

Carl G. Fisher

Carl G. Fisher and his band of brothers in 1912 wanted to unite the nation on a road running through thirteen states from New York to California

The Silicon Valley techies want the human soul to do with as they please. 

The technofascists are embedded with our globalist politicians and spend millions to get billions of dollars and access to venal tax-spenders at the local state and especially Federal levels of government. Carl G. Fisher and The Lincoln Highway Association dug into their own wallets. 

I live in LaPorte County, Indiana which has been in the vanguard of discovery from Father Jacques Marquette to the Lincoln Highway. Route 30: The Lincoln Highway runs smack though the center of LaPorte, County. 

One town on the original path of The Lincoln Highway is New Carlisle. This historic town attributes its continued success to its place on important commercial roads and highways in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan. US 20’s place on The Lincoln Highway was shifted in the late-1920s to US 2 which runs through LaPorte and joins US Route 30 in Valparaiso to the southwest of New Carlisle. Historic New Carlisle is a treasure trove of documents, photos, and memorabilia specific to The Lincoln Highway. 

New Carlisle’s Lincoln Highway Viaduct

The seed of this subject was sown in Historic New Carlisle when I learned from its director Ms. Dana Groves of the altruism rooted in the coast-to-coast project envisioned and realized by Hoosier Carl G. Fisher.

 In New Carlisle, a concrete viaduct was built in conjunction with Lincoln Highway, which spanned two rail crossings on a road known as the Road of Death, because the road east of town was blocked by two railroad crossings and many people died trying to cross them. The new viaduct not only helped to link the American coasts but saved lives. I also learned that citizens from Batavia, Illinois rolled up shirt sleeves, cut grade, framed out the grade and poured cement for Route 2 on Lincoln Highway, for which the Governor of Illinois rewarded each laborer with a check for one cent. Capitalists donated thousands and thousands. Regular Joes supplied sweat equity and skin in the game. Some government monies were offered and accepted, but the project was privately endowed.

AT&T, Apple, X-Finity and the lesser lights of Information Highway/World Wide Web have plans to co-opt the free will of individuals via smart chips injected into the bloodstream to direct your future purposes. Even clicking the like buttons on social media supplies same release of pleasure endorphins in a person, as those in a practiced and dedicated gambler, Doubt that bit of science. Check out the diners at any restaurant, or any Norman Rockwell Family of the Day at any Holiday Gathering 2022 +. 

The Lincoln Highway united the American continent and led-the-way for the north south Dixie Highway. In 1919, Lt. Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower led the first military convoy over the Lincoln Highway, proving its strategic value. The eleven states on the Lincoln Highway held 31% of the nation’s population, according to an article in the Lincoln Highway Forum Vol 29, #1. America swelled along the Lincoln Highway. 

The Information Highway, paved with algorithms, greed, and hostility, as well as information has managed to balkanize the nation and helped create more obese youngsters than could ever be imagined. The price is damnable. Remember school libraries? They have disappeared with advent of the media center and are largely empty. 

Techno-Fascist Golems have balkanized the globe and sucked the soul from humanity but provide information. The Lincoln Highway is clay concrete and was fashioned from the American character.

Our global Billy Gates-ian Golem is math-alchemy that may put an end to humanity. Assess the attention span of your teenagers and then try and remember why? If you are a thumb-dummy, smart phone guy, or gal, you just might be a living science experiment

I would rather be in New Carlisle, Indiana than anywhere near Silicon Gomorrah. 

-30-

Born November 8, 1952 in Englewood Hospital, Chicago Illinois, Pat Hickey attended Chicago Catholic grammar and high schools, received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Loyola University in 1974, began teaching English and coaching sports at Bishop McNamara High School in Kankakee, IL in 1975, married Mary Cleary in 1983, received a Master of Arts in English Literature from Loyola in 1987, taught at La Lumiere School in Indiana from 1988-1994, took a position as Director of Development with Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, IN and then Leo High School in Chicago in 1996.  His wife Mary died in 1998 and Hickey returned with his three children to Chicago’s south side. From 1998 until 2019, it became obvious that Illinois and Chicago turned like Stilton cheese on a humid countertop. In that time, he wrote a couple of books and many columns for Irish American News. When the kids became independent and vital adults, he moved to Michigan City, Indiana, where he job coaches Downs Syndrome and Autistic teens in LaPorte County.  He walks to the Michigan City Lighthouse every chance he gets.