The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 30, 2013

Highway a glimpse of Americana

JOHNSTOWN — Carl Graham Fisher was a shrewd businessman.

He envisioned big projects, took risks and cleverly marketed his ideas.

The Indiana resident made his fortune as owner of Prest-O-Lite, a company that manufactured acetylene headlights for automobiles. He was co-founder and first president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In the early 1910s, Fisher decided he wanted to create a coast-to-coast rock highway. He pitched the idea to some influential friends – former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, world-renowned inventor Thomas Edison, then-current President Woodrow Wilson and automobile manufacturers – who supported his plan. And, at the suggestion of Packard Motor Car Co. President Henry Joy, Fisher immediately endeared the proposed road to many citizens by naming it after one of the most beloved people in American history, President Abraham Lincoln.

Then, 100 years ago today, on Oct. 31, 1913, his vision was realized with the dedication of the Lincoln Highway, an occasion celebrated in municipalities all along the route.

“Fisher was flamboyant and kind of the picture of what a promoter should be ... slick,” said Peter T. Harstad, former director of the Indiana Historical Society.

The Lincoln Highway Association determined what roads to include in the system, selecting some anonymous stretches of dirt paths along with well-known routes, including the Lancaster Pike Road, Mormon Trail, Pony Express Trail, Cherokee Trail, Overland Trail and Donner Pass. Much of the distance was unimproved roadway.

From Times Square to San Francisco, through metropolitan areas and small towns, passing mountains and plains, the Lincoln Highway linked the United States. It was originally 3,389 miles long. The current Lincoln Highway covers 3,142 miles and passes through 13 states, including Pennsylvania.

Counting all of the different routes throughout the years, such as the Colorado Loop, there are more than 5,800 miles of road that can lay claim to at least once being considered part of the historic road.

Fisher’s vision gave birth to the idea of national auto trails and inspired President Dwight D. Eisenhower to champion development of the Interstate Highway System.

“It is people like Carl Fisher, who were not afraid to dream big, that helped make this country great,” said Kay Shelton, president of the LHA.

Over the century since its creation, the highway has ingrained itself into American culture.

Automobile enthusiasts have used it to explore the country. Homes, businesses, hotels and farms line its wayside.

Musicians, artists, photographers, movie makers and writers have found inspiration on its path.

“I just love it,” said WQED television producer Rick Sebak, who created the documentary “A Ride Along The Lincoln Highway” for PBS. “I love the idea that you can go coast to coast, dip your toes in the Atlantic or Pacific and drive the whole way across the country.”

Nowadays, groups such as the modern version of the Lincoln Highway Association work to educate citizens about its historic importance.

“Public awareness is a major component of preservation,” said Shelton. “More states have the entire route designated statewide with a special status, such as a scenic byway, and signed.

“For example, last year, the Iowa Department of Transportation signed the Lincoln Highway’s route across the state. In New Jersey, one county signed the Lincoln Highway.

“State and local governments will not just take on major projects like that unless there is public awareness and public support first.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • kids new VIDEO | ‘Best friends killing friends’: Kids share concerns about drugs, bullying, shootings

    Sara Norman wasn’t shocked to learn that a 15-year-old stands accused of shooting a Johnstown police academy recruit July 13 in Oakhurst.
    And she wouldn’t be surprised that a 16-year-old took three bullets Thursday in another Oakhurst neighborhood shooting.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo 4 Stories

  • Old Rockwood hotel will soon be history

    The historic – but dilapidated – Merchants Hotel in Rockwood is expected to be razed soon.
    On Tuesday, Somerset County’s three commissioners unanimously agreed to a demolition plan for the building, which was constructed in the 1880s. The arrangement calls for a private citizen, William Nair, to tear down the structure at 703 Main St. in exchange for being allowed to keep any salvageable materials.

    July 29, 2014

  • ATV blast ready to roll at Rock Run

    Organizers are keeping the spirit of the Fisher’s ATV Reunion at Rock Run Recreation Area alive despite losing the support of the award-winning Outdoor Channel TV show “Fisher’s ATV World.” Now called the Rock Run ATV Summer Blast, the event will continue to offer demonstration rides, motor competitions, product vendors, live music, camping and trail riding.

    July 29, 2014

  • Culvert 1 Preservationists use age-old method at historic site

    Preservation work on two historic culverts associated with the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site has been completed. The culverts were reconstructed using a variety of techniques, including dry stone masonry, which was used to build the culverts more than 180 years ago.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local briefs 7/30/2014

    July 29, 2014

  • Officer, civilian motorist injured in crash

    A Johnstown police officer who was responding to an emergency and one other driver were taken to the hospital after they were injured in a three-vehicle accident around 5:40 p.m. Tuesday on Railroad Street at the intersection with Clinton Street and Church Avenue.
    The Johnstown Fire Department said that the three occupants of the third vehicle were not injured.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tribune Treasure!

    July 29, 2014

  • _DSC9419.JPG VIDEO | 'Just be a kid': Coping with help from family and each other

    With such weight threatening to drag modern youths down a dangerous path, rising above the negative influences surrounding them can be a real test of inner strength and conviction.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo 4 Stories

  • kids jump ‘It’s family’: Youngsters like their hometown

    Colt Bopp says Johnstown is “a beautiful community” – despite its faults.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo 4 Stories

  • _DSC9327.JPG VIDEO | Kids: Future bright, but it might be somewhere else

    For some of the young people interviewed by The Tribune-Democrat, the future may be bright, but it won’t necessarily be in Johnstown.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo 4 Stories


What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
House Ads