The History of Route 66: “America’s Main Street”

A “Route 66” sign is painted on the asphalt near Amboy in California’s Mojave Desert on February 27, 2019.

Photo: ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images

Measuring some 2,200 miles at its peak, Route 66 it stretched from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, passing through eight states.

According to a New York Times article this route, it detailed that most of Route 66 followed a path through the desert forged in 1857 by US Navy Lieutenant Edward Beale leading a caravan and that then over the years, wagon trains and ranchers eventually gave way to trucks and passenger cars.

The idea of ​​building a highway along this route came about in Oklahoma in the mid-1920s. as a way to connect the state with cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.

Highway Commissioner Cyrus S. Avery, lor promoted as a way to divert traffic from Kansas City, Missouri and Denver. In 1926, the highway gained its official designation as Route 66.

Route 66’s diagonal course linked hundreds of mostly rural communities with the cities along its route, allowing farmers to more easily transport grain and other types of produce for distribution.

The highway was also a lifeline for the long-distance trucking industry, which by 1930 was competing with the railroad for dominance in the shipping market.

Also, Route 66 was the scene of a mass migration west during the 1930s, when more than 200,000 people traveled from the poverty-stricken Dust Bowl to California. John Steinbeck immortalized the highway, which he called the “Mother Road,” in his classic 1939 novel, “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Beginning in the 1950s, the construction of a massive interstate highway system made older highways increasingly obsolete and, by 1970, modern four-lane highways had bypassed nearly all sections of Route 66.

In October 1984, Interstate 40 bypassed the last original stretch of Route 66 in Williams, Arizona, and the following year the route was decertified.

According to the National Federation of Historic Route 66, drivers can still use 85 percent of the highway, and Route 66 has become a destination for tourists from all over the world.

Often called “America’s Main Street,” Route 66 became a mainstay of pop culture over the years, inspiring his own song (written in 1947 by Bobby Troup, “Route 66” was later recorded by artists as varied as Nat “King” Cole, Chuck Berry, and the Rolling Stones), as well as a 1960s television series , also the historic road was highlighted in the successful animated film “Cars” (2006).

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