40 Motel, Columbus, Ohio Empire, Colorado Lucy, Atlantic City, New Jersey Wade Ray George R. Stewart Earl's Diner 49er Motel - Sacramento, California Marshall, Illinois Lucy, Atlantic City, New Jersey Empire, Colorado 40 Motel, Columbus, Ohio Why is Route 40 golden? Return to the Route 40 home page. E-mail, guest book and other contact information. Take a virtual tour across the country on Route 40. Historical information about Route 40. Information about books, magazine and newspaper articles, and more! Road songs! Everything else I couldn't categorize! Information about this web site.
Lincoln Highway Sign Topeka, Kansas The Narrows, Cumberland, Maryland Greetings from Reno, Nevada Red Brick Tavern, Lafayette, Ohio Muffler Man Cowboy, Woodstown, New Jersey

Welcome!History of Route 40

Route 40 didn't simply happen in 1926. As with many of America's great highways, many predecessor roads led to the development of the highway that we know today.

Are you working on a paper for school? These pages tell the story of the highway in a rough east to west, chronological order.

Pre-Automotive Predecessor Roads

Native Footpaths. Long before the white settlement of North American, Native American footpaths crisscrossed the continent. Some of these paths contributed to Route 40.

Augustine HermannColonial Roads. From the earliest settlement of America, the colonists created roads for commerce, mail and general mobility.

Augustine Hermann. One of the first colonial roads that contributed to Route 40 was blazed across northern Delaware.
Eastern Post Roads. Up and down the Atlantic seaboard exist a web of road primarily designed to carry the mail. Route 40's alignment across northeastern Maryland once followed the exact path of some of these Post Roads.
Maryland Turnpikes. As Route 40 turns westward from the port city of Baltimore, it follows many of the turnpike roads to Cumberland.
Braddock's Road. One of the first military roads into the American wilderness was surveyed and blazed by a young Colonel George Washington. Sometimes called 'Washington's Road,' the road is more often referred to as 'Braddock's Road' after the inept British General who oversaw its construction.
Zane's Trace. West from Wheeling, Ebenezer Zane blazed a trail across southeastern Ohio. Route 40 follows the general path of Zane's Trace as far as Zanesville.

National Road. For almost 800 miles west from Baltimore, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois, the National Road served as one of the most significant predecessor roads for Route 40.

National Road Milestones. From Baltimore to Indianapolis, the builders of the National Road erected stone markers at one mile intervals. About 20% of them survive to this day. There is also a page for people interested in milestone in general.
The Dayton Cutoff. When the National Road was surveyed from Wheeling, Congress instructed that it run as straight as an arrow from one state capitol to the next. This meant some larger cities like Dayton would be bypassed. Angered by this political slight, the citizens of Dayton created a misleading 'alternate' route through their community.

Covered wagonPioneer Trails. West of the Mississippi River, Route 40 follows in the pathways of many pioneering trails.

Boone's Lick Trail. In eastern Missouri, Route 40 follows the path blazed between St. Charles and Boonville by Daniel Boone's sons.
Santa Fe Trail. One of the earliest pioneering trails to the west, Route 40 follows the approximate path of the Santa Fe Trail between Boonville, Missouri and Kansas City.
Oregon Trail. Probably the most famous of the Overland Trails. Route 40 follows the path of the Oregon Trail between Lawrence and St. Mary's, Kansas. In many places, you can see the wagon ruts by the side of the road!
Jim BridgerSmoky Hill/Butterfield Trail. From Fort Riley, Kansas to Denver, the Smoky Hill/Butterfield Trail was a route for both military and commercial efforts.
Edward Berthoud and Jim Bridger. Between Denver and central Utah, Route 40 follows the paths blazed by explorer Jim Bridger and railroad surveyor Edward Berthoud.
California Trail. A split in the Overland Trail, Route 40 follows the path of the California Trail through central Utah, along the Humboldt River valley in Nevada and across California's Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Hastings Cutoff. If ever there was a wrong turn, the Hastings Cutoff was it. Scouted by the ever opportunistic Lansford Hastings, and cut through virgin wilderness by the Donner-Reed Party, this supposed short cut meanders from Fort Bridger, Wyoming, across the Utah Salt Flats and through Nevada's Ruby Mountains before connecting with the older and less troublesome California Trail. Following the Hastings Cutoff proved to be the single most critical error the Donner-Reed Party made during their 1846-47 attempt to reach California's gold country. As one of the Donner-Reed group wrote many years later, "...don't never take no cutoffs." Route 40 roughly follows the path of the Hastings Cutoff west from Salt Lake City, across the salt flats and into eastern Nevada.

Automobile Era

Montage of named highway signsNamed Highways.

Lincoln Highway. The most famous of the named highways, the Lincoln was also the first transcontinental highway in the United States.
National Old Trails Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. Another transcontinental highway with eastern termini at Washington and New York with a western terminus in Los Angeles. This named highway followed )from east to west) the east coast Post Roads, National Road, Boone's Lick Trail, Santa Fe Trail, Spanish Trail.
Victory Highway. This highway ran from Kansas City to San Francisco. Route 40 follows the Victory as far west as Sacramento (where the Victory follows a more southern route to San Francisco).
Harding Highway. Named after Warren G. Harding, this highway runs from McKee City, New Jersey, to Ohio. Route 40 follows the Harding through the Garden State.

Madonna of the Trail StatueMadonna of the Trail Monuments. Despite the valiant efforts of groups such as the National Old Trails Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Association, the U.S. numbered highway system prevailed. In a last ditch effort to preserve their highway, the NOTOtO Highway Association in conjunction with the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a series of monuments along their highway. Five of these monuments are found along the shoulder of Route 40.

History of the Madonna of the Trail Monuments.
August Leimbach. Information about the sculptor behind the monuments.
Maryland Monument (Bethesda)
Pennsylvania Monument (Beallsville)
West Virginia Monument (Wheeling)
Ohio Monument (Springfield)
Indiana Monument (Richmond)
Illinois Monument (Vandalia)
Missouri Monument (Lexington)
Kansas Monument (Council Grove)
Colorado Monument (Lamar)
New Mexico Monument (Albuquerque)
Arizona Monument (Springerville)
California Monument (Upland)

Route 40

Route 40 Alignment History. A year-by year accounting of where the highway ran.

Route 40N/Route 40S. During Route 40's early days, there were actually two Route 40 alignments in Kansas and Colorado - a northern route and a southern route. The two routes met in Limon, Colorado. In 1936, Route 40S east of Limon and Route 40N west of Limon became Route 40. The other sections became Route 24.

Route 40N/ROute 40S

Alternate Route 40 in California and NevadaAlternate Route 40. This alternate section existed between Davis, California and Reno, Nevada, as another way to get across the often snow-clogged Sierra Nevada Mountains. Even though this alternate route added about 95 miles to through traffic, it remained a viable option in bad weather. As the old trucker's song Roll, Truck, Roll points out, "I'm going down the Feather River Canyon, gotta go up 'cause Donner's Summit is closed..."

Myth of the 40th Parallel. Some people believe that Route 40 was designated with its number (40) because it closely follows the 40th parallel of latitude. Ain't so! Here's why...

Comparing Route 40 with Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway. What highway is America's greatest? That's your call. Here's a chart that compares Route 40 with Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway.

George R. Stewart behind the wheelWho's Who on Route 40. Learn more about the people who contributed to Route 40's history.

Route 40 Internet Links. Links to other Route 40 and highway Internet resources.

 

 

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