Nebraskaland March 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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44 Nebraskaland • March 2019 ebraska's early roads were unmarked trails across the countryside. Railroads received large government subsidies, but the dirt roads linking farms and towns were seen only as a local concern. Most people assume a marked eff ort to improve roads at the local level came about because of automobiles. That's partly true, but the nationwide "Good Roads" movement started years earlier. It began with bicyclists. The invention of the modern "safety bicycle" led to a nationwide bicycling craze in the 1880s and 1890s. The new bikes were safer and easier to ride than their high-wheeled predecessors. Nebraskans formed bicycle clubs and explored the countryside. Some men and women completed "century rides" of 100 miles in a day. (Imagine doing that on dirt roads on a heavy, single-speed bike. And women did this in long skirts!) At the time, Nebraska's larger cities were beginning to pave their main streets. In rural areas, roads were bare dirt – not even graveled. Bicyclists soon found allies among farmers and small town merchants who wanted better farm-to- market roads. Many Nebraska towns had commercial clubs to promote local business. Some of these clubs formed Good Roads committees to raise funds for road equipment. They sponsored road building "bees" in which rural and town volunteers labored on sections of roads. Even dirt roads could be improved by grading or by being dragged with heavy split logs to smooth the surface. The Good Roads Movement gained momentum with the coming of the automobile. City drivers on country roads infuriated farmers by scattering their chickens, frightening their horses, raising plumes of dust, and damaging roads that were often maintained by the farmers themselves. But as autos became more aff ordable (starting with the Ford Model T in 1908), farmers began modifying cars into early pickup trucks. "If anyone on earth needs the motor car, it is the farmer," said the Nebraska Farm Journal in 1911. Even before paved roads were common, road maintenance was too big a project for local volunteers or county employees. Motorists began calling for state and even federal funding of N The Ford Model T put millions of people on the road. In Hooper, Nebraska, a local Ford agency organized a parade for local Model T owners. After the 103-car parade, the motorists rallied at the school grounds and posed for a photograph. History Nebraska RG3347-3-33

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