“A Ride along the Lincoln Highway” (PBS, October 29, 8 p.m. EST—check local listings) tells the story of the nation’s first transcontinental highway, which in 1913 stretched nearly 3,400 miles from San Francisco’s Lincoln Park to Times Square in New York City.
Producer/director Rick Sebak of the Pittsburgh PBS station WQED, known for his films about the cultural and social history of western Pennsylvania, hosts the hour-long documentary, which includes short segments about unusual sights and colorful characters en route, interspersed with exposition on how this groundbreaking motorway ushered in the automobile age. “People often think of a cross-country trip as boring,” he says, “but if you take the two-lane road you get to see a little of everything.”
Indianapolis entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher, the founder of the Indy 500 and developer of Miami Beach, conceived of the Lincoln Highway in 1912 as a means of tying together the random collection of mud tracks and meandering paths that constituted the nation’s road system. Fisher enlisted several prominent financiers, including Henry Joy of the Packard Motor Car Company, but was unable to win the support of Henry Ford.
With the help of highway historians, including Brian Butko, author of the recently published Greetings from the Lincoln Highway: America’s First Coast-to Coast Road, Sebak and his crew found long-forgotten sections of the road. Many longtime Pittsburghers, for instance, do not realize that Lincoln
Avenue, which turns into California Avenue, earned its name from being a part of the early highway.
For more information on the
making of “A Ride Along the Lincoln Highway,” visit www.wqed.org/tv/sebak/lincoln_hwy/blog/. Several web sites explore the history of the Lincoln Highway, including www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org/.