146 YEARS AGO
Metallurgist, chemist and automotive pioneer Elwood P. Haynes is born on Oct. 14, 1857, in Portland, IN. More well known for his non-automotive feats, including the development of the Stellite alloy and construction of the country's first long-distance, high-pressure natural gas pipeline, in 1894, gas company executive Haynes hires mechanics Elmer and Edgar Apperson to build a car to his specifications. Haynes drives it through the streets of Kokomo on July 4, with limited production of the Haynes-Apperson beginning shortly thereafter.
By 1898 the Haynes-Apperson Automobile Co., run by the Appersons, is starting to build high-quality cars powered by the industry's first opposed flat-twin engine. But in 1901 the Appersons leave to start their own company, and in 1905 Haynes turns his firm over to new managers.
Although Haynes' car earns a reputation for quality and innovation (the '15 model features an electric shift in which gear changes are made using buttons in the center of the steering wheel), a post-WWI recession catches the firm off guard and in the midst of a massive expansion. Production sputters on until the bankrupt factory is closed in 1924, after turning out some 54,000 cars in 30 years. It reopens in January 1925 to make 200 cars from parts on hand before closing for good. Although still wealthy, Elwood Haynes dies from a severe flu attack in April 1925 at age 67.
19 YEARS AGO
In October 1984 the last vestige of the legendary U.S. Route 66, near Williams, AZ, is decommissioned after being replaced by the I-40 freeway. Immortalized in literature (John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath), song (Get Your Kicks on Route 66) and by a popular TV show of the same name beginning Oct. 6, 1960 (ironically filmed mostly in other locations), the fabled highway is rooted in the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1925.
Unlike the Lincoln Highway and others of the time, the main purpose of Route 66 is not to provide the most direct road between destinations, but to link small rural towns in Arizona, California, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas with Chicago on one end and Los Angeles on the other.
In 1929 the route's condition varies from “unimproved except for the removal of boulders” to “fully paved,” but by 1938, federal works projects have produced a “modern, completely paved, all-weather” road. During WWII it becomes an important link connecting defense plants with military installations.
Its numerous roadside attractions include the Cadillac Ranch, a sculpture consisting of 10 half-buried Cadillacs in Amarillo, TX, to the now-abandoned Chain of Rocks bridge spanning the Missouri River between Illinois and Missouri, whose sharp jog, legend has it, results from builders on one side not paying attention to the exact course being taken by those on the other.
Heavy usage and poor maintenance during the war and increased post-war traffic take a toll. As construction of the new federal interstate highway system commences in the mid-1950s, some stretches of Route 66 are upgraded and incorporated into the new freeways, some stretches are maintained as local roads and other sections are abandoned.
However, so much public interest remains in trying to retrace the original route, in the late 1980s, states begin promoting still-serviceable parts of the road as “Historic Route 66,” including many restored tourist attractions, restaurants and motels.
OTHER DATES IN HISTORY
Oct. 6, 1866 — Brothers Henry and James House, along with several passengers, drive their steam car six miles from Bridgeport to Stratford, CT.
Oct. 15, 1966 — The “world's worst driver,” from McKinney, TX, accumulates 10 traffic tickets, is involved in four hit-and-run incidents and causes six other accidents in the span of 20 minutes.