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Map of the US Caption reads: Figure 25. Relief traffic map of the recommended interregional system. The height of the traffic bands indicates approximately the average density of traffic to be expected at all points on the system. The mounting spires at the principal cities picture the great increases of traffic to be expected on sections of the routes traversing the cities.
Relief map, from Interregional Highways, Report and Recommendations, published by the National Interregional Highway Committee, 1944. (Library of Congress)

A Transportation Roundup to Introduce a New Business Guide

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The Business Section has published many guides on a number of different topics. Everything from doing company or industry research, to inventories of corporate annual reports, and globalization.

One area that we have focused on more than once, is transportation. Not only have I written blog posts on Ronald Reagan National Airport and another about planes and trains in 2010, we have also created a few guides that may be of interest:

To add to those resources, we now have a new This Month in Business History entry on the U.S. interstate highway system and I wanted to highlight one particular resource from it. Interregional Highways is a government report that was published in 1944 by the National Interregional Highway Committee. It is considered one of the most important government reports produced to support the creation of the highway system.

The meat of the report is filled with statistics on traffic and income, photographs, and anything else that would bolster the case for a new and enhanced highway system. While it came out towards the end of World War II, its eyes were on the future. The report’s introduction emphasized that while most travel was done by those traveling shorter distances, those traveling longer distances went via railroad not by car. The very first paragraph of Interregional Highways in the introduction provided a view of the highways, many of which were built before the advent of the automobile:

“At the time the nation possessed a rural road network almost as extensive as it now has, but it was a network almost wholly unimproved. Mud and dust, outputting boulders and thank-you-marms were the normal expectation of travelers on country roads; and the few turnpikes, surviving from an earlier era, were fast falling into decay.”

The report includes other maps and graphics, but these two, from an earlier version of the report (the Library has multiple versions), caught my eye and might prove of interest.

map of the United States with states and existing highways drawn in with an overlay of the proposed system in blue. Caption reads: Figure A (CONFIDENTIAL).—Relation of the recommended interregional system to the strategic network of principal traffic routes of military importance approved by the Secretary of War, as revised May 15, 1941.
Relational map, from Interregional Highways, Report and Recommendations, published by the National Interregional Highway Committee, 1944. (Library of Congress)
this map of the US shows highways but in red emphasize traffic pattern and intensity in red there are two inset close-ups of Chicago to Indiana, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania the other covering the New York City to Boston region. Caption reads: Figure 22.—Maps showing the average daily volumes of traffic in 1940 on existing roads conforming to the recommended interregional system in comparison with the average daily volume served by other routes of the numbered system of United States Highways.
Traffic volume map from Interregional Highways, Report and Recommendations, published by the National Interregional Highway Committee, 1944. (Library of Congress)

Of course, other areas of the Library have also created transportation related content.

Newspaper and Current Periodicals staff created several Topics in Chronicling America guides, utilizing newspapers from Chronicling America* to provide interesting windows onto history from newspapers of the day:

People, train, automobile, trolley, and truck at railroad station, with airplanes and ship in background, in front of large globe; with insert of people working in communications office
Transportation in the 20th Century by E.S. Yates, 1910. (Prints and Photographs Division)

For those that like to look at older items, there are many digitized books and railroad related materials available on our website. These range from a 1854 tariff card, “Northern N. Y. Railroad Tariff for Western Flour and Grain, via Vermont Central Railroad Line” to books, like Railroad Structures and Estimates, from 1918, and Genesis of Steamboating on Western Rivers, from 1912.

Lastly, railroad aficionados will find All Aboard: A Guide to Cartographic Railroad Resources at the Library of Congress and an interesting blog post about the railroads of middle America among the materials published by Geography & Map staff.

I am quite sure there are things that I missed, so take this as your opportunity to explore the Library’s collections!


*The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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