In 1900, there were about 8,000 registered automobiles in the United States. They were a genuine novelty. Those that attempted to go on 'road trips' met with a frustrating reality -- there were no drivable roads, no unified road maps, no nation-wide infrastructure of gas stations or amenities. The first automobiles to attempt cross-country travel were essentially UFOs streaking through a sparsely populated and isolated America.
This is the story of how that all changed. This is the story of the Lincoln Highway, the first cross-country road in the Untied States, linking Times Square in Manhattan with Lincoln Park in San Francisco via a patchwork of pre-existing roads in twelve states.
The Lincoln Highway was developed by automotive executives who wanted to use the cross-country road to promote automobile sales. It accomplished more than that; the Lincoln Highway invented the pleasures and eccentricities of American road travel.
That string of multi-colored Christmas lights wrapped around your tree (or your house) is far more influential to American history than you might think.
The first electric Christmas lights debuted in 1882, shortly after the invention of the incandescent light bulb itself, in the New York home of a Thomas Edison employee. They quickly became a vehicle for electric companies to tout the magic of electrical power.
In the process, they helped secularize very basic symbols of the Christmas season. In this episode, find out how the invention of whimsical colored lights helped redefine the holiday and create comfort and unity for millions of Americans.
PLUS: The origin story of those 'classy' lights you see wrapped around trees and lampposts on respectable urban avenues.