The Journal of San Diego History
Spring 1971, Volume 17, Number 2
Linda Freischlag, Editor

By Raymond C. Chaney, Jr.

Images from the Article


The discovery of gold in California and its attendant population influx aroused public attention to the importance of improving communication with the Pacific coast. San Diego?s southern position and excellent harbor made the city a proposed terminus for many early overland transportation schemes. Most of these were proposals for a transcontinental railroad, and San Diego was repeatedly mentioned by southern railroad conventions from as early as 1847 until the outbreak of the Civil War.1

San Diego residents, like those of many other western towns, were confident that theirs would be the most important west coast city. To insure this, they formed the San Diego and Gila Southern Pacific and Atlantic Railroad Company late in 1854. The company proposed to build eastward to meet a southern transcontinental railroad at the mouth? of the Gila River.2 However, the realization of a transcontinental railroad was stalled by sectional conflict, and the overland mail became its temporary substitute and precursor. San Diegans solicited local contributions of money, labor or provisions for a seventy-five mile road-building effort designed to lure the Butterfield Overland Mail route into their city.3

Despite the failure of both the railroad and ?road to the desert? projects, San Diego refused to accept a fate that the rugged terrain to its east seemed to dictate. When the lightweight internal-combustion engine freed the ?locomotive? from its tracks, a new mode of transportation prompted hopes that San Diego might become the terminus of a national transportation system?the ocean-to-ocean highway.


Carey McWilliams has described southern California?s growth since 1870 as ?one continuous boom punctuated at intervals by explosions.?4 The two major booms, those of the 1880s and 1920s, relate directly to transportation improvements?the arrival of the Santa Fe railroad and the widespread use of the automobile. Southern California?s climate made it a ?paradise for automobilists,? providing over 300 days a year which were suitable for motoring.5 The expense of early machines, however, limited their use to the more affluent members of society and rural inhabitants considered a touring motorist either a millionaire or a suspicious character.6

The bicycle, a less impressive means of transportation than the automobile, fostered the earliest agitation for improved street and road conditions,7 and was responsible for the first speed restrictions in San Diego. Cycling at more than eight miles per hour became a misdemeanor in 1900, punishable by a fine of fifty dollars and up to thirty days imprisonment.8

Prior to the early 1900s, responsibility for local street and road maintenance rested with those living along the thoroughfare.9 Although San Diego boasted a twelve-man street maintenance crew by 1903, one city councilman felt it necessary to utilize a day?s labor ?donated? by his Sunday school class to clear stones from city streets.10

In the same year a Vermont physician, Dr. H. Nelson Jackson, completed the first transcontinental automobile trip, a crossing he claimed cost him eight thousand dollars and twenty pounds weight.11 The sight of an automobile was so unusual that one woman misdirected Jackson fifty-four miles to enable her family to see his vehicle.12 Automobiles were also rare in San Diego. The first city resident to obtain a vehicle license was Clyde Adair, a distinction that earned him a new classification in the city directory. In 1905 Adair?s occupation was listed as ?machinist,? but in 1906 he became ?automobile operator.?13

As San Diego motorists gained confidence, they began to leave the confines of city streets and race bumpily over dirt roads between communities. On January 12, 1906, the San Diego Union announced that the Coronado Country Club had arranged an endurance run from Los Angeles to Coronado.14 ?The Los Angeles ?smart set? of motoring,? predicted the Los Angeles Times, ?is expected to go in for the San Diego run with both feet.?15 Thirty automobiles participated, but due to a speed limit of twenty miles per hour, it required two days to complete the 180 mile journey. Races were held the following day on the Coronado Country Club?s one-mile track and drew over a thousand spectators.16 Long distance automobile runs were rapidly becoming ?the most fascinating form of winter amusement in southern California.17

Shortly after the Los Angeles-Coronado run, the president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce remarked that next to the Owens River water project, an improved road to San Diego was the most important enterprise in southern California.18 The San Diego Chamber of Commerce agreed and appointed a committee headed by livery stable owner, Charles Kelly, to make recommendations on road improvements.19 The committee reported that existing road conditions were ?deplorable? and recommended improvements within the local area through a $75,000 bond issue.20 As one San Diego businessman observed,. ?the worst road conditions between San Diego and Los Angeles are right here inside the city limits.?21

Intent on improving the downtown San Diego area, local residents commissioned a well-known eastern architect, John Nolen, to formulate a plan for the city?s future development. Nolen?s report described the city?s planning as ?ignorant and wasteful.?22 The street system was fixed ?almost irrevocably,? he wrote, and he claimed that the most serious mistake was implanting a rectangular system upon an irregular topography.23 This practice required the city to fill canyons and scour hilltops for the sole purpose of having a geometric street system. Efforts to fill one canyon for street extension prompted the anonymous short story, ?The Crime of the Canyon,??a satire about local residents? attempts to thwart street construction.24

While the city concentrated on street improvements, private interests tried to make San Diego more attractive to wealthy tourists. Edward Fletcher, local realtor and water developer, announced a new subdivision at Del Mar to include a large resort hotel known as the Stratford Inn. In cooperation with millionaire newspaperman, E. W. Scripps, Fletcher constructed a roadway between Del Mar and San Diego.25 To the east, John H. Gay, owner of the Lakeside Inn, began construction of a two-mile automobile racetrack. The Union predicted that its completion would make the city of Lakeside a great resort,26 and during April, 1907, Lakeside was the scene of ?auto races .. . and other thrilling contests.? Ex-bicycle racer, Barney Oldfield, assaulted the one-mile speed barrier,27 and was evidently imitated by local residents because the Union demanded a police crackdown on speeding motorists ?to break up, by one means or another, an evil that has become intolerable.?28

In its first issue of Touring Topics, the Automobile Club of Southern California welcomed members of the San Diego Automobile Club into its ranks. Since the San Diego members composed twenty-five per cent of the club?s strength, the ?city by the Silver Gate? rated an advisory board and a voice in club affairs.29 The first recommendation of the San Diego group was the posting of signs along the route between Los Angeles and San Diego, an endeavor to which local citizens contributed $325.00. This sign-posting would hopefully eliminate the difficulty motorists encountered in trying to find their way out of San Diego.30 To the club?s frustration, ?miscreants? were already busily at work defacing the signs previously posted along the ?main highway between Rainbow and Bonsall.?31


As automobiles multiplied it became increasingly difficult for state and local officials to ignore the clamor for improved roads. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, in search of a comprehensive plan, appointed a County Highway Commission in 1909 to analyze the area?s needs. The unusual group, known as ?the triple-S commission,? was composed of three millionaires: newspaper magnate, E. W. Scripps; sugar tycoon, John D. Spreckels; and sporting goods manufacturer, A. G. Spalding.32 They settled upon the issuance of bonds as the most suitable means for financing road construction.33 The commission?s report represented a point of view stressing the commercial advantages of improved roads while laying the financial burden on the shoulders of the property owner whose tax payments would eventually retire the bonds.34 Local cynics accused Spalding of planning athletic stadiums along the proposed roads, while Spreckels would build railways down their center, and Scripps would report the scores of sporting events.35

The highway commissioners recommended a one and a quarter million dollar bond issue, and the county supervisors placed it on the ballot for August, 1909. The easterly road that led to the fertile Imperial Valley was one of the routes suggested for improvement. The Union reported that a better road to this area would give the rich agricultural region its ?shortest and quickest outlet, both to the mountains and the sea.36 R. H. Benton, member of the Imperial County Highway Commission, predicted that upon completion of the proposed improvements ?travel both ways from San Diego and the Imperial county will be immense.?37 Although little opposition developed, proponents of the bond measure campaigned vigorously as election day approached. Mrs. Sarah Churchill won a fifty-dollar prize for her effort in a slogan contest that drew one hundred entries. Her slogan read, ?Million for Roads . . . Roads for a Million.?38 San Diegans approved the bond measure in August by a four-to-one majority and became the sixth California county to pass a road improvement measure.39

In November of 1909 the county received a shipment of $250,000 in gold coin from the first sale of bonds.40 The initial problem confronting the new highway commission was how to obtain the services of an experienced highway engineer. Ed Fletcher suggested that the commission consider his cousin, Austin B. Fletcher, then head of the Massachusetts State Highway Commission.41 A. G. Spalding contacted the cousin during an eastern trip and the San Diego Board of Supervisors made him their unanimous choice to supervise road construction at whatever salary he chose.42

The construction of roadways outside the city boundaries consisted of scraping a level path with horse drawn equipment, and then covering the avenue with a layer of crushed granite rock. As a local project, construction naturally halted when it reached the limits of San Diego County.

Limitation of road improvements to county territory jeopardized San Diego?s hopes for a direct automobile link with the Imperial Valley. Improving the road from Jacumba eastward only to the county line would leave an impassable gap between the end of San Diego?s system and the beginning of Imperial County roads. The San Diego Highway Commissioners instructed Austin Fletcher to continue road building into Imperial County with $20,000 of local highway funds appropriated to connect both counties.43

San Diego?s bid for a direct connection with Imperial Valley raised the possibility of a through route to southern Arizona which would open the door to transcontinental automobile traffic. ?With the improvement of the cars in every way,? Ed Fletcher recalled, ?San Diego commenced to dream of paved roads and the birth of the idea of national highways was in our minds.?44 Los Angeles eyed San Diego?s road-building activities warily and began planning its own route to Imperial Valley by way of San Bernardino and Mecca.45

San Diego?s new eastern connection brought both transcontinental tourists and Imperial Valley residents to the city. A group of seventeen motorists from New York arrived in San Diego shortly before Thanksgiving in 1911. ?What we need,? insisted the group?s guide, O. L. Westgard, ?is a national highway. The only practical way has now been thoroughly demonstrated, and that is by the southern route, through San Diego.? The only setback the group encountered on their journey occurred near Phoenix where Westgard?s vehicle rolled over his foot, fracturing it as he snapped pictures of his companions.46


San Diegans soon found the automobile to be an indispensable method of travel, but increased motoring brought a long series of restrictions on the freedom of individual operators. By 1911, city motorists were limited to a speed of twelve miles per hour, required to have a signal device, ?rear sight mirror,? and state license plate. A compass was also useful, since those traveling north and south had the right of way.47 One imaginative citizen complained that a proposed thirty-minute parking limitation would force a surgeon out of his operating room and into the street to move his vehicle.48 The Union devoted a new column to ?Blowouts Along Auto Row? and Jessop?s Jewelry Store provided a valuable service by re-tipping spark plugs with platinum.49

Despite restrictions on their own driving, San Diegans could obtain vicarious satisfaction by watching others race. A two-day race from Los Angeles to Phoenix by way of San Diego seemed an ideal method of advertising San Diego as a gateway to the east. San Diego offered a prize of $1,000 to the first driver arriving from Los Angeles and the Union announced on the day of the race that ?San Diego will awaken this morning with the full realization that it is on the automobile map.?50 Ed Fletcher remembered that the entire area ?went wild? over the annual event for several years.51

The difficulties race drivers encountered in reaching Phoenix reflected the problems San Diego faced in obtaining a highway to Arizona. The course dropped south into Mexico to avoid the rugged Laguna Mountains. Between Holtville and Yuma drivers detoured forty-six miles north to avoid sand hills and, in the absence of a highway bridge, crossed the Colorado River at Yuma by ferryboat.52 All three obstacles would eventually challenge the ingenuity and pocketbooks of San Diego?s transcontinental highway promoters.

Shortly after the Los Angeles to Phoenix race of 1911, an Ocean to Ocean Highway Association met in Phoenix to discuss the route of a future national highway system. New Mexico and Arizona? delegates had no trouble agreeing on a route through their states, but the California delegation split over the route from Yuma to the Pacific. The convention adopted the route running from Yuma to Los Angeles in hopes of having it absorbed into the emerging California State Highway System.53 California voters had already approved an $18,000,000 highway bond issue in 1910. With Austin Fletcher recently appointed Chief Engineer for the entire state, San Diegans were ?determined to have a highway running from Yuma, on the Arizona-California line, to the ocean at San Diego.?54

Disgusted with the Phoenix convention, the eight San Diego delegates adjourned to the Bivouac Grill and formed the ?San Diego, Imperial Yuma Highway Association.?55 The first project adopted by the group was improvement of the road connection with Imperial Valley in the area between Mountain Springs and Coyote Wells. This hair-raising stretch of roadway dropped nearly a thousand feet within three miles.56 Local bank executive Fred W. Jackson and Ed Fletcher headed a drive for private donations that netted $60,000.57 The San Diego promoters blasted a new twelve-foot wide route down Imperial County?s Myers Canyon at a cost of $37,000 and returned the surplus funds to subscribers.58 Completion of the project in March of 1913 prompted a gala celebration. San Diego?s ?maiden effort in road building,? the Union announced confidently, should prove to Los Angeles the superiority of San Diego as the terminus of an ocean-to-ocean highway.59 On April 10, 1913, a group of 800 celebrants gathered on the desert floor at the base of the new road to hear an address by the guest of honor, William Allen White. Motion picture cameras filmed the event as a short subject to be distributed to vaudeville houses.60

While construction on the new Mountain Springs grade progressed, San Diego?s highway boosters assaulted the next obstacle to transcontinental travel. On April 24, 1912, the San Diego Union announced that it would sponsor a ?pathfinder? car for the specific purpose of finding a route across the 360 square miles of sand between the Arizona cities of Holtville and Yuma. The Union predicted that a road would be built across this area even if the state did not adopt the route.61 Although the pathfinder car broke down in the middle of the sand hills and the driver was forced to order repair parts from Los Angeles, a companion vehicle finished the trip over what the Union considered a good highway route.62

As the date for the second annual Los Angeles-Phoenix race approached, the San Diego Chamber of Commerce decided to sponsor a competing run directly from San Diego. A committee raised $3,000 in prize money and one member announced, ?We are going to prove beyond any possibility of doubt that we have the only feasible course.?63 In case anyone missed the significance of the race, the Union printed a large cartoon depicting a long-legged Uncle Sam straddling the course and waving a starting flag inscribed ?ocean to ocean highway.?64 Driving an air-cooled Franklin automobile, Ed Fletcher set out in advance of the race on another ?pathfinding? expedition. He avoided his predecessor?s fate by arranging to have six horses pull his vehicle through the sand hills to Yuma. When Fletcher reached the Colorado River he found he had missed the last ferry so he crossed over to Yuma on the Southern Pacific Railroad Bridge, padding the rails with blankets to avoid blowouts.65 Imperial County residents, anxious to improve the route for the official race, cut brush and hauled it to the ?Little Sahara? to form a roadway over the dunes.66

On October 26, 1912, twenty-two entrants began the race from San Diego to Phoenix. On the same day, sixteen drivers left Los Angeles, traveling over an inland route and heading for the same destination. Only four of the Los Angeles cars reached Phoenix while twelve from San Diego completed the course.67 Although the distance from San Diego to Phoenix was shorter, the total running time of the fastest San Diego entry was fourteen minutes longer than that of the earliest Los Angeles arrival.68 The Union chose to ignore this fact and emphasized that the San Diego winner had proven the superiority of the local route by arriving in Phoenix two hours earlier than the first Los Angeles contestant.69 Rivalry between San Diego and her northern neighbor was so intense that some residents embraced a plan formulated by C. H. Akers, owner of the Phoenix Gazette. Akers advocated the annexation of San Diego and Imperial counties to Arizona as a part of the plan for Arizona statehood. During the race, San Diego?s mayor, James E. Wadham, spoke in favor of the plan, and Ed Fletcher?s pathfinder car bore a large banner promising: ?Arizona-San Diego Bay is Yours.?70


In an effort to resolve the dispute over routes, the Automobile Club of Southern California called for a ?Good Roads Convention? to be held in El Centro, California during November, 1913.71 San Diego enthusiasts organized to attend, but bad weather conditions forced them to forsake their automobiles in favor of a rail trip.72 ?San Diego has enough representation to storm the Good Roads Convention,? the Union reported, but warned it would be a ?fight to the finish.?73 A thousand persons attended the convention and San Diego delegates sported lapel ribbons with the slogan, ?Yuma Direct or Bust.?74 Brawley delegates hoped to have the convention endorse a route between El Centro and Yuma that would swing north of the sand hills toward their city. A group from Calexico sought a route southward through what the Union called ?insurrecto ridden? Mexico.75 The San Diego representatives held out for a road directly east through Holtville and over the sand. San Diego and Imperial county citizens had already cooperated the previous year in laying parallel tracks of wooden planking over a six mile section of the sand hills, but this ?plank road? proved unsatisfactory. When the Brawley delegation walked out of the Convention, San Diego obtained an endorsement of a direct route east. The Union praised the action as a ?signal victory for San Diego.?76

The convention?s endorsement of San Diego?s hopes did not assure acceptance of the San Diego-Yuma route by the California Highway Commission. Austin Fletcher advised his cousin Ed to attend a commission meeting held to finalize the routes of highways in the southern part of the state. Los Angeles highway boosters sought a state route from their city through Blythe to Phoenix. In advocating a San Diego-Yuma Phoenix route, Ed Fletcher revealed plans for an improved wooden road over the desert, a project which one Los Angeles engineer described as ?the most asinine thing he ever heard of.?77 Fletcher persuaded the commission to delay action until the wooden road could be tested. San Diegans contributed $13,000 to the wooden highway fund, but Imperial County officials refused to make any special appropriations for the project.78 Private subscriptions, however, enabled Fletcher to purchase thirty-seven rail carloads of two inch by twelve inch planking. With San Diego?s railroad to Yuma incomplete, the road builders were forced to route the lumber through Los Angeles and over the Southern Pacific?s tracks to Glamis.79 On February 13, 1915, volunteer laborers laid the first plank of a six-mile wooden highway bridging the sand dunes east of Holtville.80

Ed Fletcher treated the State Highway Commission to a tour of the route from San Diego to Phoenix after completion of the wooden highway and won approval of the route as a part of the state highway system.81 In 1916 the state began replacing the roadway with a connected series of heavy wooden platforms twenty to thirty feet in length and eight feet wide. The sections could be disconnected and moved as shifting sands threatened to engulf the road, but a crew of men was constantly required to scrape sand off the planks.82 ?If a car once falls off there is no hope of retrieving it,? wrote one motorist. ?We passed many cars dug into the sand mutely waiting to slowly disintegrate.?83

Advocates of a transcontinental highway to San Diego learned of a project during 1912 that would close the last highway gap between their city and Yuma. The federal government agreed to share the cost of a highway bridge over the Colorado River at Yuma if California and Arizona each contributed a third of the funds required.84 Estimates set the probable construction cost at $75,000 which Congress and the two state legislatures appropriated within a five-month period.85 Governor Hiram Johnson vetoed California?s $25,000 share of the funds, acting on the estimate of the state?s engineers that the bridge would cost $150,000.86 San Diegans again turned to private donors to raise California?s share. Fletcher recalled that Yuma contributed $5,000, Imperial County $6,000, and San Diego supporters, $14,000. The total cost of constructing the bridge came to $73,800 and through the efforts of Senator Edgar A. Luce, Fletcher obtained a state reimbursement for California subscribers.87

With a new road down Mountain Springs grade, a wooden highway over the eastern sand hills, and a bridge over the Colorado River at Yuma, San Diego looked forward to transcontinental automobile tourism on a grand scale. Highway promoters expected Congress to appropriate federal funds for a national highway system in the near future. To attract tourists and emphasize San Diego?s ideal location as a southern highway terminus, Ed Fletcher suggested that the San Diego Chamber of Commerce sponsor a transcontinental publicity trip. The Chamber agreed to the project and enlisted the financial support of a local businessmen?s group called the Cabrillo Commercial Club.88 Fletcher loaned his personal vehicle, a new eight-cylinder Cadillac, for the trip and obtained a U.S. Bureau of Public Roads engineer named B. H. Burrell to travel with the party.89 William B. Gross, former actor and developer of Grossmont, headed the tour and Fletcher accompanied the group as far as Globe, Arizona.90

The promotional trip began at the foot of San Diego?s Broadway Street on November 2, 1915. The sides of Fletcher?s Cadillac bore signs advertising the ?Southern National Highway.? Typical of the groups formed to promote transcontinental highways, the Southern National Highway Association sought to promote a route from San Diego to Washington by way of Dallas, Hot Springs, Memphis, and Richmond.91 The group later changed its name and eastern terminus, advertising a route between Broadway streets in San Diego and New York as the Broadway of America Association.

The San Diego group headed eastward, stopping in every major city to deliver speeches on the value of good roads and the need for federal highway subsidies. ?It pays to build good highways,? Gross observed, ?because such highways are the most profitable kind of advertising.?92 If Americans were really serious about their ?Back to the Farm? movement, he challenged, then good roads provided the best means of getting there.93 Burrell, in his report to the Bureau of Public Roads, endorsed the route to San Diego as one that ?could be traversed with ease during eight months of the year in its present condition.?94


Prior to 1916, the development and maintenance of the nation?s highways depended entirely upon state and local governments. As a result, there was little uniformity in the quality of roads anywhere across the United States. An increasing number of automobiles and the activities of various highway associations prompted widespread demand for federal highway subsidies.95

The New York Times reported in June of 1916 that a total of seventy separate measures for federal highway aid had been presented to Congress. Thirteen of the proposals advocated direct administration of a national system by the government while fifty-seven measures provided for distribution of aid through state agencies.96 Congress chose the latter course and in July, federal support for public roads became a reality. The Federal Aid Act of 1916 provided $75,000,000 for distribution over the next five years to those states with highway commissions. The Act required the states to submit projects to the Secretary of Agriculture and apportioned aid on the basis of population, total area, and the road mileage within each state.97

California?s Highway Commission sought federal aid for the state?s highway projects during January, 1918, but the war in Europe had contracted national funds to include only those projects deemed military necessities.98 The Commission returned home empty-handed after ten days in Washington, giving Ed Fletcher permission to carry on the campaign in its place. Fletcher visited Bernard Baruch, head of the War Industries Board, and David L. Houston, Secretary of Agriculture. He managed to convince Baruch that improvement of the road east of San Diego was vital to America?s military efforts. Fletcher learned from Houston that the project ranked eighth among those submitted by the California commissioners.99 On February 2, 1918, Fletcher wired his cousin in Sacramento that three conferences had ?cut three yards [of] red tape.? If Austin Fletcher could change the San Diego project to first priority the fight would be won. ?I want this done Monday,? he insisted.100 The Highway Commission complied and Fletcher returned from Washington with the pen used by Houston to sign California?s first federal highway subsidy.101 As the newly appointed president of the Dixie Overland Highway Association, Ed Fletcher did more in Washington than ask favors. He committed the association to provide landing places along the route from Savannah, Georgia, to San Diego for use by air mail carriers. ?We have every reason to believe,? he predicted, ?there will be an air mail route across the continent following the Dixie Overland Highway.?102 Southern enthusiasm for the route produced an unusual fund-raising event at Demopolis, Alabama, where a sale of roosters named ?Wilson,? ?Clemenceau,? and ?Lloyd George? brought single contributions as high as $50,000.103

Visits by Washington officials during the summer of 1919 encouraged San Diego highway enthusiasts. O. M. Eldridge, engineer for the Bureau of Public Roads, traveled 2,600 miles to the city by automobile to inspect the route recommended by the Dixie Overland Association. Eldridge declared that the southern route to San Diego was ideal for a national highway because it provided all-weather access to the Pacific.104 A month after Eldridge?s arrival, Houston, Secretary of Agriculture, brought a group of dignitaries to San Diego that included the Swiss Ambassador to the United States. Ed Fletcher, Mayor Louis Wilde, John D. Spreckels, and Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. entertained the celebrities.105 Houston agreed with Eldridge that San Diego deserved to be the terminus of a southern transcontinental highway. He remarked that next in importance to water, ?comes permanent roads.?106

The brief period of post-war prosperity brought a renewal of federal support for a national highway system in the Federal Highway Act of 1921. In contrast to the previous emphasis on post roads, the new measure emphasized projects designed to expedite completion of ?an adequate and connected system of highways, interstate in character.?107 This official sanction of an interstate system enabled the Secretary of Agriculture to insist upon highway construction over distinct routes instead of approving isolated projects for post roads. Competition for highway connections increased as improved vehicles and roadways fostered a flood of tourists and immigrants into California. Despite efforts by San Diegans, by 1923 only one-third of the motorists entering California through Arizona headed directly to San Diego.108 Los Angeles, with a relatively level roadway to the east through Blythe, threatened to foil San Diego?s plans for prosperity by attracting a greater number of immigrants and tourists. One San Diego booster club resigned itself to lesser status and advertised that ?south of Los Angeles is Southern California?s second city, San Diego.?109

Some San Diego residents, including Ed Fletcher, refused to admit that their city could not attract investors, tourists and settlers by highway. When the city?s Chamber of Commerce received an invitation to send a motorcade to the 1923 Broadway of America Convention in Memphis, it refused to send more than one delegate.110 Fletcher decided to finance his own motorcade. Although Mayor Harry Clark accepted Fletcher?s invitation to accompany the group, the City Council refused to pay his expenses. In April 1923, one hundred eight ?loyal? San Diego citizens led by Fletcher departed for Memphis in twenty-eight flag-laden automobiles.111 Cities along the route added their delegates to the procession, and held meetings to endorse the convention. Sulphur Springs, Texas, contributed a forty-piece band while a crowd of 5,000 people filled the Opera House in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Over 3,000 delegates attended the Memphis meeting advocating a hard-surface highway between Broadway Streets in New York and San Diego that would eventually take ten years to complete.112

The event which climaxed San Diego?s national highway efforts was the product of a different group?the Robert E. Lee Highway Association. The Lee highway group promoted a shorter route than the Broadway of America boosters, a highway over a southern route between Washington, D. C. and San Diego. Local chapters of the association and chambers of commerce along the route campaigned for better roads, and published reports of road building progress in other states. Various state and local projects completed construction of enough dirt, gravel and paved roadways to enable the Lee association to dedicate the first southern transcontinental highway on November 17, 1923. Acting on behalf of President Coolidge, Ed Fletcher unveiled the Pacific coast milestone of the Lee highway in San Diego?s downtown plaza. Thousands of local citizens, attracted by the massed bands of the Ancient and Egyptian Order of Sciots, listened as Fletcher read a message of congratulations from the President. Ironically, Fletcher informed the crowd that uninterrupted travel over the highway would only be possible when the missing link between El Centro and Yuma could be completed.113

San Diego?s history and geographic position prompted a unique response to mass motorization. Local citizens were willing to finance virtually any project designed to push San Diego past Los Angeles in the race for economic prosperity. Despite promotional efforts and road building schemes, San Diego continued to lag behind the city of the angels in size and prosperity. Westbound motorists, wary of the narrow, winding mountain road leading to San Diego, turned north to the motion picture capital before reaching Yuma. By 1930, Los Angeles claimed nearly one-fifth of the state?s population of five million while San Diego had less than 150,000 residents.115

Ed Fletcher continued to make publicity runs across the continent as the city?s attention shifted to a new mode of transportation?the airplane. By 1928, Fletcher believed that his usefulness to local highway and tourism efforts had ended. He publicly criticized local civic groups and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce for lack of appreciation of the value of transcontinental automobile tourism.116 In the same year, San Diegans dedicated the new Lindbergh Airfield and began a long struggle for a direct air link with the east.



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Tout, Otis B. The First Thirty Years, 1901-1931: Being An Account of the Principal Events in the History of Imperial History. San Diego: By the Author, 1931.


Brilliant, Ashleigh. ?Some Aspects of Mass Motorization in Southern California.? Southern California Quarterly, XLVII (July, 1965), 191-206.

Lesley, Lewis B. ?San Diego and the Struggle for a Southern Transcontinental Railroad Terminus,? in Greater America, Essays in Honor of Herbert Eugene Boson (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1945).

New York Times, 1906, 1914. 1916, 1919.

Paxson, Frederic L. ?The Highway Movement, 1916-1935.? American Historical Review, LI (January. 1946), 236-253.

San Diego Herald, 1857. 1858.

San Diego Union, 1906, 1907. 1909, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1919, 1923, 1934.

State of California. California Highways and Public Works, XL (July-August). 1961.

Touring Topics. Official Publication of the Automobile Club of Southern California. February, 1909; March. 1914.


1. Lewis B. Lesley, ?San Diego and the 82truggle for a Southern Transcontinental Railroad Terminus,? in Greater America, Essays in honor of Herbert Eugene Bolton (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945), p. 500.

2. Ibid.. p. 502.

3. San Diego Herald, Nov. 14, 1857, p. 1; Dec. 5, 1857, p. 2: Dec. 12, 1857, p. 2; July 24, 1858, p. 2.

4. Carey McWilliams, Southern California Country: An Island on the Land (New York: Duell, Sloane, and Pearce, 1946), p. 114.

5. San Diego California, City and County (San Diego: San Diego County Board of Supervisors, 1913), p. 31. Pamphlet in the Collection of the California Room, San Diego Public Library.

6. New York Times, Dec. 16, 1906, p. 14. 7. Ibid., Dec. 3, 1906, p. 8.

8. Ordinances of the City of San Diego, Vol. III (San Diego: City of San Diego, 1906), p. 24.

9. Ashleigh E. Brilliant. Social Effects of the Automobile in Southern California During the Nineteen Twenties, Doctoral Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley. 1964, p. 210.

10. Charles Kelly, The Kellys, 1819-1944, Typescript in the Collection of the San Diego History Center, Junipero Serra Museum, pp. 36-39.

11. Earl Pomeroy, In Search of the Golden West, The Tourist in Western America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957), p. 125.

12. Brilliant, Social Effects of the Automobile, p. 22.

13. Dana Burke?s San Diego City and County Directory, 1905, 1906 (San Diego: San Diego Directory Co., 1905-1906). pp. 43, 47.

14. San Diego Union, Jan. 12. 1906, p. 3. 15. Quoted in ibid., Jan. 13, 1906, p. 5.

16. Richard F. Pourade, Gold in the Sun, Volume V of The History of San Diego (6 vols.: San Diego: Union-Tribune Publishing Co., 1960-1967), p. 82.

17. San Diego Union, Nov. 28. 1906, p. 12.

18. Pourade, Gold in the Sun, p. 83.

19. Kelly, The Kellys, pp. 36-39: San Diego Union, Nov. 3, 1906, p. 9.

20. San Diego Union. Nov. 3. 1906, p. 9: Pourade, Gold in the Sun, p. 88.

21. Charles Kessler quoted in the San Diego Union, Jan. 2. 1906. P. 3.

22. John Nolen, San Diego, A Comprehensive Plan for Its Improvemert (Boston: George Ellis. Printers, 1908). p. 3.

23. Ibid., pp. 7, 63.

24. Anonymous, The Crime of the Canyon: The Secret History of How the Saints of Sixth Street Slipped One Over on the People of San Diego in 1913, Collection of the California Room, San Diego Public Library.

25. San Diego Union, Nov. 3, 1906: Pourade, Gold in the Sun, p. 87.

26. San Diego Union, Jan. 22. 1906. p. 3.

27. Ibid., April 15, 1907. p. 3: April 22. 1907, p. 1.

28. Ihid., Aug. 5, 1907, p. 4.

29. Touring Topics, Official Publication of the Automobile Club of Southern California. February. 1909. p. 18.

30. Ibid.. p. 19.

31. Ibid.

32. Carl H. Heilbron, ed. History of San Diego County (San Diego: San Diego Press Club,
1936). p. 384.

33. Clarence A. McGrew. City of San Diego and San Diego County, The Birthplace of California 1 (2 vols.; Chicago: American Historical Society. 1922). p. 371.

34. Brilliant. Social Effects of the Automobile, pp. 210-211.

35. San Diego Union, July 14, 1909, p. 20.

36. Ibid., July 14, 1909. p. 4. 37. Ibid., July 2, 1909, p. 9.

38. Ibid., July 13. 1909, p. 9.

39. Ibid., Aug. 4, 1909, p. 1; Ben Blow, California Highway: A Descriptive Record of Road Development by the State and by Such Counties as Have Paved Roads (San Francisco: H. S. Crocker Co., 1920), pp. 125-26.

40. San Diego Union, Nov. 2. 1909, p. 60.

41. Edward Fletcher, Memoirs of Ed Fletcher (San Diego, Calif. Privately Published, 1952). P. 277.

42. San Diego Union, Nov. 12, 1909, p. 5.

43. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 279-80. 44. Ibid., p. 280.

45. Pourade, Gold in the Sun, p. 112. 46. San Diego Union, Jan. 1, 1912, p. 6.

47. Roscoe Porter, comp., Highways and Byways of San Diego County (San Diego: Auto Tire Co., 1911), p. 37. Pamphlet in the Collection of the California Room. San Diego Public Library.

48. Pourade, Gold in the Sun, p. 140.

49. San Diego Union, Dec. 3. 1911; Advertisement for J. Jessop & Sons Jewelers in Porter, Highways and Byways, p. 7.

50. San Diego Union, Nov. 3. 1911, p. 10;
Nov. 5, 1911, p. 37.

51. Fletcher. Memoirs, p. 281.

52. San Diego Union, Nov. 3. 1911, p. 10;
Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 280.

53. Pourade, Gold in the Sun, p. 137.

54. State of California, California Highways and Public Works, XL (July-August, 1961), 61; San Diego Union, Jan. 4, 1912, p. 20.

55. San Diego Union, Jan. 4, 1912, p. 20.

56. Pourade, Gold in the Sun, p. 136.

57. McGrew, City of San Diego, 1, 372.

58. Heilbron, History of San Diego County, p.

59. San Diego Union, April 8, 1913, p. 1.

60. Ibid., April 10, 1913, pp. 1-2.

61. Ibid., April 24, 1912, p. 9.

62. Ibid., April 28, 1912, p. 42.

63. F, B. Naylor, quoted in the San Diego Union, Oct. 3. 1912, p. 5.

64. Ibid., Oct. 26, 1912, p. 9.

65. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 282.

66. Collection of the California Room, San Diego Public Library. File entitled Plank Road, Imperial County, California.

67. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 286.

68. Ibid.; Pourade, Gold in the Sun, p. 169,

69. San Diego Union, Oct. 29, 1912, p. 6.

70. Fletcher, Memoirs, pp. 284, 282.

71. San Diego Union, Nov. 23, 1913, p. 16.

72. Ibid., Nov. 21, 1913, p. 7.

73. Ibid., Nov. 24, 1913, p. 1.

74. Ibid.

75. Ibid.

76. Ibid., Nov. 25, 1913, p. 11.

77. J. B. Lippencott, quoted in Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 298.

78. Ibid.

79. Ibid., p. 300.

80. Otis B. Touts, The First Thirty Years, 1901-1931: Being an Account of the Principal
Events in the History of Imperial Valley
(San Diego, By the Author, 1931), p. 198.

81. Fletcher. Memoirs, p. 297.

82. Blow, California Highways, p. 98.

83. Caroline Rittenberg, quoted in Brilliant, Social Effects of the Automobile, p. 207.

84. Edward Fletcher to Carl Hayden. Yuma, Jan. 4, 1912. Letter in the possession of the Ed Fletcher Co., San Diego, California.

85. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 307.

86. Hiram Johnson to Edward Fletcher, Sacramento, Aug. 14, 1914, in Edward Fletcher Papers (Special Collections of the Univ. of California, Los Angeles), file box #76, Touring Topics, March, 1914, p. 6.

87. McGrew, City of San Diego, 1, 372; Telegram Edgar A. Luce to Edward Fletcher, in Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 309.

88. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 305.

89. William B. Gross, From San Diego to Washington, D.C.: Being a Descriptive Account of the First Official Trip by Automobile over the Southern National Highway (San Diego: Frye & Smith, 1916), p. 56; Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 305.

90. Pourade, Gold in the Sun, p. 199.

91. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 305.

92. Gross, From San Diego to Washington, p. 54.

93. Ibid., p. 52.

94. Quoted in ibid., p. 56.

95. Frederic L. Paxson, ?The Highway Movement, 1916-1935,? American Historical Review, LI (January, 1946), pp. 242-43.

96. Ibid., June 23, 1916, p. 9.

97. U.S. Statutes at Large, Vol. 39, pt. I (Dec. 1915-Mar. 1917), ?An Act to provide that the United States shall aid the States in the construction of rural post roads, and for other purposes,? July 11, 1916, ch. 241, art. 1,2,4,6, pp. 355-59.

98. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 319; Paxson, Highway Movement, p. 243.

99. Fletcher, Memoirs, pp. 318-21.

100. Telegram from Edward Fletcher to Austin B. Fletcher, Washington, Feb. 2, 1918, reproduced in Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 321.

101. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 321.

102. San Diego Union, May 16, 1919, p. 11.

103. New York Times, August 15, 1919, p. 3.

104. San Diego Union, May 1, 1919, p. 7; May 2, 1919, p. 9.

105. Ibid., June 29, 1919, p. 1.

106. Quoted in ibid., July 1, 1919, p. 1.

107. U.S. Statutes at Large, Vol. 42, pt. I (Apr., 1921-Mar., 1923), ?Federal Highway Act,? November 9, 1921, ch. 119, sec. 6,20, pp. 213, 216.

108. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 342.

109. Advertisement of the San Diego-California Club quoted in Pourade, The Rising Tide, Vol. VI of The History of San Diego (6 vols., San Diego: Union-Tribune Publishing Co., 1960-1967), p. 37.

110. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 330,

111. Ibid.

112. Ibid., pp. 332-37.

113. San Diego Union, November 18, 1923, pp. 1, 5.

114. San Diego Union, November 18, 1923, p. 1,

115. Pourade, The Rising Tide, p. 249.

116. Fletcher. Memoirs, pp. 342-44.

Raymond C. Chaney, Jr., received his A.B. at the University of California at Santa Barbara and is presently working towards his Master?s at San Diego State College. Mr. Chaney is a Juvenile Probations Officer for San Diego County.