Cyrus Avery

Oklahoma was home to Cyrus Avery. Cyrus Avery fought long and hard to have the new east – west road pass through his home state rather than farther north along the old Santa Fe Trail. In the days before Route 66 poor roads, impassable in inclement weather, and no real highway system made travel out of reach to all but the most adventurous spirits. By the 1920s the public was confused and disgusted. The cry for a standardized National Highway System was louder than ever before. The government knew that something would have to be done about the poor road system in America. There was much work to be done before this highway system could be put in place however. Men of vision would be needed to bring this work to a reality. In 1925, the American Association of State Highway Officials asked the Secretary of Agriculture, William Jardine, for federal supervision of the nation’s highways. Jardine responded by forming the Joint Board of Interstate Highways. An Oklahoma businessman, Cyrus Avery, was appointed as a consulting highway specialist.

Avery and his board examined roads across the country to come up with a list of important interstate routes. He became one of the strongest supporters of the Chicago to Los Angeles route, a route that he wanted to pass through his home state of Oklahoma. There were more than 250 transcontinental roads already in place, sponsored by more than 100 private automobile organizations. These private organizations lobbied Avery intensely to have their specific highways chosen as part of the national system. Avery chose a route that, in the West, followed much of the National Old Trails Road, which happened to cross through the middle of Oklahoma. Avery knew that a major highway through Oklahoma would boost that state’s economy so he relentlessly pushed for an alternate route. He was successful in his bid to have the new route pass through his home state. This route was designated U.S. Highway 66 November 11, 1926. Today, many consider Cyrus Avery to be the Father of Route 66, “America’s Mother Road.”

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