Highways in 1922
Their Route
Maps and Guide Books
Their Car
Model T
Gas Stations and Gas Pumps
Camping equipment and supplies
Car Facts for the 1920s


Highways in 1922

Hwy shield with state name and number.  (Public Domain)

Hwy shield with state name and number. (Public Domain)

The first “highways” were created in the mid 1910s. These highways were started by different Good Road organizations and trail clubs. The trail organizations were formed to create marked “interstate” highways, and these highways were not numbered but rather named. Each “named” highway was created by a for-profit organization that promoted its own route. The routes were marked by color markers that were placed on telephone poles, fences and other objects on the side of the road. These highways were called improved highways, but were often in poor shape and most were not paved. By 1925, there were over 250 named highways. Since there was no central organization for the highway system, routes could be placed haphazardly and even relocated in order to pass through cities that wanted the recognition. The confusion caused by these named highways resulted in the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1925. This act named the highways via numbers and gave the administration of the routes to the states rather than private road clubs. The new highway signs were made in the shape of a shield showing both a highway number and a state name.

A great source of Highway History can be found on the federal highway site.  Other sites that might be of interest are auto trails and numbered highways.

When Lloyd made his trip, the highways he traveled were the named highways. He mentions several of the highways he used, but I’ve found others he traveled by studying the period maps. I’ve included the highway signs and routes when I could find them for each highway he traveled.

Car in the Mud

Car in the Mud

Car in the cut in Gravel Hill between Santa Fe and Algodones NM

Car in the cut in Gravel Hill between Santa Fe and Algodones NM

Bad Road

Bad Road

Improved Road

Improved Road

Old Guard Rails (public Domain)

Old Guard Rails
(public Domain)

Old Wooden Bankhead Highway bridge "Courtesy of Texas State Library and Archives Commission."

Old Wooden Bankhead Highway bridge
“Courtesy of Texas
State Library and Archives Commission.”

Before traffic lights traffic jam with cars, tram and even horse carriages courtesy of Water and Power

Before traffic lights
traffic jam with cars, tram and even horse carriages
courtesy of Water and Power


Map of their Route

Western States

Western States

Eastern States

Eastern States


Maps and Guide Books

During the early 1920s there were several sources for obtaining information on roads. Lloyd had some maps of the roads he traveled ( The Great Union Pacific Highway Route Information, Utah State Automobile Associate Map , and the Automobile Club of Arizona Road Map ). He also had one guide – The TIB Automobile Route Book of Colorado and the Pacific Coast. The TIB guide contained information on the routes between certain cities. Basically this was a map with distances, but it sometimes included information about road conditions.

Other resources available to travelers of that era included:

Rand McNally auto trail books – These books seemed to contain only maps.  This link is to one page of the 1927 Junior Auto Trail Map of Colorado.  To see all maps of the different states, type the state name and 1927.  One of the maps displayed will be the Rand McNally map of that era.  Some states like California and Nevada are combined.  I have been able to obtain a reproduction of the entire 1926 version of the book.

AAA auto trail guides – In addition to maps, these guides contained detailed mileage information for the route. The routes were broken down between two cities and contained information such as at mile 4.5 you pass a church on the left.

Mohawk Hobbs Grade and Surface Guides – the Mohawk Rubber Company sold these for many of the different routes. The price was 20 cents. These would be great to have on a trip. They included a map of the route and also listed the conditions of the roads. The road surface was listed as: Macadam, Asphalt, Gravel, Paved, Brick, or Concrete. It mentioned if chains were needed on sections of the road when the road was wet. Hotels were listed and denoted by *, **, or *** – Simple, Modern, or Luxurious. It also listed garages which were broken down by:
* Power equipment, open evenings or all night
* Power equipment, but not open at night
* No power equipment, open evening or all night
* No machine shop and not open evenings.

Additionally, the guide listed tourist camp grounds and the services that they offered. There was no advertising in the guides. Hotels, garages and camps were listed on their merits alone, because each was considered best of its class.


Their Car

In Winston at Rooming House L to R: Lloyd B Smith Jr, Benn Tuttle, Denton & Dood Bush

In Winston at Rooming House
L to R: Lloyd B Smith Jr, Benn Tuttle, Denton & Dood Bush

Lloyd bought the used 1920 Model T Touring Car one month before the start of the trip. He paid $408. The original contract can be found here and the original payment schedule can be found here. All four guys shared in the cost of the car but Lloyd actually purchased it. He bought the car from Universal Auto which is still around. The original building was built in 1919 and was on the corner of Third and Liberty Streets in Winston-Salem, NC. The building was unique in that the auto repair bays were on the second and third floors, and it had parking on the roof. The cars were taken to the parking and auto repair bays by an elevator.

When Lloyd bought the car, he was living at the Alexander Apartments, located at 650 West Fourth Street, in Winston-Salem. I assume this is the place where they made the picture to the right showing Lloyd and some of his friends. Ben Tuttle was one of the friends he traveled with on this journey.  Ben and Lloyd it seems were roommates in the Alexander Apartments and both worked at RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston.


Model T

In March of 1920 a new Model T touring car cost $575. By September the price had dropped to $440 and in June of 1921 you could buy a Model T for $415. A year later the price was $355. I’m not sure why Lloyd paid $408 for the car in 1922 when it was 2 years old. At first I thought that possibly the car had been equipped with the starter and demountable wheels adding an additional $100 to the price. However upon looking closely at the picture where they are eating watermelon by the car, you can see the crank on the front of the car.

In the early 1920s, half of the cars on the road were Model T’s. They were dependable, rugged and affordable. There were several different types of Model T’s. There was the 5 place touring car, a 1 door 2 seat roadster, a 2 door 2 seat coupe, and a 2 door 5 seat sedan. The sedan and coupe were closed cars while the roadster and touring car were open.

To start the car, you would have to hand crank the engine in order to activate the magneto which is connected to the flywheel. Before attempting the crank you had to retard the spark or the engine might “kick back”. You had to cup the handle in the palm of your hand with the thumb under the handle, so that if it did kick back you would not get hurt. You would prime the engine using your left hand with a choke located near the radiator.

Driving the car was much different than driving a car today. There were three pedals, the clutch, the reverse and the brake. When the clutch (leftmost peddle) was pushed all the way down, the car was in low gear. You would use low gear when you were starting out, when you were going less than 10 mph, and when you were climbing hills. You had to keep the pedal pushed to the floor the entire time. When the pedal was in the half way position, the car was in neutral. If you let the pedal out completely the car was in high gear.

To put the car in reverse, you would first need to put the car in neutral. This could be accomplished with the clutch or with a floor lever on the left. If the floor lever was in the middle or full upright position, the car was in neutral. When the car was in neutral, you could then press the reverse pedal (middle pedal).

The pedal to the far right was the brake pedal. At times people would slow or stop the car by putting it into reverse rather than using the brake. This actually saved the brake bands and allowed them to wear out about the same time as the transmission low and reverse bands.

There were 2 levers on the steering column. The right lever was a hand throttle or accelerator. When the throttle was pulled down, the car went faster, and the car slowed when the throttle was pushed up. The left lever was used to adjust the spark advance (timings).

The floor lever on the left of the driver was in gear when in the forward position. When it was halfway back, you could put the car in reverse. When it was in the full upright position it was in neutral and the brake could be applied.

The car had electric headlights and horn. The magneto supplied the power for both.

The car weighed 1500 pounds. It had a 20-22 horse powered 4 cylinder engine. It did not have a water pump, oil pumps or distributors, nor did it have fuel, oil or air filters. It had a 10 gallon fuel tank that was located under the front seat. Gas made its way to the engine by means of gravity.

People would often drive up steep hills in reverse. The reverse gear was stronger than the others, and the gravity-fed engine was more reliable in reverse on steep grades.

Gas mileage was in the 10-12 MPG range. The car ran on gasoline, paraffin or ethanol. The top speed on really good roads was 45 mph, but given the conditions of the roads during this time, 20 mph would be considered good.

There were no turn signals. The dash board consisted of an ammeter. There was no speedometer, oil gauge, fuel gauge, or anything else. You measured the fuel by using a dip stick. You changed the oil about every 500 miles.

The rear tires on the car were 3.5 inches wide, the front tires were 3 inches wide and the wheels were wooden. The car was a rear wheel drive vehicle.

The car had an upright windshield and the top half could be folded down. There were no windshield wipers.

The only available color of the car was black.

The average life of a Model T was 8 years.

Model T’s did not accelerate or brake quickly, so you had to always plan ahead.

The open cars had imitation leather upholstery for the seats. My guess is that it handled the wet conditions better.

I found a link to the 1921 and 1919 owners manual.

Model T ad from the '20s imgarcade.com

Model T ad from the ’20s

1920 Model T Touring imgarcade.com

1920 Model T Touring



Kodak Brownie No.2a Model B from James's Camera Collection

Kodak Brownie No.2a Model B
from James’s Camera Collection

I think the camera was probably a Kodak Brownie No.2a Model B which was produced between 1920 and 1924. It had only 1 shutter speed and a fixed focus. It used 116 film and the camera produced “postcard” sized pictures. In 1907 Kodak created a service called “real photo postcards,” enabling people to make a postcard from any picture they took. The pictures were meant to be 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches.   The pictures Lloyd took were smaller. I think they were 2 1/2 x 4 1/4 inches. 116 size film is a roll film introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1899 for 21/2 41/4 inch negatives. I assume his pictures were made straight from the negatives. This is probably why they did not get fuzzy when I scanned them with a high resolution.


Gas Stations and Gas Pumps

Around 1920, there were 15,000 gas stations and around 7500 curbside gas pumps throughout the US. Gas was about 12 cents a gallon. A gas station sold gas, batteries, oil and tires, and the attendants wore uniforms. They provided basic services like tire repair and lubrication.

Curbside pumps were put in place by any business that wanted to sell gas. They were convenient but also caused traffic blockages so they were soon replaced by drive in stations. Curbside pumps were red so that they could be easily spotted.

The manual pumps used in the stations and on the curbside had either a 5 or 10 gallon hold. The gas would be pumped into the hold and then fed to the car via gravity. Owners would often manipulate the amount of gas to short change the customer since there were no reliable measuring systems in use.

Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society Title: Bungalow Service Station p.1 Collection: Utah State Historical Society Classified Photo Collection; MSS C 275 Shipler Commercial Photographers Collection Photo #: 24231; Shipler #24715

Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society
Title: Bungalow Service Station p.1
Collection: Utah State Historical Society Classified Photo Collection; MSS C 275 Shipler Commercial Photographers Collection
Photo #: 24231; Shipler #24715

Curbside gas pump (provided by Chevron Workers Area)

Curbside gas pump
(provided by Chevron Workers Area)

courtesy of Water and Power

courtesy of Water and Power


Camping Supplies Needed

In order to make this trip they had multiple supplies. I do know they had the camp bed and the camp stove. I also know they had a gun. My uncle has the gun and I hope to get a picture of it in the next few months. Many of their camping supplies were stored on the side of their car as they drove. The Model T’s of that era had an accordion enclosure on the running boards to store equipment.

The Camp Bed. This is what they had.  See page the Tennessee  page to see a picture of theirs.

The Camp Bed.
This is what they had. See page the Tennessee
page to see a picture of theirs.

Camp Stove See picture on opposite their  camping on the Tennessee page

Camp Stove
See picture on opposite their
camping on the Tennessee page


Car Facts for the 1920s

  1. License plates became mandatory by 1920.
  2. Driver’s licenses were not required in most states.
  3. Driver training was done by the car salesmen, YMCA, and friends.
  4. Car insurance rates were expensive.
  5. Skinny tires were used because they were more effective at cutting through mud to reach more solid ground. Chains were sometimes used in muddy conditions.
  6. Long distances between petrol stations and breakdowns were fairly common.
  7. Tourist parks (motels) sprang up for the traveler.
  8. Diners became common. Drivers wanted cheap, relatively fast food so they could be on their way in  a hurry.
  9. Stop signs originated in Michigan in 1915. The first ones had green letters on a white background and were 24 by 24 inches. They were standardized in 1922, and the octagonal shape and the red color were chosen.
  10. The first four-way, three-color traffic light was created by police officer William Potts in Detroit,  Michigan in 1920.
  11. Roadside businesses sprang up to cater to the traveler. Some roadside businesses were much less formal, including roadside markets run by individual entrepreneurs who took produce, blankets, baskets, and other farm goods and crafts products to the side of the highway.
  12. Windshield wipers were not invented until 1924 and they were manually operated.
  13. Cars required much higher road clearances than modern cars because of the bad road conditions.
  14. The open cars were not heated.
  15. By the 1920s many cities had speed limits of around 10 mph.
  16. Turn signals were hand signals.
  17. Driving on the right hand side of the road was started in the early 20s.
  18. Cities made some of the streets one way in order to keep cars moving in the 20s.
  19. It was much more dangerous to drive or be a pedestrian in the 1920s. The death rate was 10 times higher in the 1920s than it is today. This was caused by the lack of safety equipment, bad drivers,  bad roads, and few traffic laws which were also rarely enforced.
  20. Goggles were often needed to protect the eyes from mud, dust and bugs.
  21. Camping gear, spare parts and other items could be stowed on the running boards of the cars.
  22. Tail lights were optional, and I don’t believe that any of the cars had brake lights. If a car did have a tail light, there was usually just one in the center. I don’t think Lloyd’s car had any tail lights.