This Marker is Where All Roads in the US Start

June 4, 1923

In Washington, D.C., dedication ceremonies were held for the permanent mile-marker monument known as the Zero Milestone (replacing a temporary version that had been put in place there a few years earlier). This monolith, which still stands in an area just south of the White House, was originally intended to serve as the milestone from which all road distances in the United States should be measured.

The concept of the Zero Milestone was formally set forth by good-roads advocate Dr. S.M. Johnson. His source of inspiration for the marker was the ancient Golden Milestone, which had been placed within the Roman Forum by the emperor Augustus Caesar to serve as the focal point for measuring distances throughout the Roman Empire.

A highlight of the dedication ceremonies for the permanent Zero Milestone involved the arrival of a transcontinental caravan of approximately 100 automobiles driven by Shriners, who then circled the area where the festivities were being held. The Washington Post reported, “Arrival of the Shrine caravan was the event which lent an expressive touch to the dedication ceremonies.”

These ceremonies were further distinguished by the U.S. Army Band playing “Hail!  Hail! The Caravan!” This marching song had been specially composed for the occasion. Approximately 5,000 people were on hand for the ceremonies, and those addressing the group included U.S. War Secretary John W. Weeks, Assistant U.S. Commerce Secretary J. Walter Drake, and U.S. Bureau of Public Roads Chief Thomas H. MacDonald.

President Warren G. Harding likewise spoke to those assembled, and he underscored the ever-growing important of highways throughout the nation. He proclaimed, “As we shall extend and improve our highways and more and more adapt them to the methods of transportation, we shall strengthen year by year the ties of mutual interest and interdependence which united all our sections.”

For more information on the Zero Milestone, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_Milestone and https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/zero.cfm.

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