1892: Hundreds of Good Roads Advocates Gather in Chicago for a Pivotal Meeting

October 20, 1892

In Chicago, more than 1,000 good roads advocates from across the United States gathered at Central Music Hall to form an organization to further promote their cause. This meeting was held in conjunction with the dedication ceremonies for the Chicago World’s Fair (also called the World’s Columbian Exposition), which would take place the following day and were expected to attract a large crowd. 

The main purpose of the meeting of good-roads advocates was to establish a broad-based organization of good roads advocates that went beyond just the urban bicyclists that mostly comprised the League of American Wheelmen (LAW), which had been around since 1880. LAW’s membership also included such other key constituencies as farmers’ associations. All of those individuals and others likewise championing improved roads nationwide were in attendance at the meeting. 

Speakers at that unprecedented gathering in Chicago included staunch and well-known good roads advocates like General Roy Stone, who helped organize the event and would become the first chief of the U.S. Office of Road Inquiry about a year later; Albert A. Pope, a leading bicycle manufacturer; and Governor Levi K. Fuller of Vermont. 

One of the major actions taken by the meeting’s delegates on the evening of October 20, 1892, involved unanimously adopting a constitution that authorized creation of the National League for Good Roads. The next day’s edition of the Minnesota-based Saint Paul Daily Globe newspaper reported, “The objects of the league are to awaken interest in the improvement of public roads, to determine the best methods of building and maintaining them, to secure state and national legislation and to conduct such publication as may serve those purposes.” (The above photo of the Central Music Hall was included in the 1893 book Musical Instruments at the World’s Columbian Exposition.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the large-scale 1892 meeting of good roads advocates in Chicago, please check out https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/stone04.cfm and https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byday/fhbd1020.htm

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