National Geographic : 1961 Jul
National Geographic, July, 1961 ture and the last completed until the auto age. The National Road reached its end-Van dalia, Illinois, 609 miles west of Cumberland -in 1852. The cost was $7,000,000-enough to build only seven miles of highway to Inter state Highway System specifications today! But then it was the greatest wagon road in the Nation, loud with the rumble of massive Conestogas pulled by six-horse teams. My children waved as we passed a modern Conestoga-a 14-wheeled refrigerated semi trailer. We knew that, to the north and south, parallel roads groaned under similar loads of trucks and passenger cars. National Road Tied East to West "Try to imagine what it would be like," I said, "if only one highway crossed the moun tains today, and you'll know how important the National Road was 150 years ago." The country was smaller then, but grow ing- and exuberant coon-skinned westerners threatened to break away from the east coast just as the Thirteen Colonies had separated from England. George Washington had fore seen the necessity to tie east and west to gether, and the concept of a national road HS EKTACHROMESBY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICPH THOMAS NEBBIA (BELOW)AND VOLKMARWENT followed his thinking. Not only politics but geography dictated the route Congress chose. A highway from Cumberland to Wheeling would connect the Potomac and Ohio Rivers at the closest practical points. The eastern terminus would be easily accessible from the Nation's Capital and, more important, from a major seaport-Baltimore. Thus the Cumberland Road, or the Na tional Road, as it came to be called, cut arrowlike through the Allegheny barrier to link a world port with one of the richest in land valleys ever opened up by man. "What's all this got to do with U. S. 40?" Mary Ellen asked. I explained that when the Bureau of Pub lic Roads set up the Federal system of num bered highways in the mid-1920's, the Na tional Road became a part of U. S. 40. By coincidence, this coast-to-coast route now crosses and recrosses the 40th parallel. I noticed the new interest with which everyone watched the miles click by on this highway which, more than any other, has influenced the course of American history. At the same time, we were getting a look into the next highway era, when Interstate OTOGRAPHERS TZEL© N.G.S. Bombs Bursting in Air Salute the New 50-star Flag at Historic Fort McHenry Restored by the National Park Service, Fort McHenry flies the flag day and night. Hand-hewn pole, a copy of the original, stands on the exact spot where waved the Star-Spangled Banner immortal ized by Francis Scott Key. Built on a peninsula in the Pa tapsco River, the fort stood in the way of a British fleet bent on cap turing Baltimore during the War of 1812. Sixteen warships opened fire on September 13, 1814. Key witnessed the 25-hour bombard ment from a vessel in the river. Daybreak disclosed the flag still gallantly streaming above the ram parts, inspiring him to write the words of the national anthem. Wide-eyed and openmouthed, visitors watch fireworks on July 4, 1960, marking the first raising of the 50-star flag.