Iowa’s Route 6 – The Road Built in an Hour, 1910

To build a solid, major road, hundreds of miles long in one hour defies belief, but that is what the Iowa State authorities performed in 1910.

In the USA in 1910 the motorcar’s popularity was really taking off with the launch of the Model T Ford two years earlier. In Iowa State, before the U.S. Highway System came into being in 1926, roads were maintained and promoted by local organisations which sought to drive traffic into their communities.

Yet there was one major obstacle on the road to prosperity; Iowa was gaining a nasty reputation for the poor state of its roads.

They would become impassable for weeks at a time due to snow and mud, farmers weren’t able to get their products to the nearest rail station and it slowed and even halted mail delivery at times. Iowa got nicknamed the ‘gumbo state’ (gumbo being a thick brown stew).

At a Good Roads Convention in Des Moines on March 8–9, 1910 it was decided that a well maintained River-to-River Road from Davenport to Council Bluffs would help change Iowa’s reputation.

To that end 10,000 Iowans turned out one day under the White Pole Auto Club’s banner, and with thousands of picks, shovels, ploughs, and scrapers they made tremendous progress.

Amazingly, these men completed the road in just one hour; all 380 miles (612 km) of it, and with road signs erected by the day’s end!

That road is Highway 6

Governor Carroll arranged for the farmers who lived along the route to work on the road (

Now, Iowa possessed a road that within a year was widely recognised as the standard of the world.

This is a real road, and even when the ocean-to-ocean highway shall be a fact in the luxurious future, transcontinental automobile travellers may continue to look forward to this particular stretch in pleasant anticipation.” wrote Victor Eubank, after completing the pioneering Raymond and Whitcomb cross-country tour in 1912.


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