Zephyr Used & Rare Books is offering a catalogue of Automobile Travel and “Good Roads.” The Good Roads Movement began in the 1880s, before automobiles, as farmers and bicyclists (bicycles becoming very popular at that time) sought to improve America's deplorable road system. However, the movement really took hold after 1910 as automobiles began reaching a significant portion of the population. Motorists wanted to travel farther than around town, but the barely maintained rutted and muddy roads between cities made automobile travel extremely difficult. So, motorists formed groups to promote the construction of a decent highway system across the country. Within a few years they began to spring up, first as connections among local roads, and in time, a highway system built by the government. Within a couple of decades, Americans were traveling everywhere, enjoying good roads and all the services that quickly sprung up along them to assist travelers. This catalogue looks back to those early times, the first half century of automobile travel.
The name of Hubert Robert “Bert” Roberts is probably not familiar to you. He was not a major figure, but was actively involved in the automobile business through most of its first four decades. He was a sales executive along the west coast, primarily in Portland, and apparently was very good at selling cars. Unfortunately, the companies for which he worked ultimately were not, though they all had their runs. He worked for Winton, Maxwell, Jeffery, and mostly Hupmobile. Winton closed in 1924, Jeffery was sold to Nash in 1917, Maxwell taken over by Chrysler in 1925 (Jack Benny legendarily drove a Maxwell), while Hupmobile lasted until 1939. Roberts avoided their fates by switching to Hupmobile in 1916. Item 31 is a scrapbook Roberts kept through his years in the automotive business. It is a Hupp Motor Car sales catalogue that has been filled with many other pieces including photographs, news clippings, dealership information, along with Roberts' manuscript notations throughout the book. Photographs show trips over bad roads around the West, the first airplane flight to Portland, dealership showrooms, the Hupp convention in Detroit in 1916, promotional tours in California. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, “It seems that ever since there has been an automobile business on the coast, Bert has been making regular visits to San Francisco... Roberts is an A-1 salesman who has served the Hupmobile factory exceedingly well.” Zephyr notes that Roberts' name no longer appears in business directories of 1938 and his wife was listed as a widow in the 1940 census. He must have expired shortly before Hupp. They also point out that Hupp trade literature is very rare today. Priced at $3,500.
Here is a trip you can no longer take. Item 16 is an accordion style brochure for Crystal Park Colorado, “the world's most wonderful scenic mountain auto trip.” Opened in 1910, this privately owned narrow, winding road went up the mountain outside of Colorado Springs. It was filled with switchbacks, steep grades, twists, turns and all sorts of obstacles to make the trip exciting. The road did not naturally have a view of the area's most noted landmark, Pike's Peak, so an ingenuous method was made to provide one. There was a side spur to a ledge from which it could be viewed. However, there was not enough room to turn around, so a turntable was built. You could drive on to the turntable, get out of your car and look, and then the turntable would spin your car back 180 degrees so you could go back up the spur. I don't know how long this road was open to the public but have not found anything about the Crystal Park Company which built it much beyond the first few years after it was opened. It is part of a 2,000 acre gated community above Manitou Springs today. $85.
Next we have a Motor Map of England & Wales circa 1920 by a company you probably don't associate with road maps. It was published by Perrier, the French upscale bottled water “obtainable at every good hotel and club in the world.” They created this travel case containing 15 maps and one distance timetable. They show roads and railways and distances from London. Along the borders is advertising for Perrier water. In 1920, most owners of automobiles would have been upscale financially, Perrier's target audience. Item 75. $295.
Once people had cars, and “good roads” were constructed around the nation, travelers needed to know where they could stay on their travels. One of the ways of providing this information, and offering travelers some degree of quality assurance about where to stay, were referral groups of motels. These were not chains such as dominate the landscape today but organizations of independently owned motels that worked together. They would provide referrals to other member motels to guests as to where they could stay the next night on their trip. They also set certain standards so that visitors would be confident that these motels were of reasonable quality. One of the earliest such groups was United Motor Courts, formed in 1933. Item 45 is one of their brochures, circa 1940. It is headed Guide to Superior Accommodations in United States, Mexico, and British Columbia. It notes they offer motel rooms “coast to coast.” There is a white box for the motel giving out the brochure to stamp its name. This one came from the Cross Road Tourist Court in DeWitt, Iowa. The largest similar group of independent motels today is the well-known Best Westerns. $50.
Item 113 is three advertising catalogues headed Radio Takes to the Road. This was a promotional for NBC radio. It notes that the network now has 117 radio stations, with increasing numbers of listeners and consequently, “listeners now cost 56% less.” Of particular note is the growth in number of car radios which offered advertisers a captive audience. It explains that from 1934-1936, 3 million radios were installed in cars. $350.
Zephyr Used & Rare Books may be reached at 360-695-7767 or firstname.lastname@example.org.