The history of Dixie Highway is understood to be the story of transformation of American travel from trails to highway. In the historic days of the automobile, locating places was an adventure. It was complicated to embark on long distance journeys as it was difficult locating places. People depended on the use of expensive tour books and road maps for navigation, which are similar to the modern devices we have today. The drawback of both navigation processes was the fact that they required a navigator to interpret. Thus, there was need for a better system for identifying good routes for travel.
The Dixie Highway came into existence as an idea of linking the North and South together for easy of accessibility of both goods and services. Early auto travelers who traveled from the Midwestern US and Canada to Florida were conveyed through the Dixie Highway. The Dixie Highway was encouraged seriously by Carl Graham Fisher. In 1925 the highway was about 5,706 miles long and extended as far as Ontario to the North and Florida City to the South.
The Dixie highways started out as an idea to link the South and Midwest in December, 1914. It was reported that WS Gilbreath from Indianapolis had earlier suggested that the trail be referred to as ‘Cotton Belt Route’ during the fourth annual American Road Congress Meeting on 9th November, 1914. The first meeting by the Dixie highway association was held on 3rd April, 1915 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The name ‘Dixie’ was chosen by the organization to celebrate Fifty Years of Peace that existed between the North and South.
In February, 1915, states such as Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida had joined the trail and in May 1915, the number of State increased as Ohio came on board. Also in May, a conclusion was reached to have dual mainlines. This was due to the fact that competition for attachment along the Dixie Highway was high among cities which insured parallel routes and also a plan for another Northern trail in Michigan. As a result, the Dixie Highway System was created. Michigan was also included in the highway trail through Mackinac City.
In December 1915, the slogan of the Dixie Highway association was revealed as “We all live on the same street.” The first sign was also announced, which had an image of a blue bale of cotton with the words ‘Dixie Highway’ inscribed. These symbols were displayed in 1916. Markers were placed at all county lines and places of historical interest.
The cotton bale emblem appeared to be too complex for daily usage. The most accepted sign was the white-red-white with the white lettering “DH” on the red band. Also accepted was the band of red bisecting a white sign horizontally. Tri-banded trail signs were the most common and artistic. They could be painted on virtually anything which included telegraph and telephone poles along the route. Also, they were very economical to produce.
In 1927, the roads integrating the east and west mainlines were accomplished, and the Dixie Highway Association was dissolved.
Today, the Dixie Highway exists largely as street signs. Local roads bear witness of a grand past as major interstate corridors.