Tracing the Tire Tracks

Postmark on a postcard sent from Merced, California on October 19, 1929 around 9 AM.

Postmark on a postcard sent from Merced, California on October 19, 1929 around 9 AM.

I am fortunate enough to have been able to trace where Dorothy, Edith, and Evelyn were throughout their trip.  Thanks to the postcards and letters that Dorothy, who went by Dotty or Dottie, wrote home, I can track where they went from postmark to postmark.  The contents in her correspondence fill in the time between mailings.

So for example, between the first postcard (which wasn’t sent or at least was not postmarked) written in Hawley, PA and the second postcard sent from Ashtabula, Ohio, I know that the girls made stops in Scranton, PA and Erie, PA.  The 34 postcards and letters (including one telegram too!) which were regularly sent home allow me to piece together a vast majority of the trip.  In the entire three month journey, there are only 10 days where I do not know what city/town/destination they were visiting, and out of those 10 days only 4 are days that I do not know with certainty which state they were in because there were major geographical jumps between postcard postmarks.

When I recreate this trip, I will be able to go where they went and know that they truly were there and that I will be seeing the same places they saw over 80 years later.  To walk in history like that… I think that is really something special.

The question is, at these places, what has changed, and what has been preserved?

This entry was posted in Historic Preservation, History, Mail, Research, Road Trip and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Tracing the Tire Tracks

  1. Jim says:

    You had better believe I will be following this, as I love historic roads and transportation history. I have a small collection here of old road guides and maps from the first half of the 20th century that guide my way as I explore the old roads!

    I read the American Road forum, where we discuss historic roads and then-and-now style road trips all the time. I’ll mention this project over there, but you may also wish to check out the form at

    • Thank you for stopping by here and on Facebook and showing your support of my project! Your collection of road guides and maps sounds really neat, I’m hoping to get one or two of my own as I further my research.

      I stumbled upon American Road’s Twitter account and have since picked up a copy of their magazine with intent to subscribe soon, but hadn’t made it over to the forum until just now. Thank you for spreading the word on there, I appreciate it. I will extend an additional invitation to my blog once I’m approved to make posts there.

  2. dennyg says:

    Assuming you think another follower is a good thing, Jim did us both a favor when he mentioned your blog. Like Jim, I have a fairly severe case of old road addiction and definitely look forward to following your trip and your planning as well. I did something similar on a smaller scale when I attempted to recreate and retrace my great-grandparents 1920 trip from Ohio to Florida using letters Granny had sent to her daughter throughout the trip. It was great fun and I thought I did fairly well but, over ten years later, I now know I could have done better. That just means I’ll have to do it again someday.

    I applaud your decision to spend two years rather than two days planning your trip. That’s a wise move, I think. Best of luck with it all.

    • Hi Denny, and thanks for checking out the blog (and twitter and facebook). I appreciate it.

      I’m glad to hear that you took on recreating your great-grandparents’ trip. I’d be interested to discover how many have took on similar ventures. I think it would be fun to do the trip again, plus you’d see just how much has changed since you last did it too, which is something that I am interested in seeing with this trip of mine.

      I started working on my thesis in April of 2010, and at that time it was just a far off thought to do the trip, a “how cool would that be someday” kind of thought.

      A serious effort to do the trip is a more recent development as I spent a year in Ohio with AmeriCorps driving back roads to get to historical sites to conduct architectural field surveys. My enjoyment of that really drove home the idea of there is no time like the present to travel even more back roads all the way around the country.

      Now I’m working on a couple of grants to fund my research and to fund the trip, and grants are not an immediate process, apply in May, hear back in December sort of a thing. Also I want to expand upon my thesis before I go, so that I have a better basis for experience comparison when I do go, and that will take time too. That and I am not nearly as spontaneous as they were to start a three-month-long trip with two-days’ notice.

      Thank you for the best wishes, I look forward to hearing more from you as this project develops.


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