High Jinks on the Susquehanna Trail

Story of the Susquehanna Trail in the Good Roads Movement: Part 18

Visualization of an early Susquehanna Trail roadside marker (2014 S. H. Smith design from descriptive bits and pieces within 1919 through 1924 newspaper articles)

Visualization of an early Susquehanna Trail roadside marker (2014 S. H. Smith design from descriptive bits and pieces within 1919 through 1924 newspaper articles)

I was not successful in finding an illustration of an original Susquehanna Trail roadside marker in the many newspapers that I perused to obtain the various articles in this series. I did come across the following descriptive elements within 1919 through 1924 newspaper articles: the marker is 3 feet by 2 feet; the marker is wood; the marker is painted white with black lettering; the marker contains an Indian head symbol; and references are made to a road marker stencil.

Based upon those descriptive elements, this is my visualization of what an early stencil-applied Susquehanna Trail marker might have looked like in 1924. My searches on the Internet did turn up a few round marker variants, which appear to be modern renditions of a round marker that might have been used later in the history of the Trail. If anyone knows the existence of any original Susquehanna Trail markers, please post a comment.

The Trail quickly became a favorite route of motoring tourists. Motels along the trail quickly began to see the benefit of being located on the trail. This produced road marker shenanigans; i.e. the appearance of fake Susquehanna Trail road markers or using stencils of the Susquehanna Trail Indian Head Symbol as fake markers on electric poles and telephone poles. This was all done to direct the flow of traffic by motels or through towns, close to, but not on the Trail.

The following is my favorite article associated with high jinks on the Susquehanna Trail. At the time of this article, in the August 21st, 1924 issue of The Evening News in Harrisburg, the Susquehanna Trail had been open, end-to-end, for one month.

TrailMarkers1924

Trail Markers Removed From Gettysburg Road

The State Highway Department today removed the Indian head symbol of the Susquehanna Trail on the road between Harrisburg and Gettysburg because the road is not part of the trail. The marker had been placed on poles along the Gettysburg road by Gettysburg persons interested in getting traffic to go to their town, the department said.

Notice was given several weeks ago that the markers must come off the poles and, as no attention was paid to it, the department sent out men with planes and all the trail markers were effaced.

This article reaffirms that the alternate route, through Gettysburg, has nothing to do with the Susquehanna Trail, except being an alternate route to reach Washington, D.C. instead of traveling the Susquehanna Trail going through York and Baltimore to reach Washington, D.C.. Thus, The State Highway Department sent out a crew of men, with wood planes, to plane the Susquehanna Trail Indian Head Symbol off of the poles leading to Gettysburg.

The people in Gettysburg must have been reading the Williamsport Chamber of Commerce publicity that showed the Susquehanna Trail going through Gettysburg instead of York. As the trail neared completion, from end to end, in July of 1924, the people in Gettysburg took the road signing into their own hands.

In 1923, the Susquehanna Trail Association had officially designated the Harrisburg-Gettysburg-Washington route as an Alternate Susquehanna Trail route. However, The State Highway Department only recognized the Harrisburg-Gettysburg-Washington route as an alternate route to the Susquehanna Trail; note the difference.  This was a state road, so the State Highway Department had the final say on road signage.

Next Friday, this series will conclude on the Story of the Susquehanna Trail in the Good Roads Movement.

Related posts include:

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

About Stephen H. Smith

Stephen H. Smith is a design engineer who worked at York International Corp. for 33 years before retiring several years ago to research and write books full time; his second career. The initial emphasis was on family history when he won a national award during 2002 for his first book “Barshingers in America.” Positive feedback and that award were influential in his decision to retire early from engineering and start a retirement career.

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