1806: America’s First Highway

A sign for the National Road in Richmond, Indiana. (Image by Peetlesnumber1 via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in in 1806, the first major improved highway in the United States was authorized.

Here are some things you might not know about The National Road.

The National Road began in 1751 as the Braddock Road, which ran from Fort Cumberland, Maryland, which is navigable limit of the Potomac River, to Fort Duquesne at the site of modern-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson authorized construction of a road between the Potomac and Ohio River at what is now Wheeling, West Virginia. Construction began in 1811 and the road reached Wheeling in 1818.

Private toll roads were constructed connecting the eastern terminus to Baltimore, while in 1820, Congress approved extending the road to St. Louis on the Mississippi River. However the road never reached St. Louis, as Congressional-funded road building stopped in 1839. The western terminus of the road ended up at Vandalia, Illinois.

Construction and maintenance was transferred to the states. Virginia built the Wheeling Suspension Bridge in 1849, which was at the time the world’s longest bridge at 1,010 feet between towers. It is the oldest vehicular suspension bridge still in use in the United States.

The National Road eventually became part of the National Old Trails Road, which extended from New York City to San Francisco. In 1927, the road was designated as U.S. Highway 40. Most of its route is now paralleled by Interstate 70.

Our question: Name the current state capitals The National Road ran through?


Today is Youth Day in Taiwan and Boganda Day in Central African Republic.

It’s unofficially Manatee Appreciation Day, National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day and National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day.

It’s the birthday of comedian and writer Eric Idle, who is 74; basketball legend Walt Frazier, who is 72; and actress Amy Sedaris, who is 56.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1989, the top song in the U.S. was “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles.

The No. 1 movie was “Fletch Lives,” while the novel “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question: When did Pan Am go out of business?

Submit your answer at triviapeople.com/test and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at triviapeople.com. We’ll have the correct answer on Friday’s episode.



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