Friday, August 14, 2015

Hitting the Road

Over the past two summers Russell Library intern Kaylynn Washnock assisted in curating the new exhibit, “Seeing Georgia: Changing Visions of Tourism in the Modern South” opening September 18th in the Russell Library’s Harrison Feature Gallery. The exhibit investigates how the state transformed itself from a way station along the route to Florida into a tourist destination during the twentieth century. It addition to highlighting six popular destinations in Georgia the exhibit considers questions of access, preservation, and economics – who could go, how they got there, and what motivated them to visit different attractions. The exhibit also explores the professionalization of the tourism industry and the roles of modern amenities in shaping the modern tourist experience. This post is one in a series where Kaylynn offers a preview of the exhibition.   

Image courtesy of Ed Jackson.
New South boosters like Atlanta Mayor Robert F. Maddox and Atlanta Constitution editor Clark Howell expected improved roads to further unite the North and South and enhance the South’s economic vitality through increased tourism and business.

Image courtesy of Ed Jackson.
The Dixie Highway, with construction beginning in 1915, provided an integrated system of improved roads connecting the South to the Midwest. The most successful product of the Good Roads Movement (1880s-1920s), the highway ran through ten states, connecting Georgia to Lake Michigan and Miami Beach. The dividends of this public-private partnership paid out quickly – nearly 7,000 cars bound for Florida, carrying 27,000 motorists, spent an estimated $2,760,000 along the Dixie Highway during the winter of 1916 alone. According to a Dixie Highway Association advertisement for sign posts, the painted white and red stripe telephone pole logo not only “added advertising value” to local communities but created “enthusiasm in the interest in the highway” among tourists from other states.

Image courtesy of Ed Jackson
Many Georgia cities along the route embarked on new building projects to capitalize on the increased car traffic. Building on the success of the Dixie Highway, the Automobile Club of America, New York, promoted the 1917 Dixie Tour as both restful and recreational touting both “the old romantic South” and “the new South of enterprise and initiative.” Aside from high-class hotels and natural scenery, the Dixie Tour capitalized on wartime patriotism by stressing how the South was home to “battlefields celebrated in the annals” and “great camps where our officers and men are now training to serve Uncle Sam.”

Want to find out more about Georgia Tourism? Visit Seeing Georgia: Changing Visions of Tourism in the New South on display in the Harrison Feature Gallery in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries from September 18, 2015 through, July 30, 2016. The Russell Library gallery is free and open to the public weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. For more information, email or call 706-542-5788

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