|FHWA > Highway History > General Roy Stone and The New York Times > The Office of Road Inquiry|
General Roy Stone and The New York Times
The Office of Road Inquiry
"Portrait of a General" covers General Stone's career as Special Agent in charge of the U.S. Office of Road Inquiry (ORI). The Rambler will understand if the reader skims this section. But skimming is not the Rambler's modus operandi, so he will add details to the portrait to flesh out these pivotal days of the Good Roads Movement.
New York State Aid Bill
In 1893, the New York State had enacted a law allowing each county board of supervisors to raise funds to improve roads through the county. Governor Roswell P. Flower (1892-1894) considered the 1893 Act "of great public interest." After the State legislature adjourned on April 19, he told reporters:
As I said in my annual message, I believe that the county-road system should be first tried before any attempt is made to undertake a great and expensive system of state highways. The bill which has been enacted to carry out this idea authorizes the Board of Supervisors in each county to borrow money for road improvements, to designate certain county roads which should be built and maintained by the county at county expense, and to appoint an engineer skilled in the science of roadmaking, who should have supervision of the construction of these roads. In order that Boards of Supervisors may be encouraged in carrying out this policy another bill was passed extending the terms of supervisors and Highway Commissioners to two years. I think this latter provision almost essential to carrying out the road project, for one year is too short a time successfully to establish any reform in roadmaking, and longer tenure of office will enable the experiment to be tried without the uncertain element of too frequent elections.
. . . . The advantage of the new law is that it encourages action on the part of the representatives of the country towns, where farmers and others have been somewhat slow to appreciate the desirability of good roads, because the greater part of the expense of establishing county highways will fall upon the incorporated villages and cities within the county, and not, as heretofore, on the rural districts. Nor do I think the people in the cities and villages will begrudge this additional burden, if by means of it there will be easier access to the centres [sic] of population, and consequently more business and trading.
On March 21, 1894, the Times reported that General Stone had appeared before the Assembly Committee on Agriculture in support of a State-aid bill introduced by Assemblyman Ira B. Kerr of Greene County. Kerr introduced his bill without waiting for the results of the experiment. He explained, in the Times' words:
It was the only way to bring about good roads. It provided for roads to be built on the petition of one-third of the property owners along the road. Surveys must be made by the State Engineer.
The article stated that General Stone appeared before the committee at the request of Secretary Morton. The General introduced General E. H. Harrison, identified as president of the New-Jersey State Association for Good Roads to explain how New Jersey had obtained some excellent roads. The Times summarized General Harrison's explanation:
In the township of Chester, an object lesson had been had. One good road was built, and State aid was secured by an act of the Legislature. The lesson proved a good one, and now the property owners were crying for good roads everywhere in the State. The farmers in New-Jersey, where they once with a team drew a ton, now, with new roads, are able to draw six tons. There the new roads permitted the use of bicycles by school children instead of their patronizing the railroads.
(On April 14, 1891, at the urging of the LAW and General Harrison's association, New Jersey had enacted the first State-aid program in the Nation. It authorized $75,000 a year to pay one-third of the cost of county road improvements. [America's Highway 1776-1976, Federal Highway Administration, 1976, p. 43])
The Times also quoted from General Stone's testimony:
New-York is easily the Empire State of the Union for bad roads. We may not have the very worst, but we have the most kinds of bad roads and are the most contented with their badness. Good roads are being built, and the people are finding out that it pays to build them; the question now is not whether it ought to be done, but how to do it. Ohio has 10,000 miles of improved highways. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New-Jersey, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, Indiana, and Michigan have all made substantial progress in road construction, and other States are moving toward it. It is quite time for New-York to get into line. These States have not only found the way to build roads without oppressing the farmers, but some of them have developed methods of construction which reduce the cost of good highways below anything that was thought possible a few years ago.
On March 30, 1894, interested members of the State Legislature, including Assemblyman Kerr, and General Stone took a special train to New Jersey to meet with General Harrison. The brief account in the Times on March 31 stated that the delegation went to Merchantsville where carriages were waiting for a drive of 5-6 miles "over the excellent Macadam and Telford roads of that section of the State." During dinner at Moorestown, the delegation discussed good roads before returning to New York by train.
In a speech to the students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) the following year, General Stone referred to this New Jersey trip:
A committee of the New York State legislature, together with members of the boards of supervisors, numbering nearly one hundred, visited some of the State-aid roads in New Jersey last spring and returned to New York and passed a bill for State aid through the lower house of the legislature by a majority of 4 to 1. ["Road Building in the United States," Historical and Technical Papers on Road Building in the United States, U.S. Office of Road Inquiry Bulletin No. 17, 1895, p. 47]
The House approved the bill, as General Stone noted, but not the Senate. In a letter on July 27, 1894, to John B. Simpson of Lake George, New York, General Stone explained:
The bill only failed in the Senate through lack of time, and being sent to the wrong Committee. [Letter press book, National Archives at College Park, Maryland]
["Pleading for Good Roads," March 21, 1894
Good Roads Convention, Asbury Park, New Jersey
The Times published several articles about the Good Roads Convention scheduled for July 5 and 6 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Although the New Jersey association was the sponsor, the convention would feature the LAW, the Governors of Georgia, Rhode Island, and Vermont, representatives from other States, and General Stone representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the Times:
Gen. Roy Stone . . . is arranging and planning the convention at the instance of the Secretary of Agriculture, J. Sterling Morton. President Luscomb of the League of American Wheelmen is also actively associated with him in making preparations, and reliance is placed mainly in the co-operation of the wheelmen throughout the country to make the convention a grand success and impart a powerful impetus throughout the United States in favor of better roads.
One focus of the convention was to "show the paramount importance of good roads and to impress strongly upon the delegates and others in attendance the importance of passing in each State laws such as the State Aid act in force in this State." The article also mentioned what was expected to be a highlight:
The feature of the convention will be the building, in the presence of all the delegates, of a fine macadam road by prominent road machinery manufacturers, quarrymen, and contractors, probably from Main Street to the Asbury Park Wheelmen's clubhouse in Bangs Avenue. This will be done free of expense to the town, and is to illustrate what is required for practical roadmaking.
On June 17, the Times referred to General Stone's release of a circular "calling attention to the proposed conference of road associations on the occasion of the meeting of the National Editorial Convention at Asbury Park, N.J., from July 2 to 6." With newspaper editors from every State in Asbury Park, the circular suggested that they also participate in the good roads convention "to represent at the road conference the various associations in their localities not otherwise represented." Based on reports on the convention in the Times, the Rambler does not see evidence that the editors took the opportunity to visit the good roads convention.
An article on June 21 reported that General Stone had sent copies of a circular letter to Chief Consul James S. Holmes, Jr., of the New Jersey Division of the LAW for distribution among prospective delegates to the good roads convention. The circular quoted General Harrison as saying that, "This is not to be a convention of delegates, but a conference of road associations, State, county, township, and municipal authorities, corporations, and individuals concerned in road improvement." It also explained the purpose of the convention:
The conference is for the purpose of promoting organization for road improvement where such organization does not already exist, for strengthening the hands of existing organizations, and for the gathering and diffusion of general information on the subject of road improvement . . . We meet to interchange views and to give and get all the information we can to promote the cause of road improvement.
The Times covered the events of July 5, the first day of the convention, in the July 6 edition of the newspaper. "In response to the 20,000 bulletins sent out to the road associations, wheelmen, and editors throughout the country by the U.S. Department of Agriculture," 300 to 400 delegates from 40 States and two Territories (Arizona, which did not become a State until 1912, and Indian Territory in what is now eastern Oklahoma) arrived at the Westminster Presbyterian Church for the convention.
According to the article, the delegates, at General Harrison's suggestion, voted Governor Levi K. Fuller of Vermont the president of the convention. (According to an article in the September 1894 issue of Good Roads, Governor Fuller's reputation as a good roads leader was such that he "was nominated for Chairman by half of the delegates, and his nomination was seconded by the other half, so there was hardly any need of a vote.")
"Gov. Fuller was escorted to the platform by Gen. Roy Stone, the head of the Road Inquiry Department at Washington, and by Mr. Young of Pennsylvania." Governor Fuller, who had taken office in 1892, was an engineer, machinist, inventor, and wealthy businessman. He discussed the progress Vermont had made in building good roads; the State boasted some of the finest roads in the country. The State's roads, he said, had been laid out by skillful engineers, with a road commissioner in charge of each town. However, the Governor lamented a condition that was true across the country:
Far too many of our people, Gov. Fuller said, are entirely ignorant about the making of roads, while scores of the Road Commissioners do not know the difference between the common bank gravel and the river-wasted pebbles. Road laying has come to be a question of science, and the need is of geologists as well as engineers.
The article also quoted General Stone's address, which began:
The Secretary of Agriculture requested me to express to this body his sincere regrets at not being able to be present with you. He considers this convention to be a matter of the greatest importance and hopes that good results may follow the deliberations.
He cited statistics to demonstrate the cost of bad roads. "The people are coming to realize this state of affairs more and more, Gen. Stone said, and are more earnestly and, he hoped, successfully seeking a remedy."
On July 7, the Times carried an account of the second day's events (July 6), quoting a number of the speeches, and noting that the convention adjourned early in the afternoon so "the delegates might witness the various exhibits of road-making machinery working on several of the main avenues in Asbury Park." However, because the article did not mention General Stone, the Rambler will move on to an article that appeared in the Times on July 14 that quoted the General extensively on the results of the convention. Bylined "Washington, July 13," the article began, "The friends of good roads in this vicinity are much encouraged by the results of the recent good roads conference at Asbury Park." Much work remained to be done, but they "are gratified with the increasing evidence that in every State in the Union there is growing dissatisfaction with the existing conditions."
General Stone told a correspondent of the Times that he was very pleased with what he heard at the convention:
"This conference," said Gen. Stone, "was proposed originally by the New-Jersey State Road Improvement Association, which is in the advance of all road improvers, but not so far advanced as not to desire further information from other localities. The proposal was indorsed by the National League for Good Roads, the New-York State League, and the Maryland Road League, and was then taken up by the Department of Agriculture through the office of Road Inquiry. Invitations were sent to all the known road improvement associations, to commercial bodies, and to other associations concerned in road improvement.
"The attendance was very satisfactory, but would have been much larger if there could have been any certainty of its being well attended. So many road conventions have been called and have been entire failures that many people who would have been interested lacked confidence in the success of the gathering. The two delegates who came from Rochester, N.Y., for instance, said that twenty-five were ready to come if they could have had any assurance that they would not be the only people there. Schenectady, however, sent twelve delegates, and Oneida, five.
"In this conference no special arrangements were made for cheap transportation, as we were not able to give any assurance as to definite numbers of delegates who might be expected. The railway companies are disposed to promote all gatherings of this class, and hereafter it will be possible to secure very low rates. A central committee was formed, with Gov. Fuller of Vermont as Chairman, with the power to call another conference at some future time, and invitations were immediately received from Atlanta, Ga., and Cleveland. The representatives of New-Jersey urged some point in New-Jersey as the next place of meeting.
"The general business of the conference was the gathering of information from all the delegates of the different States as to the actual progress of road improvement in their several States. About one-half of the States represented, forty-four in all, reported very substantial progress in the improvement of road building, and very great satisfaction on the part of all concerned in the building and use of roads. The Department of Agriculture was fortunately able to furnish for distribution Bulletin No. 9 of the road inquiry related to State aid to road building in New-Jersey, with the opinions of many farmers along the line of the State aid roads as to the benefits derived from the improvement. Gov. Fuller was also able to furnish copies of the publication of the Vermont League for Good Roads, giving the details and purposes of the organization. Other literature was contributed by the Department of Agriculture, by the publishers of Good Roads magazine and other periodicals devoted to a like purpose.
"A comparatively new topic in the Road Improvement Associations was presented by Martin Dodge, President of the Ohio State Road Commission, who advocated the extension of the electric roads into the country with rails suited to wagon traffic as well as [street] cars. This would have aroused much discussion if there had been time for it, it being considered to have some possible merit besides novelty, but as being a long step into the future. Mr. Dodge's speech will be revised and published in full in the proceedings of the conference, which will form the next bulletin of the Department of Agriculture. [It was reprinted in Proceedings of the National Road Conference Held at the Westminster Church, Asbury Park, N.J., July 5 and 6, 1894, ORI Bulletin No. 10, 1894]
"The conference was very conservative in its action, and did not go beyond recommending to the Legislatures of the several States the establishment of highway commissions to consider what legislation and methods it might be wise to adopt and a general recommendation for the organization of road improvement associations and leagues of instruction in highway engineering, together with a limited adoption of the State aid system. The general feeling, however, appeared to be that the New-Jersey plan would be very strongly commended by the delegates to their respective Legislatures during the coming Winter, and that as many as possible of those Legislatures would be induced to send committees to New-Jersey, as was done by the New-York State Legislature last Winter, to inspect the State aid roads and consult with the State authorities and citizens regarding that system.
"The subject of convict labor on roads was touched upon, and aroused some difference of opinion. The Chairman of the Massachusetts Highway Commission expressed the opinion of that State as decidedly opposed to the public use of convict labor, while the delegates from North Carolina and some of the other States spoke of the beneficial work accomplished in their States by means of that labor. A compromise plan was suggested of using State convicts for the preparation of roads [sic] materials in quarry camps where they could be easily guarded. In this case it was suggested that the State should furnish the road material free to the counties and townships, and that county prisoners, tramps, and vagrants be used for the grading and preparation of the road beds.
"Another novel topic that was talked of outside of the conference, but not introduced in view of the shortness of time, was the organization of bodies of State police to be used normally in the work of road improvement and maintenance, but to be armed and equipped for military duty as well whenever emergencies should arise requiring their services. This idea met with a very favorable reception, and will probably come up for general discussion at the next conference. The conference separated with a general feeling that some good had been accomplished, and that the next meeting would be largely attended because of the great service to the cause of road improvement."
(Martin Dodge would serve as acting head of the ORI in the second half of 1898 while General Stone was a volunteer in the Spanish-American War, and as permanent Director after Stone left the ORI in October 1899. Like Stone, Dodge would promote the State-aid plan as a model for Federal involvement in road improvement. For information on Dodge's life and good roads work, see A Maximum of Good Results: Martin Dodge and the Good Roads Trainsat http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/highwayhistory/dodge/. New Jersey's State-aid plan would be adopted by many States and serve as a model for the Federal-aid highway program that would be adopted in 1916.)
["Will Demand Better Roads," June 7, 1894
New Roads and Road Laws in the United States
One of the hallmarks of General Stone's tenure was how enterprising he was in using the ORI's limited resources. On July 22, 1894, the Times carried an article about his latest activity - publication of a book, New Roads and Road Laws in the United States, by Van Nostrand & Co.
The article began by pointing out that General Stone "presents this volume in order to stimulate public interest and thus 'promote the success of the official inquiry.'" It explained that the inquiry is focused on several points:
First, in regard to the new legislation for road improvement and the working of that legislation; second, to the cost of methods of road construction, and, lastly, to the effects of road improvement where it has been accomplished.
The unnamed reviewer stated that much had been learned in recent years about road building, with old road building techniques, including macadam construction, by "common-sense engineering." The reviewer stated:
Something that old roadmakers had little perception of was that horses in drawing a load feel the strain much less where there are slight elevations or depressions. The monotony of traction, the constant calls upon one set of muscles, are in this way relieved. What is novel, and something which Mr. Roy Stone and others bring into prominence, is the effort made to change the character, not alone of the wheels of wagons, but of the axles.
The Massachusetts Highway Commission had concluded that wider tires would allow for larger loads to be hauled with less strain on the horses and damage to the roads. However, requiring the State's 50,000 wagons to switch to wider tires was impractical. Further, broader tires and axles of unequal length were even more advantageous. This had been demonstrated in usage in several locations, including Camden County, New Jersey.
The reviewer continued his summary by asking, "Will you have a dust heap in Summer or a quagmire in Winter?" He said:
That is the question which addresses itself to many a farmer in the United States. Mr. Roy Stone explains graphically what he calls the mud tax.
Among other topics, General Stone covered New Jersey's State-aid program, also called the "local-option and co-operative plan."
Five years later, on June 24, 1899, the Times carried a lengthy article titled "Municipal Engineers" covering books that would be of interest to them. On the subject of good roads, the article summarized the brief history of the good roads movement, including formation of the National League for Good Roads and the funding appropriated for the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a road inquiry. It continued:
Much good has been accomplished by the Bureau of Road Inquiry thus created, at the head of which was placed Gen. Roy Stone, who was a Vice President of the National League. A little book by him, "New Roads and Road Laws in the United States," (New York, D. Van Nostrand Company. $1) with excellent half-tone illustrations of good and bad roads, is both interesting and instructive.
In the interest of fairness, the Rambler notes that the article also mentioned:
General Gilmore, A Practical Treatise on Roads, Streets, and Pavement, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1876, revised for 9th edition, price not listed ("still a very useful and handy manual for the road-maker. It is a thoroughly practical book").
Byrne, Austin T., A Treatise on Highway Construction, John Wiley & Sons, $5 ("The latest and fullest information respecting the location, construction, and maintenance of roads of all kinds, in city or country.").
Spalding, Fred P., A Text Book on Roads and Pavements, John Wiley & Sons, $2 (the article is suspicious of this book because of its lack of sources - this book is for "those who trust to theory rather than experience").
["The Great Roads Question," July 22, 1894
A Home in New Jersey
The Times reported on September 9, 1894, that a ceremony took place in Mercer County, New Jersey, to celebrate "completion of the macadamizing of the old Scotch Road, leading through Ewing Township into the City of Trenton." The gathering of farmers and business men of the county reflected enthusiasm over the good roads movement and "was a great success."
State Road Commissioner Edward S. Burroughs discussed the status of the State-aid program, reporting that the $75,000 appropriated for 1894 had been spent for about 30 miles of roads. The article stated that over 60 miles of macadamized and hard roads had been secured through the State-aid program since its inception.
The article summarized the "agitation" that began 2 years earlier, concluding:
When it became known that Morris County was to be bonded for $350,000, some of the farmers protested, but the bitterest opponents of the movement then are now its enthusiastic supporters. William E. King made surveys and prepared maps of about thirty miles of road, which are now nearly completed. Gen. Roy Stone, National Chief of the Bureau of Road Inquiry in Washington, is a Summer resident in Morris County, and he gave to the Freeholders the benefit of his services as consulting engineer.
General Stone's summer home was in Mendham. In the years before air conditioning, Washington was often abandoned by officials, including the entire Congress, until crops had been picked and weather in the area moderated.
["For Good Roads in New-Jersey," September 9, 1894]
General Stone on Convict Labor
The Rambler has a saying, "Roads are not about concrete, asphalt, or steel, but about the money available to buy the concrete, asphalt, and steel." With some wording changes, the saying has applied throughout highway history. In the early years of the Good Roads Movement, money was hard to come by. As a result, convict labor was seen as a way of avoiding the difficulty of raising money. (Money is still hard to come by, but on a different order of magnitude.)
On December 16, 1892, the Times reported that New York's Superintendent of State Prisons, Austin Lathrop, had written to the Board of Trade and Transportation about the use of prisoners on the roads. The article quoted one paragraph from Lathrop's letter:
I do not think it would be practicable to work the convicts confined in Sing Sing and Auburn Prisons on the State roads. I think the extra expense of guarding and caring for them would cost more than to hire outside labor. At Clinton prison it would, in my judgment, be different, owing to the remote location. In fact, we are now thinking of taking a number of idle convicts from that prison and putting them to work on the highways running through the State lands. This is an experiment.
Many Times articles quoted Lathrop on the importance of employing convicts in useful activities. For example, as noted in the Times on January 31, 1895, Lathrop's annual report for 1894 stated:
No fact has been more thoroughly demonstrated in prison administration than this one, namely: Convicts in prison need constant employment at work, to save them from destructive moral and physical deterioration and degradation . . . . No prison manager anywhere has had the fertility of resource which enabled him to maintain a body of prisoners in idleness and at the same time keep them from the deterioration which culminates too often in insanity or death.
Road work offered one opportunity for employing the convicts. The annual report, as summarized in the Times, stated that:
Much labor of convicts was spent in constructing prison buildings and on roads in Westchester, Cayuga, and Clinton Counties, which, could it be credited at fair rates, would make a material addition to the earnings of the prisoners.
On March 5, 1895, the Times reported that State Senator Frederick D. Kilburn's subcommittee of the joint legislative committee to investigate State departments had held a hearing the day before on the State's prisons. Lathrop and the wardens of the prisons were the witnesses. One topic addressed was convict labor on roads. Warden James C. Stout of Auburn Prison stated that in 1894, he had employed about 30 convicts on a two-mile stretch of road, while about 50 worked on a one-mile stretch. Warden Stout preferred to use short-term convicts because they were less likely to want to escape. Only two guards, he said, were needed to keep the men in order.
Senator Kilburn favored convict labor for roads, but preferred that they work under an engineer on a general plan, not just here and there as at present. He "asked if it would be practicable within the next fifty years to rebuild the main roads throughout the State by convict labor." The article summarized the reply:
Warden Stout replied that he believed it would be best to confine convict labor to a main road through the State. It would cost about $340,000 to build the road straight through to Buffalo (340 miles).
When Superintendent Lathrop testified, he was less supportive of convict labor:
Superintendent Lathrop thought the employment of prisoners on public roads impracticable. The State can better afford to hire free labor than to pay for watching the convicts. Besides this, any such general employment of prisoners would cause a howl about taking bread out of the workingman's mouth.
It would be ruinous for any political party ordering such work. He figured that the State would save $250,000 yearly by hiring free labor for road work. There is also danger of the prisoners escaping, as they did when working at Clinton, where it cost $3,000 of the ten-thousand-dollar appropriation to recapture convicts who escaped while working on roads.
Senator Kilburn asked if it was true that the prisoners had actually been working on the warden's house and that the expense of recapture had been charged to the road account to avoid a scandal. "Superintendent Lathrop insisted that there was nothing to this story."
On March 15, 1895, the Times reported that the day before in Washington, one of its reporters had asked General Stone about Superintendent Lathrop's view that the use of convicts on public roads was impracticable. General Stone "controverted" this view. "Gen. Stone has devoted much time to this particular question, and is convinced that convict labor may profitably and safely be used in improving the highways of the country."
The article continued:
"There are three sides to the question of working convicts on the highways-or rather two sides and a broad middle ground," Gen. Stone said to-day to a correspondent of The New-York Times. "The negative side is taken by the Prison Association of New-York and by penologists generally. The reasons advanced in opposition to the plan are that honest labor would be interfered with; that a large body of keepers would be required at great expense; that there would be a constant necessity for shooting convicts in order to prevent escapes; that in many cases the prejudice against convict labor would require a military force to protect convicts thus employed, and that it would be demoralizing to the convicts themselves to employ them in public places.
This is a view of the question natural to men whose minds are fixed on the needs to [sic] society of the reformation of criminals. Opposed to it is the opinion of many equally good citizens who seek the public advancement in other ways, and especially in the direction of improved means of communication, and who see in the convicts now idle in our jails and prisons a labor force sufficient to mend all the roads in the country if it could be so applied, and which they believe could be so applied without prejudice to free labor. The advocates of convict road work insist further that the outdoor life and exercise afforded by such employment would benefit the health and morals of the prisoners.
"In the vicinity of Charlotte, N.C., convicts have built miles of substantial roads, and with such satisfaction to the people that the special law under which it was done is now being extended to other counties. In other Southern States, where the convict lease system still prevails, it is clear that a transfer of the prisoners from irresponsible and often inhumane private employment to the care of States or counties would be a saving kindness to them and would benefit the entire community.
"Some of the apprehensions of the New-York Prison Association do not appear to have been well founded. The Legislature passed a bill providing for the employment of convict labor on the wagon roads of the State, in spite of the protest of the association, and a very satisfactory experiment was made at Clinton Prison. There was no interference with the convicts by citizens, except in two cases, where intoxicated men offered them liquor; no apparently demoralizing effects on the prisoners or the public; no shooting of convicts, and only three men attempted to escape. In the report on the subject, the Warden of the prison concludes as follows: "That a limited number of convicts can be worked successfully is now an established fact."
"On the other hand, when we examine the Warden's financial statement, we find but little if any economy in the use of convicts as compared with the employment of free laborers for the same work. The cost of guards and of the search for escaped convicts was equal to 91 cents for each day's labor done, which, considering the comparative efficiency of such labor, is very near the full value, the day's work being only eight hours. Again, it may be safely predicted that when road making becomes a great business in the country, the introduction of labor-saving appliances will do away with a large share of the hand labor now requisite in laying a stone or gravel road. The material being generally transported by railroad will then be transferred to wagons without shoveling, and from the wagons will be mechanically spread in its place, so that almost nothing will be left for convicts to do on the lines of the roads.
"These considerations strengthen the position of those who hold the middle ground of the question, which is that State prisoners should be employed wholly in the preparation of road materials, and in places where they can be guarded and secluded as easily and cheaply as in the prisons. The plan proposed for this is in substance as follows: First-For the State to buy some of the territory which contains the best rock within its limits. Second-To make the necessary railway connections, having first secured the permanent agreement of all its leading railroad companies to carry road material at the cost of hauling, on condition, if required of the State furnishing to them a certain amount of track ballast free of charge or at cost. Third-Having erected the necessary buildings and provided the best machinery for quarrying and crushing rock, to bring all able-bodied State prison convicts and put them at this work. Fourth-The counties to put their jail prisoners and tramps at the work of grading, draining, and preparing the roads for macadamizing. Fifth-The State to furnish broken stone free on board cars as its contribution to road improvement.
"The cost to the State, in addition to the maintenance and guarding of the convicts, would be only that of food and oil, explosives, and use of machinery, or, according to the Massachusetts commission report, 6 8-10 cents per cubic yard of broken stone, amounting for the 1,200 yards required to lay a mile of single track road nine feet wide and eight inches deep to $81.60.
"The remaining cost would be the railroad freight, amounting, for an average distance of 100 miles, to not more than 28 cents per yard, or $336 per mile; the wagon haul, averaging possibly 2½ miles, 30 cents per yard, or $360 per mile, and the rolling, superintendence, and incidentals (not including engineering, which would be a general county charge) 10 cents per yard, making the total local cost 68 cents per cubic yard, or $816 per mile.
"This plan would bring the expense of road improvement so low that no elaborate scheme of taxation or borrowing would be necessary, and all its benefits could be speedily and universally realized. The best plan for carrying it out would perhaps be to let the 'benefit district' as heretofore defined pay one-third of cost by installments, and the township one-third; the county to pay the remainder, and to advance the amount for the district, with a rebate or discount to all individuals who might prefer to pay in cash, so that no one would be put in debt against his will. The cost to the district on this basis of division would be $272 per mile.
"The growth of the road movement in North Carolina is unquestionably due to the use of convicts. Indeed, this use has in the majority of cases been the most important factor in deciding the counties of that State to vote a tax for the improvement of public roads. The result of the experiments in North Carolina has been altogether favorable to the system both in point of efficiency and in economy and in the health of the convicts. In Lenoir County only short-term criminals are employed. They are carefully described and photographed and offered certain inducements in the way of reward or shortening of term if they remain at their posts and faithfully discharge their duties. They are employed on the public roads very much as hired labor would be, under the control of a Superintendent, but without a guard, and they are allowed to remain at their homes from Saturday night until Monday morning. This novel experiment has been in operation a year and not a convict has attempted to escape.
"Many of the States are now arranging to establish supply camps for road material at which State convicts can be worked under proper restrictions. In California especially the State prison grounds contain an excellent vein of trap rock, the very best of road material, and abundant water power, with the necessary machinery for moving and crushing rock. There are 700 or 800 convicts in the prison. The prison authorities find that they can prepare road material and put it on the ground for 20 cents a cubic yard and pay all the expenses of the prison out of the receipts.
"Many railroads have already offered to transport material for the bare cost of the train service, and probably most of the railroads in the country would be willing to make such an arrangement, for they are naturally interested in the improvement of the highways."
The article, noting that General Stone was preparing a small volume on convict labor, stated that he "is convinced that, notwithstanding the opposition of the Prison-Association of New-York, the idea of employing convicts in making highways will grow, with much consequent good to the country."
On April 1, 1895, General Stone transmitted a 15-page volume titled Notes on the Employment of Convicts in Connection with Road Building to Secretary Morton seeking approval for publication. It became ORI Bulletin No. 16 in 1895. It described the use of convicts in North Carolina, explained the Delaware and California laws on the subject, and contained an article by General Stone ("Working Convicts on the Highways") extracted from New Roads and Road Laws. (The extract was similar to General Stone's statement to the Times.) The bulletin also quoted Warden Stout:
I approve of the employment of convicts in road making. The cost to the State will be only $800 per mile. It will take about fifty years to improve by this means all the highways of the State. I advise the repairing of the old turnpike between Albany and Buffalo. Something should be done to give the prisoners work.
["Prison Labor on Roads," December 16, 1892
Planning for the Higbie-Armstrong Bill
On December 12, 1895, the Times reported on a conference held at the Albemarle Hotel in New York City to consider good roads legislation for the State beyond the 1893 law encouraging county action. Participants included Isaac B. Potter, Chief Consul of the LAW's New York Division; State Senator Richard Higbie, and General Stone. The article stated:
The purpose of the conference was to devise a plan to secure better roads for the State, and better roads mean enjoyable cycling. Each man present showed himself to be an enthusiast on the subject of roads, and many valuable suggestions were offered and commented upon. Legislative action was finally deemed the only proper course to pursue, and the committee set to work to draft a bill to be presented at Albany. The aim of this bill will be to secure the improvement of the highways throughout the State. The bill was not completed at last night's conference, but its essential features were determined upon.
Potter told the reporter that New York was "far behind some other States in road-improvement work." He favored a State-aid plan similar to New Jersey's, which Potter said "has given to that State some of the finest public highways to be found anywhere."
Racing and Sidepaths
On January 1, 1896, the Times published an editorial commenting on a meeting of the Board of Officers of the New York State Division of the LAW. The editorial described the board's recommendation to the national LAW to sever all connections between the LAW and bicycle racing. The rationale for this recommendation involved the purpose of the LAW:
The league exists for the purpose of promoting the objects which all wheelmen have in common, such as the improvement of roads, of maps, and in general of the means for getting about the country on wheels with pleasure and profit, which includes improvement in country taverns. Racing is not one of those objects. The proportion of wheelmen who care anything about it is very small.
Bicyclists were interested in "records" achieved by the bicyclists, but racing could best be handled by "those who have direct pecuniary interests in the promotion of bicycle racing, to wit, the professional riders and the makers of bicycles." Given the "enormous" pecuniary interests, no "association of a body of amateur sportsmen can undertake to supervise a commercial rivalry between powerful interests without getting more or less smirched in the course of the operation, and without more or less unfitting itself for its avowed legitimate purposes."
Bicycle racing was at a critical juncture in the mid-1890's. It had started as an amateur endeavor in the 1870's, but its popularity prompted bicycle makers to see it as a marketing opportunity. They began sponsoring races and skilled racers. The LAW had established rules for racing based on the assumption that the racers were amateurs and that the prizes were trophies or of only nominal value. However, commercial involvement prompted a change in 1893, as described by Professor Robert A. Smith in his social history of bicycling:
The quarreling and bickering over professionalism continued until late in 1893, when the racing board of the LAW decided to divide racing cyclists into . . . three categories, Class A, Class B, and Professional.
The Class A amateur got nothing but prizes from his riding and was not even allowed to accept expenses from a cycling club or any other group that might sponsor his appearance in a contest. The Class B amateur was something else, an amateur who could accept pay for his work.
The Class B racers soon gained a bad reputation, openly accepting commercial sponsorships from manufacturers. "Many of the Class B amateurs became masters at sharp practices and plotting." According to Professor Smith:
Scarcely had the group been designated than rumors began to circulate that some races were rigged. A reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune suggested to his readers that since the men were working for cycle makers and their jobs depended on winning a race every now and then, the riders sometimes got together and agreed on who should win each race. He also hinted that some referees appointed by the LAW's racing board were getting kickbacks for fixed races.
The New York State Division's recommendation, therefore, was not surprising. As for the timing, Professor Smith said:
By 1895 the stench arising from the Class B situation was so overpowering that the demand was made for the LAW to eliminate the class altogether, or, even more drastic, for the league to get completely out of racing. Some critics argued that racing took too much of the league's time and money and distracted from the promotion of cycling in general and the movement to improve roads in particular.
The LAW ultimately chose a middle ground:
Early in 1896 the LAW abolished Class B racing and tightened restrictions on the amateur Class A . . . . Nevertheless the League of American Wheelmen and its racing board remained under constant attack. [Smith, Robert A., A Social History of the Bicycle (American Heritage Press/McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1972, p. 151-154)
A separate group, the National Cycling Association, took over the professional races, while the LAW clung to its role in amateur racing until finally giving up racing in 1900, according to Professor Smith.
While the board members were in agreement on this point, the editorial stated that, "Another point is much more open to question." Chief Consul Potter had offered a compromise on the good roads issue. In view of the rural districts' desire for economy, he suggested that cycle paths should be built along the existing highways, from three to six feet wide. "By inference he seemed to intimate that if this accommodation were afforded to the wheelmen their agitation for better roads would cease."
Adoption of this compromise, the editorial stated, would be "a public calamity." Although bicyclists wanted good roads for their own use, the issue was broader than them:
What is needed is to convince the rural public that good roads are economical, so economical that they cannot afford to have bad roads. Even if the wheelmen were to agree that, so long as a cinder path was provided for them, they would not object to the rest of the road being by turns a mud-wallow and a dust-heap, they would defeat their own purpose, for the full and combined force of all the elements enlisted in favor of good roads is necessary to produce good roads, and has not yet availed for that purpose.
The editorial hoped that the Chief Consul "will consider, on more mature reflection, that his suggestion was a mistake."
In an article on the work of the LAW published on January 5, 1896, Potter defended his idea:
A movement for the construction of side paths has taken strong hold in the State of New-York, and must be respected. The wheelmen are large taxpayers and have the same right to ask that the public highways shall be placed in fit condition for the passage of vehicles they use as have travelers who employ other means of conveyance. It is perhaps unfair to say that the public roads should be improved at great expense because bicyclists alone should seem to demand it, but it is not unreasonable to ask that a narrow wheelway should be improved at moderate expense on many country roads, which would otherwise be impassable to the great body of cyclists who have occasion to pass over them.
Professor Smith stated that cyclists were divided on sidepaths:
Some argued that the hard-won recognition of wheelmen's rights on the highways would be jeopardized, for cycle-paths laws would be "class legislation" and therefore bound to create an unfavorable reaction against cyclemen. As a result, they might lose the right to use public roads and instead be confined exclusively to the paths. [Smith, p. 214]
The Times, by this time, was publishing a column called "Gossip of the Cyclers," that included two items on sidepaths on January 12, 1896. One item quoted the Lockport Journal as saying that construction of sidepaths "is assuming large proportions." Construction of a network of sidepaths in central New York was under consideration. "The wheelmen have for years been anxious to assist in the improvement of country highways, but since others who use the roads have not been as enthusiastic, the wheelmen have preferred to avoid further delays and secure what they might on their own account."
The second item quoted a statement General Stone issued on Potter's suggestion:
The general movement for improved highways in the State of New-York through the action of the existing legislative commission has taken such promising shape that I earnestly hope the influence of the wheelmen of the State will not be diverted in the direction of constructing separate cycle paths. Their help will be greatly needed in bringing about the general improvement of highways in the State, and such combined movement as is proposed in Buffalo will be of great value in its effect on the Legislature and upon public sentiment generally. If the bill for State aid which will be offered by the State legislative commission prevails, you will see many hundred miles of good roads built in the State of New-York during the coming Summer, and so scattered through the State as to become general object lessons in the advantages of good roads. The plan of a narrow, hard road with an earth road alongside for dry weather, is very highly approved wherever it has been tested.
Despite the concerns about sidepaths, supporters were successful, as Professor Smith, explained "in part because taxpayers concluded that cycle paths, three to four feet wide, were cheaper than improved streets." He stated that the result was a far-flung system of bicycle side paths that became downright grandiose in conception, beginning with the 5½-mile Coney Island Cycle Path in Brooklyn. The path opened on June 15, 1895, and was an immediate hit. [Smith, p. 214-215]
Sidepaths or cycle paths appeared around the country, mainly in cities, and proved popular until the automobile brought the bicycle era to an end soon after the turn of the century.
In speaking of Potter's idea, General Stone was referring to the legislative commission established in 1893 to examine the good roads question. State Senator Higbie had been chairman of the Special Committee on Good Roads, which had visited Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New-Jersey in the course of its review. On January 16, the Times summarized the committee's report. It found "that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the present road system, and that a change of some kind is universally advocated." The committee recommended establishing a central head to superintend all roads, with "the prime idea being that the maximum utility shall be reached with the minimum cost." The report advocated a State-aid approach, as well as other changes, including wide-tire laws and the use of convicts to manufacture material for roads.
General Stone testified before the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on February 12, 1896. The Times explained on February 13 that the hearing was held to consider "all the bills which have been introduced in the lower house having reference to good roads." General Stone repeated his oft-stated view that New York was far behind other States. "It paid too little attention to the question, and allowed other States to take the lead when the Empire State should set the example." By contrast, he said, New Jersey had the best road system as a result of its State-aid plan.
The New York General Assembly was not ready for the good-roads legislation, and would not be until 1898 when it passed the Higbie-Armstrong Good Roads Bill, named after Senator Higbie and Senator William W. Armstrong of Rochester. It established a State-aid approach under which the State would pay half the cost of projects to improve town and county roads.
["A Better Highway Law," December 12, 1895
Commission on Highways
While General Stone retained a strong interest in the roads movement in New York, he had national responsibilities as a Federal official. The Times reported that on March 12, 1896, he attended a hearing before the Committee on Agriculture of the U.S. House of Representatives on a bill to create a Commission on highways:
The purpose of the commission is to inquire generally how the Government may further promote the improvement of highways and the best methods of securing a scientific location of highways on the public domain; the employment of the Geological Survey in the discovery of road materials and the free testing of these, and the construction of modern roads and instruction in road making at agricultural colleges and experiment stations.
Representative Charles W. Stone, a Republican from Warren County, Pennsylvania, had introduced the bill. Born in Groton, Massachusetts, Representative Stone had served in the State Legislature and as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania before entering the U.S. House of Representatives in 1890. (After losing a bid for reelection in 1898, he practiced law in Pennsylvania until his death in 1912.)
General Stone was one of the people the Times identified as "interested in the proposition." General Harrison of Asbury Park, New Jersey, and officials of the LAW were among the interested parties.
According to the Times, Representative Stone introduced these visitors to the committee and explained the bill. As summarized by the Times, he said that he "contemplated no great expense . . . no increase of salaries, and its life was limited in time." It would simply continue "the work which the Agricultural Department had so well begun." Although some of the visitors testified before the committee, the Times did not indicate that General Stone did so.
The bill did not become law.
["National Good Roads Hearing," March 13, 1896]
Bicycling for Women
A common feature of newspapers in the era of the great steamships was to print the names of those coming and going by sea. On April 5, 1896, the Times reported that General Stone had sailed for Liverpool, England, on the steamship Umbria. The brief article did not indicate whether General Stone's family accompanied him on the trip.
The Times also did not record General Stone's return (as far as the Rambler can determine), but did note on July 12 that he was among "the most prominent arrivals" in the resort of Asbury Park. Again, the Times did not report whether the General was alone or what he did during his visit to the resort. However, the article mentioned:
Next to bathing in the ocean, bicycle riding is the most popular exercise enjoyed by the Summer visitors. Thousands of wheelmen and wheelwomen speed along the smooth avenues in North Asbury Park every afternoon and evening, and the ocean drive to Long Branch is also alive with bicyclists. Old and young enjoy the sport, but the females who "bike" outnumber the males nearly two to one. Occasionally a maid in bloomers can be seen scorching [speeding] along the avenues, but the short-skirt costume predominates among the fair sex. On Sunday last six wheel clubs from the big cities made runs to the Park, and to-day the Mercer County Wheelmen of Trenton came here on their annual "century," with nearly 500 participants, 40 of whom were ladies.
(Professor Smith wrote that despite efforts by dress reformers who wanted to ride a bicycle, women were still burdened by the dress of the day:
Advertisements in magazines and newspapers show the American woman gliding toward the end of the century still clad in yards and yards of heavy material that swept the floor, gathering dust and dirt. Furthermore, she was burdened with whalebone-and-canvas corsets that pinched out the "hour-glass figure" so beloved at the time. These corsets also constricted her breathing, made her subject to fainting spells, and jeopardized both mother and child during pregnancy. [Smith, p. 97]
(Attempts to change women's dress faced scorn from husbands and fathers, limiting progress. The demands of bicycling, however, necessitated a change, especially when women rode diamond-frame bicycles requiring them to straddle the upper bar.
(By the mid-1890's, women had adopted the bloomer. It was named after Mrs. Amelia Bloomer who had begun wearing the style in the 1850's. Smith described the bloomer:
On Decoration Day of 1894, the dress designers opened the cycling season with the latest style, the bloomer costume. Bloomers, for generations that do not know them, were short, very full pants fastened at the knee, similar to the knickerbockers worn by men. They seem wholly appropriate to present-day Americans, but to a generation that had definite ideas about women who showed their legs, the bloomer costume was an eye-popper. [Smith, p. 100]
(Mrs. Bloomer never claimed that she invented the design, even though she received publicity for wearing it in the 1850's, long before the bicycle era, because the style was not only unusual but outrageous.
(The Times covered the controversy. On December 23, 1894, the Times reported on a visit to "a New-York cycle emporium." Every woman was wearing knickerbockers (baggy pants that ended below the knee), but the style was changing. According to the emporium's instructor, Mr. Price, "short skirts with leggings would be the coming dress for wheelwomen." He explained that "if a woman sits her wheel well, has her leggings free from wrinkles, and if her hat doesn't look as if she had fallen from her wheel on to it, it will not be objectionable if the skirt is not the conventional walking length."
(Nevertheless, a young man told the reporter:
Well, I'll tell you the truth," he said, "I think that when a woman takes off her skirts she loses all her charm. A young lady, a friend of mine, told me she thought of putting on bloomers, and I told her that if she did - " It is not necessary to tell just what that young man said. There has been no announcement of broken friendships, and one young woman has been spared the expense of a new bicycle suit.
(On August 2, 1895, the Times reported on a lawyer in Paterson, New Jersey, whose client objected to the fact that his bicycle riding wife had appeared a day or two earlier "to the utter surprise of her husband, in a pair of dark red bloomers." The article stated that, "This was too much for him," but his protests were to no avail. His wife "continued to wear the bloomers, although her husband refused to go out with her on the road." The husband wanted the lawyer to initiate a law "to put a stop to the red bloomers," but the lawyer said "he could not stop it, as the new woman was here to stay." The lawyer also counseled the husband that if he would wait a year or two "he would not only see red bloomers on the road, but would see them in the legislative halls at Trenton."
(On August 26, 1895, the Times reported that Judge Wilson in Little Rock, Arkansas, had dismissed the prosecution of Mrs. Noe, "who was arrested Thursday for appearing on the streets in bloomers." Judge Wilson ruled that, "Women had a constitutional and God-given right to ride a bicycle, and they are bound to have some comfortable and appropriate dress therefore." This right, like most rights, was not without limits, Judge Wilson said. He added, "I should be disposed to give her the limit of the law" if she were "of a size that threatened to frighten horses and impede traffic" or if "her habiliments [were] of the sort originally designed by the woman whose name they bear."
(As reflected in the article about the resort bicyclists in Asbury Park, fashions evolve, whether the Rambler likes it or not. By 1896, according to Professor Smith, "French couturiers were moving away from the bifurcated garments." One "had already refused to make any more bloomer costumes for his customers." Smith continued:
Harper's Weekly reported as early as 1896 that the "hideous and unsexing bloomers and knickerbockers worn by some women in the early days of the wheel craze" had virtually disappeared. Although this was not quite true, nevertheless the bloomer fad did slow down, ultimately to pass away . . . . The bloomer costume might disappear, but "rational dress" in the form of the shortened skirt did not pass away. The Minneapolis Tribune noted that shorter skirts had become common in general outdoor wear by 1897, and no less an authority than the New York Sun said that the bicycle costume for women had brought about some desirable changes in women's clothing, a reform that had long been demanded by common sense. [Smith, p. 108-109])
The Rambler has never been able to determine if General Stone was a bicyclist. He supported the LAW and worked closely with its leaders, but whether he rode a bicycle is unknown. (Similarly, the Rambler cannot determine if General Stone owned an automobile.) The Rambler does not wish to speculate, but is willing to go so far as to suppose that General Stone was pleased to see the wheelmen and wheelwomen using the smooth avenues of Asbury Park.
Clearly, he saw women as potential advocates in the fight for good roads. In a letter dated November 25, 1896, to Charles Freeman Johnson of San Francisco (and located in the National Archives at College Park , Maryland), General Stone said:
We cannot do too much to encourage women's work in behalf of good roads. No agency will be more effective if once they are thoroughly aroused, as has been so well shown in many other lines of human progress. The interest of the women of the country districts in the improvement of means of travel and association is broder [sic] than that of the men. A Missouri delegate to a good roads convention once said to me "I don't want to make nuns of my women folks. If I want any sport I can get on a horse and go through the mud and rain to a preaching, but they cannot do it, and that is why I am working for good roads." One of the best contributions on road repair which this office has received is that of a daughter of the Hon. Abram Hewitt, of New York, who has had a large experience in actual road-management at their place in New Jersey. This communication I published in our Bulletin No. 8.
Bulletin No. 8, printed in 1894, was titled Earth Roads: Hints on Their Construction and Repair. It contained information and suggestions on "the best method of constructing a common highway without gravel or stone," as General Stone put it in his letter seeking approval from Secretary Morton to publish the bulletin. The final essay, "Repairs of Country Roads," was a reprint of Sarah Cooper Hewitt's article from Harper's Weekly. It began:
So much has been said about the difficulty of making good country roads without involving a great outlay of money that it seems rather presuming to take a contrary view of the subject, but I think the matter has been much exaggerated, and that in any part of the country where clay, hardpan, gravel or disintegrated rock can be found it is quite easy to get excellent roads at comparatively little expense. I speak from some practical experience acquired in road-making in a very wild and hilly region of northern New Jersey, where we are accustomed to work out our taxes on 13 or more miles of public highways . . . .
A common county practice was to charge residents a road tax that could paid in money or labor. Based on her experience of working the road tax, Ms. Hewitt provided a practical guide to the when, where, what, and how of country road repairs.
["Passengers for Europe," April 5, 1896
School Boy Leagues
On January 31, 1897, the Times reported on General Stone's proposal to enlist school children in the cause of good country roads. He had often tried to encourage country schools to get involved in the cause of good roads, a subject easily seen each day students came to school with muddy shoes or dusty clothes. The article explained that roads need daily care:
Such care would be extremely costly under the present methods of management, but Gen. Stone points out that most of the roads in the country are patrolled twice each day by schoolboys old enough to give the necessary attention to throwing out stones, opening ditches and sluices, and filling ruts and holes.
He suggested forming schoolboy road leagues in country school districts, with a few tools on hand and prizes for the best service rendered by the boys:
Country teachers, it is believed, would naturally take an interest in this work, and any improvement in the roads would of course be a benefit to the schools.
For example, where country roads had been improved in New Jersey, "schools have recalled many scholars who had been drawn away to the city schools, and who now go to school on their bicycles from miles around."
Wear and tear on the roads, according to General Stone, cost $40 million a year for restoration, not improvement:
By getting the schoolboys to take a hand, says Gen. Stone, "very great practical benefit to the present roads would result at little or no cost, while training up a generation of road builders for the future. It is not expected that many school districts will take up this work at first. It requires that the teachers be competent, the boys ambitious, and the road authorities liberal and progressive, and this combination will be comparatively rare. But it will be found in some places, and if the work is successful it will rapidly spread."
The Rambler did not come across evidence of widespread schoolboy leagues, suggesting that the combination was rarer than General Stone expected.
Good Roads Day
The proposal was of only minor interest because New York State had more tangible issues to consider.
On January 24, 1897, the "Gossip of the Cyclers" column in the Times alerted readers that the coming year would be one in which bicyclists and their partners in the Grange would work hard "to secure legislation favoring an improvement in the highways." The LAW would be holding its National Assembly in Albany in early February, with the first day, February 10, designated Good Roads Day. The LAW's Empire State Division planned to use the day to promote a good roads bill it had drafted, along with the Grange, and would introduce in the State legislature "providing for the systematic improvement of the highways." Prospects were good:
It is confidently believed that the bill will become a law, its provisions being such that it is hard to think of anybody objecting to it.
The columnist identified General Stone as participating on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and indicated that other speakers would be "of almost equal prominence in this important work."
On February 7, the column elaborated on Good Roads Day-"one whole day (Wednesday) will be devoted to the discussion of highway improvements and the best means to secure them." The column explained that, "A year ago at the annual meeting in Baltimore the first day of the convention was given over to this purpose, and it proved one of the features of the assembly." Good Roads Day in Albany would be "doubly interesting from the attendance of some very prominent men in the league and the Government service." Gen Stone "will be among those present." The column stated that, "He has long been associated in good-roads work, and is a most entertaining talker on this question."
The next day, in an article bylined in Albany on February 7, the Times reported that proceedings in the State Legislature were going to be "of a routine character" that week. Hearings would be held on a number of bills, including bills on civil service, regulating marriage, and local topics such as building heights in New York City. However, the article ended by noting that legislators "will be interested in proceedings of the National Convention of the League of American Wheelmen, which opens a three day session here Wednesday" with a Good Roads Day. The LAW had invited the legislators to attend. "The Good Roads bill favored by the Wheelmen already has been introduced in the Legislature and hearings on the measure before the legislative committee will begin next week."
Good Roads Day opened on Wednesday, February 10, with delegates from every State except Florida and Louisiana (the Florida delegate was en route). The Times reported on February 11 that, Miss Mabel Woodberry of Danville, Illinois, "bears the distinction of being the first woman to act as a delegate in a League of American Wheelmen Assembly."
LAW President Sterling Elliott gave a brief speech on the value of good roads before introducing Lieutenant Governor Timothy L. Woodruff. He spoke of the need for improved roads, but where that was not possible, cycle paths should be provided:
Where roads or streets are not adapted by nature or by improvement for wheeling, and cannot be made available without great expense, there should be constructed, if practicable, cycle paths for the exclusive use of the riders of the wheel. This plan was carried out in Brooklyn during the recent administration of the Department of Parks, and to-day her cycle paths furnish for the three millions of people of the Greater New York the finest wheel facilities in the world-from the very heart of the great municipality to the delightful roads which stretch throughout the length and breadth of Long Island . . . .
He had a caution for the LAW members:
Throughout the State, improvements of this exceptional character, involving great expense cannot and should not be entertained; indeed, they are not needed. What we do require is a systematic, intelligent and aggressive development of the roadways, with which nature has so plentifully endowed our great and beautiful Commonwealth.
Such roads would benefit not only the wheelmen and wheelwomen but the farmers. Everyone, regardless of political affiliation, "should co-operate with you [the LAW] in extending to this worthy object the power of the State and its financial assistance as far as the proper care of its many great and eleemosynary [charitable] interests will permit."
He had campaigned with a promise to "put forth my best efforts" to work with those who favored good roads and "I am now prepared to do all in my power to redeem that promise."
The article briefly reviewed the day's other speeches, including General Harrison's afternoon address on "his experiences while traveling through New York and Pennsylvania in the interests of highway improvements." He reported that the farmers were beginning to come around to the cause.
General Stone was not listed as speaking on Good Roads Day. However, he addressed the LAW's Good Roads Banquet on February 11. The Times did not report on the speech, but General Stone reprinted it in ORI Circular 28, a collection of his addresses around the country. He knew he didn't have "to preach good roads to the wheelmen" because every wheelman "is a preacher, a worker, and a fighter for good roads." All the wheelmen needed were the "texts for preaching, tools to work with, and weapons to fight with, and then to hold him back when his zeal outruns his discretion."
He recalled his first experience with the LAW 5 years earlier:
In my first experience, five years ago, with the help of the League of American Wheelmen, under the guidance of President Burdett and the active and able leadership of ex-President Dunn, and when the league had less than half of its present strength, I found how potent an agency it could be made; our bill for a national highway commission was pushed through the Senate of the United States almost entirely by the wheelmen's aid, and only failed in the House of Representatives through the determination of one man who had it in his power to put his foot upon it, and he was one who came from a district where the roads were so bad that he had scarcely a wheelman for a constituent. In that context the most grave and reverend seniors of the Senate were startled by the enthusiasm of their constituents for good roads, as shown by the flood of telegrams and columns of editorials, all of which I happened to know were inspired by our friends of the wheel.
The national commission having failed, General Stone said, "we organized a National League of Good Roads" that led to creation of the ORI:
We are ready through that office to furnish facts and arguments showing why good roads are necessary, how they can be built, and how they are being built in many parts of this great country. We have a whole arsenal of weapons now at your service.
The next step in the movement was to convince the farmers that good roads were in their interest:
In your discussion with the farmers and their representatives, you can bring to bear this powerful argument: That it is time to do away with the cruel injustice which places upon them and upon the small fraction of the property in the State which they hold the entire burden of building highways for the whole people.
The "burden of the bad-roads tax," in the form of unnecessary expenditures, "is infinitely greater than the tax for road building and repair." He said:
And when the wheelmen's league and all the farmers' associations pull together harmoniously in this direction, working only for justice and the public welfare, there is no limit to the power they may exercise and the good they may accomplish.
Prosperity for the whole country will date from the happy hour in which that beneficent combination is established.
He discussed the value of good roads ("That good roads will bring prosperity is no idle dream"), the need to involve cities in the cause, and the benefit of employing convict labor for good roads.
Since most participants in the banquet were from New York, General Stone estimated that bad roads cost the State about $30 million annually ("and this is no guesswork, but the result of careful investigation and computation"). "This loss is wholly chargeable to bad government, and the remedy for it ought to be the first concern of the lawmakers of the State." No other cause could "compare with it in magnitude or in pressing importance." It was not as if the solution were hard to find - "no further study of the subject is needed and no experiment is required." He advocated the State-aid approach used in Massachusetts and other States:
If the best available intelligence of this State can be set to work to apply their example and adapt their experience to the conditions that exist here, it need not be long till New York is abreast of the leaders in the race.
Taking New Jersey for a pattern in State aid and California for the use of convicts in preparing road materials, we have all the legislation that is needed . . . . Put your idle prisoners at this work in this State and you have solved the convict-labor question as well as the road question.
Following the Albany convention, General Stone went to Orlando, Florida, for the National Good Roads Congress. He was selected to chair the convention and "what he had to say was closely followed by his auditors." Reporting that the "discussions were all entertaining and instructive" and resulted in "much benefit," the columnist did not indicate what was said.
According to a Times article on February 26, 1897, General Stone attended the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committee's hearing on the LAW good roads bill on February 25:
The committee gave a hearing upon the Good Roads bill now pending in the Legislature, especially upon the measure introduced by Senator Higbie and Assemblyman Armstrong, which was prepared under the supervision of President Isaac B. Potter of the National League of American Wheelmen.
The article reported that one witness, A. B. Crocker of Bethlehem Centre, "bitterly opposed the bill, as being too much a burden for the farmers to stand at present." County Engineer McLaughlin of Queens County requested an exemption from any expense under the bill for his county because the county "had already expended $3,000,000 for repairs to roads, and that it felt it had done sufficient for this cause."
Other than that, "There were no further objections." The article concluded that, "All the other gentlemen present favored the bill." It did not state whether General Stone testified before the joint committees.
["Schoolboys and Roads," January 31, 1897
A mazamas, according to an article in the Times on July 18, 1897, is a species of mountain goat, as well as the name of a mountain climbing club on the North Pacific Coast. After describing the club and its activities, the article explained that in 1897, the plan was to visit Washington State's Mount Rainier, "the largest and highest mountain in the United States," beginning July 20. Because scientific research was a feature of all Mazamas enterprises, the group made "a very special effort . . . to interest and secure the co-operation of the scientific departments of the Government." Officials of Agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish Commission had agreed to participate. Other officials were expected to be assigned to participate, including General Stone. (The article listed his name without explaining why Mazamas thought it would need a roadbuilder on Mount Rainier.)
Whether General Stone participated, the Times search engine is unable to reveal. However, the Rambler is reasonably certain General Stone did not join this ill-fated expedition. The July 31 edition of the Times reported that Professor Edgar McClure of Oregon State University fell down a 300-foot precipice to his death, while two other climbers "had terrible experiences":
H. A. Ainslie and George Rogers of Portland, Oregon, got lost in a manner very similar to McClure's experience, and fell forty feet into a crevasse on Cowlitz glacier. Both were rendered unconscious, but Ainslie was not so severely stunned as his companion. With great effort he succeeded in climbing over ice to the top, and then crawled two miles to Camp Mazama and gave warning.
Rescuers found Rogers who "was taken out nearly dead and carried to the camp."
That same afternoon, a party of six, including William Pierce of Pendleton, Oregon, started for the summit:
After climbing several hours, Mr. Pierce turned around on the Cowlitz ice fields and greatly alarmed his companions by his agitation. He was prostrated and partially demented from gazing down the frightful precipice on both sides, for thousands of feet downward perpendicular walls of ice greeting the eye.
Meanwhile, Professor Brown of Stanford University began his ascent alone, became lost above Gibraltar Rock, and wandered around for hours before "finally sinking down behind some rocks exhausted. A rescue party found him and returned him to Camp Mazama just in time. "In an hour he would have been frozen to death."
["Mountaineering Extraordinary," July 18, 1897
Following the election of Ohio Governor William McKinley as President in 1896, the Department of Agriculture loosened restrictions on the ORI. Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson encouraged General Stone to emphasize the practical, scientific, and experimental over the academic.
One outgrowth of the new approach was the object-lesson road program, an idea General Stone borrowed from Massachusetts. The idea was to build short stretches of good roads, initially at the Department's agricultural experiment stations, partly to educate local citizens, engineers, and officials and partly to create support for good roads on the theory that "seeing is believing." ORI, with its small budget, had to rely on donations of equipment and material, but General Stone hired General Harrison to take charge of the important new program.
General Harrison built the first object-lesson road in June 1897 at the entrance to the New Jersey Agriculture College and Experiment Station in New Brunswick. The Federal cost was $321. In addition to building the road, General Harrison lectured area residents and officials on what he was doing. (Harrison would lead the object-lesson team until his death in February 1901.)
On August 1, 1897, the Times reported on the second project, this one at the New York Experiment Station in Geneva:
It is learned that the second of the sample roads to be built in connection with the newly established Office of Road Inquiry is at present in its first stages of construction at this place . . . . The director of the station (W. H. Jordan) desires that the citizens of New York, especially those who have the care of roads or who are engaged as engineers or otherwise in road construction, shall visit and inspect this operation while it is in progress, in order that the maximum benefit from this educational road building may be derived.
Wednesday and Thursday of each week are set apart for visitors. During these days either Gen. Roy Stone [of] the Road Inquiry Office or Special Agent E. G. Harrison will be present to explain the work to them. A movement is on foot to have each county select a day when its visitors shall visit Geneva in a body.
General Stone's article on "Object-Lesson Roads" appeared in the 1897 Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture. [p. 373-382] After summarizing the work on Nichol Avenue and College Avenue in New Brunswick, he reprinted General Harrison's report on the Geneva work. Harrison had visited the area in the spring to arrange for construction of a sample road from the experiment station to Arch Bridge on Castle Street. Estimating a cost of $7,000 to $8,000, Harrison approached two property owners along the road; they agreed to contribute $1,000 or more if necessary. He returned in May to secure village funding. He addressed a citizens' tax meeting on May 18 to explain the plan for the object-lesson road. "The appropriation of $3,000 was carried by a vote of 60 to 4."
The Good Roads Machinery Company of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and the Buffalo-Pitts Company of Buffalo, New York, provided equipment without charge that was worth $6,000 to $7,000. Work began on July 16, but was not finished until November 8:
The road was an expensive one, owing in part to the fact that it was a city street, requiring attention to sewers and gas and water pipes, and also requiring grading to a nicety not necessary in a country road. The grading also was very difficult, owing to the fact that the road had been graveled for many years with very coarse material, including a large amount of cobblestones. It was designed to make a good smooth dirt road alongside of the stone road, and to do this required that all cobblestones or coarse gravel be removed. The expense was further increased by the necessity of hauling most of the field stone which were used for the foundation over a distance of several miles and bringing the trap rock surface material a distance of over 300 miles from the Palisades of the Hudson River.
The length of the road was increased by extending the work from Arch Bridge to Main Street, making a little over 1½ miles in all . . . . The foundation was entirely of crushed field stone laid 5 inches thick with a surfacing of trap rock 3 inches thick.
During the construction of this road it was visited by many hundreds of farmers from different portions of the State, including officials from half the counties of the State.
Total cost was $9,046.32, with the experiment station contributing $1,040.73 along with funds from the town and three citizens. The result "seems to be meeting with favor," especially the portion on Castle Street "from Mr. Mellin's to the Octagon House." Harrison added, "The only unsatisfactory piece is that portion between the brick pavement and Main Street." Mud had been carried onto it and when it dried, "it has appeared to roll up on the wheels and take some of the surfacing of the road with it." Nevertheless, the new road was "getting a very large amount of use" and was "the only place where the horsemen could drive" along with "everyone who had a load to draw." He added "that the town of Geneva has purchased the road machinery." [p. 376-378]
As 1897 came to an end, the LAW was increasing its role in promoting good roads. The Gossip of the Cyclers column reported on December 19, 1897, that the LAW's National Committee for Highway Improvement had proposed to distribute 1 million pamphlets on the good roads movement, especially the merits of State aid. Otto Dorner, the committee's chairman, "is preparing the book for the press, with the assistance of Gen. Roy Stone." The pamphlet would be distributed to farmers and State and local officials.
The article explained that, "Gen. Stone has issued, since the establishment of the Good Roads Bureau, some fifty different bulletins relating to various phases of the good roads problem, and containing a great deal of valuable information, but the appropriations made by Congress for the support of the bureau being limited in amount, it has been impossible to circulate the bulletins upon a large scale." The national committee proposed to supplement this effort.
In 1898, the ORI published ORI Circular No. 31, Dorner's Must the Farmer Pay for Good Roads? It stated that just as the burden of bad roads was shared by all, every citizen of the State and Nation should share in the cost of repairing them. The circular proved to be the ORI's most popular, in part because the ORI used a mailing list provided by the LAW to send free copies to 300,000 farmers.
["Sample Road Building," August 1, 1897
The Grand Highway
On February 20, 1898, Gossip of the Cyclers reported on a "most alluring scheme to the wheelmen," namely a grand highway across the continent. It was not a new idea, but one that General Stone had recently revived. In an 1895 speech to the Tennessee Road Convention, he had called it the Great Road of America, a transcontinental highway that would join at right angles with similar highways spanning the East and West Coasts. The column quoted General Stone on the financing of the proposal under which the States through which the highway would pass and the general government would "bear the expenses, which would ultimately be repaid from the benefits of such a concourse." He explained:
Suppose that property were to be assessed with a long term of payment, in installments running up to ten, fifteen, or twenty years, and suppose the property actually adjoining the road were to be assessed $2 an acre, for instance, and the next half mile back a little less, and so on, but always giving the party owning the property the privilege of selling out his land at a valuation if he did not choose to pay the assessment, and of buying back again by paying the interest if he found he had made a mistake. The Government could well afford to make that liberal proposition, and it would result in nearly all the present property owners getting the actual benefit of the increase of the value of their property and paying the assessment entirely out of such increase of value.
This idea would not be adopted, as General Stone probably realized.
["Gossip of the Cyclers," February 20, 1898]
This page last modified on 04/07/11