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U.S. 14 Chicago, Illinois, to Yellowstone National Park
by Richard F. Weingroff
In 1925, at the request of the State highway agencies, the Secretary of Agriculture appointed the Joint Board on Interstate Highways to develop a plan for marking the Nation's interstate highways. The Joint Board, which included 21 State highway officials and three officials of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, met with State road officials around the country, developed standardized signs, including the original U.S. shield, identified the Nation's main interstate roads, and conceived a system for numbering them. The Joint Board completed its report on the new marking system in October 1925. Within the proposed grid of U.S. routes, the report identified U.S. 14. The original description of the route read:
From Winona, Minnesota, to New Ulm, Brookings, South Dakota, Huron, Pierre, Midland.
Much of proposed U.S. 14 (Winona to Pierre) was also known as the Black and Yellow Trail, a named trail from Chicago, Illinois, to Yellowstone National Park. The Black and Yellow Trail had been established in 1919 as a rival to the better known transcontinental Yellowstone Trail, which had been established as a regional trail in 1912 but had been extended by its supporter along a route from Boston to Seattle (resulting in the motto: "A Good Road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound").
The Black and Yellow Trail Association, based in Huron, South Dakota, was conceived to divert Yellowstone traffic to the cities along its line. The name signified links to the Black Hills and Yellowstone National Park.
The magazine Good Roads for Wisconsin took a dim view of the new trail, reflecting the State's and the magazine's general objections to "trail promoters." (In 1919, Wisconsin became the first State to number its highways.) The November 1920 issue contained an article that discussed some of the magazine's objections to the Yellowstone Trail, then added:
Whatever the merits of the Black and Yellow Trail, it provided a footnote to history on January 22, 1924. During a speech to the association, State Historian Doane Robinson revealed his idea of having statutes of historic figures carved into the Black Hills as a tourist attraction. The result, Mount Rushmore, proved as popular as he has predicted.
The Secretary of Agriculture submitted the Joint Board's proposal to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) for consideration. His action reflected the fact that the roads were owned and operated by the States, not the Federal Government, and the States, therefore, would have to decide whether to adopt the proposal. Over the next year, AASHO acted on requests, many initiated by named trail associations, to change the routes and numbers.
In November 1926, AASHO approved the U.S. numbered highway system. U.S. 14 was retained, with the following description (spellings as in the original):
Minnesota Beginning at Winona via Rochester, Owatonna, Mankato, New Ulm, Lake Benton to the Minnesota-South Dakota State line each of Elkton.
The estimated distance: 599 miles.
In 1933, AASHO approved requests by the State highway agencies to extend U.S. 14 east to Chicago:
U.S. 14, ILLINOIS, WISCONSIN, MINNESOTA-U.S. 14, now terminating at Winona, Minn., is extended to Chicago, Ill., and the extension is described as follows: ILLINOIS, beginning at Chicago, on State Route 63, via Dundee, Algonquin, to an intersection with U.S. 12, east of Crystal Lake, Woodstock, Harvard, to the Illinois-Wisconsin State Line, north of Big Foot. WISCONSIN, beginning at a point on the State line between Illinois and Wisconsin, north of Big Foot, via Walworth, Delavan, Janesville, Evansville, Oregon, Madison, Green Spring, Richland Center, Beadstown, Viroqua, Westby, LaCrosse. MINNESOTA, beginning at the Wisconsin State Line, west of LaCrosse, via LaCrescent to the present eastern terminus of U.S. 14 at Winona.
The following year, U.S. 14 was extended west to Cody, Wyoming, at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The description of the 1,432-mile route (with point-to-point mileage) read:
Illinois Beginning at Chicago (Loop) 37, Dundee 5, Algonquin 7, Crystal Lake 8, Woodstock 12, Harvard 7.
Although this routing picked up additional mileage of the old Black and Yellow Trail, it departed significantly from the named trail, so the extension appears to reflect the availability of improved roads rather than promotional activity by the old trail boosters.
Over the years, U.S. 14 has moved in places, following improved highways but retaining its 1934 termini, Chicago in the east and Yellowstone National Park west of Cody in the west. The most recent cumulative mileage (in 1989) is 1,546 miles.
For additional information: Miller, John E., Looking for History on Highway 14, Iowa State University Press, 1993. The blurb on the back page promises: "Looking for History on Highway 14 takes readers on a tour down South Dakota's historic 'Black and Yellow Trail.' The book serves as a perfect guide for travelers interested in discovering, enjoying, and sharing the history of this Green Plains state."
This page last modified on 04/07/11