U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration

Highway History


National History Day Competition

Route "66" Exhibit

Photos courtesy of Sonquela "Sonnie" Seabron

Click on photos for larger version

The center panel of the "Main Street of America" exhibit describes the origins of Route 66 in 1925-26.  It includes a photo of Oklahoma highway official Cyrus Avery, who played a key role in selecting the number "66." The lower half of the center panel explains the highway's role in helping migrants leave their Dust Bowl for California during the 1930s. Because of this role, novelist John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath referred to Route 66 as "The Mother Road" The right panel explores the role of Route 66 in the post-war period, including its role in helping soldiers return to their homes in the Midwest and Southwest.  A photo shows one of those soldiers, songwriter Bobby Troup, whose trip to Los Angeles inspired him to write the song "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66."
Photos on the center panel show how the Route 66 Dust Bowl migrants built their new lives in California. The left panel of the "Main Street of America" exhibit contains information about the role of Route 66 during World War II, noting that heavy use by military vehicles damaged the pavement. An additional view of the left and center panels, including images and information about Route 66 during the Dust Bowl and World War II.
The lower portion of the panel includes a Route 66 map and a photo of Nat King Cole and the King Cole Trio, whose recording  66" in 1946 was the first hit version of the song.  The panel also shows how musicians from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas traveling Route 66 to California helped establish the "Bakers of" Routefield Sound," still an important influence on country music today.
Updated: 06/27/2017
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000