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Master of Arts (MA)




Colleen O'Neill


This thesis explores the origins of the International Meridian Highway, now U.S. Highway 81, from its naissance in 1911 until the late 1920s. In these two decades, regional boosters in the middle of the United States joined a national movement, the Good Roads Movement, to promote new, democratic understandings of space and geography. The boosters of the International Meridian Highway promoted their road as a “Main Street of North America,” centering the focus of both movement and activity through the middle of the United States. While these boosters were successful in developing and promoting their highway, ultimately they became victims of their own success. As the fervor for highways spread, the United States government took control of road development and the International Meridian Highway Association faded into obscurity. However, their actions as boosters still mark a significant movement in self-promotion of middle America.

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